The mere thought of menopause sends shivers in women and can be really hard for some. Menopause—end of the menstruation and fertility period—is a natural part of life and represents a major transition period in a woman’s life. It usually happens over a period of time when production of oestrogen and progesterone hormones by the ovaries decreases. In some cases, surgical removal of ovaries may set in a sudden menopause.
Lowered or fluctuating levels of oestrogen during peri-menopause and post menopause is often associated with host of symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, depression, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, headaches, vaginal dryness and itching, sexual discomfort, dryness and aging of the skin, weight gain, palpitation, joint pains and bone loss leading to osteoporosis. These symptoms are different for different women.
Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients required to alleviate menopausal symptoms can be easily obtained from natural sources. But if you are not eating a nutritious diet and your eating habits are less than healthy, a combination of nutritional supplements is the best way to fill the nutritional gap to combat menopausal symptoms.
The risk of bone loss and osteoporosis increases during and after menopause. Oestrogen helps deposit calcium in the bones. Decrease in oestrogen increases bone resorption [bone matter absorbed into blood stream]. Moreover, it even decreases calcium absorption thereby, accelerating bone loss. Menopausal women thus require a higher amount of calcium to protect their bones.
Calcium helps reverse weight gain, raises metabolism and prevents the body from storing fat. It also promotes restful sleep.
Sources: Milk, milk products, broccoli, cabbage, whole grains, soybeans and seafood.
Daily requirement: 1200 – 1500mg. If it is difficult to get adequate calcium through diet, it is better to take calcium supplements.
Tip: Calcium is best absorbed when taken in smaller doses with food. Consult your doctor if you are on thyroid medication, as calcium can interfere it.
It is an important mineral needed for maintaining healthy bones, preventing osteoporosis, combating hot flashes and depression in menopausal women.
Sources: Green leafy vegetables, legumes, figs, tofu, seeds, nuts and whole grains.
Daily requirement: 400mg.
It is necessary for transport of calcium to the bones to prevent osteoporosis.
Sources: Fish, milk, eggs, whole grains, milk, nuts, seeds, soy.
Daily requirement: 700mg.
A B-complex vitamin supplement is a good choice for fighting menopausal symptoms. Menopausal women often experience loss of energy and vitamin B-12 can help alleviate it.
B-complex supplementation reduces fatigue, enables you to handle emotional stress, irritability and anxiety with ease. Vitamin B3 promotes sleep, while vitamin B5 plays an important role in functioning of the adrenal glands, an important source of post-menopausal hormone production. Folic acid and vitamin B6 is necessary for preventing osteoporosis. [To know more on vitamin B, read Value Addition in Aug 09 issue]
Sources: Whole grain cereals, pulses, green leafy vegetables, meat liver, nuts, Brewer’s yeast.
Daily requirement: Varies accordingly for different vitamins in the complex.
Menopausal women need this essential nutrient for proper functioning of adrenal glands that produce oestrogen-like hormone. It helps build up collagen that is necessary for bones. Vitamin C with bio-flavonoids helps in reducing hot flashes and vaginal dryness and may be helpful in easing out blood flow in women experiencing heavy bleeding.
Sources: Citrus fruits, kiwi, broccoli, cauliflower.
Daily requirement: 75mg/day.
High doses of vitamin K are beneficial for bone health to reduce the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis in post menopausal women.
Sources: Spinach, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli.
Daily requirement: 90mcg.
Vitamin D is important for bone health. It facilitates calcium absorption and slows down bone loss. Vitamin D and calcium is an ideal combination for keeping bones strong and healthy and preventing osteoporosis as you reach menopause.
According to a study by the Harvard Medical School, vitamin D may also play an important role in preventing breast and other cancers.
Sources: Sunlight, egg yolk, fish, sprouted seeds, fortified milk, salmon, mackerel.
Daily requirement: 400 IU [International Units]
Tip: Excess of vitamin D can lead to hypercalcemia [high levels of calcium] that can cause kidney stones.
Vitamin E supplementation has been extremely effective in combating hot flashes, night sweats, dry and ageing skin and vaginal dryness and mood swings. Being an effective antioxidant, it offers cardiovascular protection and keeps the skin young.
Sources: Spinach, broccoli, kiwi, nuts, wheat germ, shrimps.
Daily requirement: 15mg/day.
Essential fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are effective in easing symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, depression and mood swings. Menopausal women are at a high risk of cardiovascular disease due to the decline in oestrogen. Omega-3s helps in reducing the cholesterol and triglyceride levels and protect the heart. These can be obtained from omega-3 fish oil supplements.
Sources: Walnuts, flax seeds, flax oil, fatty fishes.
Daily requirement: Varies accordingly for different fatty acids.
Do consult your doctor or nutritionist before starting the supplements.