Menopause: Which Diet can Provide Relieve from Symptoms
Immediate relief from the most severe symptoms of menopause, without using medicines… this is something that women who make the right changes in their daily menu can enjoy. A new study that was published in the journal Menopause showed thatdietary changes may be more effective in treating hot flashes than previously thought by scientists. It has the same positive effects on night sweats, a problem that causes serious sleep problems in a large proportion of menopausal women.
“The relationship between diet and diseases or medical conditions is extremely complex and interdependent. It is well known to everyone that the consumption of certain food groups has protective and beneficial effects for the body, while other food groups are aggravating both in the general population and in people with certain health problems. As far as menopause is concerned, the study shows that the symptoms caused can be lowered or minimized when consuming a diet rich in vegetables and fruits but poor in meat. The results of a very recent study that was published in October 2021 confirm perfectly that a vegetarian diet is beneficial and in itself is enough to dramatically reduce symptoms”, as explained by Mr. Dimitris Oikonomakis, Specialist in Dietetics, head of a team of nutritionists and trainers who love good nutrition and exercise.
Menopause is a natural process that results from the loss of ovarian function. Many women develop vasomotor symptoms during this stage of their lives, ranging from mild discomfort to severe symptoms, which include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, palpitations, headaches and insomnia. Some of these may be so severe to have negative impacts on everyday activities and quality of life.
Previous studies have reported that the proportion of women experiencing vasomotor symptoms differs significantly among women in different ethnic groups. For example, Asian women are less likely to experience such symptoms, as opposed to women from South Africa, whose Body Mass Index (BMI) is higher, while both their educational level and income are lower. In western countries, vasomotor symptoms occur in up to 80% of menopausal women.
The study has identified several risk factors, such as the BMI, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption. Nutrition, which is an important aspect of a person’s lifestyle, is a determinant risk factor, both in terms of nutrients and to maintain body weight. It has further been found that in Asian countries where people traditionally choose plant-based foods, including rice, vegetables and, in some cases, soybeans, post-menopausal symptoms are limited. However, in the same areas where diet westernized, such as Japan, hot flashes experienced by women are twice more common in comparison to the past.
The findings of previous studies have shown that a diet designed to increase fiber intake and lower fat intake may reduce the risk of vasomotor symptoms in postmenopausal women. It has been demonstrated that sticking to the Mediterranean diet protects from the symptoms of menopause.
The new study that was published by the North American Menopause Society in Menopause journal confirmed that a plant-based diet rich in soycould lower moderate-to-severe hot flashes.
The study included postmenopausal women aged 40 to 65 years with moderate-to-severe hot flashes at least twice a day, who were willing to adhere to a low-fat vegan diet that included soybeans.
The study participants were divided into two groups; one was the control group and the other group was asked to follow a low-fat, vegan diet, based on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes and to minimize added oils and fatty foods (e.g., nuts, nut butter and avocados). They were provided with non-genetically modified soybeans and were asked to consume ½ cup (86 g) of cooked whole soybeans daily that could be added in their salad or soup. All participants were asked to avoid food supplements (excluding vitamin B12) and to maintain both their physical activity and the medicines they received constant, unless otherwise advised by the doctor.
During the 12-week study period, the majority of intervention-group participants reported no moderate-to-severe hot flashes at all. It was found that the combination of a low-fat vegan diet and whole soybeans was associated with reduced frequency and severity of hot flashes, and quality-of-life improvements in vasomotor, psychosocial, physical, and sexual domains among postmenopausal women. In particular, it was found that with a plant-based diet rich in soy, moderate-to-severe hot flashes decreased by 84%, from almost five per day to less than one per day. During the study, almost 60% of the women did not experience any moderate-to-severe hot flashes at all. In total, hot flashes (including mild ones) decreasedby 79%.
“These findings challenge the status quo regarding the management of symptoms in menopausal women aged 45 years or older. Now we know for sure that most of them can feel immediate relief from the symptoms of menopause without hormone therapy, which has been associated with breast cancer”, Mr. Dimitris Oikonomakis concludes.