The Five Best Vitamins for Menopause
Hands up if you have ever stood in front of a display of vitamins and minerals and felt bewildered by the vast choice available. Even if you can narrow it down to “vitamins for menopause” there are still an eye-watering number of choices on the shelves.
There are blended multi-vitamin multi-purpose preparations and individual vitamins and minerals you can choose to build your own custom supplement regime.
So, here’s my definitive guide to the best vitamins for menopause.
Mood swings and depression can be an issue in menopause, often caused by fluctuating serotonin levels. Taking a vitamin B-6 supplement during and after menopause may help with symptoms caused by low serotonin levels since Vitamin B-6 (also known as pyridoxine) helps to make serotonin, a “neurotransmitter” – a chemical responsible for transmitting brain signals to other parts of the body.
The RDA (Recommended Daily Amount) of vitamin B-6 for adult women is 100 MG (milligrams) daily so look for a single or multi-vitamin supplement containing this dose.
Black cohosh is another preparation which can help with menopausal mood swings and could also limit hot flashes. It was first used for medicinal purposes by Native American Indians, who introduced it to European colonists. This vitamin became a popular treatment for women’s health issues in Europe in the mid-1950s and is still widely used today.
Black cohosh root contains several chemicals that are believed to work in nerves and in the brain. These chemicals might work in a similar way to serotonin.
Black cohosh root also seems to have some effects similar to the female hormone, estrogen although Black cohosh should not be thought of as an “herbal estrogen” or a substitute for estrogen. It is more accurate to think of it as an herb that acts similar to estrogen in some people.
Women with breast cancer should not use this vitamin as it may not be safe for them.
Vitamin D and Calcium
These two often go hand in hand because Vitamin D is essential for optimal calcium absorption.
Because calcium intake tends to decrease with age, calcium supplementation is especially important in postmenopausal women.
Vitamin D deficiency is thought to increase the risk of bone fractures, bone pain, and osteomalacia (softening of the bones). Women approaching and in menopause are particularly susceptible to loss of bone density. In fact women can lose up to 20% of their bone density in the five to seven years after the menopause. Teeth can also suffer during the menopause so ensuring adequate levels of calcium (and Vitamin C which we talk about later) is vital to avoid extra visits to the dentist's chair.
Although your bone density decreases at the menopause, your risk of osteoporosis and fractures stays relatively low until you get much older because bone density is only one of the things that affect your bone strength.
However, the menopause is a good time to take stock and adopt a healthier, bone-friendly lifestyle, especially if you are housebound for any reason, unable to do any weight-bearing exercise like walking or running, have a poor diet or don’t get much exposure to sunlight.
Women ages 19 to 50 should aim to get 15 mcg (600 IU) vitamin D daily; women over 50 should get 20 mcg (800 IU). The RDA for calcium for adult women is 700mg a day.
Although it’s possible to do this with a diet rich in vitamin D (oily fish, eggs, and fat spreads or breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin D are great sources) and calcium (eat green, leafy vegetables nuts, seeds, dried fruit, tinned fish with the bones in, and dairy products like milk, yoghurt and cheese.) it is not easy and so it may be wise to take supplements to ensure that you’re getting the appropriate amount each day.
It’s useful to remember that low-fat dairy products contain just as much calcium as the full-fat versions.
Don’t overlook this hard-working vitamin which is believed to have many health benefits.
Many people know vitamin C best for the widely held perception that it can thwart or reduce the severity of the common cold but this vitamin (also known as ascorbic acid) is thought to have many other useful properties including many relevant to menopausal women.
Vitamin C has been known to offer relief from hot flushes and dry skin, because of the ‘polyphenols’ it contains.
It can also help with the body’s collagen production, which can relieve vaginal dryness (a major cause of painful sex) and joint pain.
Many women feel they are more susceptible to infection and illness during menopause and so it’s worth taking regular vitamin C supplements to support the immune system.
Vitamin C is also great to improve and maintain gum and tooth health. If you, like many menopausal women, suffer from bleeding gums or crumbling teeth you might find that you're a little bit low in vitamin C.
You need at least 40mg of calcium a day which you should be able to get through food if you have a reasonably healthy diet. However, the body can’t store vitamin C so you need to ensure you get it from some source every single day. Supplements may reassure you that this is the case.
It’s hard to overdose on vitamin C but be warned, doses over 1000 mg a day can cause stomach pain, diarrhea, and flatulence.
Before You Start Taking Vitamins for Menopause...
Just remember when choosing supplements that the packaging might promise the contents are natural or from nature but that does not mean they are always safe or licensed. Always consult with your doctor to ensure any supplements you are considering are safe taking into account your own health circumstances and prescription drug regime.