Fatigue and stress caused by oestrogen and serotonin fluctuations during the menopause can leave us craving ‘quick-fix’ refined carbs and sugar. Cutting back on healthier foods can also create blood sugar lows, which exacerbates the hankering for a sugary treat.
There are 34 symptoms that we typically associate with the menopause, but, for many women, the sugar cravings can be particularly powerful and intrusive.
If you're dealing with menopause cravings, fortunately there are a number of simple lifestyle and dietary changes you can make today.
To know what to do when the going gets tough, it can be helpful to have a better understanding of what causes these sky-high cravings, as well as the challenges that you are likely to face.
In terms of blood sugar balance and sugar cravings, there are three key aspects of menopausal health which can be involved — fatigue, fraught emotions and weight gain.
Fatigue and carb cravings — what’s the link?
One of the most common symptoms of the menopause is unexplained fatigue. When tired, the body searches for energy; it is dietary carbohydrate and sugar which the body can readily convert into fuel. This is why, on days when you are feeling tired and depleted, sugar cravings might start to feel unmanageable.
As with many symptoms, this fatigue is caused by changing hormone levels in the menopause. Rather than pushing yourself it’s best, if you can, to just rest and take it easy. Give your body the time it needs to help adjust to these fluctuating hormone levels. Find a place of balance.
But how does this relate to sugar cravings? When tired, the body searches for energy; it is dietary carbohydrate and sugar which the body can readily convert into fuel. This is why, on days when you are feeling tired and depleted, sugar cravings might start to feel unmanageable.
These simple carbs provide a short-term boost to serotonin, but are soon followed by a ‘crash’ to a low serotonin state, leading to more cravings and starting the cycle again! In addition to this it can also lead to digestive troubles, which we cover in more detail in our blog post.
Sugary foods can deplete your levels of B vitamins, so a regular intake is particularly important during the perimenopause and menopause.
Consider supplementing — this supports energy-yielding metabolism and reduces tiredness and fatigue, as well as helping with normal psychological function and hormonal activity. Cleanmarine Menomin contains vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid and biotin for a carefully-curated daily supplement.
Fully-charged emotions and menopause sugar cravings
When oestrogen and serotonin levels are low — a typical hormone pattern associated with the perimenopause — cravings for carbohydrates may become heightened. Stress-related cravings, in particular, can be associated with adrenal imbalance; exhaustion creates a hankering for a sugary serotonin pick-me-up.
Even if you’re convinced that you’ll be able to breeze your way through the menopause, at some point your emotions are likely to get the better of you!
It’s simply down to your hormones: fluctuating oestrogen and progesterone levels mean that there are days when you can feel quickly overwhelmed or short-fused, even in situations that you would usually handle with ease and grace.
Researchers have established that changes in hormones impact on the neurotransmitters which influence our mood and emotions, such as serotonin and dopamine.
So, whilst reaching for quick-fix carbohydrates is very tempting, all you’ll be doing is setting yourself up a sugar high — and the resulting low which always follows.
Cravings and calories — foods to avoid during the menopause
Firstly, say no to sugary treats. Also, rather than cutting out carbohydrates completely — which promotes the low energy associated with sugar cravings — incorporate complex carbs. Swapping refined for whole grain is a wise choice: that’s white bread, pasta and rice out, and brown bread, whole grain pasta and brown rice in!
During the menopause, your body undergoes a hormonal transition that also tends to impact your metabolism. This means it’s not unusual to put on a few extra pounds.
You may start to notice that maintaining your normal healthy body weight becomes much more challenging; days where you feel fatigued may mean you are less motivated to do regular exercise.
So, if menopausal weight gain has been getting you down and you feel inspired to take steps to shake off those extra pounds, then be mindful about the weight loss strategy that you choose.
Leaving long gaps in between meals, skipping meals, drastically reducing your calories or following dieting strategies that completely eliminate carbs can prove short-sighted and counterproductive. These all set you up for blood sugar lows — which are typically followed by increased sugar cravings.
Instead, slow and steady wins the race; aim to focus on a healthy lifestyle which helps you achieve your desired weight, in a sensible timescale.
So, what not to eat when going through the menopause?
- Say no to sugary treats, and rather than cutting out carbohydrates completely, take the time to incorporate complex carbs.
- Swapping refined for whole grain is a wise choice — that’s white bread, pasta and rice out, and brown bread, whole grain pasta and brown rice in!
- Make sure to keep an eye on the sodium content; foods high in salt are also known to promote water retention and bloating, which itself can lead to weight gain and a sense of sluggishness.
Achieving your goals and maintaining a healthy weight is so much easier without nagging cravings.
Rather than cutting them out completely, make careful carb adjustments to avoid that yearning for a sugary treat.
How to control menopause hunger and cravings: 10 top tips
Looking to step off the mood roller coaster and enjoy a smoother menopause? Try incorporating these simple lifestyle changes to curb those candy cravings.
- Limit caffeine to one cup of tea or coffee a day
- Avoid drinks high in sugar — this means fruit juice, smoothies, fizzy drinks, squash
- Cut back on foods that contain refined sugar — we’re talking some cereals, yoghurts, confectionery, cakes, biscuits and puddings
- Swap refined carbs (white bread, rice, pasta, flour) for wholegrain (brown bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, wholemeal flour)
- Increase your intake of complex carbs (lentils, pulses, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables) as well as protein
- Aim to achieve your 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables
- Keep hydrated with 1–2 litres of water a day; thirst is easily confused with hunger
- Eat small regular meals and snacks; avoid missing meals
- If you are craving something sweet, eat a piece of fresh fruit
- Swap milk chocolate for dark chocolate.