Do menopause supplements really work ?
Following on from my previous post about feeling healthy during the menopause (check it out here if you missed it: https://www.rachelfletchernutrition.com/post/how-to-feel-better-during-the-menopause) I thought it would be useful to talk about supplements and whether you need them. It's certainly the case that eating well, getting good sleep, moving more and minimising stress will help minimise your symptoms and help you to feel as good as possible. In fact, this holds true whether you're menopausal or not.... But do you need to take supplements to achieve this ?
I always advocate 'food first' advice. This means trying to obtain the nutrients you need from food before spending your money on supplements. This is because your body absorbs them more effectively and you get the added benefits from a balanced diet of fibre, protein and antioxidants etc. That being said, some people will need to take supplements as nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, iodine, iron and calcium can be hard to obtain by those who follow a plant-based diet. (I have a blog post on this too: https://www.rachelfletchernutrition.com/post/can-i-be-vegan-and-healthy). However, the market for menopausal women is becoming increasingly active, trying to get you to part with your hard earned cash with the promise of fast results. These products tend to fall within the categories of nutritional supplements and herbal remedies.
The nutrients that are commonly marketed for the menopause include:
Phytoestrogens (plant-based oestrogens such as isoflavones) - as I stated in my previous blog, these may help with hot flushes and night sweats, although any potential benefits will take a few months to be felt. Research suggests that for the best effect, you should consume phytoestrogen foods on a regular basis over the course of each day. It is less clear how helpful taking a daily supplement may be. More studies are needed to assess the effectiveness of isoflavone supplements, along with any potential side effects of high doses. My advice would be to consume foods that contain phytoestrogens such as soy products. (Again, more on this in my previous blog post).
Magnesium - this is needed for a number of functions in the body, including energy, muscle and nerve function. In terms of the menopause, magnesium may help with sleep and mood as it's involved in the production of the serotonin (a hormone that enables brain cells to communicate with each other). Deficiency of magnesium is rare but upping your intake of foods such as nuts, seeds, wholegrains and green leafy veg is always a good thing for overall healthy eating, as well as for magnesium. Currently, there's no research to show a proven benefit but you may wish to try a supplement and see if it helps with your sleep and mood. Make sure it's no more that the recommended daily allowance of 300mg per day.
It's important to stress that herbal remedies are not regulated in the same way as food, vitamin supplements and medicines, therefore you can't be certain of the quality, or effectiveness of the product. In the worst case scenario, they can even be dangerous to your health. The products that are commonly marketed for the menopause include: black cohosh, sage leaf and St John's Wort. However, at the moment there is little research that demonstrates the effectiveness of herbal remedies for menopause. My advice is to save your money. If you do decide to try herbal remedies, please speak to your GP as some (such as St John's Wort) can interfere with prescription medication. Also look for products with a Traditional Herbal Registration (THR) certification as this gives some assurance that the product has been produced safely, albeit cannot give any assurances of effectiveness.
The fact that menopause can have symptoms and health issues that result in a significant impact on many women's lives, means that products marketed to help can appear very appealing and mean big profit making opportunities for companies. However, this doesn't necessarily mean they're any good, or worth spending your money on. Always try to obtain your nutrients from food wherever possible and leave supplements for circumstances where you can't. As I stated earlier, you absorb the nutrients more effectively from foods and don't end up wasting your £ on products you don't need, or don't work. Always speak to a medical professional for advice, especially if you're on, or looking to start HRT.
If you're suffering with menopausal symptoms and would like some nutrition advice that's tailored to your individual circumstances and needs, get in touch. You can book a free discovery call here: https://calendly.com/rachelfletchernutrition/15min