Menopause diet: what’s good, and what’s good to avoid

If you haven’t had a period for the past 12 months, you’ve likely reached – a natural transition in life, as your body discontinues the menstrual cycle. Typically, this delicate moment arrives somewhere between your late 40s and early 50s, though it can also happen earlier, or much later. Some of the changes your body experiences during this time may be uncomfortable, but having a good diet is one way to ease the transition.

Hormonal changes and their effects

During , your declining oestrogen level produces several effects. While different women may experience different symptoms, here are some of the most common ones:
Hot flashes
By far the most common symptom of menopause, a hot flash is a sudden and brief increase in body temperature. About 75% of all women in menopause experience this symptom1 but the frequency and intensity vary for each woman.
Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM) 
GSM is a term to describe the changes that affect the vagina, bladder, urethra and pelvic floor tissue that may occur during menopause. As a result of decreased oestrogen levels, your may become weaker, and your vaginal walls may become thinner, drier, and less elastic, which can lead to pain during sexual intercourse. Your level of lactobacilli bacteria also decreases, leading to a higher pH-environment, and a higher risk of urinary tract infection, since the bacteria find it easier to attach and thrive.
Other bladder problems
Bladder issues may include frequency-, urgency-, nocturia- and stress . Try using vaginal oestrogen creams and inserts to relieve some of your GSM symptoms, and be sure to keep your pelvic floor strong with to help prevent future incontinence. Cutting down on caffeine can help too, as it is a known contributor to urinary frequency.
Weight gain
A natural effect of ageing is the loss of muscle mass, which impacts your metabolism, and tends to increase fat storage. Hormonal fluctuations in the amount of oestrogen and progesterone that your body produces can contribute to weight gain. Being obese is also a risk factor for incontinence, and may lead to both and . Lifestyle, ageing, diet, and genetic factors all contribute to your overall weight and health. Keeping physically active, and watching your diet, can help you maintain both your weight level and your body’s ability to resist incontinence. 
Bone density
Declining oestrogen production can also impact the calcium in your bones, which can make you more susceptible to hip, spine and other bone fractures, as the bone density decreases. Taking vitamin D supplements, as well as exercising and eating foods with calcium, can help keep your bones healthy.
This may seem like quite a long list of changes to deal with, but keep in mind that the frequency and intensity of symptoms are different for each person. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help relieve menopause symptoms. To start with, make sure your diet includes good food for menopause.

Foods to help menopause

While some of the risks associated with monepause can´t be avoided, a nutrient-rich diet can help you prevent or relieve its symptoms. As a basic dietary guideline, a low fat and high-fruit, vegetable and whole grain diet as well as moderate caloric intake can be recommended to post menopausal women to help prevent urinary 2 and other health issues. Also make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D to compensate for the effect that lower oestrogen level has on your bones. Low levels of Vitamin D has also shown to be associated with urinary incontinence, however, more studies are needed3
Dairy products
Milk, yoghurt, cheese, and other dairy products contain calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins D and K. Each of these ingredients either help to protect your bones or improve their health, thus minimising your risk of bone fractures.
Whole grains
Whole grains are an excellent source for fibre, and B vitamins and are linked to a reduced risk of heart conditions, type 2 diabetes, and cancer4
Fresh fruits and vegetables
A diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables will be packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants. This is not only good for your general health, it may also help reduce hot flashes5 for some women.
Protein and exercise
Foods high in protein include eggs, meat, fish, legumes, seitan, tofu, and dairy products. When oestrogen levels fall off due to , it can affect both muscle mass and bone density. Increasing both your protein intake and your physical activity can help offset these effects6.

