The best Anti inflammatory diet for menopause – Relief and Health

Eating an anti inflammatory diet for menopause is a vital part of managing the many uncomfortable menopause symptoms.

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While menopause is mostly a natural transitional stage in a woman’s life it also comes with a slew of health problems.

Many of them are related to the low-grade inflammation related to low estrogen levels.

Many of these symptoms are frustrating and can be quite a disruption to a woman’s daily routine and overall well-being.

Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, weight gain, and joint pain are just a few of the unwelcome signs signaling this natural biological process.

These symptoms, resulting from hormonal changes, can leave you feeling overwhelmed and searching for effective relief.

Anti inflammatory diet for menopause

While hormone replacement therapy and other medical interventions offer some solutions, an often overlooked yet powerful approach lies in adopting an anti-inflammatory diet.

The hormonal changes associated with menopause such as declining estrogen can fuel inflammation and unleash many health concerns(source).

The biggest concern is that estrogen receptors are found in almost every system and organ in the body.

And that means the low-grade inflammation caused by declining estrogen can lead to damage throughout the body and that is why the symptoms of menopause are so many.

What is menopause?

According to Mayo Clinic and other sources, menopause is the time that marks the end of menstrual periods.

Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and is officially diagnosed after 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period.

This transition is driven by a gradual decline in the ovaries’ production of estrogen and progesterone, two key hormones that regulate menstruation and reproductive health.

According to the National Institute of Aging, menopause can present with the following signs and symptoms:

Signs and symptoms of menopause

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Hot Flashes: Sudden feelings of heat that spread over the body, often with sweating and a rapid heartbeat.

They can last from a few seconds to several minutes.

  • Night Sweats: Hot flashes that occur during sleep, often leading to waking up drenched in sweat.
  • Irregular Periods: Changes in menstrual cycle frequency, duration, and flow. Eventually, periods stop altogether.
  • Vaginal Dryness: Decreased lubrication can cause discomfort, itching, or pain during intercourse.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early.
  • Mood Changes: Increased risk of mood swings, irritability, depression, and anxiety.
  • Weight Gain and Slowed Metabolism: Changes in body weight and difficulty losing weight.
  • Thinning Hair and Dry Skin: Changes in hair texture and skin condition, often becoming drier and thinner.
  • Loss of Breast Fullness: Reduction in breast tissue and fullness.
  • Memory Problems and Difficulty Concentrating: Issues with memory, focus, and cognitive function, sometimes referred to as “brain fog.”
  • Reduced Libido: Decreased sexual desire and arousal.
  • Joint Pain and Stiffness: Increased aches and pains in the joints and muscles.
  • Bone Density Loss: Increased risk of osteoporosis and fractures due to reduced estrogen levels.
  • Urinary Problems: Increased frequency, urgency, or incontinence.

While it may be difficult to avoid all of these symptoms, many symptoms can be improved by a lifestyle change, especially by eating anti-inflammatory foods.

It is important to eat healthy foods that are natural at any phase of life but it is especially important in menopause to curb the low-grade inflammation unleashed by low estrogen.

what is the relationship between menopause and inflammation?

The hormonal changes associated with menopause especially declining estrogen levels can fuel inflammation and unleash many health concerns(source).

According to The Australian Menopause Center, the loss of estrogen and progesterone during menopause removes the natural anti-inflammatory protection provided by these hormones

Estrogen in particular functions as a potent anti-inflammatory factor.

The decline in estrogen—which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects—also triggers a cascade of low-grade inflammation that can reach every cell.”

According to Harvard Health, “Because virtually every organ contains estrogen receptors, hormone fluctuations affect all parts of our bodies.”

So the low-grade inflammation caused by declining estrogen can lead to damage throughout the body and that is why the symptoms of menopause are so many.

A study in the Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience details the complex nature of menopause and inflammation.

While it’s not quite understood how estrogen affects insulin resistance it’s clear that the drop in estrogen in menopause contributes to central fat distribution and type 2 diabetes( source), and these conditions are inflammatory in nature.

Adipose tissue ( fat tissue) produces pro-inflammatory cytokines associated with many chronic conditions especially metabolic syndrome including type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease which is now known to be caused by brain inflammation is also referred to as type 3 diabetes.

