Aside from prescription meds, there have traditionally been few options for treating symptoms of menopause—night sweats, free-falling libido, vaginal dryness, and the like. But food can also be a helpful ally during this under-recognized phase of life, and one new startup is making it easier than ever for menopausal and perimenopausal people to get the nutrients they need to thrive.
Following five years of research and development, WeTheTrillions is the first meal-delivery company to create customized, research-backed menus for clients’ specific health needs—including food for menopause. While other meal plans targeting menopause, such as the one from BistroMD, are marketed primarily for weight management, WeTheTrillions designs its dishes to help clients with a variety of concerns, from hormones to sleep quality to hot flashes. Each customer is paired up with a clinician who tracks their progress, and meals are also formulated to account for the client’s other health concerns. A menopausal woman with anemia and IBS, for example, would receive foods that can help on all fronts.
While WeTheTrillions offers meal-delivery options catering to people from all stages of life, WeTheTrillions founder Lamiaa Bounahmidi says that menopausal and perimenopausal people are a particularly underserved market. “There’s a huge transformation in the body [in the run up to menopause], in terms of how carbs are processed, how bone health is impacting absorption of calcium, and things like that,” she says. “And most of the solutions are about giving drugs to trick the body, rather than embracing health differently.”
How do someone’s nutritional needs differ during menopause?
Perimenopause is when estrogen production begins to decrease—it usually starts when a person with a uterus is in their 40s—while menopause officially starts 12 months after a person has had their final period, usually around age 51. The hormonal changes that occur during these life stages have a major impact on the way the body converts food to fuel.
“Metabolism, or how fast or slow you burn calories, may be compromised by the change in crosstalk between estrogen and other chemical messengers in the body,” says gynecologist Sara Gottfried, MD, author of The Hormone Cure and Brain Body Diet. (Dr. Gottfried is not affiliated with WeTheTrillions.) “These include leptin, the hormone that tells you to put down the fork; ghrelin, the hormone that tells you to pick up the fork; insulin, the hormone that makes you store fat; adiponectin, the hormone that tells your body to burn fat; and sex hormone–binding globulin, the sponge that soaks up free levels of other sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen.” When this happens, she says, it has a knock-on effect on the thyroid and other reproductive hormones, and can result in fatigue, moodiness, brain fog, weight gain, and an uptick in overall stress.
To that end, says Dr, Gottfried, people going through perimenopause and menopause need more methylated B vitamins and vitamin C, as these are depleted when the body is under stress. Iron is also important, especially for those experiencing hair loss and irregular periods, as are minerals like copper, zinc, and selenium, which are a prerequisite for good thyroid function. Nutrients that support bone health are also important as estrogen levels drop, says Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN. “It is important to consume foods high in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D, while lowering excessive consumption of animal protein, sodium, and caffeine, as these items may cause loss of calcium from the bone,” says Shapiro, who also has no connection with WeTheTrillions.
Both experts agree that perimenopausal and menopausal women should aim to eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible—in fact, Dr. Gottfried recommends eating a pound of produce each day. “Research shows that areas where women consume more plants, less animal protein, and a lower fat diet have fewer common symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, weight gain, and bone loss,” says Shapiro. “Plants are also low-density foods. Menopausal women have lower calorie needs, and plants can help to fill them up with fewer calories and prevent weight gain. Plus, the antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients in plants can help to reduce heart disease and breast cancer risk while improving sleep and decreasing symptoms of hot flashes.”
Dr. Gottfried advises her clients to steer clear of processed foods, refined carbs, sugar, and sugar substitutes—basically, anything that causes the blood sugar to spike—and to limit alcohol and inflammatory foods, like gluten and dairy, as the body often becomes more sensitive to them with age. She also says gut health should be a priority during this season of life. “The microbiome is a key lever in the body’s estrogen levels. Certain bacteria that produce an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase can either increase or decrease estrogen levels—higher estrogen levels can be associated with breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and diabetes,” she says. “One of the most effective ways to support the gut is by consuming more fiber, particularly prebiotics. I recommend getting 35 to 50 grams of fiber daily to stay regular, promote the good bacteria in your gut, and cut back on the bloat.” Again, a plant-based diet will help you hit that threshold with ease.
The future of food for menopause
Of course, knowing about the right foods for menopause is only half of the equation—implementing that advice and tracking progress is a bit tricker. So while WeTheTrillions’ plant-based, microbiome-strengthening meal plan provides the nutritional foundation for later-in-life hormone health, the brand also gets doctors involved.
Here’s how it works: After filling out a health history questionnaire and placing their first order, clients get a 20-minute call with a health concierge or nutritionist who will find out more about their health concerns and lifestyle. Then, they can either loop their doctor into their WeTheTrillions profile or be matched with a provider who will keep tabs on the client’s symptoms—and lab results, in some cases—and make menu recommendations going forward. A proprietary algorithm also helps tweak the menus in tandem with clients’ self-reported symptoms—not just those relating to menopause, but to their other health concerns as well. “We want to make sure users are seeing tangible metrics on quantitative or qualitative improvements in their health.”
The end goal, says Bounahmidi, isn’t for clients to rely on WeTheTrillions forever. Ideally, she wants them to learn how to manage their symptoms and make their own best food choices going forward. She also hopes to make food for menopause accessible to more people. Right now, meal delivery is only open to those in the San Francisco bay area, although snack delivery is available nationwide. Plus, at $110 per week for the basic menopause meal plan—five days of customized breakfasts, lunches, and snacks—Bounahmidi recognizes that the cost is still out of reach for many of the people who need it. “As we’re scaling, I hope we can compete with the prices of junk food and be able to accept food stamps,” she says. “Plus, I believe in the next two to five years, we [will have the data] to prove the efficacy of this program to health insurers to offset part of the cost.” It’s an ambitious goal, but given that around 6,000 women in the U.S. reach menopause every day, it’s definitely one worth striving for.
Rory is another health-tech company that’s offering next-generation solutions for menopause symptoms. Still years away from this big life transition? Here are the foods that slow down its arrival—and the ones that speed it up.
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