Taking soy supplements will NOT ease the symptoms of menopause or protect against bone loss in women, researchers have reported. In fact, among women in the first five years of menopause, taking soy supplements was associated with a higher risk of bone loss compared with placebo, but significantly more women taking soy supplements had hot flashes. Continue reading
Women looking for relief from hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms often turn to supplements containing estrogen-like isoflavones (from soy or red clover), the herbal remedy black cohosh, or creams containing progesterone. A new report from ConsumerLab.com provides quality ratings for over 20 such products and identifies those providing amounts of compounds shown to be effective in clinical studies. Continue reading
In a past blog, Natural Medications (Herbs, Vitamins, and Supplements) for Menopausal Symptoms, I discussed the data supporting a trial of isoflavones in women with menopausal symptoms. However, there was not a lot of data. Now, Medscape is reporting, “Isoflavones may reduce insomnia symptoms” in postmenopausal women, according to a small study in the journal Menopause. Continue reading
Good news! Aging does not have to equal weight gain. Women do tend to put on a pound a year in their 40s and 50s, but it’s more likely due to a drop in activity rather than hormones. However, hormonal changes can shift your body composition, so any pounds you do gain tend to land in your middle. Here are some tips from Rachel Meltzer Warren, MS, RD, that were first published on Health.com:
Here are some ways to stay slim, reduce menopausal symptoms, and cut the health risks that can rise after menopause.
1) Go fish
Heart disease risk is likely to rise after menopause, so you should try to eat at least two servings of fish per week (preferably those with healthy fats like salmon or trout).
“Women may want to give [fish oil] supplements a try if having two servings of fish a week is problematic,” says JoAnn Manson, MD, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston.
Preliminary research suggests that fish oil may also help prevent breast cancer.
Aim for two servings of fish a week—and talk to your doctor about whether or not you should try a supplement.
2) Slim down
If you’re overweight you can minimize menopausal symptoms and reduce the long-term risks of declining hormones by losing weight, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University School of Medicine, in New Haven, Conn.
Slimming down not only reduces the risks of heart disease and breast cancer, both of which go up after menopause, says Dr. Minkin, but new research shows that it may also help obese or overweight women cut down on hot flashes.
3) Bone up on calcium
Your calcium needs go up after age 50, from 1,000 milligrams per day to 1,200 mg. “With less estrogen on board, your bones don’t absorb calcium as well,” says Dr. Minkin.
If you have a cup of low-fat milk, one latte, and one 8-ounce yogurt, you’re getting around 1,100 mg calcium. This means you need to take only an additional 100 mg of supplements a day—less than one caplet’s worth—to make up the difference.
If you’re eating dairy, choose low-fat products. These have roughly the same amount of calcium as their full-fat counterparts, but with fewer calories.
4) Ease bloating
“About 100% of my patients going through menopause complain of bloating,” says Dr. Minkin. Although the reasons aren’t clear, fluctuating hormones during perimenopause may play a role.
Dr. Minkin recommends cutting the amount of salt and processed carbohydrates in your diet, as they can make you retain water. But don’t skimp on whole grains, which are rich in heart-healthy fiber, as well as fruits and vegetables.
If healthy food, such as apples and broccoli, make you feel bloated, Dr. Minkin suggests taking Mylanta or Gas-X to combat gas buildup.
5) Rethink that drink
Red wine gets a lot of press for its impact on heart health, but for menopausal women the drawbacks of alcohol might outweigh the benefits.
“One drink a day has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer,” says Dr. Manson. “So while it has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, it really is a trade-off for women.”
If you enjoy a glass of Pinot, try watering it down with seltzer to make a spritzer (you’ll cut calories too). Also keep in mind that red wine and other drinks may bring on hot flashes as a result of the increase in blood-vessel dilation caused by alcohol.
6) Say yes to soy
Soy contains plant estrogens, so many women think it can increase their breast cancer risk, says Dr. Minkin. However, there is little data to support this. The misconception likely comes from studies of high-dose soy supplements, which may stimulate the growth of estrogen-sensitive tumors.
Soy foods like tofu, soy nuts, and soy milk may offer relief from mild hot flashes and are not thought to increase breast cancer risk. “Women in Japan have the highest soy intake and the lowest risk of breast cancer, but Japanese women who move to the U.S. and eat less soy have a higher risk,” adds Dr. Minkin.
7) Try iced herbal tea
A warm cup of joe might be as much a part of your a.m. routine as brushing your teeth. Still, starting your day with a piping-hot drink may not be the best idea during menopause.
“In general, warm beverages seem to trigger hot flashes,” says Dr. Manson. “And the caffeine in coffee and tea could also be having an effect.”
