Menopause Supplements

Do Supplements for Menopause Actually Work?

While supplements and diet management sound like healthy, safer ways to manage menopause, there are reasons why doctor's recommend proper medical treatments.

There are risks involved in not properly managing menopause which can outweigh the risks of medication side effects. And on top of that, supplements are not without their own risks...

What Supplements Do People Take for Menopause?

The most common supplements for menopause – more and more people are now using dietary supplements to help relieve the symptoms of menopause, as well as to maintain their general health. The most commonly used supplements are:

  • Vitamin B6 – which assists in the body’s production of the hormone serotonin, which helps to lift and stabilise your mood, as well as reducing feelings of tiredness
  • Magnesium – ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ helps with sleep, irritability and anxiety, as well as being important for bone health and muscle function following menopause
  • Vitamin C – has been known to offer relief from hot flushes and dry skin, because of the ‘polyphenols’ it contains, as well as supporting the body’s collagen production, which can relieve vaginal dryness (a major cause of painful sex)

Branded multivitamins include a wider range – there are several branded daily multivitamin products marketed for people going through the menopause, available on the shelf at your local pharmacy or supermarket. As well as the vitamins and minerals mentions above, these products tend to include:

  • Vitamins A, B, D and E
  • Folic Acid
  • Riboflavin
  • Thiamin
  • Biotin
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Iodine
  • Soya Isoflavone Extract
  • Omega 3
  • Probiotics

Diet is the best way to get nutrients you need – having a balanced and nutritional diet is the best way to get all the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants your body needs to function. However, people today are busy and just getting busier. The average person’s diet misses a significant portion of their daily nutritional needs.

Supplements can be a shorter-term solution – taking dietary supplements (like multivitamins) is a quick and easy way to top up the vital elements your body needs to work at its best, especially during a transition period like the menopause.

Can You Treat Menopause With Supplements?

32% of women use just supplements to manage their menopause – technically, the menopause itself can’t be treated. However, its symptoms (like hot flushes) can be managed very effectively. There are several different forms of prescription medication, as well as natural alternatives on the market. There is an increasing trend for using on-the-shelf dietary supplements to improve menopause symptoms in the UK.

Supplements work to improve general health – dietary supplements are primarily used to top-up your general levels of vitamins and minerals, increasing your overall health. Menopause symptoms are caused by a combination of hormone imbalance and, in many cases, vitamin or mineral deficiency. Supplements will only help improve the menopause symptoms caused by dietary imbalance, and won’t help improve any symptoms caused by hormonal changes.

Results vary from person to person – as with all supplements and any form of medication, different people will react in different ways to them. Some will benefit from using supplements more than others. Many recommend taking the supplement regularly for at least 8 weeks before effects start to show, although some work quicker than others.

Agree with your doctor about which to take – always check with your doctor before taking any supplements if you are currently taking prescription medication, or if you have experienced breast cancer in the past. Some supplements available may interact with certain medications.

What Research Has Been Done on Supplements for Menopause?

Overall findings – there have been several medical studies and research articles written on the efficacy of taking supplements for the symptoms of menopause. In general, the results show that, whilst it’s very unlikely that taking supplements alone will make symptoms disappear completely, supplements have been shown to help to make them more manageable. This seems especially the case in relation to hot flushes and anxiety or low mood.

Do doctors recommend supplements? – if they don’t suggest medical treatment (like hormone replacement therapy – HRT), most doctors will say that the best approach to dealing with menopause symptoms is a rounded, well-balanced approach to your lifestyle, incorporating several different approaches:

  • Supplements
  • Regular exercise
  • Cutting back on alcohol and cigarettes
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating a balanced diet

The NHS does recommend supplements for specific symptoms.

Supplements are better with other treatments – supplements are shown to have the best effect when used in combination with the above lifestyle changes, and also in combination with medical treatment. Dietary supplements are not proven to be effective in treating specific symptoms of menopause caused by a hormonal imbalance.

Should I Choose Supplements or Medication?

It’s up to you – the choice of dietary supplements or prescription medication is completely up to you, as is the decision to try treatment for your menopause symptoms in the first place. Not all women choose treatment to relieve their symptoms of menopause, but many find it very helpful, especially when their symptoms are particularly difficult to manage.

Medication is more effective than supplements – current medical opinion considers dietary supplements to be less effective at treating menopausal symptoms, especially those that occur due to hormonal imbalance. However, popular opinion is generally quite positive, and the results vary greatly between users.

Medical treatment options – the main treatments are currently medical. They include hormone replacement therapies (HRT), of which there are two types (combined or oestrogen-only). However, there are now more options than ever for treatment, and there is an increasing trend for using dietary supplements or natural alternatives to relieve menopause symptoms.

Medication is effective but not always preferred – HRT has been medically proven to be very effective at relieving symptoms like hot flushes and night sweats, and there are still many more studies into medical treatments than dietary alternatives. Many people prefer not to take HRT, however, because they dislike the idea of taking extra or synthetic hormones.

Side effects of medication – other than personal preference, the main drawback are the possible side effects of HRT. These include:

  • Sore or tender breasts
  • Headaches
  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Increased risk of blood clots or breast cancer in certain people

HRT isn’t suitable for anyone who has experienced breast cancer, or anyone at high risk of getting it.

A doctor’s assessment will help – talk to your nurse or GP if you want more advice on the choice between medical treatment and dietary supplements for your symptoms. It’s worth discussing your options with a doctor rather than going straight for the supplement approach, as individual cases do vary.

Are There Risks to Taking Supplements for Menopause?

Risks of taking supplements – there are always some risks involved with taking any type of dietary supplement. The main risks involved in taking supplements for the symptoms of menopause are:

  • An overdose (going beyond your daily recommended vitamin or mineral allowance, to toxic levels, by taking far too many pills)
  • Interactions with other medications (prescription menopause treatment or otherwise)
  • Health risks for people who have had breast cancer

Supplements being less effective – there are also risks involved in leaving some of the symptoms of menopause untreated, such as osteoporosis (weak bones). It’s up to you to weigh up the pros and cons of taking dietary supplements for menopause, as well as considering the price involved.

Again, talk to your doctor about risks of supplementation – your nurse or GP will be able to offer more detailed information about specific supplements or products in relation to your personal medical history, as well as giving you advice about what might work best and what is safe for you to take.


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