Today we will be discussing some of the vitamins most often recommended for women in menopause. It’s important to consult with your physician before adding a new vitamin to your regimen. Also, some research shows vitamins, when taken as a multivitamin or multiple individual vitamins taken simultaneously, may have disruptive effects on sleep. We need more research into the effects of vitamin supplements on sleep, to better understand what sleep-promoting or sleep-disrupting side effects may exist.
Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, and may help lower inflammation. Vitamin E also may contribute to reduced stress and risk for depression, as well as providing protection for your heart and your brain. Research also suggests Vitamin E may help menopausal women with hot flashes and night sweats.
B Vitamins. The B vitamins have a broad range of benefits that may be useful to women in menopause, including stress reduction, immune system protection, a rise in energy and mood, and protection for cognitive functions including memory. In particular Vitamin B6 increases the production of serotonin, which can help with symptoms of depression and anxiety. (Serotonin is also involved in the production of melatonin, the essential sleep hormone.) Vitamin B12 has been shown to increase energy and to reduce mental and physical symptoms of fatigue.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D is an important nutrient for women of all ages, and can have particular value for women in menopause. Technically, Vitamin D is considered a hormone when produced by the body naturally, in response to sunlight. It’s important for bone health: a lack of vitamin D can put women at risk for weakening bones, bone injury, and bone pain, especially with age. Vitamin D can also assist in maintaining a healthy weight. I’ve written before about the potential benefits of Vitamin D for sleep, and the science that suggests maintaining healthy levels of Vitamin D can improve both the quality of sleep and the amount of sleep you get.
Maca. Maca is the common name for a plant native to Peru, which has a long history of use in traditional medicine. One species of this plant, Lepidum peruvianum, is scientifically recognized for its broad array of health benefits for both men and women. Lepidum peruvianum has several natural, active compounds that are biochemically related to the hormones women lose throughout the menopausal transition, including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. This natural supplement may be a beneficial therapy for women in menopause who are seeking non-hormonal treatments for their symptoms, and to protect and enhance their long-term health, sleep, and performance.
However it is important to be aware that not all maca is created equal. This is a complex plant species, with an array of active compounds. Lepidum peruvianum has no fewer than 13 phenotypes, each with its own different physiological effects. Most are beneficial, but some potentially harmful for women if they use the wrong phenotype for them. When seeking out maca as a supplement, it’s critical to know you’re getting the right phenotypes of the maca plant for your needs—and that the product you’re purchasing is accurate in its label and contents.
This is an impressive list, and in the clinical trials it worked for 17 out of 20 women (85 percent). I look forward to seeing more research on the benefits of maca. While the studies on maca demonstrated benefits for sleep in peri- and postmenopausal women, I will be interested to see if there is a specific phenotype ideal for men and women just for sleep.
Michael J. Breus, PhD, DABSM