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There comes a time in a woman’s life when she stops receiving the “time of the month.”
Although PMS symptoms like menstrual cramps and bloating may become a thing of the past, this new chapter of a woman’s life, known as menopause, brings with it a whole new set of symptoms.
With a few lifestyle changes, including dietary changes and certain natural supplements, a woman can help combat some of these symptoms to improve quality of life during this time.
Menopause usually starts at around the age of 50 years old or so (1). With it, periods stop permanently, and a woman can no longer get pregnant. A woman knows menopause has arrived when it has been a full year since her last period.
Symptoms may be mild at first, and once they arrive, they may only happen every once in a while.
Symptoms of Menopause
Some possible symptoms of menopause include:
- Hot flashes
- Loss of libido
- Vaginal dryness
- Night Sweats
- Irregular periods
- Mood swings, irritability
- Hair loss or thinning
- Memory lapses
- Weight gain
- Sleep disorders
- Brittle nails
- Irregular heartbeat
- Breast pain
- Joint Pain
In addition, menopause may also cause cholesterol levels to rise. This, in turn, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Due to this increased chronic disease risk as well as bone density loss risk, it makes sense that changes in your dietary habits may help relieve symptoms and lower such menopause health risks.
Calcium is an example of a nutrient that can help women during and after menopause. By consuming at least 1000 milligrams of calcium a day, women can help lower their risk of bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis (3).
Here’s a quick graphic of all the ones we will cover in this article.
8 Helpful Supplements For Menopause
Next, read on for a list of the best supplements for menopause to help lessen symptoms and improve quality of life during this chapter of a woman’s life.
Calcium is an all-important mineral found in every bone in your body. It’s needed for many processes in the body such as muscle function, hormonal secretion, and nerve transmission, to name a few (4).
However, what you may not be aware of is that this nutrient also shows potential for helping those with menopause.
How Calcium Helps With Menopause
The more obvious menopause health benefit it provides is bone health. This is because those experiencing menopause are at greater risk for bone loss due to hormonal changes. Therefore, calcium can help lower the risk of bone loss that can lead to debilitating conditions like osteoporosis, or weakened bones, which could increase the risk of bone fractures (4,5).
In fact, recent research shows that a daily intake of calcium between 700 and 1200 milligrams a day of elemental calcium, derived from the diet or supplements, can help lower one’s risk of osteoporosis (5).
Also, it’s important to make sure that when you consume calcium, you also consume vitamin D as well. This is because vitamin D helps to improve the absorption of calcium (4).
Not only is calcium good for bone health during and after menopause, but it may also prevent early menopause. A recent study looked at the impact of calcium and vitamin D intake on the start of menopause using data from the Nurses’ Health Study II.
Study results show that high intakes of vitamin D and calcium were modestly associated with a lower risk of early menopause (6).
Common sources of calcium include:
- milk products like yogurt or cheese,
- soy milk,
- or calcium-fortified orange juice (4).
When it comes to vitamin D, you could soak it up from the sun, from calcium-rich and vitamin D-enriched dairy products, or from a supplement that contains both vitamin D and calcium to provide convenience, and in turn compliance, with this vitamin and mineral regimen.
The sunshine vitamin known as vitamin D, as you read earlier, is vital to menopausal and postmenopausal bone health. This fat-soluble vitamin is present in few foods, so if you don’t soak up enough sun or live in a cloudy region, then a vitamin D supplement may be best for you to reap the health benefits (7).
The average daily recommended intake of vitamin D is 600 IU, but if you have a low vitamin D level in your blood, then your doctor may recommend a higher dose.
How Vitamin D Helps With Menopause
When it comes to the health benefits of vitamin D, one study looked at a group of postmenopausal women and the impact of this supplement on health.
Study results show that vitamin D deficiency is still very prevalent in postmenopausal women and could lead to a condition known as hyperparathyroidism (8). This condition occurs when one or more of the parathyroid glands become overactive and the calcium levels in the blood can become dangerously high (9).
This study found that those women who didn’t have fractures or osteoporosis were less likely to be compliant with vitamin D. Therefore, it’s important to spread the message that vitamin D intake or exposure is vital to women’s bone health no matter what your age or health status.
Besides bone health, vitamin D also shows promise to lower the risk of metabolic syndrome. Since women with menopause and postmenopausal women are at higher risk for weight gain and heart health issues, they may be more at risk for this health condition (2).
In fact, recent research shows that vitamin D deficiency in postmenopausal women was linked with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome and associated conditions like high blood fat levels and low good “HDL” cholesterol levels (10).
