We published the second half of this article ("here’s to your vibrant life: five supplements menopausal women should consider") clear back in March 2017.

It really hasn’t changed.

Probiotics, calcium, vitamin D, Omega 3s, and turmeric are still important and good for you. in fact, we’ve since learned the benefits Omega 3s can have on brain health and how vitamin D helps fight depression, so definitely keep on keeping on with these.

But a healthy diet is a broad and varied diet with lots of micro-nutrients working in concert to keep bodies strong and well, and five nutrients (or ten, for that matter) just scratches the surface. Additionally, what you need to stay strong and well may change as you age, requiring more of some things (fiber, calcium from food) and less of others (iron, folic acid). So it’s good to check in periodically to make sure you’re getting the right stuff.

So we’re taking the Fab Five to a Terrific 10, with the reminder that the very best way to get the nutrients you need is through eating great food. Strive to include a rainbow of fresh fruits and veggies and lean proteins, and the right amount of sunshine.

NOTE: Vitamins A, D, and K – all of which made the list – are fat-soluble, meaning the body absorbs them better if they’re eaten with fat. Also please note that any change to your diet should be discussed with your doc, particularly if you're taking medications which may interact. Be sure your doc has the full list of supplements and medications you're taking – even the "natural" stuff can be dangerous if mixed with the wrong meds.

  1. Magnesium

For many women in our closed Facebook group, magnesium (particularly magnesium glycinate) has been a game changer. Using magnesium for menopause– particularly cold flashes, anxiety, and sleep disturbances – women saw improvement in some or all of these, though experiences varied. We do know that many adult women don’t get enough of this nutrient which may also improve heart health and reduce blood pressure, combat osteoporosis, and, particularly if you take magnesium citrate, help with constipation.  

Food sources of magnesium include dark chocolate, avocados, nuts and seeds, legumes, leafy greens, fatty fish, and tofu. Recommended amount for women, 310 - 320 mg.

  1. Vitamin A

Important for sustaining and protecting our immune systems, vision, and skin, vitamin A is generally not a problem for those over 50. However, you should be aware that there are dangers of taking too much (as there are with any supplements): too much A can result in hair loss, dry mucus membranes and skin, and higher risk of bone fractures. Again, shoot to get most of your vitamin A from the food you eat, and if you think you may be over-supplementing, talk with your doc.

Food sources of vitamin A include beef and lamb liver, butter, cheese and some oily fish (retinol or vitamin A1). The body can also produce vitamin A from the beta carotene in veggie and fruit sources such as sweet potato, winter squash, kale, carrots and sweet red peppers and mango, cantaloupe, and grapefruit. Recommended amount, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, is 5,000 IU (International Units) a day.

  1. Vitamins B6 and B12

Vitamin B6 may help ward off menopausal depression and increase energy by boosting serotonin. Vitamin Bs may also help with insomnia and possibly even reduce hot flashes. Vitamins for hot flashes may sound like just what you're after, however it’s possible to get too much vitamin B6 and cause nerve damage, so make sure your sources don’t exceed more than 100 mgs/day total. B12 does a whole lot of things, including increasing energy, protecting our hearts and brains, supporting good gut health, and helping our nervous system and eyes work properly.

Food sources of B6 vitamins, says Harvard School of Public Health, include “fortified cereals, beans, poultry, fish, and some vegetables and fruits, especially dark leafy greens, papayas, oranges, and cantaloupe.” Recommended daily amount for women 51 and over is 1.5 mg. 

Food sources of B12 vitamins are a bit more challenging for vegetarians and vegans, as they are generally animal based, such as meat (including fish and poultry), eggs, and dairy products. Those who prefer vegan sources can find B12 in fortified cereals or enriched non-dairy milks such as soy or rice. Adults should shoot for 2.4 mcg of B12 per day.

  1. Vitamin K

Eat a salad a day, that’s all we’re saying. This vitamin found often in leafy greens – hence the nickname “vitamin Kale” – not only helps with proper blood clotting (if you’re taking anticoagulants, talk to your doc), but it’s important to bone density. Eating one serving of a leafy green a day may cut your risk of a hip fracture in half, says Harvard School of Public Health. A more recent study indicates vitamin K may also health with heavy period bleeding.

Food sources of vitamin K include the leafy greens (kale, chard, lettuce, spinach), cruciferous veggies (broccoli and Brussels sprouts), blueberries, blackberries and prunes. Animal sources provide only scant amounts, but cheese, eggs, some meats and seafood will get you a little. Studies show it’s even more effective when taken with vitamin D, so maybe eat your salad outside in the sunshine. Aim for 90 mcg of vitamin K daily

  1. Vitamin C

What your folks told you when you were a kid still counts: vitamin C is really important to optimal health. In addition to the anti-oxidant and immune-boosting properties we all know and love, vitamin C may also help with bone density.

