Can supplements help with menopause?
If you go into any pharmacy or supermarket there is an ever-growing range of supplements targeting menopause. With prices ranging from the ordinary to a real investment, it’s difficult to know whether you’re getting value for money or are the ‘fashionable’ brands such as Goop’s Madame Ovary or Lyma just that – a fashion statement? Can supplements actually help you through your menopause?
Before we dig into information to help you make that decision, it’s important to note that supplements aren’t magic. They alone are unlikely to get you feeling your best - food and lifestyle changes should always be the first step. However, supplementing with specific vitamins, herbs and amino acids can be a valuable way to support your body as you go through menopause. For those for whom HRT is not the preferred or an available option, the right supplementation can be key. It’s important, however, to know which will support and suit your biology and genetics.
Wondering which supplements might give your body the support it needs? Book a free, no-obligation call with one of our experts.
A reminder - when choosing a supplement, always check for evidence and quality. Are any claims evidence backed? Is it high quality – too many supplements are stuffed with fillers and bulking agents or have low bioavailability.
Our research explains supplements that can be helpful and some where the jury is still out.
VITAMINS, MINERALS & ANTIOXIDANTS:
Magnesium is a great all-rounder and it’s a good one to start with. Many women are deficient in magnesium, and it can be further depleted by stress. It’s used in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body and is known as nature’s tranquiliser due to its calming effect on the nervous system which means it can help with sleep issues. Picking the right type can help, magnesium glycinate can help with sleep and topical magnesium sprays can help with muscle relaxation.
Omega 3 oils
Omega 3 oil is a real powerhouse, helping support heart and brain health, reducing inflammation and promoting healthy skin and joints.
Through menopause Omega 3 can improve hormone receptor function - helping support hormones (including oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) actions within the body. Hormone receptors are made from fats that comes from our food so make sure you’re eating enough natural fat and eat two portions of oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel or sardines per week.
Those who don’t consume oily fish regularly may benefit from supplementing with vegan Omega-3.
Green tea – full of antioxidants and a superfood, right? Yes, but it doesn’t suit everyone. Some people find green tea makes them feel anxious and unwell – why is this? It’s down to your genetics.
Green Tea contains an active ingredient called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). This brings health benefits that range from a reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease to improving metabolic syndrome, obesity and diabetes.
EGCG needs to be converted in the body by an enzyme that also clears adrenaline. The efficacy of this enzyme is based on our genetics. For women who have a less efficient enzyme, green tea or supplements containing green tea extracts can leave them feeling jittery and anxious.
B vitamins are another blockbuster. They help with energy production, the nervous system, brain health & mood and red blood cell production. They can benefit many women through menopause. However, genetics come into play here again when it comes to two particular B vitamins, folate and B12. They are available in methylated or unmethylated forms and which form is best for you depends on your genetics. For some women methylated B vitamins can increase anxiety, for other women they are essential for mood support.
Phytoestrogens are a plant form of oestrogen. They can mimic oestrogen’s effect in the body though are much weaker than the oestrogen produced by our bodies. Supplements that contain phytoestrogens are touted by some for use during menopause, but does the science back up their claims?
Soy isoflavones are found in soybeans and can be taken in supplement form. There are several studies looking at the use of soy isoflavones to help with menopause symptoms (hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness), but the jury is still out regarding their efficacy.
Some small studies have suggested that red clover can be beneficial for both symptoms of high oestrogen (by blocking the action of the more powerful oestradiol) and low symptoms (by adding in an oestrogenic compound when levels are low). However, larger studies are needed to draw conclusions. There is also concern that red clover can worsen some underlying conditions such as cancer and endometriosis so talk to your doctor before taking this supplement.
Black cohosh has a reputation for alleviating hot flushes and night sweats and a 2022 summary of treatment reviews quoted 24% of women claiming that black cohosh resulted in a significant improvement in menopausal symptoms. However, overall the evidence is mixed. The studies are small and larger studies are needed.
There are concerns regarding side effects of black cohosh – particularly liver damage when taken for more than 12 months. Herbs often have interactions with medications, so it’s important to consult a health professional before taking them.
Adaptogens are herbal substances thought to help the body adapt to stress. They are believed to support overall health and wellbeing and promote balance and resilience in the body.
Ashwaganda is a frequently discussed adaptogen. It can help reduce anxiety, fatigue, insomnia and brain fog. Clinical trials have also shown an improvement in menopausal symptoms. NB. Ashwaganda should only be taken in discussion with a practitioner as it can negatively impact some common medical conditions including some thyroid conditions.
There is certainly a role for supplements to help support your body through perimenopause and beyond but it’s about being targeted and giving your body what it specifically needs.
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