In one hilarious scene in the movie Sex and the City 2, actress Kim Cattrall’s character, Samantha Jones, overeats yam to try to simulate the menopause-countering effects of bioidentical estrogen. In the film, Samantha’s hormone pills were confiscated by conservative immigration officers as she entered an airport in a Middle Eastern country, causing her sexual drive to go off kilter for most of her sojourn.
But is this representation of yam accurate? Can food really influence hormonal balance in women? Some studies suggest that it could, but perhaps the greater benefit of eating the right type of food items is more likely its overall effect on perimenopausal women’s health and quality of life.
Here are some simple guidelines that you can follow to make sure that your diet is optimized for proper health and hormonal balance during your perimenopausal years.
Don’t consume too much sugar
Sugary food items can wreak havoc on your health. In particular, excessive consumption of added sugar has been shown to increase young and middle-aged women’s risk for type 2 diabetes. Not only that, sugar also causes your body’s insulin to spike, which, in turn, can cause your testosterone and estrogen levels to rise as well. Too much of these hormones can lead to increased irritability, anxiety, sleeplessness, and other perimenopausal symptoms.
It is therefore a good idea to cut back on your consumption of sugary stuff like sodas, cakes, cookies, candies, and other desserts. If you can’t live without sweets, eat these food items only as once-in-a-while treats, or consider healthier alternatives like fruit shakes and yogurts.
Follow a Mediterranean-style diet
You can forget about pasta-rich dinners and luncheons because real Mediterranean cuisine is actually more about eating heaps of fresh veggies like tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, bell peppers, zucchinis, and many others. People in that part of the world also love their lean meat, omega-3 rich fish, nuts, seeds, fruits, and healthy sources of fat like olive oil.
A Mediterranean diet can help keep your weight in check, a common concern for women entering menopause. Additionally, emphasis on the consumption of food items that are rich in fiber, lean protein, and healthy fats can also help reduce your risk for other conditions like heart diseases and certain cancers.
Avoid food items that may trigger hot flashes
Hot flashes and night sweats can be triggered or made worse by stimulants like spicy food, caffeine in coffee, and alcohol. If you really can’t go without them, consume them only in moderation. Never have them at nighttime or just before you go to bed.
Eat cruciferous vegetables
Many studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables have a beneficial effect against hormonal cancers like certain types of breast cancer. Eating plants like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, and garden cress triggers the production of isothiocyanates, which are powerful anti-cancer substances.
Eat foods that promote bone health
One major effect of menopause is the weakening of bones, which is linked to diminishing levels of estrogen in the body. Women would be well advised to increase their consumption of food items that are rich sources of calcium (oranges, sardines, cruciferous veggies), vitamin D (fatty fish, egg yolks), vitamin K (kale, spinach, parsley), magnesium (nuts and seeds), and boron (grapes, pears, apples)—nutrients which are important in the maintenance of bone health.
Eat legumes, seeds, and nuts
Having dry, lifeless skin is another problem among premenopausal women. Legumes (peas), seeds (seeds, sunflower, pumpkin), and nuts (almonds, walnuts), are packed with nutrients that not only help keep hormones in balance, they can also help promote healthy skin.
When it comes to diet for hormonal balance in women, the trick is to consume a wide variety of healthy food items and to avoid those that may exacerbate the symptoms that you are experiencing.
In many cases, nutrient supplementation and treatment with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy will still be necessary to manage the symptoms of perimenopause. These are meant to complement your healthy diet and good lifestyle practices for maximum benefits.
If you would like to learn more about hormonal imbalance in women and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, please contact Genemedics today.