Foods to avoid during menopause

Certain foods are always good to avoid from a pure health perspective. But for women in specifically7, it’s wise to cut down on foods that can easily lead to weight gain, hot flashes, and affect your general well-being.
Trans fats
Bacon, potato chips, margarine, cookies, instant soups and sauces, breads and pastries – these foods might taste good, but they increase the risk of weight gain and heart disease. 
Try to choose right type of carbohydrates and to avoid fast, processed carbohydrates since they destabilise your blood glucose and elevate your insulin response. 
Artificial sweeteners 
Used in products such as diet sodas and chewing gum, common sweeteners like Aspartame have no real health benefits, and may actually be harmful. More research is needed. Water is the best drink with meals, and an unbeatable thirst quencher.
The best option for overall health is no drinking at all. Stayin away from the drinks can have a positive effect on your sleep, since this is the time when your brain and body recover to get ready for the next day. Even small amounts of alcohol before you say goodnight affect this recovery process in a negative way. Also keep in mind that alcohol is high in calories per gram and stimulates your appetite, which might lead to weight gain. 
Also keep in mind that alcohol is high in calories per gram and stimulates your appetite, which might lead to weight gain. Staying away from the drinks can also have a positive effect on your sleep, since this is the time when your brain and body recover to get ready for the next day. Even small amounts of alcohol before you say goodnight affect this recovery process in a negative way.
Spicy foods
It is often suggested for women in menopause to avoid spicy foods. The effects are highly individual, but hot/spicy foods stimulate nerve endings which can dilate blood vessels and trigger hot flashes8.
Foods that might trigger a reaction 
You may also experience latent food sensitivities that manifest during menopause for the first time, with symptoms such as bloating, nausea, gas, or . Common examples of foods that can trigger these types of sensitive reactions are dairy products, eggs, or tomatoes. Try to avoid foods that trigger unpleasant symptoms, and if your symptoms don´t go away,  consider make an appointment with a healthcare provider.

Supporting your adrenal glands

Many women going through may feel stress because of the hormonal changes and resulting bothersome symptoms like e.g. mood changes and disrupted sleep. When we are stressed the adrenal glands produce stress hormones. 
Another task for the adrenal glands is to produce small amounts of oestrogen and progesterone. If the body is under stress, the adrenal glands prioritize production of cortisol and adrenaline over the production of female hormones. Emotional stress may also cause an overactive bladder. 
To relieve the adrenaline glands, prevent the frequent toilet visits and build your wellbeing. Try to minimize stress by doing healthy choices like sleeping regularly, balanced schedule, make time for relaxation, have a healthy diet etc. There are also supplements available that support the function of the adrenal glands, like B vitamins that are involved in multiple processes in the nervous system. B-vitamins, Magnesium, selenium and vitamin C and D are often recommended.

The effect of menopause on incontinence

Many different factors may contribute to in women, including childbirth, ageing, overall health, and other physical issues. Nevertheless, there is evidence of a peak in incontinence at the time of .
As oestrogen levels drop during menopause, so do the elasticity and strength of the . Decreased oestrogen levels can also cause the vaginal and urinary tract tissues to become drier, thinner, and less elastic. All these changes can contribute to incontinence.
For these reasons, it’s important to maintain good skin health, and to use incontinence products that are comfortable and keep the skin dry. Doing can also help you strengthen the pelvic muscles and prevent incontinence.
2Cardozo, L, Rovner, E, Wagg, A, Wein, A, Abrams, P. (Eds) 7th Edition (2023), page 800
3Cardozo, L, Rovner, E, Wagg, A, Wein, A, Abrams, P. (Eds) Incontinence 7th Edition (2023), page 381
5 A study of more than 17,000 menopausal women showed a 19% reduction in hot flashes for those who ate more vegetables, fruit, fiber, and soy compared to the control group.
7 Lundin, Mia. The Hormone Balance Cookbook. Skyhorse Publishing, 2018:64–65.

Eat well, live well

On the whole, if a food comes with a long list of ingredients, it’s probably not the healthiest option. Try instead to get the majority of your carbs from whole, single-ingredient foods. And remember, is a natural part of your life cycle. Yes, your body does go through changes, and some of these may be unpleasant, but a good diet plan and regular exercise can help you feel like yourself well into your mature years, and beyond.