Vitamins and minerals are considered essential nutrients for the body to produce healthy hormones and to carry out hormonal functions correctly.
So, if the body experiences any nutritional deficiencies in key nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins and D, zinc, iron, Calcium and essential fatty acids, accumulated over a long period of time, this can have an adverse effect on journeying into the menopause.
Below are some important nutrients and their function:
Vitamin C is needed for so many things! From the growth and repair of cells, tissues and organs, to stimulating collagen, which is responsible for keeping our skin plump and free from wrinkling and sagging. It also helps to keep our ligaments and tendons strong in the joints to prevent injury. Vitamin C is also important for keeping our blood vessels healthy, so they can circulate oxygen and nutrients around the body.
Vitamin C also helps to control histamine levels in the body, which combats dry, itchy skin. It has immune-boosting properties which is crucial for avoiding infections, especially during wintertime and it also helps to process energy in the body so it is a vital nutrient for fighting fatigue.
The best way to receive vitamin C is through what nature provides us; a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, as it will be more easily absorbed in whole form. Enjoy green bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, oranges, limes, lemons, kiwis, all berries, papaya, dark green leafy and broccoli. If you need to take a supplement, be sure that it contains bioflavonoids in it and that is made from a food extract rather than ascorbic acid.
Vitamin D plays a huge role in overall health and wellbeing; getting a daily dose of vitamin D in the menopause can lower the chance of fatigue, low immunity, colds and flus, depression, slow digestion, mood swings, sleep problems, aching joints and muscles and even weight gain.
Vitamin D is essential for metabolising calcium, which influences the health of our teeth and bones, so vitamin D helps to prevent osteoporosis significantly, as well as related conditions such as type 1 diabetes and breast/ovarian/colon/oesophagus/lymphatic cancer.
The best way to receive vitamin D is through exposure to natural sunlight. Although we only seem to equate vitamin D with a blazing hot sun, any daytime light is full of vitamin D too, so make sure you're getting outdoors for at least 25 minutes of light exposure through walking, gardening, or any other outdoor activity as much as you can even if it just for a short time in the colder months.
Foods that contain vitamin D include oily fish, free range eggs, and oysters. If you prefer to eat plant based, mushrooms are packed with vitamin D, which will increase if you let your mushrooms sunbathe before you eat them - fact! Vitamin D can also be taken in liquid form; the recommended daily dose is about 1,000 IU.
Magnesium is a mineral cousin of calcium, and is needed for many chemical processes in the body; particularly bone, muscle, and nerve function. Magnesium helps to improve symptoms such as sleep disturbances, irregular periods, low mood, depression, muscle, joint aches, fatigue, food cravings, brain fog, night cramps and restless legs, low thyroid, high blood pressure, weakened hair and nails and migraines and headaches. Evidently, magnesium is one of the most essential nutrients in the menopause.
The best sources to receive magnesium is through healthy, fresh, plant based food such as all fresh fruit, dried fruits such as dates, vegetables such as dark green leafy veg such as spinach and kale, nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, pulses such as mung beans, brown rice, and lentils. Cacao also contains magnesium, however it contains a high amount of caffeine which can exacerbate menopause symptoms. A wonderful alternative is carob, which contains magnesium, has all the flavour and aroma of cacao but without the caffeine.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are used in the building of cell walls. Every single cell contains a little layer of fat, especially our skin, brain, and vagina cells and in particular, EFA’s influence the function of hormone receptors.
If we experience symptoms such as brain fog, memory loss, stiff joints, vaginal dryness, dry, itchy skin, and PMS breast soreness, it is an indication that our food intake is a little low in EFAs.
The highest quality of EFA’s are the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats found in foods such as nuts: brazil, pecan and almonds, seeds: sesame, flax, linseed, and high fat fruits: avocado and olives, and if you consume animal products, sardines contain the highest EFAs.
Remember that your body only needs a tiny amount of fat and deficiency takes many years to build up before it surfaces as a symptom. Making your diet more nutrient dense overall can only help your hormones to function normally, as well as experiencing fewer aches and pains, less mood swings and less depression, while also having far more energy and an increased libido.
Vitamin E can work to ease bodily stress in the menopause by reducing the amount of free radicals in the body. This can help to combat premature cell-ageing, cell-damage and cell inflammation. Vitamin E can also support oestrogen production in the body significantly which can help to decrease symptoms in the menopause.
The best way to receive vitamin E is through foods such as wheat germ, almonds, hazelnuts, avocado, broccoli, shellfish, squash, sunflower seeds and spinach and you can take a good quality, vitamin E supplement.
Even though a tiny fraction of our body is made up of zinc, we wouldn’t be able to experience a healthy body without it because it is crucial for muscle, skeleton and bone health. Zinc is also an important catalyst for absorbing other key nutrients and is especially needed for normal sex hormone functioning. Zinc can be found in wheat, hemp seeds, lentils, wild rice, squash seeds and if you consume animal products, red meat and oysters also contain zinc.
Calcium is needed for so many different functions in the body such as carrying messages along the nerves in your nervous system, for muscular strength, for healthy bone mass and for flexibility when moving and exercising and it is really important for regulating heart health.
Low levels of calcium can contribute to chronic stress, mood swings, depression, anxiety, irregular sleep osteopenia or osteoporosis. If there isn't enough calcium in nutritional supply, the body will pull stored calcium from the bones and into the bloodstream, so it is recommended to consume calcium rich foods very often, in the menopause.
The best way to receive calcium is mostly through dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, chard, and collard greens, and also white beans, mung beans, dried figs, oranges, almonds, tofu, sesame seeds, nuts. If you eat meat; sardines, salmon.
Magnesium and vitamin D rich foods also help with the absorption of calcium. If you're looking to supplement, one of the best forms is calcium citrate. Foods such as salt, animal products, tea and bran can antagonise the absorption of calcium.
All the B vitamins are needed for a healthy, working liver which breaks down excess hormones, are involved in energy release from food and are vital for a healthy nervous system.
The B vitamins are thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), B6, Biotin (B7) B12 and folic acid, which are all very important in the menopause.
- B3 and folic acid are needed to produce oestrogen
- B5 is needed by the adrenal glands to convert and produce oestrogen and other sex hormones
- B6 and B12 needed for the production of serotonin (the feel good neurotransmitter)
- B12, B1 and B3 is need to support the nervous system and regulate impulses
The best way to receive all B vitamins is through food such as green leafy vegetables, peas, chick-peas, seaweed, brown rice, asparagus, oatmeal, avocados, potatoes, fresh and dried fruit, fortified cereals, soya, peanuts, bananas and if you eat meat, you can find it in meat, fish, beef, turkey, eggs. If you would like to supplement B vitamins, select one that contains all the vitamins listed above.
Iron is an essential mineral for overcoming fatigue, low mood, irregular sleep patterns, weakened hair and nails, brain fog, memory loss, hot flushes, hair loss and can help replenish the blood if you have heavy periods.
The best way to receive iron is through foods such as green leafy vegetables and blackstrap molasses. If you are a meat eater; liver, red meat, fish all contain traces of iron too but these are harder for the body to absorb in larger quantities and very high in saturated fat, which is a hormone disruptor.
Remember to consume plenty of foods rich in vitamin C, in the said list above, as this will ensure full absorption of iron. If you need to supplement iron, try to find a natural, high quality one and avoid prescription iron if you can because it often has negative side effects on the digestive system.
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