Another important fat-soluble vitamin for menopausal health is vitamin E. It is an important antioxidant that functions to fight radicals and in turn the lower the risk of chronic diseases like heart diseases and diabetes (11). Not to mention that vitamin E can help boost immune health and support healthy metabolic functions.
How Vitamin E Helps With Menopause
When it comes to improving menopausal symptoms, one study shows that vitamin E can help reduce hot flashes (12).
Another study looked at the impact of a supplement made of resveratrol, tryptophan, glycine, and vitamin E on the mood and sleep symptoms of menopause. Study results show that the oxidative stress-fighting properties of vitamin E may play a role in sleep disorders, while the other elements of this supplement may help improve mood and enhance vitamin E’s sleep-inducing properties (13).
These oxidative stress properties have found to be vital to other menopausal health benefits produced by vitamin E. A study of post-menopausal diabetic women found that vitamin C and E supplementation helped to reduce oxidative stress in the body (14).
This finding shows the potential that vitamin E could help lower heart health risk factors in this population such as lowering the risk of high blood pressure. Not to mention that this anti-inflammatory property of vitamin E could help lower the risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis (15).
Another important antioxidant in menopausal health is resveratrol. This polyphenol antioxidant is found in many plant species but is most well-known for its presence in grape skin and seeds (16).
Resveratrol possesses anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, cardioprotective, vasorelaxant, and phyto-estrogenic properties. Research shows that these properties, when combined with the nonsteroidal estrogen equol, have helped to improve the quality of life factors in menopausal women (17).
This improvement in the quality of life may be due to the many health benefits resveratrol can provide to the menopausal and postmenopausal women.
How Resveratrol Helps With Menopause
One study looked at the effect of resveratrol supplementation on symptoms of postmenopausal women. Study results show that 14 weeks of supplementation produced a significant reduction in pain associated with age-related osteoarthritis as well as boosted the perception of well-being in postmenopausal women (18).
Another study of this population of women looked at the impact of resveratrol on brain health factors. The study results show that 14 weeks of resveratrol supplementation enhanced cerebrovascular function (related to blood flow to the brain) and cognitive function (19).
In turn, this helped reduce their risk of accelerated cognitive decline (19).
Along with brain and quality of life factors, resveratrol may potentially help manage the weight gain commonly seen in menopausal and postmenopausal women.
Animal studies looked at the impact of resveratrol supplementation on the metabolic health of rats who had both ovaries removed and were fed a soy-free diet. The results show that resveratrol significantly reduced the gain of body weight in these rats (20).
These results show potential for this supplement to help control the body weight gain in menopausal and postmenopausal women, upon further study.
Black cohosh is a perennial plant-based supplement that has been used for many years to treat ailments as muscle pain, fever, cough, and menstrual irregularities (21). It has been deemed safe for most individuals to take, but you should still check with your healthcare provider before adding this to your daily regimen.
How Black Cohosh Helps With Menopause
As far as menopausal health, black cohosh is well-known for its use in reducing hot flashes. One study looked at the impact of black cohosh on symptoms in postmenopausal women.
Supplementation with a once-daily 6.5 mg dried extract of cohosh root produced a reduction in severity and frequency of hot flashes at weeks 4 and 8 as compared to the placebo group (22).
Another study looked at a similar population of women and the effects of primrose oil versus black cohosh on hot flashes. Results showed that although both reduced severity of hot flashes and improved quality of life, black cohosh was more effective since it also reduced the number of hot flashes (23).
Best known for its antioxidant and healthy fat content, flaxseed is also beneficial to menopausal health. Although its seed can provide a healthy crunch to your yogurt, oatmeal, or salad, flaxseed can also be consumed in tablet, extract, powder, or flour form (24).
How Flaxseeds Help With Menopause
Research shows that supplementation with flaxseed can improve the quality of life of postmenopausal women (25). Quality of life may be improved for these women because of flaxseed’s ability to help reduce menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms.
The menopausal health effects of flaxseed seem to stem from its vasomotor and phyto-estrogenic properties. A 2015 study review found that flaxseed supplementation helped reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women without any serious side effects (26).
The menopausal health benefits of flaxseed also stem from their antioxidant properties. A 2018 report states that the omega-3 fatty acid antioxidant content of flaxseed, as well as its high fiber content, yields heart health benefits.
These heart health benefits include reducing hypertension, lowering cholesterol, as well as reducing oxidative stress overall (27). This result shows that flaxseed can help manage the increased heart disease risk that women may experience during and after menopause (1).
