Menopause Mondays: Your Guide to Vitamins and Supplements in Perimenopause and Menopause

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I don’t know about you, but the thought of visiting my drugstore’s vitamin and supplement aisle is enough to send me into a stress-induced hot flash. There are just so many bottles to choose from! Which do I need, which are merely the ingredients for really expensive pee, and why on Earth are there seven-dozen different kinds of calcium?

“That’s no excuse to go running, arms waving, into the parking lot”, says menopause specialist Dr. Josh Trutt, MD, a healthy aging expert in New York City. Trutt says virtually everyone should take supplements to boost their health—especially women during perimenopause and menopause.

Why? “Getting all of your nutrients from your diet is a nice ideal to strive for, but there are some supplements that aren’t part of the diet in our culture,” Dr. Trutt says. “For example, some Asian cultures drink green tea all day long. Studies have shown that if you ingest the amount of green tea contained in ten small cups (which is what some Asian cultures consume in a day), you can lower your risk of prostate and colon cancer. I think drinking ten cups of green tea over the course of the day is in fact the best way to get the antioxidants it offers—but that’s just not part of my lifestyle, so I take it as a capsule instead.”

What’s more, during menopause, fluctuating hormone levels (compounded with that ever-increasing age!) can up your body’s need of certain vitamins. If your diet doesn’t adjust, supplements can help you make up the difference. But since those same hormones can also slash your body’s need for other nutrients, you shouldn’t just pop any vitamin you can get your hands on, Dr. Trutt says. “All medications essentially cause some alteration in our physiology. Supplements are no different,” he says. “The question is, ‘is that alteration helpful or harmful, and at what dose?’”

Never head into the vitamin supplements aisle without first finding the right info, Dr. Trutt advises. “I’ve spent years reading about vitamins and other supplements, and if I have learned one thing, it’s that Google-searching for supplement info is a terrible way to learn what you need to know. I suggest finding accredited medical doctors who blog and have a good reputation on this topic,” he says, citing mercola.com and ChrisKresser.com. Talk to your doctor about receiving a standard blood test, which evaluates levels of vitamins and nutrients including vitamin D, CoQ10, B12 levels, zinc, and copper.”

Dr. Trutt also suggests checking out Emerson Ecologics to find the best brands. “All of the companies listed there have very good reputations, and allow independent analytical testing of their products and audits of their facilities,” he says. Remember that all brands have different specialties.

If that sounds like a lot of homework, don’t worry your pretty little head. To help you find your perfect menopause supplement script, Dr. Trutt shares need-to-know intel on some of the most popular vitamins and supplements out there. Be sure to consult your doctor and have proper testing before taking any supplements. 

Iron

As far as iron goes, that burger probably has all you need. “Once a woman stops menstruating, she is much less likely to need extra iron,” Dr. Trutt says. “The Iowa Women’s Health Study showed that taking supplemental iron is linked to decreased life expectancy.” Why? Iron is a pro-oxidant, meaning it induces oxidative stress and the accumulation of free radicals in the body, which can contribute to disease. Dr. Trutt’s advice: Only take iron if you need it for iron deficiency. Ask your doctor to run a simple blood test to determine your levels.

Multi-Vitamins

“The truth is that there are very few multis on the market that are worth taking. When you have that many ingredients mixed in, there are a lot of opportunities to get it wrong. Many blends have too much of certain vitamins and too little of others for optimal health, especially when it comes to helping women ease menopausal symptoms. Rather than cramming dozens of vitamins in one capsule, focus on getting the specific vitamins you need,” he says.

Vitamin K

Not all K vitamins are created equal. He reccommends, MK-7 as it helps prevent osteoporosis. Since plummeting estrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause can cause loss of bone mass, women over the age of 50 are at the greatest risk for developing osteoporosis, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Trutt advises taking at least 100mcg of MK-7 a day. If you are taking Coumadin (warfarin), a medication that’s typically prescribed to help prevent blood clotting, be sure to speak with your doctor before you start taking the big K. You may need to adjust the dosage of your medications, he says.

