Foods to help ease menopause symptoms, as workplaces warned to adjust

Employers risk being sued if they don't take menopause symptoms seriously in the workplace. (Getty Images)
Employers risk being sued if they don't take menopause symptoms seriously in the workplace. (Getty Images)

Employers could be sued if they fail to make “reasonable adjustments” for staff going through the menopause, the equalities watchdog has suggested.

In a major step forward for women experiencing symptoms due to the menopause and perimenopause, guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been issued to bosses to clarify their legal obligations.

Symptoms of the menopause can be considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010 if they have a "long-term and substantial impact" on a woman’s ability to carry out their usual day-to-day activities, according to the watchdog.

Bosses should consider how room temperature and ventilation affect menopausal women and think about providing rest areas or quiet rooms, as well as cooling systems or fans for women experiencing hot flushes, the guidance says.

Failing to make these "reasonable adjustments" will amount to disability discrimination under the act if a worker’s menopause symptoms amount to a disability, the watchdog said.

An estimated 13 million women are going through the menopause in the UK – a substantial proportion of whom will be experiencing debilitating, life-changing symptoms, including heart palpitations, hot flushes, headaches, vaginal pain, anxiety and depression.

Many women are battling menopause symptoms at work. (Getty Images)
Many women are battling menopause symptoms at work. (Getty Images)

The new guidance will go some way in helping women living with the symptoms, but there are some lifestyle measures that can be taken, which will also alleviate some of the side effects, starting with diet.

"A woman's diet can greatly impact on her menopause symptoms and you're never too young to start to make changes," explains Laura Southern, nutritional therapist at

"Studies have shown that including certain foods several years pre-menopause can reduce severity of symptoms and even make menopause start later!"

With that in mind here's an expert-backed guide to the foods you should eat and avoid while experiencing symptoms of menopause.

Foods to eat during menopause


According to Southern protein is key because during menopause/perimenopause oestrogen levels decline.

"Oestrogen in women is a 'builder' - it keeps our bones growing, muscles, vagina lubricated, hair thick etc," she explains. "Once it declines then we need to ensure our body has enough 'building blocks' from other sources and protein acts like this."

Southern advises upping your intake of protein from plant-based food, including nuts, seeds, legumes, tofu, and pulses.

"Plant-protein should be included somewhere at every meal or snack," she continues. "Animal protein from eggs, meat, fish, dairy is extremely easy for body to breakdown and utilise, so if you're not a vegan, then a food source once a day is great."

What you eat can impact menopause symptoms. (Getty Images)
What you eat can impact menopause symptoms. (Getty Images)

Essential fats

These are vital for cell:hormone sensitivity, which can help with blood sugar balance. "Insulin resistance can occur due to menopause, but essential fats help with manufacturing all hormones, support our brain and heart and joints - all essential as we age," Southern explains.

Essential fats also keep us fuller for longer, so can help reduce sugar cravings. "Fats from olive oils, ground seeds, nuts, avocado should be included daily in the diet, and oily fish 2-3 times a week," Southern adds.

Many women feel their memories fail during the transition and supporting brain health with good fats can be useful.

"Good fats can also support vaginal lubrication," Southern adds. "Vaginal dryness is a common menopause symptom but eating a source of good fat with each meal might help."


Fibre is important for hormonal health due to its action in supporting the ‘microbiome’. "The microbiome is the name given to the bacteria population residing in our digestive tract," Southern explains. "The supportive bacteria feed off fibre and our microbiome has an important role in binding and excreting old circulating hormones.

"If our microbiome cannot do this efficiently then old, denatured hormones get reabsorbed which can lead to hormonal symptoms," Southern continues.

Fibre comes from all plant matter, so she recommends consuming a wide variety of fruit and vegetables daily, as well as whole grains is key.

"Think of adding a new vegetable to your plate every day, and don’t forget to add in green fresh herbs such as parsley, chives, coriander and basil to your food," Southern adds.

Leafy green vegetables are an important food for menopausal women. (Getty Images)
Leafy green vegetables are an important food for menopausal women. (Getty Images)


These are plant compounds which fit onto our oestrogen receptors and exert a mild oestrogenic effect.

"These are important when the body reduces its own oestrogen production because it means there is still some protective oestrogenic effects on the body," Southern explains. "Phytoestrogens are found in many plant foods but are particularly high in unprocessed soya products (edamame beans, tofu, miso), ground flaxseed, pomegranate seeds and berries.

"Adding a dessert spoon of ground flax to breakfast is an easy way to get a daily dose, as adding pomegranate seeds to yoghurt or salads," she adds.

Green vegetables

Dark green, leafy vegetables are a supportive food source for women with menopausal symptoms. "They help support the gut microbiome which is essential for absorbing our nutrients, but also for our excretory pathways," Southern explains. "This can support hormone balance. Green leafy veg like the whole brassica family and different salad leave and fresh herbs can be included daily."

Foods to 'avoid’


Sugar can cause blood sugar fluctuations (highs and lows). "This negatively impacts on the whole hormonal cascade because the body puts its resources into manufacturing insulin and cortisol to balance blood sugar because this essential for 'survival'," Southern explains.

"This means the rest of the hormone production (eg oestrogen, progesterone and neurotransmitters which keep us calm and happy) can suffer."


Similarly alcohol affects blood sugar, but it can also increase hot flushes, disrupt sleep and can affect the liver.

"If our livers are working hard to detoxify alcohol then this can impact the liver's ability to also detoxify old hormones, these can recirculate and cause issues," Southern says.


Caffeine is a stimulant that has been linked to poor sleep and the increase of hot flushes.

"More than two cups of coffee a day has also been shown to weaken bones which is a concern post menopause when our skeleton loses the protective, building benefits of oestrogen and osteopenia or osteoporosis can occur," Southern continues.

Ultra processed foods

"These can impact on menopause symptoms simply because a diet high in these is often a diet low in fibre, essential fats and phytoestrogens," Southern adds.

Additional reporting PA.

Menopause: Read more

Watch: Naomi Watts has no idea how she got pregnant after being told she was menopausal in her 30s