Nutrition During Menopause

True Protein Blog Avatar Fallback reviewed by our Nutrition Team 06 February 2024

Menopause can be an uncomfortable transition for some. Hormonal changes occur in the body, giving rise to symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings, sleep problems, and weight gain. Read on to find out how nutritional strategies can be used to ease symptoms and make this time more manageable.

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Nutrition During Menopause

What is menopause? 

Menopause occurs in all women, typically between the ages of 45 and 55, marking the last or final menstrual period. Once there has been no period for 12 consecutive months, a woman is considered postmenstrual, but the transitions and related symptoms can last several years. The transition can be uncomfortable, but research suggests that nutritional strategies may ease symptoms and make it more manageable.   

 

What happens to the body during menopause? 

Leading up to the final period and for up to one year afterward, hormonal changes occur in the body, giving rise to symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings, sleep problems, and weight gain. These symptoms result from a decrease in estrogen, disrupting your usual cyclical patterns of estrogen and progesterone and negatively affecting your metabolism. This transitional phase is known as perimenopause or the menopausal transition. The hormonal and physiological fluctuations during this time create changing dietary needs that are important to support. 

 

Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin D & Vitamin K 

The drop in estrogen that occurs during menopause can increase the risk of conditions such as osteoporosis, where bones become weak and brittle. Research suggests calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K are all nutrients that play a vital role in the maintenance of bone health (1).  Findings from a 2017 study also propose that high intakes of dietary calcium and vitamin D may be modestly associated with a lower risk of early onset menopause (2).  

 

As mentioned earlier sleep difficulties become more prevalent as women transition through menopause. This is something that can impact one’s daytime functioning and could potentially pose long term consequences for their physical and mental health (3). Not only is it beneficial for bone health, but magnesium may also help promote sleep by regulating circadian rhythms and increasing muscle relaxation (4). It is suggested you incorporate these 4 nutrients into your diet during menopause.  

 

Foods to include are as follows: 

Calcium 

Dairy products such as yoghurt, cheese and milk, edamame, leafy greens and almonds 

 

Magnesium 

Green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole-grains 

 

Vitamin D 

Salmon, canned tuna, canned salmon, egg yolk and mushrooms 

Vitamin K 

Green leafy vegetables, soybean, pork, chicken and prunes 

 

 

Supplementing these nutrients may be necessary if you cannot incorporate whole foods into your diet or if you are after a more convenient option. 

Omega 3 Fatty Acids 

The Australian Menopause Centre recommends omega 3 as treatment for a range of menopausal symptoms due to its anti-inflammatory properties and positive effect on bone density (5). They suggest omega-3 can help with: 

  • Hypertriglyceridemia – this is where you have too many triglycerides (fats) in your blood, raising your risk of heart related diseases 
  • Joint pain / menopause arthritis 
  • Menstrual pain – often experienced by perimenopausal women 
  • Depression – the risk is greater following menopause 
  • Osteoporosis  
  • Hot flushes – omega 3 may not help the intensity but can decrease the frequency 
  • Vaginal dryness 

Foods naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids include oily fish like salmon or mackerel, chia seeds, oysters, spinach, soybeans and eggs. 

 

Protein 

Most menopausal women experience decreasing muscle mass due to the decline in estrogen (6), this progressive loss of muscle mass and strength is known as sarcopenia. Adequate intake of protein is essential, more than ever before, to ensure the body has all the amino acids (building blocks) it needs to build muscle tissue. This is why menopausal women should increase their intake of protein. For more, read our blog, How much protein do you need per day? 

 

To support the maintenance and growth of muscle mass it is important to eat a whole food diet that includes a variety of protein-rich sources. For example, lean meats and poultry, tofu, beans, lentils, eggs and dairy products, including Greek yoghurt and cottage cheese.  

 

If you are struggling to meet your daily protein requirements, supplementation may be a good addition to your diet, especially if you have high needs due to physical activity. True Protein’s WPI90 is a whey protein powder with a convenient 25g of protein per serve. This can be conveniently taken in a simple shake or added to smoothies, oats or baking.  

 

If protein powders aren’t for you, try something from our protein snack range – Protein Bars, Mousse or Protein Pancakes 

 

Other relevant supplements 

ZMA

Rich in magnesium which contributes to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue, a symptom suffered during menopause.  

ZMA

ZMA

Ideal for sleep and recovery

441 total reviews

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$58.00
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Greens

Contains Shiitake mushrooms which are a plant based and rich source of natural vitamin D, critical for the immune system as well as the integrity of bones, skin and muscles.  

