Energy Levels and the Menopause

Fatigue, or lack of energy, is a symptom often experienced by women during peri-menopause and menopause. The cause of fatigue can be due to multiple factors. One cause is changes in hormone levels, such as oestrogen, progesterone, adrenal hormones, and thyroid hormones. These hormones all control energy in the body. Additionally, sleep disruptions, such as night sweats and hot flushes, can contribute to feeling tired during the day [1].

Why Does Fatigue Occur During Menopause?

Thyroid hormones control metabolism in the body, which is the rate at which your body breaks down food into energy [2]. Adrenal hormones, produced by adrenal glands, also help to regulate metabolism, as well as influencing your immune system, blood pressure and other functions [3]. During peri-menopause and menopause, when oestrogen and progesterone levels drop [4], this can affect the levels of adrenal and thyroid hormones in the body, impacting metabolism [5]. A slow metabolism means that your body is using energy at a slow rate, meaning that your body is not getting the energy it needs to function effectively, leading to feelings of fatigue [6].

These changes to oestrogen levels may also lead to brain fog. A symptom of menopause that many women describe as feeling like their brains are “cotton wool”. Brain fog can include characteristics like being more forgetful, finding it hard to concentrate, and struggling to retain information [7].

In terms of sleep disruptions, there are many studies identifying the link between reduced sleep quality and an increase in fatigue [8, 9, 10]. Therefore, this highlights the importance of managing symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes and night sweats, as their affect on sleep may lead to further issues, like fatigue. For more information on managing symptoms of menopause, refer to our previous blog on “Nutrition to Manage Menopausal Symptoms”. 

Nutrition for Energy Levels and the Menopause

There are a number of ways that nutrition can be used to help fight feelings of fatigue:

  1. Eat foods high in antioxidants to minimise the negative effects of free radicals (unstable atoms that cause cell damage and ageing) in the brain – including vitamin B (spinach, kale, eggs, cheese, and fish), vitamin C (citrus, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, and cabbage), and zinc (whole grains, seeds, nuts, chickpeas, eggs, and dairy) [11] 
  2. Avoid caffeine too close to bedtime, or switch to decaffeinated drinks, to decrease the likelihood of sleep disruptions
  3. Ensure that you are eating plenty of whole grain carbohydrates at mealtimes for a good source of energy
  4. Choose carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (GI), such as berries, beans, grainy bread, oats, and lentils, which release energy more steadily over a longer period and prevent blood glucose levels from spiking after meals [12]
  5. Incorporate sources of magnesium (avocados, nuts, legumes, oily fish, and tofu) into your diet, as it aids blood glucose control in the body [13]
  6. Ensure you’re meeting your recommended fibre intake (fruit, vegetables, beans, and whole grains) as fibre doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar, unlike some other carbohydrates can [14]
  7. Eat plenty of unsaturated fats (olive oil, sunflower oil, nuts, seeds, flax seeds, and avocados) for another great source of energy
  8. Choose lean proteins (white fish, tofu, lean beef, peas, and lentils) to prevent blood sugar spikes, and to feel fuller for longer [15]

Top Tips for Nutrition for Energy

  1. Choose carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index, like wholegrain bread, brown rice, and oats, for long-lasting energy
  2. Eat plenty of fibre as it does not cause spikes in blood sugar levels, like some carbohydrates can
  3. Incorporate sources of magnesium into your diet, like avocados, nuts, and tofu, to aid blood glucose control
  4. Avoid having caffeine too close to bedtime to decrease the likelihood of sleep disturbances
  5. Snack on foods like nuts, berries, seeds, and vegetables, for energy that doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar

Summary

Choosing the right types of foods can be beneficial for managing your energy levels, particularly if this is something you are struggling with during the menopause. If you would like further advice or to book a 121 appointment with me, please click here or email caroline@carolinehillnutrition.co.uk

References

[1] https://chapelhillgynecology.com/managing-menopause fatigue/#:~:text=Fatigue%20during%20perimenopause%20and%20menopause,cellular%20energy%20within%20the%20body

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK500006/ 

[3]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18020028/#:~:text=The%20adrenal%20glands%20secrete%20hormones,and%20sodium%20and%20glucose%20homeostasis

[4] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/path.2110 

[5] https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/doi/abs/10.1289/ehp.93101s291 

[6] https://thyroid.com.au/weight-gain-and-lethargy-due-to-a-slow-metabolism/ 

[7] https://www.themenopausecharity.org/2021/10/21/brain-fog/

[8] https://bpspsychub.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1348/135910703762879237?casa_token=nChRPU6ssnMAAAAA:fz-w9IKA5M5luw3K-Xa8jlKPV3vRIjBul95bD-fx6ZFo7A00YUx2yUHED3bf_-r51wHmacG2iNPfUd0 

[9] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S138994571000376X?casa_token=gG0bbLSXWWEAAAAA:zSYpchf3yUw1lcfq7sNiMKd5RKJIGU-HTN6GE2y-j8sbHmrC85S0ZcRRCIpe2J1pnxbaVHOZRc0 

[10] https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11910-009-0025-6 

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019700/ 

[12] https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-diet.html 

[13] https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/#:~:text=Magnesium%20is%20a%20cofactor%20in,%2C%20oxidative%20phosphorylation%2C%20and%20glycolysis

[14] https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/role-of-fiber.html#:~:text=Health%20Benefits%20of%20Fiber&text=Specifically%2C%20fiber%20can%20help%3A,sugar%20in%20your%20target%20range.

[15] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/dietary-protein-its-role-in-satiety-energetics-weight-loss-and-health/CCA49F7254E34FF25FD08A78A05DECD7

Caroline Hill, Dietitian and owner of Caroline Hill Nutrition

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