Early menopause is tied to increased cardiometabolic risks (4), and other conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome. (5,6) Menopause has also been linked to risks for diabetes and gastroenteritis.(7) A study suggested that hypertension onset during the menopause transition appears together with abdominal obesity and may be a driving force for increased cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. (8) Also, a large 2019 study of midlife women veterans suggested that increased menopause symptom burden is associated with higher vulnerability to chronic pain. (9)
As estrogen levels drop across the stages of the menopause transition, impairment of endothelial function and acceleration of vascular aging have been noted. (10-12) In addition, obesity, cancer, endometriosis, CVD, and poor cognitive function are all marked by gut dysbiosis and can be considered estrogen-modulated conditions. (13) More broadly, hormonal changes in aging patients have been associated with greater risk of frailty and disability, (14,15) likely due to disruptions along several hormonal axes rather than a single hormone deficiency. (16)
Evidence continues to grow demonstrating that lifestyle changes can modulate hormonal function to improve health, lowering or even reversing the risk of these chronic issues.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods & Hormonal Balance
Nutrition is an essential pillar of lifestyle interventions that can impact hormonal balance. At the most basic level, the consumption of anti-inflammatory foods—specifically fruits and vegetables—may help alleviate symptoms of many chronic conditions associated with increased inflammation. (17-20) Additionally, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower may help prevent the development of hormone-modulated female cancers. (21)
In a survey-based study, women in pre-menopause were followed for nearly 13 years and reported regularly consuming the carotenoid B-cryptoxanthin (a precursor to retinol) fruit entered menopause later than those who did not. (21) B-carotene, lycopene, lutein, curcumin, and other carotenoids are being studied to identify their mechanisms of action, including stimulation of B- and T-lymphocytes. (22) Fruits with the highest amount of β-cryptoxanthin include oranges, papaya, peaches, tangerines, and yellow and orange maize.
Reduced estrogen increases cardiometabolic risks for women entering menopause, (23,24) but nutrition can significantly differ in health impacts. For example, researchers found that women who followed a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts displayed a significantly lower index of preclinical atherosclerosis and lower weight than their non-compliant counterparts during pre-menopause. (25) Another study found that the Mediterranean Diet has a cardioprotective effect on women if they adhere to it. (26) This cardioprotective effect included lower total cholesterol, resting heart rate, LDL-C, triglycerides, and C-reactive protein.
These cardioprotective results may be partly due to changes in fat intake. A study showed that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids lowered total and LDL-C cholesterol dramatically over a three-month supplementation with fish oil and vitamin E. (27)
Nutrition has several potential impacts on women experiencing changes in hormones that occur during menopause.
Vasomotor Symptoms & Plant-Based or Vegetarian Diets
During the menopause transition, vasomotor symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats are frequently reported. Studies suggest that these symptoms may be biomarkers for potential chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease. (10,28,29) Nutrition may play a part in managing vasomotor symptoms and enhancing the quality of life. A study found that women who were in perimenopause and ate a vegan diet reported less bothersome vasomotor symptoms than those who ate an omnivore diet. (30)
Sustainable Lifestyle Change
One study found that lifestyle modifications implemented by women during menopause improved the women’s health status. (32) Functional medicine promotes collaboration between patient and practitioner and fully involves the patient in their healing process and supports them during the treatment.
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