Food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits and juices (watch for excess added sugar), cantaloupe, kiwi, mango, papaya, berries and more. Veggies such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, leafy greens, tomatoes (yes, I know, I know, tomatoes are fruit but I’m still not putting them in a pie), and potatoes. For adult women, 75 mg is the recommended amount of vitamin C

  1. Probiotics

Your gut is a garden. Really! We all have trillions of microorganisms hanging around inside our bodies, doing useful stuff like helping us digest and use our food. Life is hard on these critters: antibiotics, poor diet, illness, and stress can kill them off by the millions, leaving you susceptible to harmful bacteria and the diseases that come with them.

Probiotics are supplements that contain live microbes to re-colonize the beneficial flora in your body. Not only can that help with digestive issues many women confront around this time (bloating, gas, constipation), probiotics can also support vaginal health by helping to fight yeast infections. According to Prevention, look for probiotic supplements with “at least 10 billion CFUs and at least five different bacteria strains.”

Having a healthy gut is the foundation of good health – if you’re going to eat all that great, nutritious food, be sure you can digest it!

  1. Calcium

This one should come as no surprise – as we age, our bones can weaken and become porous (a condition known as osteoporosis), making fractures more likely. Calcium loss accelerates as estrogen declines, so it’s important to pay particular attention after you enter perimenopause.

There are lots of dietary and lifestyle changes that support a healthy skeleton, so get going on those if you aren’t already: at least 30 minutes of weight-bearing exercise a day (running, walking, resistance training, dancing); a diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins and low in sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and salt; no smoking, and enough sleep.

And then there’s calcium. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends women age 51 and older get 1,200 mg of calcium a day. You can figure out how much you’re getting from your food by checking the labels – the “DV” (daily value) you’ll see for calcium is based on 1000 mgs, so “30% of DV” is 300 mg. Calculate how much you get in an ordinary day from food sources, then supplement to make up the shortfall.  

  1. Vitamin D

Often recommended to take with calcium, vitamin D helps you absorb calcium more easily. After you turn 50, try to get 800-1000 IU of vitamin D daily.

Best source of vitamin D? Sunlight. The UVB rays, in particular. However, in winter or when we’re covered up or slathered in sunblock to prevent skin cancer, vitamin D can be hard to come by. Get a little time in the sun and make sure you make up for your vitamin D shortfall through food or supplements. You can get vitamin D through some fatty fish or fortified foods.

If you need to supplement to get your full dose of D, first check any supplements you’re already taking, as many include D in their lineup. If you’re still not getting enough, supplements containing either vitamin D2 or D3 will work.

  1. Omega 3s

So, it turns out heart disease isn’t just a guy problem. In fact, it’s the leading killer of women in the US, and about 10 years post-menopause our risk of heart attack evens up with the gents’. So we can’t afford to ignore our heart health.

After menopause, a woman’s levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) can start to rise. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the amount of LDL in the blood, resulting in less plaque and less chance of blockage. According to Menopause Health Matters, boosting Omega-3s may also help reduce joint pain and ease symptoms of menopause, including vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and night sweats.

Omega-3s are found mainly in oily fish; vegetarian sources include tofu, flaxseed, walnuts, eggs, beans, some nuts and leafy vegetables.

When purchasing a supplement, first be sure you’re a suitable candidate. Omega-3s can thin the blood, so if you’re on blood thinners, talk with your doctor before adding a supplement.

  1. Turmeric

This one is a bit of an outlier, but there’s enough good evidence of its anti-inflammatory properties to make it worth considering. Plus, it’s delicious.

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, can boost heart health and may even reduce depression, both of which are great benefits for women in menopause. Diabetes can also be a greater risk post-menopause, and curcumin may delay the onset of Type-2 among those with prediabetes.

The best way to get it? Probably supplements, since most of us don’t eat enough turmeric in our food to move the needle. But boosting intake via food is always a good idea, and in this case, it’s a particularly delicious idea – it’s usually the main spice in curry dishes.

As with Omega-3s, if you’re taking blood-thinning medications, consult with your doc before taking a curcumin supplement, as it can act as an anti-coagulant.

Making lifestyle adjustments and taking supplements isn’t just about extending your life, it’s about adding vibrancy to the life you’re living now. Which means it’s never too late – or too early – to start! We’d love to hear what changes you’ve made as well as any supplements you’re taking and why. 

You can talk with us in the comments below, in our community forums (you'll need to join our community first, if you haven't already), on our Facebook page, or in Midlife & Menopause Solutions, our closed Facebook group. 


Shannon Perry

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