St. John’s Wort
The flowering plant of St. John’s Wort has a longstanding reputation of helping people improve their mood (28). Besides being used as a management for depression and reducing anxiety, this supplement has also been used to treat conditions like insomnia, kidney and lung ailments, and wounds.
A lesser known health benefit of St. John’s Wort is its impact on menopausal and postmenopausal symptoms.
How St. John’s Wort Helps With Menopause
A 2014 study found that an extract of St. John’s Wort, also known as Hypericum perforatum L., was significantly superior to placebo in reducing symptoms of menopause while providing fewer side effects (29).
Also, a 2015 animal study found that supplementation with St. John’s Wort presented am an estrogen-like effect in helping to slow down bone loss (30).
Finally, a 2016 study looked at the impact of Hypericum perforatum and flaxseed on symptoms in menopausal women. Study results show that Hypericum perforatum showed a decrease in the frequency of hot flashes, which reveals a beneficial effect on vasomotor symptoms of menopause (31).
Although a relatively safe supplement to take, St. John’s Wort can interact and weaken the effectiveness of certain medications like antidepressants, birth control pills, cyclosporine, certain heart disease and cancer medications, some HIV drugs, as well as the blood thinner warfarin (28).
Therefore, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before adding this supplement to your daily regimen.
The research on soy on women’s health is mixed, but there is no doubt that soy isoflavones can benefit menopausal health. This plant-based supplement has been used to treat bone health, improving memory, as well as improving heart health factors like cholesterol and blood pressure (32).
Soy can be found in tablets, capsules, powders, or in foods like soy protein, edamame, soymilk, and other soy products like tofu and tempeh.
How Soy Isoflavones Help With Menopause
Regarding menopausal health, soy has been found to help relieve menopausal symptoms. One 2017 study looked at the impact of soy isoflavones on the Menopausal Rating Scale (MRS). Study results show that after taking 100 milligrams of soy isoflavones for 12 weeks, menopausal and perimenopausal (in the early stages before menopause) helped improve the MRS (33).
Soy isoflavones revealed their greatest effectiveness in improving somatic and psychological symptoms like hot flashes as well as depression, anxiety, and irritability.
Another study looked at the effect of soy isoflavones on symptoms like menopausal hot flashes. Study results show that after receiving 50 milligrams of soy isoflavones daily for 12 weeks, menopausal women were found to have a reduction in severity and frequency of hot flushes (34).
The safety of long-term use of soy supplements has not been established, but it has been deemed safe for most people in dietary amounts (32).
And although soy foods have been regarded as safe for consumption by women at risk for or with breast cancer, it’s uncertain whether soy isoflavone supplements are just as safe.
Also, if you have a family or personal history of endometrial hyperplasia, taking soy isoflavone supplements may not be as safe for you as those without the condition, but soy foods should be safe to consume. Therefore, be sure to talk to your doctor before adding this supplement to your daily regimen.
When a woman reaches menopause, it can be both an exciting and scary time all at once. Although the pains of menstruation may be over, it’s also a time when women experience hormonal changes that can cause uncomfortable symptoms both mentally and physically that can disrupt daily life.
From hot flashes to mood swings, menopausal symptoms can seem like premenstrual syndrome all over again.
Luckily, research is making strides in discovering natural supplements that can help relieve such symptoms. Certain vitamins and minerals may help those with menopause reduce the risk of such conditions they may be more prone to like heart disease and osteoporosis.
Also, certain supplements like vitamin D and calcium can help reduce bone loss, while increasing intake of antioxidants like resveratrol can reduce inflammation in the body, reduce chronic pain, and lower heart disease and stroke risk (5,16).
Therefore, if you think you may be experiencing menopause, or just want to be prepared for the future, it may be helpful to start adding some of the aforementioned nutrients to your diet. This is because many of them are not just helpful to those undergoing menopause, but are also important to heart, bone, and brain health for all.
Reminder: Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement and remember that dietary supplements should only be used along with the prescribed treatment for any conditions you may be currently treating.
Keep Reading: 11 Best Supplements for Women’s Overall Health
ⓘ Any specific supplement products & brands featured on this website are not necessarily endorsed by Staci.
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About the Author
Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, health editor, and founder of LighttrackNutrition.com. Through her writing, she hopes to provide others with an unbiased and evidence-based view of health and wellness topics so they can make educated decisions when building their healthy lifestyle. Email Staci.