Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Herbal Remedies and Vitamins For Menopause - Relief in a Jar

Whether shopping on-line or at your local drug store, you will undoubtedly find a large assortment of herbal remedies (menopause relief in a jar, so to speak), vitamins for menopause and combos that supposedly provide everything that a woman needs for a ?healthy menopause?. The question is which one to choose. Choosing a health supplement of any kind can be difficult.

The Federal Trade Commission advises that while the benefits of some health products are well documented, others have no proven benefits and may even be dangerous. It is the responsibility of the health supplement manufacturers to insure that the products they sell are safe. These are general statements that apply to all health supplements, but apply to herbal remedies, menopause treatments and vitamins for menopause, as well. It is the consumer?s chore to evaluate the effectiveness of these remedies by ?giving them a try? or by researching the product ingredients.

This brings up one way that a consumer can spot a questionable product. Manufactures that are confident in the quality and effectiveness of their products will provide a detailed list of ingredients. The best manufacturers will even provide information supporting the use of the ingredients for any given condition. Manufacturers that make broad, non-specific statements concerning ingredients are either unsure about what the product contains, unsure about the products effectiveness or trying to mislead the consumer by insinuating that the product contains substances that are actually not included.

Let?s look at an example of what to avoid, without giving any brand names. One internet company that sells vitamins for menopause makes this statement, ?formulated to deliver essential vitamins and minerals, as well as menopause discomfort relieving herbs and isoflavones.? Sold under the heading ?herbal remedies menopause?, this product apparently contains no herbs of any kind. The list of ingredients includes a number of vitamins, but no herbs and no isoflavones. Apparently this company is hoping that the consumer will read the description, but not the list of ingredients.

None of this is meant to be discouraging. There are a number of effective herbal remedies; menopause relief (even in a jar!) is available. And, most health care professionals recommend specific vitamins for menopause health, when used in conjunction with a healthy, well-balanced diet and regular exercise. You may wonder why exercise is so important. You may think that if you take a calcium supplement you are protected from osteoporosis (a weakening and thinning of the bones), even if you do not exercise regularly. If you think this way, then you are wrong. Certain activities (or lack of activity, in this case) and substances have a canceling effect on vitamins and minerals. Lack of exercise cancels out the positive benefits of calcium supplementation.

The commonly recommended minerals, dietary supplements and vitamins for menopause or the years leading up to menopause are calcium, vitamin A, C, D, E, K, B-complex, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, potassium, fiber, isoflavones and phytoestrogens.

Isoflavones are actually a well-researched form of phytoestrogens, but are sometimes listed separately. Phytoestrogens are simply plant compounds that have an ?estrogen-like? effect on the body. Lessening levels of estrogen in a woman?s body are believed to cause both PMS and menopause related symptoms. The most common sources of isoflavones are soy and red clover. Soy, as you probably know, is a food. Red clover can usually be found under the heading ?herbal remedies menopause?, except in the case of the product mentioned above.

Dietary guidelines from the USDA recommend that people should get most of their vitamins and minerals from the food that they eat, but that in certain cases supplementation may be necessary. Specifically related to vitamins for menopause are the recommendations that people over the age of 50 should add B-complex and D supplements or foods that are fortified with these vitamins. Vitamin D is necessary for the body to efficiently absorb calcium, as is phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, iron and vitamin C.

When it comes to other products usually sold in the ?herbal remedies menopause? section of your local drug store, black cohosh will almost certainly be there. It was used historically by Native Americans to correct hormonal imbalances. Scientific studies in the nineties and the following years confirmed that it was a safe and effective alternative to hormone replacement therapy. It is not always promoted or recommended by doctors, partly because the quality of the product that a patient may purchase cannot be controlled, partly because the safety of long term use is unknown, but mostly (I think) because most doctors know very little about herbs and other natural products. Example: An article written by a doctor for a popular medical website states in the first paragraph that isoflavones may be effective for relieving the symptoms of menopause. In the last paragraph she lists a number of herbal remedies, menopause treatments and vitamins that have little evidence to support their use. Among them is red clover, which is one of the best known sources of isoflavones.

There is evidence supporting the use of a number of other natural products and herbal remedies for menopause relief. The evidence supporting the use of the other vitamins for menopause mentioned above is too lengthy to add. This article is already much longer than I had intended. For more information, please visit the Menopause and PMS Guide.

Patsy Hamilton has more than twenty years experience in health care and currently writes informational articles for the Menopause and PMS Guide. Learn more about menopause and treatment options at

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