Safe Supplementation for Menopause


A dietary supplement is something added to our diet to enhance or complete it. They typically provide vitamins and minerals (or other substance with a nutritional or physiological effect), alone or in combination in a concentrated form. In the UK, dietary supplements are required to be regulated as foods and are subject to the provisions of general food law but this does not automatically make them safe to take.
Dietary supplements can be an effective way to top up the diet, meet individual nutritional needs and help with menopause symptoms, alongside or instead of HRT
However, you may not get exactly what you expected. Be aware of the risks of interactions with medications, side effects and overdosing. Just because someone else has benefited from a supplement, it does not mean you will benefit too.  Also note that whilst some may be good, more does not equal better, nor does it mean you are more likely to notice a positive difference.
Here are my top 10 tips when considering taking a dietary supplement to support your body through menopause transition and beyond.
1.      There is no recognised ‘menopause diet’ nor miracle menopause supplement that will remove your symptoms, remove the ‘meno belly’ or prevent the onset of aging. If something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Beware of canny marketing and parting with your cash before you know exactly what you are buying.
 2.      Get professional advice, particularly if you have existing underlying conditions and are taking medication. It is extremely common practice to take more than is recommended but just because a supplement is labelled ‘natural’ does not mean it won’t cause harm. Supplements can have side effects and there is no guarantee they are safe. A registered nutritionist, registered dietitian or medical herbalist are qualified to give you safe and tailored advice, based on your individual needs.
 3.      Before you consider taking a supplement, think about how your diet currently meets your needs and focus on what you’d like to change. Typically, we do not eat enough fruit, vegetables and wholegrains so perhaps begin there. Your body will absorb nutrients much more easily from foods compared to concentrated supplement forms (provided you have not been diagnosed with malabsorption syndrome) so adopt a food first approach instead. 
 4.      Keep a food diary to give insight into your diet and the variety of foods you eat. Simply writing down what you eat and when will raise your awareness and can be particularly helpful if you are struggling with memory loss and poor concentration. You might want to note any troublesome symptoms to you identify possible food triggers that may be a factor in your symptoms (sugary or spicy foods for example can worsen hot flushes and affect sleep). 
 5.      You don’t need to spend a fortune on expensive supplements. Beware of counterfeit supplements, particularly when buying over the internet and steer clear of products that are considerably cheaper than other suppliers.
6.      Supplementation is not an exact science. By law, supplements can contain up to 50% more or 20% less vitamin, and 45% more and 20% less mineral than what’s listed on the label so it’s best not to rely on them to cure all ills.
 7.      Magnesium is a very popular supplement used to ‘treat’ a variety of menopausal symptoms but it isn’t for everyone. Low levels of magnesium can interfere with sleep, affect mood, contribute to brain fog and fatigue, muscle and joint aches and pains but the belief our soils are depleted of Magnesium is a myth. In the UK, the daily recommended allowance is 270mg but some menopausal women may benefit from a little more. Magnesium is used as a laxative so side effects can include diarrhoea and nausea and it can certainly aggravate IBS symptoms. Eat plenty of greens to boost your dietary intake naturally. If you are looking for a supplement, look for a chelated Magnesium such as Magnesium Citrate. This is easily absorbed and therefore more likely to work more quickly and least likely to cause any digestive problems. Magnesium citrate is good for calmness and relaxation and can be taken in the morning to help with anxiety or at night to help with sleep. Magnesium glycinate is also absorbed very easily and with a more potent calming effect can be useful to take in the evening (an hour before bed) to help with very disrupted sleep. Alternatively, adding Epsom salts (that contain Magnesium sulphate) to a warm bath can be good for relaxing muscles and achy joints, as can using a Magnesium ‘oil’ spray directly to sooth the affected areas.
 8.      There is good solid evidence that omega-3 fats support our heart health, something that is very important post menopause. Those who avoid fish (particularly oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines) may benefit from more nuts and seeds e.g. walnuts, chia, flax, hemp and pumpkin seeds and vegetable oils, but also consider a specific omega 3 supplement. In the UK there is no recommendation for omega-3 supplements so stick to the suggested daily amount by eating one to two portions of fish per week (about 450mg EPA and DHA per daily adult dose). If you need a vegetarian or vegan supplement look for one that is derived from algae. Research on algal oil supplements suggest that its activity and subsequent health benefits are comparable to that of fish-based DHA+EPA sources and are more than plant based sources.
 9.      Everyone, however, can benefit from a Vitamin D supplement, particularly in the winter months (from September to March) and because dietary sources are so limited. Vitamin D comes in different preparations: An oral spray can be very handy if you have problems swallowing tablets. It is also absorbed through the membranes in the mouth, going directly into the blood stream making it a great option for those with malabsorption issues. Look for Vitamin D3 as this is the most active form in the body.
10.  If you choose to take a dietary supplement and once you’ve done your homework, always begin with the lowest dose. You can always work upwards and be mindful that mega doses or 1-a day are not necessarily better.
If you'd like some  guidance around supplementation and your menopause symptoms, you can book a free half hour chat over zoom with me HERE


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