Study in Menopause Review shows that the pro-inflammatory state during menopause also increases the risk of conditions like cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, cognitive decline, and bone loss.

Many studies also show that Chronic inflammation worsens menopausal symptoms like mood changes, sleep disturbances, and (heavier periods during perimenopause)( source).

So yes, we can certainly say that the depletion of anti-inflammatory sex hormones like estrogen, coupled with increased abdominal fat and secretion of pro-inflammatory factors- all related to estrogen loss and other hormone imbalances creates a state of chronic low-grade inflammation during and after menopause

Managing this inflammatory burden is important for reducing menopausal symptoms, and severity and lowering disease risks.

A healthy lifestyle that includes eating anti-inflammatory foods is a very important step in lowering inflammation and menopause symptoms.

Antiinflammatory diet for menopause 4

Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Menopause

Eating whole, unprocessed foods rich in healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and phytoestrogen-rich ingredients and antioxidants is the best dietary approach to help manage chronic inflammation, a common issue during menopause.

The Mediterranean diet, which is often considered an anti-inflammatory eating pattern, has been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and improved overall health in postmenopausal women.

Furthermore, an anti-inflammatory diet rich in whole grains, lean proteins, fatty acids from olive oil, fatty fish, and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can help support muscle mass and weight management during menopause.

Addressing weight gain and insulin resistance, which are common concerns for postmenopausal women is crucial in lowering inflammation.

And what research shows is that these issues are caused by inflammation, and inflammation is increased during menopause.

A growing body of research, including a systematic review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that an anti-inflammatory diet may also help alleviate joint pain and improve overall health during the menopausal transition.

Antiinflammatory diet for menopause 6

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet for menopause

Here are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods to consider:

1. Yogurt, milk, cheese (for calcium and protein)

Dairy products like yogurt, milk, and cheese are good sources of calcium to support bone health during menopause.

During menopause, the decline in estrogen levels can lead to a decrease in bone density, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and reducing this risk. It is important to note that calcium can also be found in other sources such as leafy green vegetables.

Yogurt is especially good for menopause because it also supports a healthy gut to prevent leaky gut or systemic inflammation.

Dairy products also provide other essential nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B12.

These nutrients contribute to cardiovascular health, muscle function, and energy metabolism.

And dairy products are great sources of protein needed to support muscle health and hormone balance.

Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass, which can decrease with age and hormonal changes during menopause.

Adequate protein intake also supports metabolism, immune function, and overall cellular repair.

2. Fatty fish

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) that help reduce inflammation.

Omega 3 fatty acids counteract the inflammatory effects of estrogen loss by reducing the production of inflammatory compounds like cytokines and prostaglandins.

Also eating foods high in omega 3 is shown to improve many menopause symptoms including hot flashes, chronic health issues like heart disease, and even depression research shows.

Studies also show that omega-3 fatty acids improve other insulin resistance, lower triglycerides, and waist circumference, and lowered inflammation markers as well.

3. Leafy greens

Eating leafy greens has so many health benefits and is especially beneficial for lowering inflammation in menopause.

Leafy greens are great sources of vitamins c, K andA beta carotene which are known to be powerful antioxidants. Thus these vitamins fight inflammation causing free radicals.

Leafy greens like spinach and kale are rich sources of calcium needed for strong bones.

As mentioned already low estrogen contributes to low bone density and osteoporosis.

4. Cruciferous Vegetables

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 Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts can be highly beneficial for reducing inflammation during menopause due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

They are an excellent source of the antioxidant compound sulforaphane, which has been shown to decrease levels of inflammatory cytokines like IL-6, IL-1β, and TNF-α

These pro-inflammatory cytokines increase during menopause.

Sulforaphane in cruciferous veggies also inhibits NF-κB, which is a key regulator of the inflammatory response

Reducing NF-κB can help counter the chronic low-grade inflammation associated with menopause.

The antioxidants and phytochemicals in these vegetables help neutralize free radicals and oxidative stress, both of which drive the inflammatory process.

Studies suggest a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of inflammatory conditions that are exacerbated by menopause, such as heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.

The fiber, vitamins, and minerals in broccoli, cauliflower, etc. also provide anti-inflammatory benefits that can help alleviate menopausal symptoms like joint pain, hot flashes, and mood changes.

Cruciferous veggies may help counteract the pro-inflammatory effects of abdominal weight gain that often occurs with the menopausal transition.

