Science

Let's Talk About Menopause (and the Nutrients to Focus on After 50)

6 min read

Let's chat about the different stages of menopause and how your nutrient needs change after 50.
Let's chat about the different stages of menopause and how your nutrient needs change after 50.

True story: According to research, our 50s are the most optimistic time in our lives. That’s a theme that also came up in our own survey of 300 women ages 50-70: 79% told us that they felt optimistic about their futures, and another 69% said that they felt that they were currently in the best phase of their lives. (1)

But for many women, this incredibly inspiring decade coincides with a major physical transition—and while the majority of 50- and 60-somethings we spoke to felt that they had a pretty good general knowledge of menopause and what to expect, a lot of them felt less confident about the details, like their nutrient needs and the specific changes they could expect.

So without further ado, we’ll just say this: We hear you, and we’re here to help. Keep reading to learn about the different phases of menopause, as well as the nutritional needs to keep in mind as you go through this transition. (Because from our POV, no guesswork should get in the way of enjoying the most optimistic time of your life.)

Perimenopause: This is the 3-5 year stage before menopause officially begins: Typically, your period gradually becomes more irregular. This phase begins for many women in their late 40s, and you may begin to notice some of the common physical effects of menopause—although many women experience these symptoms to varying degrees, and sometimes not at all. This is a good time to check in with your healthcare provider so you know what to expect and you both can manage this transition together.*

Menopause: While many of us talk about menopause as the overall phase when our menstrual cycle slows to a stop, actually, that better describes perimenopause—technically, you’re not in menopause until you haven’t had a period for a full year. The average age of women in menopause in the United States is 51.* (2)

Postmenopause: It’s kind of helpful to look at menopause itself as more of a benchmark than an actual phase—you’re in perimenopause until you reach menopause (aka not having your period for twelve months), and then you immediately enter postmenopause.* (2)

One very important thing to note throughout this entire transition is that as your body goes through these changes, your nutrient needs change as well. That’s why we believe that it’s important to choose a multivitamin tailored to this specific time in your life—while it won’t treat any of the physical symptoms of menopause, it can help to fill the gaps in your diet to support healthy aging from within.*

But from our POV, the best way to talk about this is by starting with the eight nutrients we think you should look for in a 50+ multivitamin:

Omega-3: Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in health and are often under-consumed. One of those key omega-3s is DHA, which is the predominant fatty acid found in our brains. But DHA is also a bit of a multitasker—beyond supporting brain health, it also supports heart health and vision. DHA is most commonly found in fish, but the thing is, fish actually accumulate those omega-3s from microalgae. That means the original source of omega-3 is vegan-friendly—which is why we cut out the middleman (er, fish) and source the DHA in our multivitamins from microalgae.*

Vitamin K2: You may or may not know that estrogen is actually a key player in bone health: Basically, it helps our bones absorb all the calcium we get through our diets. While it’s still important to make sure you’re consuming calcium through your diet, supplementing with more calcium on top of that isn’t necessarily the answer. That’s where calcium helper nutrients come in, and K2 is one of them: It works with a protein called osteocalcin to help support bone health and remineralization.*

Magnesium: Say hello to another calcium helper nutrient. More than 50% of women over 50 are not getting the recommended amount of magnesium, which is a shame because it’s such a key player in bone maintenance and development. Beyond that, magnesium helps out with cell division and normal muscle function.*

Boron: This unsung hero is yet another buddy to calcium, working to support bone health.*

Vitamin D3: Listen up—97% of women over 50 aren’t getting enough vitamin D through diet alone. (It’s tricky, since food sources of vitamin D like oily fish, eggs, and milk aren’t necessarily reliable, especially if you follow a plant-based or mostly vegetarian diet.) And since we hope you’re wearing lots of SPF when you spend time outside, the sun isn’t always the best resource of D either. But we can’t overstate the importance of vitamin D—it’s another key player in calcium absorption, and also supports normal immune function and normal muscle function. That’s why we include 50 mcg per serving of D3 in our upcoming Essential for Women 50+.*

Vitamin E: As an antioxidant, vitamin E supports the fight against free radicals. That means E is the kind of defense you want on your team—which is why it’s not ideal that more than 90% of women over 50 are low in this nutrient. Our advice: Choose a multivitamin with vitamin E sourced from mixed tocopherols.*

Vitamin B12: Since B12 is primarily found in meat, dairy products, and eggs, vegans and vegetarians can have a hard time getting the levels they need—which isn’t great, given that B12 is essential to a bunch of different functions in the body. To name a few, B12 supports brain health, metabolism, red blood cell formation, and normal cell division. That’s why we think that supplementing with B12 is a good idea.*

Folate: Yes, folate, and not folic acid. While they’re two different versions of the same B-vitamin, folic acid is a synthetic form that might be trickier for some of us to absorb. (Fact: around one-third of women of a genetic variation that make it tricky to efficiently utilize folic acid.) And since folate also supports our red blood cell health, our body’s protein metabolism, and the neurotransmitters in our brain, it’s good to find a form that most of us can use. That’s why we use a version called 5MTHF in our multivitamins—a more bioavailable form of folate.*

You may notice two nutrients missing from this list: Calcium and iron. Let’s start with iron, which is important before menopause to help support the blood loss we experience through menstruation. But when we no longer have a period, our iron needs are considerably less—and most women can meet those needs through diet alone.*

As for calcium, we mentioned that while paying extra attention to bone health after menopause is important, supplementing with more calcium isn’t necessarily the answer—in fact, there’s a debate in the scientific community around the potential risks of overdoing it on calcium. That’s why we emphasize making sure you’re eating a diet rich in calcium, and providing additional support with nutrients that help out with calcium, like K2, magnesium, D3, and boron. We include all four of those nutrients in our Essential for Women 50+, so that calcium has extra help. *

Menopause is a major transition, and you probably have lots of questions. We get it! But that’s also why we created our Essential for Women 50+—to help take some of that guesswork out of the equation.

References:

  1. Schwaba, T., Robins, R. W., Sanghavi, P. H., & Bleidorn, W. (2019). Optimism Development Across Adulthood and Associations With Positive and Negative Life Events. *Social Psychological and Personality Science.
  2. Menopause. (2017, August 07). Retrieved from Mayo Clinic.

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