Menopause and Its Most Common Symptoms: 5 Key Nutrients and Natural Supplements for Menopause Support
Menopause – the loss or lack of a period for one or more years – is a natural symptom of aging in a woman. It most normally occurs anytime from the late 40s to early 50s.
Menopause causes several changes in the body and results in a variety of symptoms experienced by two-thirds of menopausal women. All of these symptoms are the result of decreased hormone (estrogen and progesterone) production from the ovaries. These can include anything from hot flashes and weight gain to vaginal dryness and atrophy. It also includes health risks like osteoporosis (bone loss) and osteomalacia (softening of the bones) or even heart disease (1).
However, menopause is not one-size-fits-all. Not all women will have the same experiences menopause. Some women will experience severe complications of menopause while others have more mild symptoms.
Top 4 symptoms and health risks associated with menopause
Again, menopause is not one-size-fits-all, but there are several symptoms and health risks that occur commonly enough to be associated with this phase of the female aging process.
- Hot flashes
Hot flashes tend to be the most common symptom to accompany menopause; occurring in 75% of menopausal women (1).
Hot flashes can occur at any time of the day or night and are indicated by the body temperature rising. The skin will turn red and blotchy, sweating will occur, and heart palpitations or feelings of dizziness are also possible.
- Weight gain
Weight around the waist, hips, and thighs can occur during the menopause transition. And although midlife weight gain is also related to aging, lifestyle, and genetic factors, the hormone (estrogen and progesterone) fluctuation associated with menopause can contribute to weight change (2).
Weight gain as a symptom of menopause may also lead to more serious health risks — high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance (3).
- Arthralgia (muscle and joint pain)
Though clinical studies have determined the connection difficult to pinpoint, muscle and joint pain is experienced by menopausal women (4). More than 50% of women have experienced an increase in arthralgia and chronic rheumatic conditions, such as osteoarthritis.
The women who have increased incidence of chronic pain have also been shown to have higher rates of fatigue, poor sleep, sexual dysfunction, and depression as well.
- Osteoporosis (bone loss)
The decline in estrogen production during menopause can affect mineralization of the bone. Amounts of calcium in the bones decrease, as does bone density, leading to osteoporosis (1). Many women experience accelerated bone loss the first few years after their last menstrual period.
This can increase likelihood of hip, spine, and other bone fractures.
Managing menopause through healthy choices
Though some symptoms of menopause are unavoidable, there are ways to reduce and control them to some degree.
Some treatment options are more intensive – hormone replacement therapy, for example – requiring the consultation of specialized medical professionals, but there are some simpler options that can be done on a daily basis.
These include getting regular exercise and drinking enough water, but most essential is eating a proper diet.
A proper diet for menopause doesn’t only mean consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, but avoiding foods that can aggravate the symptoms of menopause – namely, hot flashes. These food include alcohol, caffeine, and spicy foods (3).
Food you want to focus on are those that contain vital nutrients to manage the most severe symptoms of menopause. Low-fat dairy products high in calcium (or dairy alternatives with supplemented calcium), foods containing healthy fats like omega-3’s, and foods high in Phytoestrogens like soy and decaffeinated tea (5).
5 essential vitamins and minerals for menopause
Looking more in-depth at nutrient needs during menopause, there are five natural vitamins and minerals that play an important role in supporting the body during this time of change:
- Vitamin E – Depression, heart disease, and weight gain are common symptoms associated with the stress caused by menopause. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps fit cell-damaging free radicals, reduce oxidation and inflammation, and eases stress (6).
- Vitamin B6 – As women age, serotonin production naturally drops. Fluctuating serotonin levels may be a contributing factor in the mood swings and depression common in menopause. Vitamin B6 (aka: pyridoxine) helps produce serotonin can help reduce these symptoms (6).
- Calcium – Bone loss from a declining estrogen production reduces the density of the bones, leading to osteoporosis and osteomalacia (1). Supplementing with extra calcium slows demineralization of bones and reduces likelihood of hip, spine, and other bone fractures. Calcium absorption is also amplified by increasing vitamin D supplementation (6).
- Folic Acid – The most common symptom of menopause is hot flashes leading to high levels of discomfort for most menopausal women. Clinical studies have found that supplementing with folic acid reduces the severity, duration, and frequency of hot flashes episodes (7).
- Magnesium – Sleep disruption happens often during menopause. Progesterone production is reduced during menopause; progesterone is also a sleep-producing hormone. This can lead to difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep and/or mild insomnia. Magnesium may be able to assist with this issue, being an all-around sleep aid. It can also provide improvement with mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and bloating (8).
Supplements for menopause support
While the above five vitamins and minerals, plus several others, are essential for staving off or reducing symptoms of menopause to make them more manageable.
If you are having trouble maintaining a balanced diet or achieving the daily required intakes for any of the vital vitamins and minerals for menopause, supplements are also an option.
It’s important to use a trusted brand, and a supplement formulated specifically for menopause support. A natural supplement with an emphasis on the five key nutrients for menopause support is most beneficial, being effective at controlling hot flashes and maintaining estrogen levels.
As always, seek the advice of a trusted medical professional if you are taking a new supplement. Especially if you are already undergoing intensive therapies, like hormone replacement, for your menopause symptoms.
Author: Allison Lansman, RDN, LD
Allison Lansman is a Registered Dietitian (RD), freelance nutrition and health writer, and wellness blogger. She is the owner/operator of The Freelance RD writing service and blog. Her business provides mainly writing services, but also product development, educational services and brand partnerships.
As an RD, Allison embraces a modern approach to nutrition and wellness. She believes we benefit most from building positive, balanced connections between mind, body, food, and environment. And she is passionate about sharing that philosophy through wellness communication and writing.
Her educational background is through Iowa State University, where she completed both her undergraduate degree and dietetics internship. She is currently studying towards an Masters in Public Health.