11 supplements that could help to relieve menopause symptoms.

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Be savvy about your menopause supplements!

Got a ‘touch of’ menopause? Hot, cross, anxious or just not feeling like yourself?  One in four women won’t experience any symptoms, lucky them! Read on, if you’re one of the three-in-four, or know someone who is.

Many women turn to herbal remedies and supplements as a first line of menopause attack. But there's a minefield of conflicting advice out there. Supplements can be expensive. What do they claim to do? Do they work? Are they safe?

We’ve looked at popular supplements, the menopause symptoms they're alleged to help with, then cross-checked for further information, including known side-effects, with The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG),  The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines and NHS Choices.

There’s been limited research into the effectiveness of supplements. RCOG’s view is that without evidence, supplements can’t be said to work (but then, there's no evidence to say they don’t work). There are concerns that supplements can negatively interact with other medicines.  When women choose to take them, they may not seek medical help for more serious menopause health issues if they’re relying on supplements that may, or may not, work.

Although many women report that these natural supplements help them to deal with menopause symptoms, natural doesn’t always mean safe. Buy any supplements from brands carrying the Traditional Herbal Medicine (THM) mark and which contain a patient information leaflet to show that the content has been regulated to prove you're buying what you think you're buying and that a  product complies with safety and quality standards (but not that it works). 

Read on to find out which pill may help each menopause ill.

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St John’s Wort

This over-the-counter remedy may help with some of the menopause symptoms such as mild depression, anxiety, stress and sleeplessness as well as improving mood swings, helping you to feel more relaxed. Back in 2010, RCOG said, St John's Wort 'appears to be effective' for mild to moderate symptoms of depression but isn’t ‘proven’ to work for hot flushes. They express concern that it could interact with other prescription medications. Be aware, perish the thought, it can cause the contraceptive pill to fail and breakthrough bleeding to occur. The recommended dosage can be taken as a tincture, dropped into water, tea and juices, or as a pill. Try Higher Nature St John’s Wort Mood Uplift Tablets. (£10.88 for 90 tablets from website, Nature’s Best).

Black Cohosh

A popular herbal remedy, suitable for short term use (up to 3 months), that may help to reduce hot flushes, night sweats, irritability and mood swings. Whilst there are a number of  studies confirming the safety of black cohosh, health bodies including; RCOG and Cancer Research UK, err on the side of caution, saying that further, large-scale research needs to be undertaken, to find out how black cohosh works and how safe it is. There may be some minor side effects including upset stomach and rashes. Not to be taken by women who have liver problems or any hormone-sensitive conditions. Try Baldwin’s Cohosh (Black) Herbal Tincture  (£7.15 for 50ml).

Sage

Sage may help to sort out the body’s stressed-out thermostat controls, so reducing the number of hot flushes, night sweats & heavy sweating. French Women use sage as a cooling spray for their ‘bouffée de chaleur’ (hot flush), we haven’t found one in the UK yet, but we’ll keep looking or make our own. Sage is also believed to help with memory loss. Take it as a capsule, tincture or make your own tea with fresh sage leaves. Be aware that sage may raise blood pressure so discuss sage supplements with your GP if you have blood pressure problems. Try A.Vogel’s Menosan Sage Drops, widely available (£16.99 for 100ml).

Red Clover and Soy

These isoflavines are plant-sourced phytoestrogens (hormones), that mimic the body’s natural oestrogen. RCOG cites evidence that isoflavine supplements work best when women experience higher numbers of hot flushes and sweats, so the more flushes you have, the more you could benefit from these supplements. Try Promensil Tablets £45 for 90 tablets at Boots (also available in double strength, £25.49 for 30 tablets).

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening Primrose Oil, high in essential fatty acids, is recommended for hot flushes, night sweats, osteoporosis, breast pain and mood swings. RCOG say that evidence for its effectiveness in menopause is lacking (ie.no research to prove or disprove it, either way). Mechanically extracted oil is purer in content but more expensive. Try G Baldwin’s Evening Primrose Oil 1300mg, 90 soft gel capsules £19.55.

Ginseng

Ginseng, an adaptogenic herb that mimics natural oestrogen and it is suggested, improves the quality of life for menopausal women by easing stress and fatigue, increasing blood circulation, improving concentration and enhancing brain function. Certified 6-years-grown Korean Ginseng is considered to be the gold standard. Many studies support ginseng as a stress-buster and mood-booster. However, RCOG say that there’s no evidence that it performs better than a placebo but if it works for you, you won’t mind how it works, just that it does! A word of warning, ginseng can interact with anti-coagulants and alcohol.  Try Nature’s Best Korean Ginseng 1200mg tablets, £12.20 for 180 tablets.

Sea Buck Oil

Extracted from the berries of the Sea Buck Thorn plant, the oil is chock full of poly-unsaturated omega 7 fats. Why is omega 7 useful? It’s an anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, with immune-boosting properties, that helps with the production of collagen, helping to maintain healthy skin, eyes and mucous membranes. Sea Buck Thorn is thought to be a natural lubricant which may help with the menopausal ‘special’, vaginal dryness. Try Omega 7 sba24 capsules (2011 winner of NaturalLifestyles best supplement award), £21.25 for 60 capsules, widely available.

Vitamin D

Known as the sunshine vitamin, the body depends on vitamin D to help with calcium absorption. Vitamin D is made naturally through the action of the sun on our skin.  As we age our ability to absorb vitamin D reduces. Found in only a limited number of food sources, it can be taken as a supplement alongside sensible sun exposure (when the sun is out!), to help keep your bones strong and healthy, preventing osteoporosis. Recommended by our gynaecologist, Dr Morton. Try Vitabiotic Ultra D3 (£5.39 for 96 tablets at Boots). 

Agnus Castus (Chasteberry)

Sounding like a character from St Trinians, vitex agnus castus is  a combination, adaptogenic herb (a natural substance that helps your body to deal with stress), that may help to balance those fluctuating hormone levels during perimenopause. Believed to reduce hot flushes and night sweats although again, RCOG say that more evidence is needed. May also help with mood swings, anxiety and help to control stress levels. Try G Baldwin’s Agnus Castus Herbal Tincture (£4.26 for 50ml).

Dong Quai

A Chinese herb traditionally used amongst other things for gynaecological issues such as menopausal flushes & vaginal dryness whilst helping to balance hormones.  It’s an anticoagulant so can stop your blood clotting. Our dentist Jenny hadn’t heard of this herb as a menopausal treatment.  She was concerned that women might not think to tell their doctor or dentist that they’re taking a supplement that could trigger heavy bleeding issues in surgery. Talk to your GP if you are taking other medication, particularly, anticoagulants. Try Nature’s Answer Dong Quai Alcohol Free Fluid Extract, (£11.99 for 30ml).

Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)

Omeg-3 may help to balance fluctuating hormones, keeping your ever-changing moods stable. It can have a lubricating effect on the body which may help with vaginal dryness, dry and itchy skin. Anti-inflammatory benefits may help with joint pain and osteoporosis. A 2009 study found that Omega-3 may help to reduce the number,(sadly not the intensity), of hot flushes. This little EFA is found in oily fish, tofu, walnuts, flax seeds, beans and leafy green vegetables but can be taken as a supplement if you think that your diet lacks omega 3-rich foods. Try G Baldwin’s concentrated Omega 3 (60 softgels £15.89).