Supplement Options for Menopausal Women
By Holli Lapes, RD, LD/N
Menopause is the physiological cessation of menstrual cycles that occurs as the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone. The average onset of menopause is 52 years of age but symptoms of perimenopause can begin as early as age 35. The symptoms of menopause include night sweats, hot flashes, moodiness and depression.
Due to the dangers of conventional hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which uses non-bioidentical hormones, women may choose supplements to help alleviate the discomforts that come with menopause. Women can also consider bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) as a safer and effective alternative to conventional hormone replacement. Even BHRT may not be suitable for everyone, for various reasons, which includes accessibility. Therefore, this article will discuss some solutions for women.
Plant-based extracts that are available as supplements can reduce menopausal discomforts and support healthy estrogen metabolism — during menopause and beyond.
Noteworthy are three botanical root extracts including Phlomis umbrosa, Cynanchum wilfordii, and Angelica gigas have unique abilities to help ease the discomfort of menopause, balancing estrogenic activity in the tissues specifically related to menopausal discomfort including vaginal dryness.
Phytoestrogen Options for Menopausal Women
Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that, because of their structural similarity to human estrogen, have the ability to mimic the effects of estrogen in the human body. Yet, when estrogen levels are low, as they are in menopause, their mild estrogenic effect raises total estrogenic activity.
By supplementing with hops (Humulus lupulus) women can expect significantly fewer hot flashes and sweats. Soy isoflavones have been shown to manage menopausal discomforts and support healthy estrogen metabolism. In younger women, soy can provide a protective effect by competing with harmful estrogens for binding at cellular receptor sites. Research has shown Norway spruce lignans reduce hot flashes as well as other common menopausal complaints. Licorice root exerts estrogen-like effects and can reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes.
Cruciferous vegetable extracts should be taken in conjunction with phytoestrogens to beneficially influence how the body metabolizes estrogen. This is especially relevant for women who are taking phytoestrogens and those who are on hormone replacement.
Non-Phytoestrogen Options for Menopausal Women
Women who currently have, or have a history of a hormone-sensitive cancer, are often instructed not to use phytoestrogens or do not feel comfortable using them. Consequently, woman often suffer from the discomforts of menopause. Similarly, some women with endometriosis or fibroids are also avoiding phytoestrogens.
Black cohosh has been shown to rely on non-hormonal mechanisms for its beneficial effects in peri and postmenopausal women. Therefore, black cohosh appears to be a safe alternative for women who cannot take phytoestrogens and are seeking relief from hot flashes and is used by many clinicians worldwide.
Evening primrose oil has a traditional use for hot flashes. In a six-week randomized clinical trial of 56 women aged 45-59, participants were randomly assigned to take placebo or 500 mg/day of evening primrose oil. The individuals taking evening primrose oil experienced a decrease in frequency, severity, and duration of the hot flashes.
Don’t Forget About The Other Hormones
Progesterone has a major role in relieving menopausal symptoms, it is calming to the central nervous system, and it can promote healthy sleeping patterns. Progesterone also helps to create balance and regulate estrogen.
In addition to estrogen and progesterone, it is important to monitor levels of the hormones pregnenolone, DHEA, and testosterone since all the hormones work together.
Note: During the postmenopausal period, when sex hormone levels decrease significantly, aging women are at increased risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease.
Ideally, one would choose bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) which goes beyond the mere suppression of symptoms caused by declining hormone levels. Life Extension’s approach to female hormone restoration is to provide scientific information to help women restore their hormones to youthful levels. Such an approach has wide-ranging benefits throughout the body and significantly enhances physical and psychological well-being. For more information, contact a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-800-226-2370.
Holli Lapes RD, LD/N is a blogger & social media content specialist at Life Extension. She is a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist residing in the South Florida area. Holli believes that quality dietary supplements are an essential tool that have a variety of applications from maintaining good health to managing chronic disease. You can see more of her blog posts by visiting http://blog.lifeextension.com.