Whilst some women are lucky enough to breeze through the menopause without so much as a hot flush, for many others in can be an extremely unsettling time. Night sweats, mood swings, hot flushes, weight gain, vaginal dryness and loss of libido are just a few of the vast array of symptoms experienced. And if this is not enough to contend with, the menopause can play havoc with normally healthy skin and hair. Dryness, lines and wrinkles, dullness and even breakouts can occur on the skin; whilst hair may become thin, brittle and lacklustre, and for some may even start to fall out.
As you may have guessed, we can blame this on the hormones. With perhaps the exception of puberty; the perimenopause and menopause are the most challenging times for some of our proudest assets- glowing skin and luscious locks. The hormone oestrogen stimulates the formation of collagen and oils, keeping the skin hydrated, plump and youthful-looking. When levels of oestrogen decline during the menopause, the skin’s ability to both produce oils and retain moisture decreases leading to dry skin, sagginess and wrinkles. In addition, the imbalance of hormones that occurs can cause levels of testosterone to become more dominant, which in some women may result in acne and increased facial hair. A decrease in collagen production can also impact on hair quality, causing it to become thin, dry and lose vitality.
So what's a woman to do? Nourishing the skin and hair from the inside out is one of the most important approaches to easing these symptoms, and this can be supported through these top dietary beauty boosts:
1) Increasing intake of omega 3 essential fatty acids in the form of oily fish (salmon, mackerel, herring and tuna), nuts and seeds (especially chia and flaxseeds). These essential fats are vital for oil production in the skin and hair, and keeping skin plump and hydrated. An omega-3 fish oil supplementmay well be recommended.
2) Increasing intake of foods rich in phytoestrogens. These include flaxseeds, soya, lentils, chickpeas, legumes, broccoli, kale, cabbage and celery. Phytoestrogens help to support hormonal health by producing oestrogen-like effects in the body. They also stimulate the liver to produce sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) which controls the circulating levels of oestrogen and testosterone in the blood. A supplement form of plant oestrogens may also help support hormone balance during this time.
3) Cutting back on intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, rice, pastries), to keep blood sugar levels stable which helpsto support hormone balance. This can be further supported by increasing fibre intake in the form ofoats, vegetables, pulses and legumes. Fibre slows down the digestion of glucose from food and helps to stabilize blood sugar.
4) Supporting collagen production by eating foods rich in vitamin C such as kale, spinach and citrus fruit; lycopene found in tomatoes; and an array of antioxidants found in colourful vegetables such as beetroot, peppers, broccoli and berries.
5) Increasing intake of boron-rich foods which help to balance oestrogen levels. These include almonds, walnuts, avocado, chickpeas, bananas and dried fruit.
6) And finally, keep hydrated! The number one beauty rule is to drink more water, as without it all these wonderful skin and hair boosting nutrients are unable to function optimally within the body.
Naomi Mead is a nutrition therapist with a passion for food and its therapeutic powers. Naomi trained and gained her accreditation at the Institute of Optimum Nutrition and contributes to Nutrition Expert as well as Food First.
Read more articles on Women's Health.