October is World Menopause Month, promoted by the International Menopause Society to highlight women’s health issues around the world. It’s also an ideal chance to learn more about a natural transition every woman eventually faces, which may be marked by a number of physical, mental, and emotional changes.
While hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was once commonly prescribed for menopause, a large study known as the Women’s Health Initiative–a major 15–year research program launched in 1991–shed new light on this pharmaceutical treatment. The study revealed that long–term combination HRT increases the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, blood clots, and stroke, while estrogen–only HRT is linked to blood clots and stroke.
As a result, many women now seek natural solutions for menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, and changes in libido, among others. While there are many drug–free choices–including a wide range of herbal therapies–a women’s best allies may be no further away than her vitamin cupboard.
Many nutrients have been shown to help alleviate menopausal symptoms safely and effectively–some working synergistically to address multiple symptoms. In her book SuperNutrition for Menopause (Avery Publishing), Ann Louise Gittleman M.S., C.N.S. explains that while many women take multi–vitamin/mineral supplements, the need for certain nutrients skyrockets at menopause, so it’s important to adjust accordingly.
For best results, select a comprehensive, high–potency, daily multi–vitamin/mineral formula that includes the entire spectrum of essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Additional vitamin E is valuable as well, as this nutrient has been shown to be a valid alternative to estrogen replacement for hot flashes.1 Another study noted a statistically significant hot flash reduction with vitamin E compared to a placebo.2
According to Linda Ojeda, PhD, in her book Menopause Without Medicine (Hunter House) optimal levels of vitamin E help to buffer the hormonal ebbs and flows that occur during the menopausal transition, relieving associated symptoms like hot flashes. Susan M. Lark, M.D., in her book The Estrogen Decision (Celestial Arts) notes that, depending on the study, between 66–85% of women tested found vitamin E to be an effective substitute for estrogen replacement.
There’s another very important nutritional supplement that can help tremendously: fish oil. One impressive study found that DHA/EPA–rich fish oil literally cut the number of hot flashes by 50% in women ages 40 to 55 after just 8 weeks.3 Fish oil was also shown to improve symptoms of moderate to severe psychological distress–a term that encompasses sadness, frustration, anxiety, and other negative mood states. Simply minimizing hot flashes helps women sleep better at night, which in turn can help improve mood.4
While there are other natural menopause solutions, these essentials are powerful building blocks to help ensure a smooth menopausal transition, with the bonus of numerous added health benefits.
1 W V Med J 1995 Feb;91(2):54-6
2 J Clin Oncol 1998 Feb;16(2):495-500
3 Menopause, 2009 Mar-April;16(2):357-66
4 Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Feb;89(2):641-51