5. Berries

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamins that combat inflammation.

Berries are rich in phytochemical compounds such as anthocyanin which are known to be potent anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory.

6. Seeds

Seeds such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have powerful anti-inflammatory effects.

They are also rich in fiber, protein, and essential minerals like magnesium and zinc. Omega-3 fatty acids and lignans in seeds help reduce inflammation.

7. Whole grains

Eating a diet rich in whole grains is recommended for good health.

Without estrogen, and its anti-inflammatory effects, inflammation increases in menopause, and studies show that inflammation increases the incidence of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

A study in Elsevier Journal of Nutrition found that eating whole grains significantly lowered inflammation markers such as CRP( C- reactive protein), which was associated with a decrease in waistline, and lower risk of type diabetes and heart disease.

Whole grains contain several nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, copper, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.

Magnesium is a powerful anti-inflammatory and has powerful immune regulating actions, according to a 2024 cross-section study published in the Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition.

Many grains also contain omega-3 fatty acids which is well established are anti-inflammatory.

Whole grains are also rich in fiber which feeds good gut bacteria and helps with detoxification which is important in inflammation prevention.

The good thing is there are many whole grains to choose from including quinoa which is a complete protein as well, as oats, whole wheat, barley, millet, rye, brown rice, and khamut.

8. Eggs

Eggs are a good source of vitamin D, which has anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce inflammation associated with menopause.

They contain omega-3 fatty acids, particularly if you choose eggs enriched with omega-3s. Omega-3s have potent anti-inflammatory effects.

Eggs provide antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin which can counter inflammation.

As a lean protein source, eggs can help preserve muscle mass which tends to decline during menopause.

However, eggs contain some saturated fat and TMAO( trimethylamine N-oxide)precursors which have been linked to increased inflammation in certain studies (source).

However, the link between saturated fat and inflammation is still under debate.

For those with high cholesterol or at risk of heart disease, limiting egg yolk intake may be advisable due to its cholesterol content.

It’s best to consume eggs in moderation (e.g. 4-6 per week) and choose high-quality options like omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs to maximize the anti-inflammatory benefits while limiting potential negatives

9. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, and tangerines, are packed with essential nutrients and bioactive compounds that offer numerous health benefits.

Incorporating citrus fruits into your menopause diet can significantly help in lowering inflammation and alleviating menopausal symptoms.

Citrus fruits contain vitamin C which reduces oxidative stress and inflammation.

They are also rich in flavonoids such as hesperidin, naringenin, and quercetin, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Also, citrus fruits are rich in soluble fiber which supports digestive health and helps reduce cholesterol levels.

Additionally, citrus fruits provide potassium to support heart health as well as folate to boost brain, and mood health and support healthy red blood cells.

10. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamins C and K, folate, and potassium. They are particularly rich in the antioxidant lycopene.

Lycopene has strong anti-inflammatory effects and is more bioavailable in cooked tomatoes.

Studies show that regular consumption of tomatoes or food with tomatoes lowered inflammation and heart disease, and cancer risks.

Regular consumption can also support skin health, which can be affected by hormonal changes.

Olive Oil: According to an article in Harvard Health, extra virgin olive oil is rich in oleocanthal, antioxidant which has similar anti-inflammatory effects as ibuprofen.

Olive oil also helps to reduce free radical damage which is one cause of diseases like cancer, the article states.

And oleic acid in olive oil also reduces markers of inflammation such as C reactive protein(CRP)(source).

A study published in the British Dietetic Association journal found that a diet rich in healthy fats can help lower the erythrocyte sedimentation rate, a marker of inflammation, in postmenopausal women.

11. Avocados

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Avocados are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidant vitamins C, E, K, and B-6 that help reduce inflammation.

The carotenoids, and tocopherols in avocados help prevent cancer and heart disease, studies show.

A 2023 study in the European Journal of Nutrition found that eating avocados lowers inflammatory markers.

Avocados can also help manage weight, reduce hot flashes, and improve skin elasticity and hydration, combating dryness associated with menopause.

12. Nuts

Nuts are rich in anti-inflammatory unsaturated fatty acids like omega-3s and omega-6s, which help counter the pro-inflammatory state caused by declining estrogen levels.

