You might find that you suddenly start to crave sugar or cookies or sweets much more than normal. You may also find that your appetite has just gotten totally out of control or that you feel hungry all the time. And you’re probably wondering why this is and why your appetite and cravings change.
Well, the answer is always the same: the hormonal changes going on throughout your body are creating a big need for extra nutrition. You need more vitamins, more minerals and a lot more protein to help keep everything in balance. And if you’re not eating well enough or simply not getting enough nutrition on a daily basis, your body is basically hungry, which can cause cravings or affect your appetite.
This isn’t good for us for a number of reasons. We know that sugar is bad for us and can contribute to heart palpitations, hot flashes and joint aches and pains, and trigger panic attacks and anxiety. And we also know that menopause is a time when we’re already struggling with our weight, so if our calorie count from sugar or sugary foods starts to rise, it can add on a whole other layer of stress as well.
So what do you need watch out for?
First of all, if you’re getting a lot of hot flashes and sweats and you find that you’re feeling hungry, it might just be thirst. So start by taking a look at your water intake and maybe upping it. Sometimes just having a glass of water is enough to take the hunger pangs away. It’s really important to have a proper and varied diet to get all the vitamins and minerals you need. The more different foods you eat, the wider range of nutrients you’ll get, which means you won’t need to eat as much. So it’s a nice compromise: if you eat really well, you usually need to eat less, and that will help you control your weight as well.
I would also add in a really good vitamin and mineral supplement. And remember the magnesium. One of the interesting things we know is that magnesium takes a big dip when menopause sets in. And we need magnesium for mood, relaxation and sleep. One of the things low magnesium does is cause sugar cravings, so taking a magnesium supplement can make a difference. You can also consider taking a supplement containing chromium, which is known to help stave off sugar and chocolate cravings.
One really, really important thing to consider: as women going through menopause, we want to look good! And if we have an issue with our weight, one of the first things we tend to do is go on low-calorie diets. During menopause, this is huge no-no because if you cut your calorie intake further, you’re going to get less nutrition and your body is actually going to get hungrier and hungrier. And a lot of women who go on these types of diets during menopause actually find to their surprise that they start putting on weight! That’s because the body just shuts the metabolism down even further because of the low calorie intake. So it’s really important, as I said before, to have a good, varied diet, and not necessarily to cut calories.
Points to remember
If you find that you’re craving salt rather than sugar, it is often an indication of adrenal fatigue, which is usually produces other symptoms: fatigue, low mood, and joint aches. You might find that your get-up-and-go has gotten up and gone. If you think adrenal fatigue might be affecting you, check out my blog on the subject. Another thing that can happen with some people is that doing all these things doesn’t make a difference and those sugar cravings get worse. If you try and try and nothing works, it’s really important to get yourself checked out by your doctor. One thing that can happen during menopause is that your body starts to have trouble regulating insulin levels; this is something your doctor really needs to have a look at.
Loss of appetite
Some women find that their appetite actually decreases, and sometimes they lose weight where they don’t actually want to lose weight. If this is you and you feel that your appetite’s gone and you just don’t feel like eating, try to eat really well anyway, if only because your symptoms can often get worse if the situation is allowed to persist. If you don’t much feel like eating, pick up some really tasty protein powders, whip up a nice shake and have that on a daily basis until you regain your appetite.
And some of you might be sitting there going, “But I don’t get sugar cravings. I crave apples every day.” Or, “I crave red meat every day.” Or you might find that you get cravings for other, very specific types of foods. If that’s the case, look at the category of food you’re actually craving—that’s probably a good indication of what you’re currently lacking in your diet—and make sure to get plenty of those foods. Just make sure you get them in a nice, healthy form.