Menopause is a sure sign a woman’s body is changing – and that means her diet and nutrition needs are also changing. A balanced diet and meeting daily nutritional needs might not prevent the symptoms of menopause, but it can make the transition easier. Previous Take 5 blogs have discussed foods to eat and foods to avoid during menopause to alleviate menopause symptoms and support the body during this transition.

Menopause basics

Menopause is a natural transition that occurs when a woman's egg supply is depleted and she stops ovulating. Although the age a woman will experience menopause varies, it typically occurs during her late 40s or early 50s. However, symptoms of menopause can begin before menstruation stops, and many women begin to have symptoms in their late 30s that can last into their 60s and beyond.

During this transition, diet (along with other healthy lifestyle habits) plays an important role in minimizing the symptoms brought on by menopause. In addition, specific nutrients can help offset some of the increased health risks associated with menopause.

Changes in nutritional needs

If you are a woman approaching menopause or in menopause, then providing your body with the proper nutrients needed to function optimally is a foundation for good health. But because of hormonal changes during and leading up to menopause, your nutritional needs might also be changing.

Nutrients to support bone health – the four biggies – calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin K

A woman’s calcium needs increase with age due to hormonal changes during menopause that can affect bone health.  And it can be difficult to acquire the needed calcium through diet alone, particularly if dairy products are avoided. Although there are non-dairy dietary sources of calcium, such as green leafy vegetables and small fish like sardines and canned salmon (where you eat the bones), you might need to supplement your diet with a well-absorbed form of calcium, such as calcium citrate or calcium malate.

Although calcium is typically the poster child for bone health, and it certainly does play an important role, research suggests its benefits are magnified when it’s paired with other nutrients.* For example, vitamin D facilitates calcium’s absorption into the body.* Because calcium needs increase, if you are peri- or postmenopausal, then your body will need additional vitamin D to help utilize the increased amount of calcium.*

The problem – and this is not just for menopausal women – is that vitamin D can also be hard to come by in the diet. Foods that naturally contain good amounts of vitamin D include fatty fish, beef liver, eggs, certain mushrooms, and cheese. You can also find foods like milk, orange juice, and cereal that are fortified with vitamin D. And if you’re thinking, “I can get my vitamin D from the sun,” this may only be partially true. Although, during certain times of the year and under the right conditions, you can get plenty of vitamin D from the sun, the ability to synthesize vitamin D in your skin from sun exposure decreases as you age – by as much as 75 percent.1

And vitamin D is not just for bone health. An optimal level of vitamin D is important for overall health, including immune function, a healthy inflammatory response, and muscle function.* Consider taking a home health test that will measure your vitamin D to find out your body’s level, and to see if you should be doing more to get the vitamin D your body needs.

But calcium and vitamin D are just part of the bone support story. Magnesium ensures your body will make the most of both calcium and vitamin D.*

With respect to calcium, magnesium helps keep calcium out of the soft tissues and in the bones where it is needed most.* A 2016 meta-analysis of 12 studies found that magnesium intake is positively associated with improved hip bone health.*2

In a report in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, a study found that vitamin D isn’t metabolized efficiently without an adequate level of magnesium being present.*So, in addition to calcium and vitamin D, perimenopausal and postmenopausal women should incorporate more magnesium either in their diet or through a nutritional supplement.*

And don’t forget vitamin K – a bone support nutrient that is often talked about less than calcium or vitamin D, but is just as important – especially for perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.* That’s because, like magnesium, vitamin K helps direct calcium to the bones and out of the soft tissues.* Studies also indicate that vitamin D works better with vitamin K.*

One study found that vitamin D3 plus vitamin K2 worked better to maintain bone density in 126 postmenopausal women than either K2 or D3 alone.*While in another study of 148 postmenopausal women, the women who took vitamin K2 (as MK-7), along with calcium and vitamin D, maintained better bone architecture compared to the women who only took calcium and vitamin D.*5

Good dietary sources of vitamin K include green leafy vegetables (vitamin K1), butter, meat, eggs, and cheese (vitamin K2, in the MK-4 form), and fermented vegetables and beans like sauerkraut, miso, and natto (vitamin K2 as MK-7).

