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A few simple tips for all you menopausal mamas

Catherine Burns’ advice to menopausal women: try and make sure you have three days in a row when you don’t drink anything alcoholic

Oh my! We have lots of menopausal women with teens out there – may the force be with you mamas!

Since I wrote last week about how increasingly normal it has become, due to women having children later, the requests for more help have come in thick and fast.

So as promised, to help calm the raging hormones, hot flashes, fatigue and mystifying weight gain, let’s take a look at what we can add from a dietary perspective.

(Quick side note! Although the weight gain feels mystifying, the reason it happens is because as oestrogen levels fall, the body stores all the oestrogen it can in fat cells close to the ovaries – annoyingly, right in the lower belly area! The body then resists draining those fat cells, as it wants to keep the oestrogen close to the ovaries. It’s trying to do the right thing, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.)

Moving on! Last week we made a list of all the dietary steps that help settle those teenage hormones as well as being helpful for menopause. This week, we’re focusing on some extra steps that are especially helpful for peri-menopause, or menopause in full flight.

There’s a great variance in the degree to which women experience symptoms. As a woman, your experience will likely be similar to the experience your mother had. The good news is, for those who are struggling, the dietary steps are most effective in those who have the most severe symptoms. Diet isn’t everything, but it’s hugely underrated as a supportive strategy. So, here are four extra tips that I hope you find useful. I’ve also included a really great menopause-supporting recipe!

1, Choose animal proteins wisely

Try and prioritise organic/grass-fed when you purchase animal protein. Organic/grass-fed animals have a better quality of life, better health and a diet that’s more rich in omega 3. This means you absorb more omega 3 yourself, which, as we mentioned last week, is both useful for mood and hormone balance. It doesn’t make sense to consume products from animals in poor health and expect to be well yourself!

2, Increase phytoestrogens

Phytoestrogens mimic the body’s own oestrogen and help reduce symptoms associated with falling levels. They are found prolifically in beans, lentils, soybeans, flaxseed, spinach and kale. These are also rich in fibre, which helps balance hormones through other mechanisms and is beneficial for heart health too – not to mention loo-related problems!

Note: while beans/lentils are generally amazing, some people find they cause wind/bloating. This is frustrating when they are so healthy! If this is the case for you, then firstly, make sure you rinse/soak them before consuming them (see steps in the recipe below) which helps to reduce enzyme inhibitors. You could also try the Beano enzymes (from any pharmacy) which can improve digestion and can be a simple fix for many people.

3, Easy on the caffeine and alcohol

Sorry about this one. I know, these are coping mechanisms for many people! But ultimately, these short-term coping mechanisms make the long-term problem worse as they tend to worsen hormone imbalance. If you need to keep a morning coffee, then make sure you have it after a breakfast that includes protein (eg a veggie omelette) instead of on an empty stomach. If you like a few glasses of wine here and there, try and make sure you have three days a week (in a row) when you don’t drink anything! This gives your liver a nice stretch for recovery.

4, Maintain/increase muscle mass

Not strictly dietary but so many people get this wrong (despite best intentions!) so it’s important to include it. When weight begins to spiral out of control, people often respond by stepping up the cardio. However, intense cardio can actually stress the body further (also contributing to hormonal imbalance) and you might find you actually do better with less cardio (keep some) and more weight-based training. Building muscle is a sure-fire way to raise metabolism as it takes more calories to maintain muscle than it does fat. Muscle mass is incredibly important for extending longevity and keeping active as you age. You might as well start working on it now as it’s easier to maintain what you have then start afresh at 70! (It’s never too late though …. Come see us at the Waterfront Wellness gym if you need help!)

Hormone-Balancing Vegetarian Chilli (serves 6-8)


2 tbsps light olive oil

1 red onion, medium, diced

1 red pepper, deseeded and diced

2 stalks celery, tough string removed, diced

2 carrots, diced

3 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, chopped

2 tbsps chilli powder

2 tsps smoked paprika

2 tsps ground cumin

1 tsp oregano

2 15oz tins crushed tomatoes

1 15 oz tin pinto beans, rinsed, soaked, drained

1 15oz tin black beans, rinsed, soaked, drained

1 15oz tin garbanzo beans, navy beans or butter beans

2 cups vegetable broth

Salt/pepper to taste

1 bay leaf

Bunch of fresh cilantro, tough stalks removed, chopped

½ – 1 tbsp fresh lime juice

Diced avocado for garnish


1, Drain your beans. Rinse them really well and soak in fresh water to remove the last enzyme inhibitors while you get going on the other prep. This makes them easier to digest.

2, In a large cast-iron pan, heat the olive oil (medium heat) and add the onions, pepper, celery and carrots. Cover and simmer on low for five minutes, allowing the veggies to sweat and soften. Stir occasionally.

3, Add the garlic, chilli powder, cumin, paprika and oregano. Stir well to spread the spices evenly. Simmer for another few minutes.

4, Drain the beans well.

5, Add the tomatoes and all the juice in the can. Add the beans, veggie broth and the bay leaf. Combine and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

6, Taste, add salt and pepper if you like.

7, Allow to cool. Remove the bay leaf. Blend 1 cup of the mixture until smooth. Return it to the pan. This does wonders for overall texture without adding thickeners like cornstarch.

8, Stir in a small handful of fresh cilantro. Stir in half tbsp lime juice and add more if you like, to taste.

9, Serve in bowls with the diced avocado on top! (Grated cheese/sour cream at your discretion. I just recommend organic when it comes to dairy, especially for menopause!)

Catherine Burns is a fully qualified clinical nutritionist. She can be contacted at 291-4725, clinicalnutrition@gmail.com, Facebook or Instagram

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Published May 25, 2023 at 7:57 am (Updated May 25, 2023 at 7:54 am)

A few simple tips for all you menopausal mamas

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