Menopause is a part of the natural cycle of life for women, but symptoms like hot flashes can dramatically alter your life. As your body adjusts to the hormonal changes, you may gain weight, run low on nutrients, have trouble sleeping, or find yourself at risk for certain diseases and health conditions.
Food can positively and negatively affect how you feel during menopause. If you’re experiencing symptoms, there are foods to avoid during menopause, if you want to see improvement in how you feel.
Foods to Avoid During Menopause
How do you feel after you eat a bunch of bread, spaghetti, or junk food? Do you feel bloated and lacking energy? Food affects how you feel at all stages of life, but you may experience its effects even more during perimenopause as well as during and after menopause.
These are the foods to avoid to give yourself the best shot at feeling good during all three stages of menopause.
Cut-back on these food groups:
- Spicy food.
- Limit caffeine.
- Limit alcohol.
- Processed foods.
- High-fat foods.
- Fatty meats.
- Hot beverages and soups.
Everyone’s menopause journey is different. It’s a marathon, with symptoms lasting a decade or more. Food is just one way to train for this marathon.
While some of these menopause trigger foods may increase symptoms for some women, they may not have any impact on others. In general, though, it’s a good idea to put these foods on the “watch” list and eat them in moderation.
Spicy food and hot flashes
Have you ever eaten something spicy that set your mouth on fire but cleared your sinuses? The heat in these foods that makes your mouth feel like it’s on fire, also opens up your blood vessels. While that’s a good thing if you’re congested and want your nose to run, it’s not the best choice if you’re menopausal.
Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of menopause. They’re related to the expansion of blood vessels. When this happens, more blood flows through your body. That’s why you feel flushed, hot, sweaty, and red throughout your face, neck, head, and chest.
Spicy food can trigger hot flashes or at least make you feel more flushed. One of the top tips to manage hot flashes is to avoid spicy food.
Spicy food can also trigger acid reflux or other digestion issues, which may keep you awake at night. With sleeplessness already a problem for many during menopause, you don’t need one more reason to keep you awake at night.
When you’re sleeping less, what’s the first thing you grab? Is it coffee? That cup of joe may sound like the perfect answer to sleepless nights due to menopause, but it may also increase your symptoms.
Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages, with the average person aged 35 to 64 drinking 3 cups a day.
A study by the Women’s Health Clinic at Mayo Clinic found a link between caffeine and hot flashes or other vasomotor symptoms like night sweats in menopausal women.
However, the study also found caffeine may benefit perimenopausal women by boosting their mood, memory, and concentration.
So, drinking some caffeine before and during the early stages of menopause can be helpful.
How does your body react to caffeine?
In a PeopleTweaker menopause survey, a registered nurse who experienced tension headaches, focused solely on her caffeine intake rather than changing her entire diet. She found it made a difference in how she felt.
There’s further evidence that caffeine lowers your body’s calcium levels, which is already a concern for menopausal women.
With a positive and negative influence on menopause symptoms, caffeine is one thing to watch when thinking about healthy eating during menopause.
While coffee gets the most attention, caffeine is also in some tea and soda.
Pay attention to the effect it has on your body. Does it make your heart race or give you the jitters? Does it make your sleeping problems worse? Cut back or eliminate caffeine if you feel it has a negative effect.
If you’ve been a coffee drinker all your life, focus on whether you’re feeling new symptoms now that you’re in menopause. That may be an indication that coffee is causing problems or more menopause-related symptoms. You may be more sensitive in menopause than at any other time of your life, yet also may feel the need to drink more of it since you may be experiencing sleeplessness.
Listen to your body and take action. But if you consume large quantities of beverages with high caffeine levels, be sure to taper off gradually so you avoid withdrawal symptoms like a headache or the jitters.
If you still prefer a warm decaffeinated drink, try a cup of hot ginger or peppermint tea.
Alcohol and menopause
Ever drink a glass of wine and suddenly feel warmer? Like spicy food, alcohol expands your blood vessels, which can trigger hot flashes.
Also, alcohol makes it harder to stay in a deep sleep whether you’re menopausal or not. So, if you’re already experiencing sleeplessness due to menopause symptoms, alcohol may make it even harder to get enough deep and restorative sleep so you wake up feeling refreshed.
Overall, the research is mixed on alcohol use. It increases some symptoms and long-term illness risks while decreasing others.
There’s one risk that’s not disputed. After more than 100 studies, researchers convincingly say there’s a link between alcohol use and breast cancer. The NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study found just one glass a day of alcohol increases your risk for breast cancer.
Learn everything you need to know about alcohol and menopause. Choose moderation if you choose to drink at all.
Avoid processed foods
While processed foods are easy to grab when you’re on the go or to help with a craving after a sleepless night, they don’t offer many benefits. Processed foods are usually high in salt and sugar, which will only make you feel more bloated. Plus, they increase your risk of certain diseases.
Make your snacks healthy choices, like raw vegetables or fruits. Skip the potato chips, cookies, cakes, and processed meats like hot dogs and deli meats.
Fast food may also be an easy on-the-go solution, but this type of food is typically high in fat. That can increase your risk of heart disease, which is already a risk for post-menopausal women.
In addition, weight gain is often a problem during menopause, so watching your fat intake is one way to lose and maintain your weight.
Get your fats from healthy choices like nuts, avocadoes, and olive oil.
Eat lean meat
Choose lean cuts of meat with high sources of protein during menopause.
Better yet, choose fish over meat. Fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and a staple of the popular Mediterranean diet, known to help slow down aging.
Hot drinks, soup, baths, or weather
While caffeine-free drinks will help with menopausal symptoms, you may need to skip hot foods and beverages altogether.
It’s not just coffee and spicy food that can bring on hot flashes, but anything hot. That includes a drink, shower, bath, or the weather.
Think about the warming sensation you feel when you drink a hot beverage or eat hot soup when you’re cold. It instantly warms you up.
With warmth already an issue during menopause, hot soup or a warm beverage can make your menopause symptoms worse.
Managing menopause symptoms
Focusing on healthy eating habits and a healthy lifestyle is action you can take to alter the course of your menopause journey.
What foods do you find bring on your menopause symptoms?
As a physician, healthcare executive at a Fortune 100 company, and integrative health practitioner, Z. Colette Edwards, MD, MBA knows the unique value of a holistic, whole-person approach to health and well-being. She also understands the challenges health inequities can present. Known as “The Insight Doctor,” she offers guidance and powerful tools that prepare your body, mind, and spirit for menopause, stress, and inflammatory bowel disease. Lastly, Dr. Edwards coaches individuals in the development of self-advocacy and health system navigation skills.
(Personal Insight MD, LLC, PeopleTweaker, and Insight MD does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are feeling extreme anger with thoughts and actions harmful to yourself or others such as physical/verbal abuse or acts of violence, find yourself self-medicating with alcohol, illicit drugs, etc., expressing your anger in such a way that threaten relationships or your job, etc. seek professional help immediately and call 911 if necessary if you find yourself in an out-of-control situation or have the urge to hurt yourself or others.)