Now, you might be wondering how you can incorporate all four nutrients into your daily diet. The good news? Thorne’s Basic Bone Nutrients makes it easy because the formula provides all of the key nutrients that support good bone health in one supplement.*

Caring for your heart during menopause 

For a number of reasons, cardiovascular health can suffer during menopause. For one thing, a decrease in estrogen levels adversely affects cholesterol levels. Also, metabolism changes can result in unwanted weight gain. Fortunately, some of the same nutrients that protect your bones also support good cardiovascular health – especially magnesium and vitamin K.*

Let’s start with magnesium. As a mineral involved in up to 600 enzymatic processes throughout the body, it’s no surprise that magnesium is an important player in cardiovascular health.* Magnesium helps regulate heart rate and rhythm and supports a healthy heart muscle, while also helping to maintain healthy blood pressure.*

As for vitamin K, this vitamin helps support blood vessel health.* This is because vitamin K activates various proteins that are important for blood vessels (and bone health), particularly proteins that slow arterial calcification (helping keep your arteries clean) by directing calcium to the bones and away from your arteries.*

Did you know vitamin D is also important for good heart health?* The heart and blood vessels contain several vitamin D receptors and a healthy vitamin D level helps keep these tissues functioning optimally and plays a role in tissue recovery if injured.*

Vitamin D also helps regulate an enzyme called renin. Renin is made in the kidneys and plays a very important part in how the body maintains normal blood pressure. 

And don’t forget fish oil – a superb supplement for supporting good cardiovascular health (and healthy bones too!).* Fish oil supplements contain EPA and DHA, two omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial for the entire cardiovascular system.* These two fatty acids support good circulation by promoting healthy blood vessel elasticity, enhancing blood flow, and maintaining normal triglyceride and cholesterol levels.*

The so-called “oily” fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, lake trout, and albacore tuna, are good dietary sources of EPA and DHA. But if your diet is lacking in these types of fish, then a supplement can help fill the gap and support a healthy heart.*

Menopause and Metabolism

The metabolism of perimenopausal and postmenopausal women begins to slow down, and with that can come some of the factors associated with metabolic syndrome – increased waist circumference along with less than ideal blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood fats.

To better understand both how your metabolism works and to get a personalized weight management strategy, you can measure the biomarkers associated with your metabolism by taking an at-home health test.

In addition, you can incorporate supplements in your daily routine that can address factors associated with metabolic syndrome and metabolism. Thorne’s MediBolic was designed for just that.* It is a uniquely designed rice and pea protein-based nutritional supplement with added soluble fiber that supports satiety (the feeling of fullness).*

It’s also a complete multi-vitamin/mineral complex and contains unique botanicals and nutrients that support healthy blood sugar, blood pressure, and lipid levels, promote lean muscle mass and blood vessel flexibility, and enhance thermogenesis (fat burning).*

To learn more about how you can incorporate diet and supplements, including MediBolic, into a program for weight management or for nutritional support of metabolic syndrome,* check out our free online guides.

A little extra support

Although vitamins and minerals are important additions to your daily routine during menopause, botanical ingredients can also help manage menopause symptoms naturally* – especially for those women who want to avoid some of the pitfalls associated with hormone replacement therapy.

Thorne’s unique blend of botanical ingredients in Meta-Balance™ provides comprehensive support for managing hormonal changes.*

Meta-Balance™ contains botanicals – including wild yam, black cohosh, and Vitex – that support a woman’s hormone-related changes.* It also contains the unique ingredient Pycnogenol® (an extract from French maritime pine bark) that has been clinically shown to improve several menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep interruptions, while also providing support for skin elasticity and cardiovascular health.*


References

  1. Gallagher J. Vitamin D and aging. Endocrinol Metab Clin North Am 2013;42(2):319-332. 
  2. Farsinejad-Marj M, Saneei P, Esmaillzadeh A. Dietary magnesium intake, bone mineral density. . . . A systematic review and meta-analysis. Osteoporosis Int 2016;27(4):1389-1399. 
  3. Uwitonze A, Razzaque M. Role of magnesium in vitamin D activation and function. J Am Osteopath Assoc 2018;118(3):181-189. 
  4. Ushiroyama T, Ikeda A, Ueki M. Effect of continuous combined therapy with vitamin K(2) and vitamin D(3) . . . in postmenopausal women. Maturitas 2002;41:211-221.
  5. Renn S, Harslof T, Pedersen S, Langdahl B. Vitamin K2 (menaquinone-7) . . . trabecular bone microarchitecture at the tibia in postmenopausal women. Eur J Endocrinol 2016;175(6):541-549.