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Menopause is the time when a woman stops having menstrual periods or spotting for 12 consecutive months. The average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51.

Because her menstrual periods are over, her hormones (estrogen and progesterone) are decreased significantly, which can raise the risk of certain medical conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis, urinary incontinence, and weight gain. During menopause, a woman can experience menopausal symptoms that can affect her daily life. She may experience hot flashes (sudden feelings of feverish heat), night sweats, reduced libido, vaginal dryness, fluctuating mood, insomnia, anxiety, dry skin, and thinning hair.


Menopause happens when a woman runs out of her supply eggs and her ovaries can no longer release an egg every month and her menstruation stops. Her ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone causing their levels to drop. Any conditions that damage ovaries such as a complete hysterectomy which is a surgical procedure removing the uterus and ovaries, and the effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy that damages egg production in the ovaries, can lead to lower estrogen levels.

Several other risk factors that can cause low estrogen levels in women such as eating disorders, extreme dieting, family history of hormone imbalances, and a low-functioning pituitary gland which is responsible for making hormones. Low estrogen levels can result in weight gain as estrogen deficiency may impair the function of leptin and neuropeptide Y hormones that control fullness and appetite; can weaken bones as the estrogen helps keep the bones healthful and strong; can affect the vaginal lubrication to diminish and the vaginal lining to thin resulting in vaginal dryness; can affect depression and mood swings as estrogen deficiency cause decline in serotonin, which is a chemical in the brain that boosts mood; can increase urinary tract infections due to the thinning of the tissue in the urethra.

Too much estrogen can result from taking certain medications such as estrogen hormone therapy which is used to treat menopause symptoms, can cause breast cancer as cancer cells need more estrogen to grow; hormonal contraceptives can increase the risk of blood clots; antibiotics, herbal or natural remedies, and phenothiazines can raise too much estrogen level. Certain health conditions such as obesity can increase estrogen levels as fat produces extra estrogen in the body; ovarian tumors and liver disease can also play a role in high levels of estrogen.


Eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise and maintaining proper weight can help women reduce symptoms and ease transition to menopause. The best foods to eat include dairy products, whole grains, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, phytoestrogen containing foods, and quality protein.

Dairy products, such as low-fat milk, yogurt and cottage cheese, contain calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and vitamins D and K are essential for bone health and can help strengthen weak bones. Foods high in the amino acid glycine - found in milk and cheese - can improve sleep in menopausal women.

Eating healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, may improve hot flashes, prevent depression and anxiety. Foods highest in omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish, such as mackerel, salmon, trout, tofu and anchovies; and seeds like flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds.

Flax Seeds and cinnamon contain a compound called lignan that can help prevent depression and anxiety. The lignan helps to maintain hormonal balance and may decrease risk of breast cancer.

Eating foods that are rich in fiber can help stabilize sugar levels and can help improve mood swings. Whole grains that are rich in fiber include oats, brown rice, millets, papaya, apples, kiwis, guava, tomatoes, carrots, beetroots and bell peppers.

Phytoestrogen-containing foods such as soy, legumes, beans and dried fruits can help relieve hot flashes and night sweats. Phytoestrogens, also known as dietary estrogen, are naturally occurring plant compounds that may act in a way similar to that of estrogen produced by the human body.

The decline in estrogen from menopause is linked to decreased muscle mass and bone strength. Foods high in protein are eggs, meat, fish, legumes and dairy products; adding protein powders to smoothies or baked goods is another good source of protein.

To prevent weight gain around menopause, it’s recommended to reduce carbs in order to reduce belly fat, which drives metabolic problems; and add fiber into the diet such as flaxseeds, which may improve insulin sensitivity.

Avoid eating processed foods such as white bread, crackers and baked goods and limit the intake of added sugars as they can raise blood sugar rapidly. It’s recommended to keep your added sugar intake to less than 10% of your daily calorie intake - so if you eat a 2,000-calorie diet, less than 200 calories, or 50 grams, should come from added sugars. Caffeine and alcohol can trigger hot flashes in women going through menopause. High-salt foods can lower bone density in postmenopausal women. Spicy foods can increase hot flashes. Alcohol, coffee, spicy foods and refined foods can aggregate hot flashes and mood swings. They make the blood more acidic which can cause loss of calcium from the bones.

Drink plenty of water to improve the blood circulation. Regularly check your vitamin D3 levels, take calcium supplements for strong bones, work out, engage in strength training to improve body composition, increase strength, and build and maintain lean muscle. Get some rest, relax before bed and get enough sleep to keep the hormones and appetite well-managed.

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