Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be taking a look at why you can feel constantly hungry and crave sugar in the menopause.
This is something I get asked by a lot of women. "Why am I hungry all the time? Why am I craving sweet things and sugary things?"
There's a lot of good research on this and it's something that's very, very common amongst peri-menopause, menopause, and post-menopause women.
The hormonal causes
The main reasons are your hormones. Two hormones control our hunger and appetite. One is called ghrelin, which stimulates your appetite. And there's one called leptin, which tells your brain when you've had enough.
Normally these two are kept in balance, but what studies have shown in the peri-menopause, especially, is that the level of ghrelin goes up so you end up becoming hungrier and then it becomes more difficult for the leptin to tell your brain that you've had enough.1
So not only do you eat more, but you crave more and you feel hungrier a lot of the time.
Studies have also found that in the menopause, as your oestrogen starts to fall, your appetite starts to increase.2 And it's thought that it may be to do with all the physical changes that are going on in the body. The body thinks it needs more of everything to keep itself stable.
The other thing that can happen is falling oestrogen can also interfere with our blood sugar control, so it doesn't keep itself in check. And again, that will make you crave more sugary things and more sweet things, the more carbohydrates.
But when you eat these types of foods, it shoots your blood sugar levels up. It gives you a hit, but then there's a very quick fall which makes you crave the sweet things all over again.
So, it can become a bit of a cycle where you just seem to be craving sweet things, eating sweet things, feeling better, feeling lousy and wanting to start everything all over again.
The other main thing it can be, especially at this time, is emotional eating. Whenever I am stressed, whenever I'm anxious, I always tend to eat more and crave more of the baddies.
When we're stressed, we want these quick fixes. We want something that's going to make us feel better now and basically, that's your carbohydrates and your sugary foods.
They're also more comforting. They make us feel better generally. But again, you're going to get that big sugar hit, your blood sugars are going to go all over the place and this is just going to continue. You're going to crave, and crave, and crave all the time.
Poor sleep is another one which makes us hungrier and crave certain foods. If you're not getting a good night's sleep because of stress and anxiety or you're waking up with flushes or night sweats, then that is going to alter your brain reward system. What happens then is that it induces unhealthy cravings for carbohydrates, usually the next day.
The National Sleep Foundation has suggested that if you do not get enough sleep, then the following day, you can end up eating about 300 calories more than you would after a good night's sleep.3 So, you can imagine that if you're having a lot of bad nights, then these extra calories daily can soon creep up and that can be a big factor in weight gain at this particular time as well.
What can you do to control your hunger and cravings?
The really important thing here is to try and avoid carbohydrates, sugary foods, and comforting foods because they trigger this unhealthy cycle. So it's about introducing more protein foods into the diet, a little bit of healthy fats, and loads of veg, and a little bit of fruit.
And you do find that once you can get these carbs and sugary foods out of the way, that the less you eat, the less you crave and the better you will feel, both physically and emotionally as well.
Snack healthily, too. Try not to have the biscuits, and the cakes, and the chocolates around if you can help it.
I know for me, snacks can be my downfall. I've learned, especially being at home, is not to buy anything that is going to tempt me and then that keeps everything definitely out of the way. We have super snack recipes in our food hub on our website so please do have a look if you want some simple and easy to make ideas for snacks in between meals.
You can also have a look at my blog 'Healthy snacks for a healthy menopause' for lots of tasty and easy snack ideas.
Eat little and often
Some women find eating little and often keeps their blood sugars a lot more stable. So that's something you can maybe try, especially if you tend to go four, five hours between meals and you're not eating anything because that again, will start this whole craving process off again.
Remember the water
It is often said that hunger can be mistaken for thirst. So if you feel that you're getting these cravings, you're getting hungry a lot, especially if you are having a lot of hot flushes or night sweats, then have a small glass of water first of all, before you eat anything just to see if it's thirst rather than hunger that's affecting you. And if it's the thirst, then you will feel better quite quickly.
If you find that the emotional eating is creeping in, then look at lovely stress remedies. We have a lovely licensed one called AvenaCalm. If you find that your cravings are getting out of hand, then we have one of the lovely flower essences called Craving Essence and that can often help just to keep those cravings at bay as well.
I hope you found this one interesting. It's something that affects me regularly. I have to be very strict with my carb intake. Otherwise, it just goes all over the place.
So hopefully, it's helped you. If any of you have any tips for helping to cut the cravings at bay or if you have any really lovely, healthy snack ideas, I would love to hear from you.