Nuts also contain antioxidants like vitamin E, polyphenols, and phytosterols that combat oxidative stress and inflammation.

They provide fiber, minerals like magnesium, and anti-inflammatory plant compounds that help regulate inflammatory pathways.

Walnuts, pistachios, and almonds are particularly beneficial as they contain melatonin, which has anti-inflammatory effects and can aid sleep during menopause when melatonin levels decline(source).

The healthy fats, protein, and fiber in nuts promote feelings of fullness, which can help prevent abdominal weight gain – a driver of inflammation during menopause.

Research shows that making nuts a part of your daily diet can mitigate metabolic syndrome associated with women in menopause.

Metabolic syndrome is associated with increased weight, abdominal fat accumulation, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Replacing less healthy snacks with a handful of nuts daily may reduce inflammation markers like C-reactive protein (CRP) and pro-inflammatory cytokines.

 By lowering chronic inflammation, nuts can potentially alleviate menopausal symptoms exacerbated by inflammation like joint pain, mood changes, and hot flashes.

13. Legumes

Legumes, including beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas, are nutrient-dense foods that offer numerous health benefits, particularly for women going through menopause.

  • Legumes are rich sources of phytoestrogens. The isoflavones in legumes especially soybeans mimic estrogen and reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes, night sweats, and other symptoms associated with decreased estrogen levels during menopause.
  • Beans are a good source of lean protein and protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass, which can decline with age and hormonal changes. Adequate protein intake also supports metabolism and aids in weight management, which is often a challenge during menopause
  • Beans also are a great source of folate. Folate is crucial for cell division and the formation of DNA and RNA. It also plays a role in mental health and helps manage mood swings and cognitive changes that some women experience during menopause.
  • Beans also contain potassium which is crucial for cardiovascular health and important for lowering blood pressure. This is essential as many women experience heart health problems in menopause, related to inflammation.
  • Legumes are also great sources of iron, and magnesium and rich in antioxidants. Iron is important for hemoglobin synthesis and for oxygen transport throughout the body. With all the changes happening in menopause, fatigue is common, and low hemoglobin can make fatigue even worse. Magnesium has many benefits including maintaining nerve and brain function, heart health, and improved sleep.

14. Lean proteins

During menopause, it is important to get adequate amounts of lean protein-rich foods.

This is because there is a dramatic decline in muscle mass and strength during the 3 years around the time of the last period, but this decline begins approximately 8 years before the last period and continues at least for 4 years after.

Lean protein foods include fish, beans, lentils, nuts, chicken, and eggs. Protein helps build and preserve muscle mass which in turn can help maintain bone density.

Protein also helps you feel fuller longer so that cravings for unhealthy snacks are reduced to avoid that dreaded and dangerous abdominal fat and obesity.

Protein also improves satiety so you’re not tempted to snack or overeat.

15.Phytoestrogen rich foods

Phytoestrogens, or plant-based estrogens, can play a significant role in managing menopausal symptoms.

These are found in foods such as Chickpeas, soybeans, tofu, and various herbs such as red clover.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a diet rich in phytoestrogens, such as those found in soy, flaxseeds, and legumes, can help alleviate hot flashes and other menopause-related issues by lower levels of estrogen and providing powerful anti-inflammatory effects.

16. Turmeric

Anti inflaemmatory diet for menopause

Turmeric has been used in India for thousands of years and has a long history of medicinal use.

Turmeric contains curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory compound known for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

As such, curcumin may help ease joint pain, stiffness, and body aches common in menopause.

Turmeric is also thought to help metabolize estrogen and potentially increase testosterone, helping balance hormone levels.

Additionally, according to a study in The Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, turmeric may help regulate neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, improving mood changes and brain fog.

Turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects may also protect against excessive bone loss by modulating osteoclast/osteoblast activity a 2023 study in Frontiers in Pharmacolgy shows.

And for menopausal women with thyroid issues like Hashimoto’s, turmeric’s antioxidant and immune-modulating effects may be beneficial as well.

17. Ginger

The active compound in ginger known as gingerol, has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.

As such research shows ginger has many benefits for menopause symptoms relief.

