There’s no replacement for a healthy diet. The best way to get the nutrients you need in menopause, or any time of life, is through good food sources. When you include a rainbow of fresh fruits and veggies, seeds, nuts, legumes, lean proteins, and the right amount of sunshine each day, you are well on your way to a nutrient-packed, balanced diet.
Easy, right? Sure. Except not. Life is busy, and when we’re tired, over-scheduled, and stressed, good intentions disappear faster than a bag of French fries from the drive-thru.
However, when hormones start to drop in the years before menopause, our nutritional needs change. Our immune systems need more support, our bones require our attention, and even our moods can benefit from having the right nutritional balance.
There is a dizzying array of options out there, but in our research and conversations, a few supplements came up again and again. Before we jump in, when buying vitamins for menopause symptoms, check for the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) symbol to ensure your supplement has met certain standards for quality.*
Your gut is a garden. Really! We all have trillions of microorganisms hanging around inside our bodies, doing useful stuff like helping us digest and use our food. Life is hard on these critters: antibiotics, poor diet, illness, and stress can kill them off by the millions, leaving you susceptible to harmful bacteria and the diseases that come with them.
Probiotics are supplements that contain live microbes to re-colonize the beneficial flora in your body. Not only can that help with digestive issues many women confront around this time (bloating, gas, constipation), probiotics can also support vaginal health by helping to fight yeast infections. According to Prevention, look for probiotic supplements with “at least 10 billion CFUs and at least five different bacteria strains.”
Having a healthy gut is the foundation of good health – if you’re going to eat all that great, nutritious food, be sure you can digest it!
This one should come as no surprise – as we age, our bones can weaken and become porous (a condition known as osteoporosis), making fractures more likely. Calcium loss accelerates as estrogen declines, so it’s important to pay particular attention after you enter perimenopause.
There are lots of dietary and lifestyle changes that support a healthy skeleton, so get going on those if you aren’t already: at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise a day (running, walking, resistance training, dancing); a diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins and low in sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and salt; no smoking, and enough sleep.
And then there’s calcium. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends women age 51 and older get 1,200 mg of calcium a day. You can figure out how much you’re getting from your food by checking the labels – the “DV” (daily value) you’ll see for calcium is based on 1000 mgs, so “30% of DV” is 300 mg. Calculate how much you get in an ordinary day from food sources, then supplement to make up the shortfall to 1,200 mgs.
Best source? Sunlight. UVB rays, in particular. However, in winter or when we’re covered up or slathered in sunblock to prevent skin cancer, vitamin D can be hard to come by. Stay slathered. Just make sure you make up for your vitamin D shortfall through food or supplements. You can get vitamin D through some fatty fish or fortified foods.
If you need to supplement to get your full dose of D, first check any supplements you’re already taking, as many include D in their lineup. If you’re still not getting enough, supplements containing either vitamin D2 or D3 will work.
“All women should take a vitamin D supplement. Our bone density reduces
when we go through the menopause, which increases our future risk of fracture.
So it is important to take regular exercise,
eat a calcium rich diet and consider taking HRT to help keep our bones strong.”
– Dr. Louise R. Newson, The Menopause Doctor
So, it turns out heart disease isn’t just a guy problem. In fact, it’s the leading killer of women in the US, and about 10 years post-menopause our risk of heart attack evens up with the gents’. So we can’t afford to ignore our heart health.
After menopause, a woman’s levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) can start to rise. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the amount of LDL in the blood, resulting in less plaque and less chance of blockage. And some studies have shown that boosting Omega-3s may also help reduce joint pain and ease symptoms of menopause, including vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and night sweats.
Omega-3s are found mainly in oily fish; vegetarian sources include tofu, flaxseed, walnuts, eggs, beans, some nuts and leafy vegetables.
When purchasing a supplement, first be sure you’re a suitable candidate. Omega-3s can thin the blood, so if you’re on blood thinners, talk with your doctor before adding a supplement.
This one is a bit of an outlier, but there’s enough good evidence of its anti-inflammatory properties to make it worth considering. Plus, it’s delicious.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, can boost heart health and may even reduce depression, both of which are great benefits for women in menopause. Diabetes can also be a greater risk post-menopause, and curcumin may delay the onset of Type-2 among those with prediabetes.
The best way to get it? Probably supplements, since most of us don’t eat enough turmeric in our food to move the needle. But boosting intake via food is always a good idea, and in this case, it’s a particularly delicious idea – it’s the main spice in many curry dishes.
As with Omega-3s, if you’re taking blood-thinning medications, consult with your doc before taking a curcumin supplement, as it can act as an anti-coagulant.
Making lifestyle adjustments and taking supplements isn’t just about extending your life, it’s about adding vibrancy to the life you’re living now. Which means it’s never too late – or too early – to start! We’d love to hear what changes you’ve made as well as any supplements you’re taking and why, so please share with us in the comments or on Facebook.
*This blog does not replace expert information from a qualified health professional.