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Nutritional Supplements for Menopause

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 19 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
Menopause Supplements Health Supplements

Good nutrition is essential during any part of life, but particularly so during the menopausal transition. Although eating a varied, nutritious diet is the most important and beneficial way to obtain good nutrition during menopause, many women experiencing menopause lead such busy lives that they inevitably don't make time to select healthy foods or participate in food preparation. Instead, they snack on convenience foods and grab salty, sugary meals and desserts while they are on the move between work, family and other commitments.

While relying on health supplements isn't ideal, it can help to fill the nutrition gap that occurs if your eating habits are less than healthy most of the time. In particular, the hormonal changes of menopause mean that your declining levels of oestrogen and progesterone can be taxing on your body and leave you without the protective effects of oestrogen on body functions such as bone metabolism. For this reason, you may want to choose nutritional supplements to maintain good health during and after menopause.

Importance of Calcium

Calcium becomes notably important during the menopausal transition. Declining oestrogen levels leave bones without the protective bone-building properties of this hormone. In turn, your susceptibility to thinning bones increases and you become more at risk for osteopaenia and osteoporosis.

Ensuring you obtain adequate calcium through your diet may be a challenge if you don't make food choices wisely. As such, it may be helpful to take a calcium supplement once you have begun the menopausal transition. Since your osteoporosis risk increases the longer you are without the benefits of oestrogen, you may decide to continue your calcium supplementation well into your postmenopause years. Calcium is also thought to promote restful sleep during menopause, particularly in combination with magnesium.

There are a number of different forms of calcium but research suggests that calcium citrate is the well absorbed form. Calcium requires certain cofactors to be property utilised by the body, which is why many calcium supplements will also contain vitamin D, magnesium and also vitamin C. Obtaining enough sunshine in off-peak hours for ten to fifteen minutes each day can help to obtain sufficient vitamin D but many people simply don't live in an appropriate geographic area to make this guideline feasible. Thus, a vitamin D supplement will become essential for calcium absorption.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins are thought to show benefit for improving mood swings in menopause and helping women to better handle stress. They are often taken together and can generally be more beneficial in women who don't obtain enough B vitamins in foods each day. For these women, they may notice a more significant improvement than those women who already have adequate levels of the B vitamins.

Vitamin E as a Menopause Supplement

Vitamin E is considered an effective antioxidant that has shown mixed results in research studies for treating hot flushes and vaginal dryness that occurs during menopause and postmenopause. If you aren't obtaining enough vitamin E in your diet, you can purchase capsules to take each day. However, the lack of research does mean that it is not recommended at this time as a menopause treatment.

Gamolenic Acid

Gamolenic acid was originally thought to help with hot flushes but a recent study showed that it did not make any significant difference in helping this common menopause symptom. Some women still support it as an effective aid but for now, it is not recommended for treating menopause symptoms.

Essential Fatty Acids for Better Nutrition

Some women find that taking a supplement with essential fatty acids can help with hot flushes and the dry skin that can occur from declining oestrogen levels. Linseed oil can supply these beneficial fatty acids or you might want to try evening primrose oil as well for a beneficial health supplement.

Soy Health Supplements

Soy nutritional supplements are now quite well publicised and have shown promising results in research studies. Women in areas where soy is consumed regularly – such as Japan, for instance – tend to experience fewer menopausal hot flushes, although there could be other factors influencing their menopause experience as well. One European study found that when soy protein was added to a woman's diet, she had significantly fewer hot flushes, both during perimenopause and postmenopause. The low-fat nature of soy supplements has also made it a generally recommended healthy choice for women, particularly given research that suggests it may help to prevent certain types of cancer.

Using Supplements to Ensure Good Nutritional Health During Menopause

From calcium to phyto-oestrogens, good nutritional health is important during your menopausal transition and the many happy years beyond menopause. While it is hoped that you will take care of yourself by consuming a healthy, varied diet, it can be appreciated that women are busy and do not always make the best food choices. You can speak to a dietitian about supplementation to fill in your dietary gaps, which can help to buffer the effects of a less than perfect diet. Ultimately, your best attempts to eat well and use nutritional supplements where needed can ease you through menopause by helping to provide you with energy and a healthy body.

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