Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be talking about six food mistakes you might be making in the menopause that can have an impact on your symptoms.
We know the types of food that you eat during the menopause are very important for stabilising your symptoms, while there are foods that can make everything worse. But, how you manage your diet can be just as important as the foods that you're eating.
Mistake 1: Missing meals or large gaps between meals
The problem with the menopause and the peri-menopause is that, when our hormones start to change, very often this impacts our blood sugar control. So, we can get a lot hungrier, our blood sugars can dip very quickly, and it can get totally out of control.
So, you may have found in the past that you could go quite happily for four or five hours without eating anything. You might find that you could cope very well with missing breakfast in the morning. But, once your blood sugar control gets out of hand, then that can create all sorts of problems.
Your blood sugar levels can go up, then they can suddenly plummet, and that can cause all sorts of symptoms that can trigger things like flushes, sweats, palpitations, headaches, nausea. A lot of the menopause symptoms may be more to do with the fact that you're just not eating regularly enough.
So, this is a really important one to bear in mind. I know that there will be a lot of you who are probably on the 5:2 diet. This is a diet where, two days a week, you're on a very restrictive calorie intake.
All I will say here is, if this diet is suiting you, if you feel great on it, if your energy levels are stable, if you are sleeping well, if you're not getting grumpy, and irritable, and craving foods, then that's absolutely fine. But it's amazing how many women tell me they go on this diet, they certainly lose the weight, but they feel absolutely miserable. So, it's all about balance with this particular one.
Mistake 2: Eating too late at night or too close to bedtime
Again, what happens is, especially if you have quite a big meal, you may be over-loading your digestive system.
If your digestive system is really, really busy just as you're going to bed, that will interfere with your sleep. The other thing that can happen here is that, if you're eating a lot at night, then your liver can be overworked, and that will wake you up. So, if you're waking up between 1am and 3am, that's your liver time. And, if this happens that night after night, then that can be an indication that you've possibly eaten too late, you've eaten too much, and your poor old liver is literally struggling.
The other side of this coin is not eating enough before you go to bed. And we know that, if you have a meal early on and don't have an evening snack, your blood sugar levels during the night can get too low.
That can trigger a panic attack that can wake you up with a night sweat or a hot flush. You might find that you get the palpitations. And, because your nervous system has been pulled in here, your appetite is shut off. So, there you are in bed, waking up, not realising that your poor old body is just absolutely starving.
This is another one where you need to get the right balance. So, don't eat too late. But, if you eat earlier on in the evening, then it's a good idea to have some kind of protein-based snack, maybe an hour or two before you go to bed – just to keep your body that little bit stable.
Mistake 3: Not understanding the impact that certain foods can have on our symptoms
So, it's the usual culprits, unfortunately. It's things like your caffeine, it's your dairy, alcohol, spicy foods, and salty and sugary foods. These ones can rev up your nervous system, maybe within an hour or two of taking them, and certainly a lot sooner with caffeine. And that will trigger things, again, like flushes, sweats, headaches, palpitations, and nausea, too.
So, if you find that you tend to get your symptoms maybe one to two hours after eating or drinking, then maybe look at what you're eating or drinking, and you might get a clue as to what's not the best thing to have at that particular time.
Mistake 4: Having a diet that's too restrictive
And, again, many of you are wanting to maintain your weight or lose a little bit of weight. And, of course, what do we do? We think, "Right. Let's cut calories, let's cut fat, and we will be okay." The problem here is that, in menopause, on that kind of diet, all that will happen is your metabolism will slow down and you'll probably end up putting on weight. So, again, if you don't eat enough, then your blood sugars plummet.
So, we're going back to number one here. Your blood sugar levels plummet, that will make you crave even more sweet things, and that, in turn, can lead to binge eating. So, it's about getting the calorie balance right in your diet and just making sure that you're having enough to eat – maybe eating little and often rather than having, you know, just small meals and nothing in between.
Mistake 5: Not being aware of hidden sugars
Sugar is in everything and, very often, we don't realise it's in the foods that we're buying: things like tomato sauce, tinned soup and pasta sauces. I was absolutely amazed.
Not long ago, I went to buy some smoked salmon, and it was flavoured smoked salmon, and it had sugar in it! It's the same with a lot of the fishes. And I love smoked mackerel, I find it a really handy food to have, but some of the varieties have sugar in them. And, I'm thinking, "Why do we need sugar in fish, of all foods?!" So, be savvy when it comes to buying things from the supermarket.
Read the label and, if sugar is listed as one of the first ingredients, then avoid it. You know, we really don't need sugar in every single thing that we're eating.
Mistake 6: Thinking that all fats are bad for us
Our body is in a state of confusion as it's going through the menopause, and one of the things it needs plenty of is fats.
You need fat to make hormones. So, here you are at a point when the body is desperately trying to hang on to all the hormones that it can find. By cutting out fat, you are depriving it of the very building blocks that it needs to keep your hormone levels stable.
It's also true that we need fats for brain function. So, again, if you're getting that brain fog, if you're not thinking straight, if you can't concentrate, then it may be that you're just not getting enough fats from your diet.
Fats are also needed for your joints. And we know that joint pain and joint aches are a very, very common symptom in the menopause.
Finally, we need fat in order to keep our skin healthy. So, again, it's about the right fats. I've done a recent blog on this. So there will be a link that and you can have a look at this if you're not quite sure which fats to have and what ones not to have.
So, hopefully, this has given you a little bit of food for thought. If any of you out there have any tips, please share them. I would love to hear from you.