We focus so much on the nutrients women need for optimal fertility and hormonal balance during their child-bearing years. However, what about supplements for menopausal women?
Menopause is a pivotal stage of life for women, yet it’s often spoken about behind closed doors. In order for women to thrive beyond their reproductive years, that needs to change.
What Happens During Menopause?
Most often occurring in the late 40s and early 50s, menopause is a normal hormonal shift in which monthly periods come to an end. The process can take up to 10 years from when perimenopause—in which estrogen levels begin to fluctuate and periods can become irregular—begins, says Elizabeth Ward, M.S., R.D.N., co-author of The Menopause Diet Plan. Throughout this period of change, women may experience hot flashes, problems sleeping, weight gain, and mood swings.
In this stage of life, it’s incredibly important to arm yourself with a well-balanced, nutrient-rich diet to help your body regulate its hormone levels and maintain overall health. Why? “After menopause occurs, a woman produces much less estrogen to protect her against certain chronic conditions,” Ward explains. Two of major concern: heart disease and osteoporosis.
To keep the body and mind balanced and strong, menopausal women should prioritize the following vitamins, minerals, and supplements.
1. Vitamin D
Most people are deficient in vitamin D, and women older than 50 need additional D to help protect their bones from osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weak and prone to breakage, says Sherry Ross, M.D., OB/GYN, of Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.
Read More: 7 Signs You Have A Vitamin D Deficiency
In addition to helping to strengthen your bones, vitamin D has also been found to protect against cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death for both men and women, according to the CDC.
Since vitamin D can be difficult to get from food and the sun alone, the National Institutes of Health recommend taking a supplement to ensure you get the daily recommended intake of 600 IU.
“Getting adequate calcium is important for bones amidst falling estrogen levels that occur after menopause,” says Ward. Additionally, calcium is vital for blood pressure control and heartbeat regulation in postmenopausal women, according to research published in the Journal of Women’s Health.
That said, “after age 50, a woman’s body naturally absorbs less calcium,” explains Ward.
Women over age 50 should consume 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day, according to the National Institutes of Health. While the best source of calcium is food (think dairy, leafy greens, and bony fish), you can also get your fair share from supplements.
Magnesium is involved in several metabolic processes, including muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation, says Brandye Wilson-Manigat, M.D., an OB-GYN in Pasadena, California.
“Specifically with menopause, magnesium can be helpful with helping the body absorb calcium and aiding with sleep,” Wilson-Manigat explains. “Lack of sleep can increase cortisol, which contributes to weight gain around the midsection and other health conditions.”
The National Institutes of Health recommends that women over 50 consume 320 milligrams of magnesium each day. You’ll find it in green vegetables (such as spinach), legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole, unrefined grains.
In terms of supplements, you can pair calcium and magnesium together, or there are varieties that already do it for you.
4. B Vitamins
Several B vitamins play a main role in aiding proper health during menopause. One of major importance: vitamin B12, which protects nerve cells and helps produce neurotransmitters that help nerve cells communicate, says Ward.
Ward recommends most of a woman’s B12 be in synthetic form (the kind in supplements and fortified foods) after age 50. “Aging decreases levels of stomach acid necessary to absorb the natural form of the vitamin,” she explains. “Synthetic vitamin B12 doesn’t require stomach acid for absorption.”
Another important vitamin for menopausal women: vitamin B9 (a.k.a. folate), which helps in the creation of red blood cells. Although we hear mostly about how essential this vitamin is for women during pregnancy, it’s also essential later in life. “Adequate levels of folate may minimize your risk for developing hypertension (high blood pressure),” says Manigat.
5. Omega-3 Fats
You’ve probably heard a lot about omega-3s and their heart and brain health benefits—and they’re increasingly important as you age. Omega-3 fats are also useful in supporting healthy triglyceride and blood pressure levels, as well as artery health, Ward says. For these reasons, they can be one of the most helpful supplements for menopausal women.
Diggin’ What’s Good? For more essential health facts, tips, and inspiration, join our Facebook community, Eating Healthy, today!