Cover your bases by swapping your morning cup with something cool and decaffeinated—like a Tazo Shaken Iced Passion Tea at Starbucks or a decaf iced coffee.
8) Find a diet that fits
If you need to shed pounds, weight loss is no different during menopause than before it. “If you take in less calories than you burn for a long period of time, you’re going to lose weight,” says Dr. Minkin.
Any balanced diet that cuts calories—and that you can stick with in the long run—will do the job.
However, one study found that postmenopausal women who were on a diet that was low in fat and high in carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits, and grain were less likely to gain weight than women who ate more fat. Consider the new CarbLovers Diet which is rich in whole grains and other figure-friendly foods.
As we head into the Easter weekend, I wanted to offer you some blogs on healthier nutrition choices. Here are ten choices that you can make that will be heart healthy and are adapted from an article at Health.com.
Start your day with a steaming bowl of oats, which are full of omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium. This fiber-rich superfood can lower levels of LDL (or bad) cholesterol and help keep arteries clear. Opt for coarse or steel-cut oats over instant varieties—which contain more fiber—and top your bowl off with a banana for another 4 grams of fiber.
Super-rich in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon can effectively reduce blood pressure and keep clotting at bay. Aim for two servings per week, which may reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack by up to one-third. “Salmon contains the carotenoid astaxanthin, which is a very powerful antioxidant,” says cardiologist Stephen T. Sinatra, MD, the author of Lower Your Blood Pressure In Eight Weeks. But be sure to choose wild salmon over farm-raised fish, which can be packed with insecticides, pesticides, and heavy metals. Not a fan of salmon? Other oily fish like mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines will give your heart the same boost.
Add a bit of avocado to a sandwich or spinach salad to up the amount of heart-healthy fats in your diet. Packed with monounsaturated fat, avocados can help lower LDL levels while raising the amount of HDL cholesterol in your body. “Avocados are awesome,” says Dr. Sinatra. “They allow for the absorption of other carotenoids—especially beta-carotene and lycopene—which are essential for heart health.”
4) Olive oil
Full of monounsaturated fats, olive oil lowers bad LDL cholesterol and reduces your risk of developing heart disease. Results from the Seven Countries Study, which looked at cardiovascular disease incidences across the globe, showed that while men in Crete had a predisposition for high cholesterol levels, relatively few died of heart disease because their diet focused on heart-healthy fats found in olive oil. Look for extra-virgin or virgin varieties—they’re the least processed—and use them instead of butter when cooking.
Walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids and, along with almonds and macadamia nuts, are loaded with mono- and polyunsaturated fat. Plus, nuts increase fiber in the diet, says Dr. Sinatra. “And like olive oil, they are a great source of healthy fat.”
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries—whatever berry you like best—are full of anti-inflammatories, which reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. “Blackberries and blueberries are especially great,” says Sinatra. “But all berries are great for your vascular health.”
Fill up on fiber with lentils, chickpeas, and black and kidney beans. They’re packed with omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and soluble fiber.
Spinach can help keep your ticker in top shape thanks to its stores of lutein, folate, potassium, and fiber. But upping your servings of any veggies is sure to give your heart a boost. The Physicians’ Health Study examined more than 15,000 men without heart disease for a period of 12 years. Those who ate at least two-and-a-half servings of vegetables each day cut their risk of heart disease by about 25%, compared with those who didn’t eat the veggies. Each additional serving reduced risk by another 17%.
Full of fiber and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, a little sprinkling of flaxseed can go a long way for your heart. Top a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal with a smidgen of ground flaxseed for the ultimate heart-healthy breakfast.
Soy may lower cholesterol, and since it is low in saturated fat, it’s still a great source of lean protein in a heart-healthy diet. Look for natural sources of soy, like edamame, tempeh, or organic silken tofu. And soy milk is a great addition to a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain cereal. But watch the amount of salt in your soy: some processed varieties like soy dogs can contain added sodium, which boosts blood pressure.
So, use these tips to have a happy and highly healthy Easter … and make it a heart healthy one at that.
On a couple of my radio interviews this week, I mentioned Barb’s heart-healthy Lasagna Recipe and my shock that cooking a lasagna with soy crumbles was, to me, indistinguishable from her lasagna with ground beef. I love the stuff. Several have called the stations wanting the recipe. After you’ve tried it, be sure to post a comment to let us know what you think.
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This is a handout I produced for the American Academy of Family Physicians Annual Scientific Assembly that was held in San Diego, CA, September 19 and 20, 2008. My desire in making this information freely available is to help women who are wrestling with menopausal symptoms, and who are considering natural medications, to make wise decisions in conjunction with their personal healthcare professional.
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