Calcium

After menopause, bone breakdown outpaces the building of new bone. Calcium can help—in moderation. “Taking extra calcium can be harmful because it will deposit in your blood vessels instead of your bones—unless you take plenty of MK-7 (that last vitamin we talked about!), which keeps it out of your blood vessel walls,” says Dr. Trutt. Women older than 50 need to consume 1,200 milligrams of calcium every day to keep their bones strong, according to Dr. Diane L. Schneider, MD, MSc, author of The Complete Book of Bone Health and co-founder of 4BoneHealth.org. But before resorting to supplements, take a look at your diet and easy ways you can increase your calcium intake.

Vitamin D

“Your ability to convert sunlight to vitamin D decreases as you age, and so you may need more supplemental vitamin D to keep your blood levels in that sweet spot of 35-40ng/mL. We know that having a vitamin D level below 25ng/mL is bad, but in one study after another, people with vitamin D levels above 45 actually die more often than people with lower levels,” Dr. Trutt says. Dr. Schneider recommends women older than 50 get 600 IU of the vitamin a day and women older than 70 get 800 IU to maintain those levels. Adequate vitamin D, along with calcium levels are helpful in preserving your bone health. Learn more about how to get the calcium and vitamin D you need for healthy bones during menopause.

Curcumin

Recent research from the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University shows that estrogen has a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease, possibly explaining why post-menopausal women are at a higher risk of the disease. “Curcumin has been used for centuries, is very safe, has documented anti-cancer benefits, and we think it helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Your mainstream doctor has nothing to offer you to prevent or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. In that light, curcumin seems a very reasonable supplement for nearly everyone.” Still, “curcumin is very hard to absorb, making most brands useless,” says Dr. Trutt, who recommends taking one capsule a day of Longvida brand curcumin.

CoQ10

As your estrogen supplies dry up, so can your thyroid function, especially if your estrogen drop is sudden or dramatic. That explains why subclinical thyroid disease strikes 23.2 percent of postmenopausal women. Of those women, 73.8 percent suffer from hypothyroidism, according to German research published in Gynecological Endocrinology. “If you use significant amounts of thyroid hormone, you should take CoQ10 with it. Thyroid hormone can cause you to deplete your CoQ10 levels,” says Dr. Trutt, who suggests taking 100mg a day.

Omega 3

Estrogen is good for your heart: It helps keep blood vessels flexible so that they can relax and expand to accommodate blood flow. So when estrogen levels drop, the risk of heart disease can increase. Omega-3 fatty acids, however, can help. A type of unsaturated fatty acid, it reduces the effects of inflammation on blood vessels and the heart, according to Mayo Clinic. “In patients who have high triglycerides and are taking fish oil to lower it, 2 grams a day is of documented benefit,” says Dr. Trutt. “For the rest of us, this may be an area where eating two servings of fish per week is the way to go.”

Ladies, it’s time to say goodbye to supplement anxiety… and hello to better health! Vitamins and minerals are integral to everything our bodies do and everything we can be. So when we give our bodies what they truly need, nothing can hold us back from living the lives we deserve!

 Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!

After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

  • This is super helpful It’s always hard to figure out what supplements are appropriate.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      So many women email me about supplements, I decided to get the best brain I could find to help us!

      • Jodie

        Hi I have just read all info and found it very good could I please get you’re email to get some advice thank you kindly

      • MG

        I am 45 and have gone through menopause. I am concerned since I am so young is there something or a specific guideline I might need to follow when it comes to supplements in addition to the great information you have already provided?
        Thank you,
        MG

        • Ellen Dolgen

          Please download my free eBook, MENOPAUSE MONDAYS The Girlfriends Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause for more information. here is the link!

  • Helene Cohen Bludman

    This is really helpful information. I had no idea about the multi-vitamins not being necessarily all that good. Now I know which supplements I should be taking.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Helene, I found that interesting as well. But, it does make sense. I am so glad the interview was helpful. Please share with the sisterhood!

  • Thanks for reinforcing that I’m already doing — i LOVE it when that happens. I currently take D, CoEnzyme Q10, calcium and tumeric, and DONT take multivitamins. Instead of fish oil, I just eat lots of fish.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      That is so great, Roz! Go you!!!!

