Many women take supplements during menopause. It may be to reduce symptoms of menopause or to make up for a poor diet. There are some good reasons for taking supplements, but you may not be taking supplements for the right reasons. You may also be taking supplements that are not necessary
I am not a physician and this article is not intended to be medical advice. The information is intended to be used for educational purposes only.
What are supplements?
Dietary supplements are something that is ingested to supplement your diet. In the US they are defined as something that is ingested by mouth . It can be in a pill, powder or drink. This includes vitamins, minerals and things like protein powder and fish oil. It also includes fortified foods like vitamin water or fortified breakfast cereal.
Supplements do not replace a poor diet
This is one of the most important things to get from this article. Dietary supplements are meant to supplement your diet. You can’t have a diet that is full of junk food and add a multivitamin and expect to be healthy.
Often studies are done that show that a particular food or type of food has great health benefits. Pharmaceutical companies attempt to package that the part of the food that is believed to be the reason for the benefit into a pill or powder. The problem is that the food is a whole package that provides the benefits. The pill is just a tiny portion. A good example of this is antioxidant supplements. After research found that people who ate food containing antioxidants had better health, pharmaceutical companies tried to package the antioxidants in pill form, but then found that the pill form did not provide the same benefits.
Vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in foods work together. If you are eating whole foods, then it is more likely that you are consuming the correct balance of nutrients. If you are supplementing you may be over consuming one nutrient, but are low on another that the first really needs to work properly.
Sources of supplements
Supplements come from natural and synthetic sources. Natural supplements are made from natural food sources. Synthetic supplements are manufactured from things like cool tar. Natural sources are more expensive, but also tend to be absorbed better. If you are not sure if your supplement is from a natural source ask your pharmacist.
Types of supplements
There are several substances that you might consider supplementing. Here is a brief definition of each type of supplement.
Vitamins – an organic compound that the human body needs in small amounts
Minerals – a non organic compound that the human body needs in small amounts
Antioxidants – a substance that inhibits oxidation. In humans they limit free radical production, which is thought to contribute to aging. It has been found that antioxidant supplements don’t provide the same benefits as whole foods.
Protein – protein is an essential macronutrient that can be taken as a supplement. Common forms of protein supplements are whey protein (made from milk products) and pea protein
Oils – these provide essential fatty acids
Probiotics – probiotics are good bacteria that keep your gut and digestive system healthy
Supplements to consider
Vitamin D – Vitamin D is necessary for calcium to be used properly. It also has many other uses in the body. Vitamin D is actually produced in the body from sunlight, but if you live far from the equator, then chances are you are not getting enough from sunlight.
Don’t overdue it with vitamin D. There are some suggestions that too much vitamin D can cause calcium deposits in the blood stream
Omega 3 supplement
Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid. There are three forms of omega 3 fatty acids. The most beneficial types are found in fatty fish. Another form is found in seeds such as flax, chia and hemp, but this form is not as beneficial as the forms found in fish, krill and algae. You can find supplements made from fish oil, krill oil or algae oil.
Omega 3 is beneficial to heart health and brain health. It also helps to reduce the risk of diabetes and helps to reduce inflammation. There some evidence that omega 3 supplements help with menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and depression
Probiotics are found in fermented and cultured foods like some yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchee, and traditionally made sour dough bread. They work best with prebiotics – foods like garlic, onion, oats and barley contain the fibre inulin which acts as helpers.
Probiotics help with digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome and with food sensitivities. They also help to reduce inflammation.There is some evidence that probiotics help to reduce heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and even obesity.
There are estimates that around half of Americans are deficient in magnesium. Unlike the above magnesium can be obtained from food, but if your diet is low in vegetables adding magnesium can help.
Magnesium can lower blood pressure and is effective against insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. More importantly, menopausal women find that magnesium supplements help with hot flashes, mood swings and poor sleep.
Although you can’t replace a bad diet with supplements, there may be some you wish to consider. If your physician has found you are low in any vitamins or minerals then you will want to take what they recommend. Check out my Healthy Changes ebook to get more advice on improving your diet during Menopause.