Nutrients and Herbs for Women Aged 50 and Beyond
As women age their nutrient requirements start to change and move from supporting the menstrual cycle and reproductive health to supporting the perimenopause and menopause transition and all that comes with it. As women enter their 50s, and for some their 40s, many will experience changes in their menstrual cycle during perimenopause; irregular periods are common (short cycles, long cycles or skipped periods altogether), as too are symptoms which may come and go, such as changes in mood and sleep, anxiety, brain fog, changes in cognitive function, vaginal dryness, changes in skin tone, joint pain and vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Thankfully there are plenty of dietary and lifestyle modifications that can be implemented to support this period. In addition to ensuring consumption of a wide range of nutrients; additional support may be required that is specifically tailored to this next stage of life. Here are some ingredients to watch out for.
Ashwagandha root extract (Withania somnifera)
A revered herb of the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine with a long history of traditional use. Ashwagandha is compared well with Siberian Ginseng and Asian Ginseng in its adaptogenic properties and is sometimes known as Indian Ginseng. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, it is described as a safe and effective adaptogen and is used to promote stress relief, health and longevity. More recently it has been studied for its benefits to sleep, cognition, anxiety, anti-ageing, thyroid function as well as supporting sexual function in men and women.
Turmeric extract (Curcuma longa)
Curcumin is the main active component of the bright yellow spice turmeric and is known to deliver many health benefits. It is best known for powerful and widespread anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. A large number of studies now demonstrate curcumin’s benefits for body, brain, and joint health in particular.
Bacopa extract (Bacopa monnieri)
A member of the Scrophulariaceae family, this herb has been used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine for centuries. Traditionally, it was used as a brain tonic to enhance memory development, learning and concentration, and to provide relief to patients with anxiety. Recent research has supported the traditional Ayurvedic claims and focused primarily on Bacopa’s cognitive enhancing effects, specifically memory, learning and concentration with promising results.
Algae-Sourced Calcium, Vitamin D & K2, Boron
It is well documented that after menopause women are vulnerable to weaker bones due to lack of protection from good levels of oestrogen. Therefore, supporting bones with a range of nutrients is essential during this next stage of life.
Algae-sourced calcium delivers not just calcium, but calcium in a balanced matrix of naturally present bone-supportive phytonutrients, magnesium and trace minerals, including boron, zinc, nickel, phosphorus, manganese, copper, silica and strontium. It has long been recognised that vitamin D boosts calcium absorption from the intestines and its re-sorption from the kidneys, thus greatly enhancing levels of available calcium within the body. Vitamin K2 is an essential accompaniment as it helps to make sure that calcium is deposited where it needs to be in the bones and not elsewhere such as the arteries. Boron is a trace mineral that has demonstrated importance for the strength and architecture of bones, alongside bone protective effects.
Iron is especially important for premenopausal women as they lose it through menstruation and have a higher requirement during pregnancy. However, for postmenopausal women their need for iron goes down as they age and they only require about 8mg of iron per day in comparison to 18mg for premenopausal women. You’ll find high levels of iron in good quality beef and other meats, beans, lentils, dark green leafy vegetables and dried fruit.
Methylated and active B vitamins
B vitamins are often nicknamed ‘anti-stress’ nutrients for their powerful ability to balance mood and calm the nervous system. Amongst many important roles, they are essential for the proper functioning of the methylation cycle, repair and maintenance of phospholipids, DNA synthesis and for the production (and regulation) of red blood cells, energy, neurotransmitters and stress hormones. Vitamin B6, B12 and folate specifically are also important to prevent the build-up of a harmful compound called homocysteine which is a known cardiovascular risk factor. This is of particular relevance for menopausal women. B vitamins are considered to be most effective when supplied in the body-ready forms of pyridoxal-5- phosphate (vitamin B6), methylcobalamin (vitamin B12) and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (folate).