Eating for healthy hormones during middle age

Midlife and its inevitable arrival at menopause or andropause (male menopause) are facts that everybody has to deal with. At 30 you might think it is too early to worry about it. Perimenopause is a transitional time between childbearing and post-childbearing years, so there is good reason to be thinking about your hormonal health much earlier.
Typically a women’s ovaries stop releasing eggs in her early 50s, when the menstrual cycle stops. Some women breeze through with the odd hot flush, while other struggle with symptoms such as weight gain, erratic mood swings etc. The physiological reason why the body starts changing is largely down to the drop in oestrogen production and the effect this has on other hormones. As the ovaries stop making oestrogen and progesterone, symptoms begin. There are receptors in virtually all tissues, which is why when you’re perimenopausal you’ll notice that your periods become irregular and you may experience symptoms in seemingly unrelated parts of your body. Our ovaries do not go out without a fight, which results in fluctuations in hormone levels. There are 3 stages which occur:-
1st phase – progesterone levels decline, leaving you in a state of oestrogen dominance. This may leave you feeling constantly pre-menstrual, bloated, cramps, mood swings and tender breasts.
2nd phase – oestrogen levels decline leading to symptoms of hot flushes, memory problems, heart palpitations, migraine headaches and vaginal dryness.
3rd phase – or late perimenopause, is when both levels have declined taking you to near menopausal levels. By this point some symptoms may have receded, but many can continue well into the menopause.
Perimenopause is a great opportunity to re-evaluate our diet and lifestyle and put in place positive changes to help us through this transitionary period. It’s never too late to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Keeping our weight under control our muscles toned and body fed with beneficial nutrients can not only help control the symptoms we experience, but can also decrease our risk of developing diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer later in life.
Don’t forget men!
Andropause, the male equivalent of the menopause, has begun to attract more attention from the media and medical community in recent years. Both men and women produce the same hormones, only in different amounts and as men get older there is a gradual decline in testosterone. Men entering middle age may report very similar symptoms to women such as, weakness, fatigue, reduced libido, poor concentration, short-term memory loss, irritability and even osteoporosis.
Nutritional tips to meet the midlife challenge
Eat good fats – consuming the rights fats and oils supplies the essential fatty acids (EFAs) that our bodies are incapable of producing on their own. These fats are necessary for graceful ageing and lowering inflammation in our bodies. They also help transport fat-soluble vitamins such as A,D, E & K around the body, delivering nutrients to our skin cells. Consider: coconut oil, avocadoes, nuts and seeds
Oily fish – omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish are particularly important for brain health. Research has linked adequate omega 3s in the diet with better mood and lower depression rates. Include at least 2 servings per week of salmon, mackerel, sardines or herring. Vegetarians can snack on walnuts, or drizzle cold pressed flax oil over a salad or porridge.
Good quality protein – this can be found in poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, beans, tofu, whole grains, nuts and seeds. As we get older you may need a bit more protein to counter the loss of lean muscle tissue and age-related declines in immune function.
Adequate B vitamins – B vitamins have a range of important functions in the body, including contributing to healthy red blood cells, metabolism, nerve function, healthy skin, vision and reducing tiredness. During times of stress the body metabolizes B vitamins very quickly. You can find B vitamins in:
Folate/Folic – dark green vegetables, fortified grains and grain products
Vit B6 – fortified cereals, peanuts, pork, poultry, fish, milk and vegetables
Vit B12 – fish, meat, dairy, fortified cereals, soya milk
Antioxidants – hormonal changes and increased stresses on the body can cause oxidation and inflammation in the body and can speed up the aging process. Therefore, it is important to ensure we eat a plentiful diet of fresh fruit and vegetables (of all colours) to supply the body with a healthy dose of antioxidants. Remember to include berries.