Nutrition and Menopause
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Women going through menopause may worry about things like hot flashes, problems sleeping, and vaginal dryness. But they may not be thinking of their changing nutritional needs. A woman's diet plays a role in their health and well-being during this time and after.
Menopause is a normal part of a woman’s life cycle. It is the loss of monthly periods and the end of having children. Most women reach it in their mid 40s to mid 50s. Some reach it earlier due to their genes, health problems, surgery, or other reasons. When it happens, your body will make less of the hormone estrogen. This has a big impact on your health and nutrition.
You should learn about these health and nutrition concerns:
A Bigger Need for Calcium
A loss in bone mass is common as we age. Dropping estrogen levels can cause women to lose bone faster. This can lead to osteoporosis, which weakens bones. Weight-bearing exercises and calcium can help lower the risk. Women aged 50 years and older should get 1,200 mg per day. Talk to your doctor about how much you need.
Eat more of these calcium-rich foods:
You will need vitamin D (600 units a day) to help your body to absorb calcium. Your body makes some vitamin D when you are exposed to sunlight. This vitamin is also in some foods, such as fortified milk, liver, and tuna.
Some women gain weight during and after menopause, even if they never had a weight problem before. It may be due to a slower metabolism as hormone levels change. Lack of activity with aging may also be to blame.
You may need to adjust your food choices, lower your calories, and raise your activity level. Eat a diet that is high in fiber, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Regular exercise can also help.
Lowering the Risk of Heart Disease
As estrogen levels drop, a woman’s risk of heart disease rises. Habit changes can help lower the risk. These include exercise, quitting smoking, staying at a healthy weight, managing stress, and eating a healthy diet.
Women need more iron than men due to blood loss during menstruation. Changing hormone levels may cause heavy bleeding in women as they approach menopause. This may cause them to need more iron. Less is needed by women who reach menopause and stop menstruating. Too much could be harmful. Talk to your doctor about your iron needs.
Take heart and take control. Menopause is not a disease. There are many changes you can make in your life to stay healthy.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The North American Menopause Society
Calcium. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements website. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional. Updated October 16, 2019. Accessed February 10, 2020.
Menopause. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/menopause. Updated December 5, 2019. Accessed February 10, 2020.
Last reviewed November 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Dianne Scheinberg Rishikof MS, RD, LDN
Last Updated: 2/3/2021