Spring 2018 True Natural Health Magazine
By Robyn Chuter, Naturopath and Counsellor
A recently-published study confirms what plant-based practitioners have observed in clinical practice over many years: women who eat plant-based diets have an easier transition through menopause. The title of the study gives away the punch line: ‘Vegans report less bothersome vasomotor and physical menopausal symptoms than do omnivores’.
The authors surveyed female vegans, vegetarians and omnivores aged 45 – 80. Participants filled in a detailed questionnaire assessing their diet and exercise patterns and listing their vasomotor and physical symptoms of menopause.
Vasomotor symptoms include hot flushes and night sweats, while physical symptoms include muscle and joint aches, fatigue, sleep difficulties, neck, head and back aches, reduced strength/stamina, lethargy, skin changes, weight gain, facial hair, bloating, frequent or involuntary urination and flatulence.
The researchers found that the more vegetables, fruit, soya products and high omega-3 plant foods the women ate, the less vasomotor and physical symptoms they reported. Vegetables (especially leafy greens) and berries were the most protective foods against menopausal misery. Moderate physical exercise was also associated with less severe physical symptoms.
On the other hand, the higher their body mass index (BMI) and the more flesh food, dairy products and high omega-3 fish they ate, the worse their vasomotor and physical symptoms were. Also, the more sweets eaten, the more severe the physical symptoms.
Overall, women who ate an entirely plant-based diet reported significantly less bothersome symptoms than omnivores.
One of the most interesting aspects of the study was the differential effect of omega-3 fat intake from animal-sources versus plant-sources. Marketers’ enthusiasm for fish oil supplementation and promotion of oily fish has not waned, despite mounting evidence of lack of benefit. The authors speculate that the reason why animal sources of omega-3 fats, such as salmon, were associated with more bothersome symptoms, might be because the long-chain omega-3 fats (DHA, EPA and DPA) from animal products are more susceptible to oxidation than the short-chain omega-3s found in plant foods such as linseed/flaxseed.
As well as reducing the severity of menopausal symptoms, the authors point out that more plant-based diets are protective against the diseases that women become more susceptible to as they age, including cardiovascular disease and breast cancer. Furthermore, whole-food plant-based diets help prevent the weight gain that is the bane of many women’s lives as they transition out of their reproductive years.
The bottom line: get more plants on your plate and skip the animal products!
Need help with navigating perimenopause? You can apply for a Roadmap to Optimal Health Consultation with Robyn today.
Robyn Chuter BHSc(Hons), ND, GDCouns is an ASLM-certified Lifestyle Medicine Practitioner, naturopath, nutritionist, counsellor and EFT therapist practising in southern Sydney. She offers in-person, online and telephone consultations. For more information, visit Robyn’s website: www.empowertotalhealth.com.au, call Robyn on 02 8521 7374 or email [email protected].
Reproduced with permission from Robyn’s enewsletter, Empowered, 16th July 2018