Only a handful of us look forward to getting older. That is, despite the fact that we’re undoubtedly going to reach our forties/fifties and go through menopause. We never really feel that old on the inside, but the outside tells its own story!
And although we may have to deal with thinning hair and losing our youthful looks, that doesn’t mean we can’t accomplish incredible things later in life.
My Menopause Journey by Paula Mee
I suspected I was going through menopause but as there is no clear starting or ending point, I really wasn’t sure. By the time I got to the doctor I had gone through the perimenopause – the phase where your body starts providing you with helpful physical clues that the menopause process is starting.
At the time, I didn’t know that going through a natural menopause (final menstrual period) is defined as 12 months without a period. I suppose I went to see my GP out of curiosity more than anything really. My hormone levels were tested then – FSH levels were elevated consistently (over 30IU/L) and menopause confirmed.
From a dietary point of view there are certain bone nutrients we really need to ensure we have, either in our diet or in supplement form. Always think food first and supplements as a support for your dietary intake if necessary.
Dairy foods (milk, yoghurt and cheese) are the richest sources of bio-available calcium. Choosing lower fat varieties to reduce the calorie and saturated fat content might be tempting but sometimes these products have more added sugars to give them some flavour. I would recommend natural yogurt as opposed to flavoured yoghurts and better still, live natural yoghurts for gut health. Avoid dairy that is low-fat but also full of added sugars or artificial sweeteners. You are better off having small amounts of natural dairy foods, unless you go mad when the cheese board appears!
Choose any 3 servings of Milk, Cheese and Yoghurt each day (2);
• 1/3 pint of dairy/alternative milk
• 1 small 125g carton of yoghurt
• 1oz / 30g (matchbox size) of cheese
If you are not eating or drinking three servings of dairy products each day, make sure to get the equivalent calcium from:
• Soya milk, rice milk, oat milk or almond milk that is fortified with calcium.
• Nuts and seeds
• Dried fruit e.g. apricot and figs
• Sea vegetables or seaweeds. The main Irish species include dulse or dillisk, (Palmaria palmata), carrageen moss or Irish moss (Chondrus crispus and Mastocarpus stellatus), and various edible kelps (Saccharina latissima ) and wracks. Nutritionally, sea-vegetables are as good as any land-vegetable and, in some cases, are superior in their vitamin, mineral, trace element and even protein content (3).
Vitamin D alongside Vitamin K helps the body absorb calcium from the foods we eat.
Vitamin D can be made in the skin through the action of sunlight. Just 20 minutes of sunlight on your hands and face every day will help boost your stores of the vitamin. However, many of us who wear UV protection to prevent burning of the skin, must make a conscious effort to include vitamin D rich foods in our meal plans and/or take a supplement.
Here are some foods that are either natural or fortified sources of Vitamin D:
• Oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel.
• Fortified foods such as certain brands of dairy and soya milks /yogurts and cereals.
• Mushrooms grown under UV light.
• Less good sources include almonds, and leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale.
Magnesium is increasingly recognized as an important contributor to bone health.
Magnesium contributes to the maintenance of normal bones.
Good food sources of magnesium include almonds, cashew nuts and peanuts. Other sources include potato skins, brown rice, kidney beans, black-eyed peas and lentils.
The recommended dietary allowance for optimum health is 375mg (6).
Vitamin K is another less known nutrient, critical for bone health. Vitamin K has several different forms, but vitamin K1 and K2 are the naturally occurring forms (7). Good food sources of vitamin K include kale, fresh spinach, Brussels sprouts, iceberg lettuce, and prunes.
Vitamin K contributes to the maintenance of normal bones.
Your skeleton helps you move, stay active and gives you good posture. Wear your fashion well into your later years by looking after your skeleton now. Healthy bones require a healthy gut and a full complement of nutrients for general health. Throughout perimenopause and beyond, it is a good time to find that natural pause - reflect - and take stock of your bone health. Because you’re worth it!
1.Choosing Wisely Canada Bone Density Tests: When you need them and when you don’t. Accessed page on 11/05/21 https://choosingwiselycanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/DEXA-EN.pdf
2. INDI 2013 Osteoporosis: A Nutrition Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Accessed page on 11/05/21 https://www.indi.ie/11-news/437-osteoporosis-a-nutrition-fact-sheet-for-health-professionals-2.html
3. Mee P, O Brien Kate Your Middle Years, love them, live them own them Gill Books 2016
4. FSAI Scientific recommendations for healthy eating guidelines in Ireland 2011. Accessed page on 11/05/21 https://www.fsai.ie › WorkArea › DownloadAsset
5. Stendig-Lindberg G, Tepper R, Leichter I. Trabecular bone density in a two year controlled trial of peroral magnesium in osteoporosis. Magnes Res. 1993;6(2 ):155–63.
6. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements homepage, Magnesium: Dietary supplement fact sheet for health professionals. Washington, DC
7. Bügel S. Vitamin K and bone health in adult humans. In: Litwack G, editor. Vitamins and Hormones: Vitamin K. London: Elsevier; 2008. pp. 393–416.
8. Price, Charles T et al. “Essential Nutrients for Bone Health and a Review of their Availability in the Average North American Diet.” The open orthopaedics journal vol. 6 (2012): 143-9.