New
New Greens

Next Generation Greens

Daily superfood blend

2 total reviews

Regular price
$55.00
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$55.00
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Collagen + Vitamin C 

Supplementing collagen contributes to abundant collagen formation for healthy structure of cartilage, tendons, bones and muscle fibres. 

Collagen + Vitamin C

Collagen

Hydrolysed peptides with added Vitamin C for absorption

120 total reviews

Regular price
$45.00
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$45.00
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Training During Menopause 

Regular exercise provides many benefits no matter what menopausal stage you are in and simultaneously helps various aspects of one’s health (7). Exercise will help to lower the risk of stress, anxiety and depression, all of which become more prevalent during menopause as well as helping muscle mass, strength, balance and coordination which are all of concern during this time.   

Exercises to assist bone density: 

1. Weight bearing, high impact – these exercises are good for those who do not have osteoporosis or low bone mass and are not frail. May involve dancing, high impact aerobics, skipping, and stair climbing as well as sports like tennis or basketball.  

2. Weight bearing, low impact – good for those who need top build bone density whilst not being able to do high impact exercises. Includes walking, stair step machines, elliptical machines and low impact aerobics.  

3. Weight or strength training or resistance training – these exercises use simple functional movements such as standing or lifting one’s own bodyweight and include lifting weights, using resistance bands and weight machines.  

4. Non weight bearing, nonimpact – these exercises do not help build bones and should only be included as part of a comprehensive exercise program. May involve cycling, swimming, stretching and flexibility exercises.  

 

Other benefits of exercise for menopausal women (8): 

  • May help prevent mental decline 

  • May improve quality of sleep 

  • May provide joint and muscle pain relief 

  • May support good heart health by controlling blood pressure 

 

Key takeaways: 

  • Menopause occurs in all women, typically between the ages of 45 and 55, marking the last or final menstrual period 

  • During this time, hormonal changes occur in the body, giving rise to symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings, sleep problems, and weight gain

  • Nutritional strategies may ease symptoms and make it more manageable 

  • Recommended you increase your consumption of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D & K, omega-3 and protein 

  • Training and regular exercise can also be helpful and should be of priority fir menopausal women 

 

References 

1. Baker, F. C., De Zambotti, M., Colrain, I. M., & Bei, B. (2018). Sleep problems during the menopausal transition: prevalence, impact, and management challenges. Nature and Science of Sleep, Volume 10, 73–95. https://doi.org/10.2147/nss.s125807 

2. Capozzi, A., Scambia, G., & Lello, S. (2020). Calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K2, and magnesium supplementation and skeletal health. Maturitas, 140, 55–63. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2020.05.020 

3. Purdue-Smithe, A., Whitcomb, B. W., Szegda, K., Boutot, M. E., Manson, J. E., Hankinson, S. E., Rosner, B., Troy, L. M., Michels, K. B., & Bertone‐Johnson, E. R. (2017). Vitamin D and calcium intake and risk of early menopause ,. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 105(6), 1493–1501. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.116.145607 

4. Seo, R. D. (n.d.). » How omega-3 can provide relief for Menopausal symptoms. https://www.menopausecentre.com.au/information-centre/articles/how-omega-3-can-provide-relief-for-menopausal-symptoms/#:~:text=As%20omega-3%20offers%20a,stiffness%20related%20to%20menopause%20arthritis. 

5. Zhang, Y., Chen, C., Lu, L., Knutson, K. L., Carnethon, M. R., Fly, A. D., Luo, J., Haas, D. M., Shikany, J. M., & Kahe, K. (2021). Association of magnesium intake with sleep duration and sleep quality: findings from the CARDIA study. SLEEP, 45(4). https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsab276 

6. Menopause and the Loss of Skeletal Muscle Mass in Women - PMC (nih.gov) 

7. Mishra, N., Mishra, V. N., & Devanshi. (2011). Exercise beyond menopause: Dos and Don′ts. Journal of Mid-life Health, 2(2), 51. https://doi.org/10.4103/0976-7800.92524 

8. 29-WHC-FACTSHEET-Exercise-in-menopause-JUNE2023-A.pdf (womens-health-concern.org) 

 

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: all content provided here is of a general nature only and is not a substitute for individualised professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and reliance should not be placed on it. For personalised medical or nutrition advice, please make an appointment with your doctor, dietitian or qualified health careprofessional.