Stay Healthy During Menopause: Vitamins and Supplements
If visiting your drugstore’s vitamin and supplement aisle sends you into a stress-induced hot flash, don’t worry. You’re not alone. After all, there are just so many bottles to choose from! Which are needed, which are merely the ingredients for really expensive pee, and why on Earth are there seven-dozen different kinds of calcium?
Don’t go running, arms waving, into the parking lot just yet. We still need vitamins and supplements to boost our health—especially during perimenopause and menopause, says menopause specialist Dr. Josh Trutt, MD, a healthy aging expert from PhysioAge Medical Group in New York City.
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 drsinatra.com. Plus, Dr. Trutt blogs at truttmd.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.
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.
“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,” Dr. Trutt says. 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. While not a multi-vitamin in the traditional sense, PhysioAge Premium Plus Packs contain an assortment of vitamin and supplements formulated for menopausal women’s unique needs.
Not all K vitamins are created equal. The one you need is called MK-7 and 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 tell your doctor if you decide to start taking the big K. You may need to adjust the dosage of your medications, he says.