Are you currently experiencing menopausal symptoms?
With roughly 1.9 billion women worldwide entering menopause by 2025, you’re certainly not alone for the dramatic transition years, called peri-menopause, leading to menopause. (1)
Today, we’ll walk you through the role sugar plays in potentially worsening already irritating menopausal symptoms. We’ll also show you how to combat this hidden menace without feeling like you’re making too much of a sacrifice.
Some Common Symptoms of Menopause
We’ll focus today on 4 symptoms that commonly crop up during the change that you can work on by addressing the amount of sugar you consume.
- Hot Flashes: With up to 80% of menopausal women experiencing hot flashes, they are an almost inevitable occurrence during this stage of life. Chaotic estrogen levels stop your body maintaining a regular temperature. Luckily, you can reduce these odds by 20% if you slash the sugar and unhealthy fats in your diet. (2) (3)
- Weight Gain: Whether it’s a direct cause of the change or simply a natural corollary of the aging process, menopausal weight gain is commonplace. Hormonal changes can lead to increased belly fat, but this can be to some extent mitigated by estrogen therapy. (4)
- Stress and Mood Swings: From mild changes in your mood to numbing depression, from a slight feeling of stress to crippling anxiety, every woman experienced a different range of emotions during the change. Cutting back on alcohol, caffeine, and sugar can be a great natural help in regulating your mood. (5)
- Fatigue: If you’re putting on weight and feeling stressed, it’s only natural you’ll exercise less. In turn, even normal activity can become tiring. Consuming lots of sugar provokes further spikes in already volatile estrogen levels.
How Diet Can Affect Menopause Symptoms
Before we look at the specific role of sugar, here are 5 other ways in which your diet can inflame menopausal symptoms…
- Alcohol: The occasional glass of wine or beer won’t have any impact on menopausal symptoms or your health but drinking to excess certainly can. You’ll take on empty calories your body doesn’t need worsening any weight gain. Drinking too much alcohol also makes you tired and can worsen your mood.
- Caffeine: It’s a vicious circle… You can’t sleep well because of hot flashes so you try pepping yourself up through the day with more caffeine than normal. This is a poor strategy. Not only are you likely to add sugar and cream to your coffee, too much caffeine further disrupts sleep. Studies have also shown a clear link between too much caffeine and an increase in hot flashes. (6)
- Fiber: Consuming plenty of fiber is a smart move toward naturally regulating your estrogen levels. Don’t stint on the fruit and veg and you’ll not only improve your overall health but avoid the ill-effects of too much sugar negatively impacting those estrogen levels.
- Fat: Obviously, too many unhealthy fats will not help out if you’re putting on weight. For menopausal women, fat should count for less than one-fifth of your overall daily caloric intake. Ease back here and notice health benefits across the board. (7)
- Carbs: Low-quality refined carbs can lead to fatigue, weight gain, and even effect your mood. Dial back on the white bread and pasta and up the ante with the whole grains. You’ll notice a difference quite quickly.
Why Sugar Is So Bad For Your Health
Sugar is not good for your teeth or your waistline, but why is an excess of sugar particularly menacing when you’re menopausal?
It’s all down to estrogen.
Taking too much sugar on board causes a spike in your insulin levels. It also leads to cravings for more of the same. This perpetuates a nasty domino effect. (8)
As insulin in your body is disrupted, there’s a knock-on effect to estrogen, testosterone and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG).
As SHBG levels are lowered, estrogen is not properly bound in the blood by SHBG so it goes more haywire than ever.
The result of all this biology is a heightened susceptibility to hot flashes and night sweats so what can you do about it?
5 Easy Ways to Cut Sugar Out of Your Diet
If you’re already suffering with all that the change throws at you, the last thing you want is restrictive advice.
Think about incorporating one or more of these handy hints to cut sugar out of your diet. In the worst scenario, you’ll at least limit it to a more manageable level.
1) Drink Plenty of Water
By staying properly hydrated, you’ll be less inclined to snatch for junk food. Feeling thirsty is commonly mistaken for hunger.
Drinking water is also a great move if you are partial to soda which is laden with sugar.
Increasing your water intake is cheap, easy and one of the first things you should do if you’re trying to cut back on sugar in your diet.
2) Increase Your Physical Activity
Exercise can really help to balance out your blood sugar levels naturally. (9)
As well as helping reduce your craving for sweet foods, exercise can also help elevate mood and to combat weight gain while also strengthening your bones.
Whatever your level of fitness, simply exercise more and watch a shower of health benefits fall neatly into place.
3) Try a Magnesium Supplement
Vitamin and mineral supplements are well worth a shot, specifically magnesium.
Since magnesium suffers during the change, taking more on board can improve sleep while also helping you to relax more and reduce sugar cravings into the bargain. (10)
4) Snack on Fruit
If you want a sweet fix, snacking on fruit will give your body plenty of natural sugars along with fiber.
Your insulin levels will not suffer the same spikes as you’ll get from a bar of chocolate or a soda and, in turn, your estrogen levels will remain in better check.
5) Consider Natural Sweeteners
If you have a particularly sweet tooth and simply can’t face coffee without a sweetener, go natural instead.
Think about using some honey or coconut sugar as a far healthier option.
Other natural sweeteners like dried fruit and maple syrup are a great way to satisfy your cravings without the nasty downside.
- Hot Flash Havoc. Narration by Goldie Hawn. Dir. Marc Bennett. 2012. Iron Rose Films, 2016. DVD
Vergo is an interactive program that gives women the tools to understand their Menopause.
- The Vergo iOS symptom tracker (emailable to your healthcare provider)
- The Vergo QuikTrak symptom tracker (the refillable pdf version, also emailable)
- Vergo’s Interactive Education Program, Journey Without a Roadmap: Understanding Menopause
- Curated guides to the biggest questions and hottest topics around menopause symptoms and treatment options
- Must-have information on male menopause: There’s an Andropause? (an overview of what your guy could be going through)
- Terminology Cheat Sheets
Click the button below for more information!