Nutrition tips from Patricia Poulsen, RD

After opening her private practice in the fall of 2014, Patricia has continued her studies, receiving her Intensive Sport Nutrition Certification in Calgary and completing the Monash University Low FODMAP Dietitian course, Melbourne, Australia.

Patricia is a founding LornaFit member, certified as a kettlebell fitness and SPRY Method instructor and enjoys teaching and practicing in her spare time.

What are the most common issues your 40+ clients come to you with?

Most of my 40 and over female clients are seen for digestive health and weight management.

Can we really adjust our metabolism without vigorous exercise?

Yes. Metabolism slows down as we age but that doesn’t mean it is impossible to manage and maintain a healthy weight after the age of 40.

Diet is an important part of metabolism, consuming whole foods in the appropriate amounts can support a healthy metabolism. The more we eat the higher our metabolism, once we start restricting our bodies of calories, overtime our metabolism slows and it makes it difficult to maintain weight loss as it unsustainable to be at a deficit for a long period of time – that is why we discourage crash dieting.

Having said this, exercise, and more specifically strength training, increases lean muscle mass, protects bone integrity and help burn more calories at rest, thus increasing metabolism, but exercise alone will not change metabolism if your diet is poor.

Do you recommend supplements? If so, which?

It depends. I review the client’s lifestyle history including diet, exercise, age, sex, blood work etc. For my clients over the age of 50 I recommend a Vitamin D supplement (400 IU/day) and often B12. For my post-menopausal women I also recommend a calcium supplement as they are at an increased risk of osteoporosis as estrogen levels drop. Omega 3 fatty acid supplements are also recommended if fish intake is low.

Why the need for Calcium, Magnesium and Vit D?
Women who have reached menopause require a diet rich in calcium as they are at risk of osteoporosis, 3-4 servings of calcium rich foods and /or a calcium supplement. Magnesium and vitamin D are also crucial for calcium absorption and Magnesium also helps relax muscles, regulate bowel function and promotes sleep.

What foods help preserve muscle and joint health?

Whole foods and consuming mostly a plant-based diet including foods high in plant proteins such as legumes, beans, nuts and seeds. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids found in flax, walnut and seafood all contain anti-inflammatory properties which supports joint health and lean muscle mass. I often refer to the Mediterranean diet as an excellent resource.

Why do some women feel bloated when eating whole grains, but others don’t? Is there a hereditary factor?

There are many reasons why some people may feel bloated after eating certain foods and often it may not be as apparent as one specific food group. As a dietitian specializing in digestive health, the first two things we often rule out are genetic components and digestive disease (celiac, crohn, colitis or cancers) before focusing on diet.

Many times, temporarily eliminating certain foods from the diet may help get to the bottom of why some foods are not digested and cause that “bloated” feeling. It can be as simple as not having enough fibre in the diet or a gluten sensitivity. Whole grains are part of a healthy diet and it is important to include in a balanced diet.

Keeping a food and symptom diary is important when doing an elimination diet as it allow the client to recognize patterns with symptoms and specific foods. It is often times surprising to many to find out that it wasn’t grains that were the culprit but dairy or a specific fruit or vegetable.

Do you recommend probiotics?

YES! The thing to keep in mind when taking probiotics, is that you need to be consistent and patient it can take more than a month to notice any improvement. It is also good to switch up your strains every so often in order to grow a diverse micro biome.

What markers should I have checked when getting a blood draw at doc’s office?

For women over 40 it is good to test for cholesterol, thyroid function, HGb & Hct (especially for heavy periods) B12, Hemoglobin A1C and glucose. Post-menopausal women may require a bone density test, FSH and estrogen.

What’s your take on dairy?

Dairy is a very important source of calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and protein. We know that calcium is important for bone integrity especially for post-menopausal women. Having said this there are many other foods that also contain these nutrients, such as broccoli, almonds, sesame seed and leafy greens such as collards and spinach.

There are many nondairy options too, but not all are created equal it is important to read labels and make sure that the nondairy source that you choose is fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Many nondairy supplements (the exception being soy milk) are not very high in protein which is an important macronutrient for lean muscle tissue. It’s important to keep this in mind and supplement accordingly.

What’s your take on hormone replacement?

Hormone replacement therapy has come a long way. Many women have found it is a game changer in managing raging menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood, weight gain and also helps to protect bones. It is important to seek out a medical professional who specializes in HRT to find the right prescription, it is very individual and for many women it is not always a suitable option.

Which foods or supplements to help with the symptoms of hot flashes?

The most common natural health product used for treating the symptoms of menopause is phytoestrogens. Isoflavones, the phytoestrogens present in soybeans and soy

products such as tofu, have been studied but no conclusive results about their effectiveness have been determined.
Some studies do show a moderate improvement in symptoms. St. John’s wort may help reduce sleep difficulties. Black cohosh, flaxseed, dong quai, ginseng, evening primrose oil, wild yam, and gingko have all been studied but none of these products resulted in any improvement in menopausal symptoms compared to placebo. However, anecdotal evidence may differ. Please make sure that if you do decide to try a supplement that it does not contraindicate any of your medications.

Are there any specific foods that can make menopausal symptoms worse?
Yes! Many women experience an increase in menopausal symptoms (hot flashes and insomnia) when ingesting high fat foods and beverages which contain caffeine such as coffee and tea. Alcohol also has been shown to increase hot flashes, insomnia and when drinking in excess can also increase risk of osteoporosis.

Consuming a Mediterranean-style diet has shown to support bone health, decrease inflammation and manage weight. The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains. The main protein sources come from plants (soy, nuts, beans, and legumes) and seafood. With a moderate amount of dairy and limited amounts of red meat and high-fat foods.

Thank you very much for these insights, Patricia!

Want guidance with your nutrition? Reach out to Patricia here