Benefits of Ginger in Menopause:

  1. Reducing hot flashes and night sweats  – A study found ginger supplementation significantly improved physical menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats. That is likely due to the fact that ginger is a natural source of phytoestrogens, compounds found in food that act like estrogen.
  2. Anti-inflammatory effects  – The drop in estrogen during menopause causes inflammation in the body leading to increased incidence of joint pain complaints. Ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties may help alleviate joint pain, muscle aches, and migraines common during menopause(source).
  3. Improving digestion  – Ginger can aid digestion by reducing gas, bloating, and regulating bowel movements.
  4. Potential hormone regulation  – Some evidence suggests ginger may help regulate estrogen and FSH hormone levels during menopause.
  5. Immune support  – A study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that ginger has potent anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties thanks to active compounds such as gingerols, shogaols which inhibit, prostaglandin and leukotriene synthesis, and
  6. Ginger’s antimicrobial and antioxidant effects may boost immunity, which tends to decline with lowered estrogen.

18. Green tea

Green Tea contains polyphenols and antioxidants that reduce inflammation. Many research studies show that green tea is beneficial.

19. Herbal teas

Some good herbal teas for menopause include black cohosh, chamomile tea,, redclover tea, and peppermint tea.

Black cohosh has been traditionally used to balance hormones and alleviate menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats( source).

20. Fermented Foods

A diet rich in fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and other fermented foods is rich in probiotics that fight inflammation in the gut.

Gut inflammation can cause, a leaky gut and this causes systemic inflammation making menopause symptoms worse.

Probiotic-rich yogurt can help maintain gut health, which is linked to reduced inflammation.

21. Mushrooms

Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years across cultures for their nutritional and medicinal properties.

Varieties like shiitake, maitake, and reishi have anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show mushrooms are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds such as polysaccharides, phenolic and indolic compounds, carotenoids, and antioxidants.

Due to the richness of anti-inflammatory compounds, edible mushrooms can be referred to as superfoods and are thus great for alleviating some menopause symptoms.

anti-inflammatory diet

Additional Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Tips

Beyond dietary changes, additional lifestyle factors can help reduce menopause-induced inflammation.

Engaging in regular physical activity, such as brisk walking, yoga, or strength training, can help manage menopausal symptoms and support overall health. Weight training is important to improve muscle and bone strength.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Exercise improves energy levels, mood healthy, cognition, heart health, bone and and muscle strength. Also, daily exercise will also improve sleep.

Stress management techniques, like meditation, deep breathing, or journaling, can also be beneficial in reducing inflammation and improving mood changes associated with the menopausal transition.

Stress increases cortisol levels leading to many metabolic changes such as inflammation, bone loss, and skin changes.

Additionally, prioritizing quality sleep and maintaining a healthy body weight can positively impact inflammatory markers and hormone levels.

Incorporating whole foods, such as leafy greens, and pumpkin seeds, and unsaturated fats like those found in avocados and olive oil, can further support an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.

Avoiding processed foods, and refined carbohydrates, can also help lower inflammation levels and reduce the risk of chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and autoimmune diseases.

FAQ

What is perimenopause and how does it affect the body?

Perimenopause is now recognized as a span of time with real symptoms that have real medical causes – many of which may be linked to hormonal shifts.

According to Harvard Health, “Because virtually every organ contains estrogen receptors, hormone fluctuations affect all parts of our bodies.

But the decline in estrogen—which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects—also triggers a cascade of low-grade inflammation that can reach every cell.”

What is an anti-inflammatory diet for menopause?

An anti-inflammatory diet is centered around whole, unprocessed foods such as a wide variety of plant fibers and phytoestrogens from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, and lean proteins.

It also emphasizes reducing or eliminating the consumption of highly processed foods that contain large amounts of sugar, preservatives, and artificial ingredients.

Why is protein important during menopause?

During menopause, it is important to get adequate amounts of lean protein-rich foods.

This is because there is a dramatic decline in muscle mass and strength during the 3 years around the time of the last period, but this decline begins approximately 8 years before the last period and continues at least for 4 years after.

Lean protein foods include fish, beans, lentils, nuts, chicken, and eggs.

Protein helps build and preserve muscle mass which in turn can help maintain bone density.

It also helps you feel fuller longer so that cravings for unhealthy snacks are reduced.

What are some additional lifestyle tips for reducing inflammation during menopause?

Beyond dietary changes, there are additional lifestyle factors that can help reduce inflammation during menopause:

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