  • Funny you should bring this up. Just this past summer my blood work showed a low zinc level. I have begun taking a supplement and my hair, nails, skin, AND energy is up uP UP! Great advise. I’m passing it along.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Cheryl, thanks for spreading the info! I think it is so great that you checked your levels BEFORE you started taking any supplements! Smart and Sexy!!!

  • You always tell me stuff I didn’t know I didn’t know. Thanks for that! So, is CoQ10 a good thing to take daily if you don’t have a thyroid issue? You really should have your own network television show!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Tammy, you are sweet….but I can’t think of a network that could handle my outspoken nature! Please speak to your healthcare provider to make sure that you need CoQ10 before you take it.

  • Thank you for the good information. I guess I am going to have to rethink my multivitamin. I do take some of the other supplements already. Maybe I need to invest the multivitamin money into a more focused program of what I need

    • Ellen Dolgen

      It is always best to actually get the proper tests to be sure you are deficient before you start taking any vitamins and supplements.

  • I need to spend some time with this because I definitely need to figure out which vitamins I should be taking. Like you, I get totally overwhelmed walking down that aisle in the drugstore.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Lois, be sure to actually get your levels checked and discuss the supplements with your doctor first! Often people just start taking vitamins and supplements and they don’t really need them.

      • Thanks for this Ellen, very interesting and important. Did you decide not to look at amino acids or was the focus on other supplements? I would love to know your views on all the amino acids etc which are supposed to help with stress etc

        • Ellen Dolgen

          Deborah, good question! Let me check with Dr. Trutt on this. He is the expert. I will get back to you!

  • This is a good list to keep on hand. I am already taking several of these, but need to look into adding the others.

  • Oh I have to email this one to my sister. She is having a rough time of things with her menopause and takes slowmag and some other over the counter supplement. thanks much for sharing this!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Carolann, thanks for sharing this blog with your sister. There is lots of other helpful info on my website. Tell her to use it like her own personal menopause library. You can research the symptoms and get some helpful tips on how to handle them. I interview the smartest brains I can find on the topics and try to deliver the message in lady-speak! If she needs to reach out for support, I am always available at ellendolgen@ellendolgen.com.

  • Excellent list Ellen and great suggestions — especially curcumin! So often overlooked and oh so vital for all cardio-vascular health (heart and brain)!

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Ruth, thanks for always helping us keep our brain healthy at Craniumcrunches.com.

  • I just printed this out Ellen.What fabulous information.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      I am so glad you found it helpful, Estelle.

  • Leslie

    Hi,
    I have been a little crazy researching supplements for menopause. I am 52 and don’t have severe symptoms. Mainly, sluggish, dry, hot hands and feet and anxiety. I take Lexapro and Ativan when needed. As far as supplements I take a B6, B12 folic acid sublingual plus I’ve been trying that Macafem. I just saw where the B 6,12, folic acid plus black cohosh and something called inositol was a good combo. Any suggestions?

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Leslie, do you have a good menopause specialist to discuss these symptoms with. I think it is so important. Your specialist should be able to help you with these symptoms. I never receommend taking anything over the counter without consulting your healthcare professional first. I interviewed, a couple doctors at the Yale Cancer Center in a Menopause Mondays blog on breast cancer and menopause. They told me that they recommend Remifemin (estrogen-free black cohosh)to their patients for relief of menopause symptoms. Once again, discuss this with your specialist.

  • A team in University of Austria has published some seminal work on Red clover supplements to reduce menopause symptoms http://bit.ly/1GjH94i

    • Ellen Dolgen

      I am not familiar with this product……….but thanks for letting me know.

  • Rosemarie

    Hi Ellen. I normally suffer from low iron and take Pallifer every so often, but hate taking it. I actually hate taking any pill. Recently a friend mentioned that a prenatal vitamin would be a good choice because it has almost everything we need. How do you feel about this? I’m going through perimenopause right now.

    • Ellen Dolgen

      Rosemarie, I know there usually is extra iron in those prenatal vitamins. I would run it by your healthcare professional.