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What Foods Make Menopause Worse

It makes sense: What you eat has an impact on how you feel and how your body reacts. 

Foods high in fat or sugar can aggravate acne,1 for example, and someone suffering with celiac faces an immune system reaction with even the smallest amount of gluten.2 

A healthy diet helps in many ways, but what about menopause? Does what you eat impact the symptoms of menopause? Let’s explore what foods make menopause worse.

The Side Effects of Menopause

Menopause is a point in time when you’ve gone 12 consecutive months without a menstrual cycle. This happens because your ovaries are no longer producing high levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which together, control menstruation.3

The changes in your hormone levels cause other symptoms, such as hot flashes (sometimes called hot flushes), night sweats, difficulty sleeping and emotional changes.3

The foods you eat may make a significant difference in how your body responds to menopause. There are foods you can try eating—and some you should avoid—that can help alleviate the symptoms and changes you experience in perimenopause, menopause and post menopause.4

What Foods Make Menopause Worse

Doctors will always suggest a healthy and balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables for everyone, in any stage of life. That’s important in menopause, but what you don’t eat could have a big impact too. You can find out, through trial and error, what foods trigger symptoms.4

Here are some common foods that you may want to avoid or cut back on:

1. Spicy foods: Watch out for hot sauce, jalapeno peppers and spicy salsa, especially if you’re experiencing hot flashes and night sweats. Spicy foods can bring your body temperature up, and either trigger these symptoms or make them worse.4

2. Caffeine: Excess caffeine has been shown to make night sweats, hot flashes, and flushes worse. You don’t have to cut it out completely, but you may want to cut back.5 

3. Alcohol: If you have night sweats or trouble sleeping, or you’re experiencing that creeping weight gain common in menopause, cut back on alcohol.4 Besides interfering with sleep, alcohol may exacerbate hot flashes and anxiety or depression. It can also reduce your inhibitions when it comes time to eat, which can also cause unexpected weight gain.6

4. Carbs and starchy foods: White pasta, bread and rice, as well as potatoes, along with processed foods, can all be causes of some excess weight gain. Your body’s metabolism is slowing down, so those types of foods can lead to higher numbers on the scale.4 Switch to brown grains, and whole grain pasta, bread and rice, as they help balance blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full for longer.7

5. Fatty foods: Similar caution should be exercised when it comes to fat-laden foods like fast foods, fried foods and processed cookies, cakes and snacks. An exception can be made for fatty fish and nuts, which are good for you, in moderation.6

6. Sugary foods: If you’re feeling tired or have low energy, reduce the sugary foods and snacks. These can cause a sharp rise in your blood glucose level followed by a sharp dip. That spike and drop can leave you feeling tired and drained.7

While it sounds like your diet needs to be restrictive as you age, the truth is that it can still be tasty and enjoyable to eat a balanced diet, which may also help relieve your symptoms of menopause. If your body always had trouble processing a certain type of food, menopause will make it even more difficult to process, and your body will react.4  

In short: Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains may help alleviate menopausal symptoms and also prevent weight gain.6

Ask Your Doctor 

If you are in menopause and wondering how your diet can help your symptoms, use our Physician Finder to find a doctor near you with expertise in women’s health. Find out about what foods are right for you, and what to avoid in this phase of life. It’s also vital to see your doctor to continue with preventive health care tests such as colonoscopy, mammography, triglyceride screening, and breast and pelvic exams. Always see a healthcare provider if you have bleeding from your vagina after menopause.8

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