Menopause refers to the 12 consecutive months without a menstrual cycle due to a significant drop in estrogenlevels. The menopausal age varies from 40 to 58 years old, although the National Health Services reports that the average age of menopause in the UK is 51.
Menopause doesn’t suddenly happen. The transition can run for 4 to 8 years, and this period is called “perimenopause”. You may experience changes in your period’s duration and heaviness during this time.
The erratic hormonal activity cause symptoms which usually include hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and brain fog. These can disrupt your normal activities and negatively impact your relationships.
Thankfully, there are effective ways to manage the symptoms, including taking menopause supplements.
Best Supplements for Menopause
Choosing the best supplement can be tricky because women experience menopause differently. Some supplements target specific symptoms, while others work in a “non-selective” manner—although all of them are marketed to promote a healthy lifestyle.
That said, here are the best 6 menopause supplementsyou may consider. As you look through them, pay close attention to these ingredients:
Oestrogen is crucial for bone growth and development, which means menopause causes bone loss. Consuming dairy products and green, leafy vegetables can provide you with a good amount of calcium. If you think you’re not getting enough of this mineral through diet, consider taking a calcium supplement.
Carefully assess if your dietary calcium intake is insufficient or not. Excessive calcium in your system can lead to hypercalcemia, which can cause palpitations, fatigue, and kidney stones. It can even weaken your bones.
Your doctor may suggest combining calcium supplements with hormone replacement therapy to increase absorption.
Vitamin D is necessary for optimal calcium absorption, among other biological functions. You can get enough of it by spending only 15 to 13 minutes daily under the sun, 3 to 4 times a week. Fatty fishes such as tuna and salmon, are also rich sources.
There are many fortified foods available in the market that can fill in any gap, significantly diminishing the incidence of vitamin D deficiency.
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring compounds in plants that are structurally like oestradiol.
Oestradiol is a more potent form of oestrogen.
Nuts, oats, strawberries, olive oil, red wine, and coffee all contain phytoestrogens. Consuming these may help ease menopausal symptoms because their phytoestrogen contents interact with oestrogenreceptors in the body.
One of the promising benefits of phytoestrogens is the inhibition of breast cancer cells.
Polyphenols are plant-derived compounds with antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. There are more than 8,000 types of polyphenols, and many of them have shown potential health benefits.
Flavonoids, for example, may decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. Menopause doesn’t directly cause this metabolic condition, but the hormonal changes and visceral fat deposition can make women more vulnerable to increased glucose levels.
You can get a polyphenol boost through supplements. At the same time, try adding herbs and spices, berries, and legumes to your meals and salads.
Soybeans are packed with isoflavones, which is a type of polyphenol. Meaning, soy supplements can also activate oestrogen receptors and alleviate menopause symptoms. According to a review, soy isoflavones can reduce hot flashes. However, it may take several months for this effect to be noticeable.
Soy may also help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving the health of your endothelium (the lining of the heart and blood vessels).
Valerian is a flowering plant native to Europe and Asia. For centuries, its root has been used to treat different ailments. Valerian root supplements are also one of the most popular sleep inducers in Europe and the United States.
Study shows that people who take valerian extract perceive their sleep quality to be better. One of the most common symptoms of menopause is difficulty falling asleep or getting disrupted sleep. If you suffer from any of these of these, find a supplement with Valerian root extract.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates feelings of satisfaction, optimism, focus, and calmness. If serotonin levels are low or serotonin receptors are less active, you may feel a mix of negative emotions.
Since oestrogen interacts with the serotonin pathway, it’s common to observe mood swings around menopause.
A study showed that taking magnesium supplements can positively influence depressed patients. That said, it may also improve mood regulation during menopausal age. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of magnesium is 310 to 320mg for women.
Magnesium is present in many foods and any inadequacy can be filled in by a supplement.
Hormonal changes during menopause can reduce libido. Ginseng, particularly red ginseng, may help reverse this.
A review of 10 studies revealed that red ginseng could improve sexual arousal in women of menopausal age.
Turmeric contains “curcumin”, a compound with antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. A 2019 study discovered that turmeric exceeds ginger, black pepper, and long pepper regarding gut health. It supports a balanced gut microbiome community.
The gut produces serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine, which influence sleep and mood. Therefore, a favourable environment in the gut may lessen menopausal symptoms.
Black cohosh is a wood herb that grows in North America. Currently, it is gaining popularity as a treatment for oestrogen-related conditions.
In a study that involved 120 women with menopausal symptoms, findings show that black cohosh was more effective than fluoxetine (an anti-depressant) in alleviating hot flashes and night sweats.
However, healthcare providers remind people with a history of liver disease to avoid this ingredient. Although there’s no solid evidence of a causal relationship, it’s better to be careful.
Maca is a Peruvian ginseng that is related to broccoli and cabbage. For centuries, it’s been used in traditional medicine to treat diminished sexual function, mood swings, and infertility.
More research is still needed to prove Maca’s efficacy in treating menopause symptoms. But pilot studies have been promising. One study showed that Maca intake for 6 weeks reduced depression symptoms and improved blood pressure levels in postmenopausal women.
Can Supplements Treat Menopause?
Technically, menopause can’t be treated because it’s a natural phase. The best thing women can do is to learn how to manage symptoms effectively.
Fortunately, prescription medications and natural alternatives can help women go on with their regular routines.
Here are some essential points you should know about menopause supplements:
• They work to improve general health. Dietary supplements are meant to “fill in” nutritional gaps to achieve optimal health. We don’t get enough nutrients from the diet, but we can top them up with supplements.
• Menopause symptoms can be triggered or intensified by vitamin or mineral deficiency. So, supplements can improve general health and help reduce or ease specific symptoms.
• Results vary widely. As with any supplement or medication, the reaction may differ from one person to another. Some will experience the benefits faster than others. Sometimes supplements that work for others won’t work for you.
• Talk to your doctor about the supplement, especially if you have an existing health issue. Just because something is derived from nature means it’s totally safe. Certain compounds have contraindications.
Should You Treat Menopause with Supplements Alone?
The choice of treatment for menopause symptoms is entirely up to you. Not all women are comfortable with prescription medications, but many rely on them—mainly when dealing with severe symptoms.
Here are some essential points you should know about medications:
• Medications target specific symptoms. While many women find menopause supplements helpful, there’s no conclusive evidence that it is as effective as medications. Furthermore, medications address particular issues, which means you know what to expect.
• Medications may be combined with supplements. The main treatments for menopause symptoms are clinical based, which include hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Although you can obtain supplements and natural alternatives without a prescription, be cautious when taking them with medications. Talk to your doctor about the specific supplement you want to try.
• Medication is not always favourable. Hormone pills and other drugs have been proven to alleviate various menopause symptoms. However, they come with side effects, which include headaches, sore breasts, spotting, and an increased risk of breast cancer. Many women are also not comfortable with the idea of taking synthetic products.
There’s enough evidence that hormone replacement therapy effectively treats various menopause symptoms. However, it’s not suitable for all women—particularly those with a history of breast or ovarian cancer. Some women are also hesitant to take medications due to fear of side effects.
If you’re decided to take the alternative route, get a health evaluation first. Your doctor might recommend the best menopause supplement more suitable for you.