What are the best menopause and perimenopause supplements and which really work? With so many new ones hitting the market, we turned to an expert
Never before has menopause been such a hot topic, and never before has there been such a wealth of products to help you with its myriad unpleasant symptoms. Of which there are many beyond hot flushes and vaginal dryness: menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson lists 45 physical and 10 mental health symptoms on her menopause support app Balance, with itching, tinnitus, migraines, acne, an altered sense of smell, breast tenderness, brain fog and anxiety (all of which can begin in perimenopause) just a few examples
After a boom in menopause skincare, last year's Davina McCall: Sex, Mind and the Menopause documentary (which highlighted HRT and the sometimes debilitating nature of menopausal symptoms) helped spur on a spike in Google searches for peri- and menopause nutritional supplements. The market has responded, with plenty of capsules, drinks and powders with dedicated menopause-managing blends of herbs and nutrients now crowding the shelves. There are even menopause-focused collagen supplements getting in on the action.
“There is no doubt that you can do a lot to offset menopausal symptoms with the right nutrition and lifestyle choices,” says menopause nutritionist Jackie Lynch, author of The Happy Menopause: smart nutrition to help you flourish. But should these nutrients come in the form of special menopause supplements? What are the things to look for? And could these blends serve as a substitute for HRT? We’ve found you the answers.
Do menopause supplements work?
The right nutrition always comes first, but “supplements can be powerful things,” says Lynch. So much so, that “you need to treat them with respect, always heed the dosage on the label, and check with your doctor if you’re on any medication at the same time.”
Provided you do that, she can think of a number of supplements that can really make a difference in menopause and perimenopause. Whether those include expensive supplements formulated and labelled specifically for menopause is a question we’ll come to later.
Is a menopause supplement a substitute for HRT?
No nutritional supplement can be a straight substitute for HRT, as they do not treat a hormone deficiency; they simply help with symptoms. But if you do not want to take the HRT, they can help, says Lynch, so long as you don’t have another medical condition which precludes particular supplements (check with your doctor).
“Twenty per cent of women sail through the menopause and never need HRT,” she says. “Twenty per cent have such severe symptoms that they simply cannot get through without it. That leaves the other 60 per cent, for whom it’s a choice whether to go on HRT or not. If it’s not what they want, diet, lifestyle, stress management and the right supplements can make a notable difference.” Like any nutritionist worth their salt, she prioritises diet over supplementation and specifically recommends eating lots of protein, legumes and green leafy veg to support your system throughout the menopause.
What are the top vitamins for menopause?
“Supplementation should ideally be bespoke and not generalised, no matter what issue you take supplements for,” says Lynch. “But when it comes to menopause, there are definitely a number of ‘non-negotiables’ that I would encourage every woman to take.”
Menopause nutritionist Jackie Lynch shares her top menopause supplement ideas:
- Vitamin D3 - minimum of 1000IU daily
“Vitamin D plays a key role in mood and mental health as well as the immune system, with increasing research pointing to vitamin D supplements helping to limit the severity of Covid. It’s also essential of you want your body to absorb calcium, so it’s very important as a preventative for osteoporosis.
“But the vast majority of women are deficient in vitamin D, and the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of 400IU or international units (which you often find in multivitamins and also in menopause supplements) is really a children’s dose. You can comfortably take between 1000 and 3000IU a day without any chance of overdosing – some, if they were to do a blood test, might need doses of as much as 10.000.
“I recommend you take a minimum of 1000IU daily on top of any dose you might get in a multivitamin supplement in perimenopause and beyond.”
- Magnesium in menopause - maximum 400mg a day
“Magnesium is every menopausal woman’s best friend. It’s nature’s calmer, supporting the nervous system to such an extent that it will help you cope better with what this stage of life throws at you. It’s also very helpful if you’re suffering with sleep issues.
“On top of that, transdermal magnesium can be very effective, so consider Epsom salt baths or footbaths. They’ll also give you a spell of me-time.
“400mg a day in total is the maximum dose (a lower dose can be perfectly affective as well), so be careful if you take a multivitamin or menopause supplement that already has magnesium in it. Do make sure you take a form of magnesium that the body can easily absorb.” To get pointers on the latter, check out The best magnesium supplements for body, mind and sleep.
- Omega 3 oil - 1000mg daily
“A fish oil or vegan alternative such as flaxseed oil that's rich in omega 3, which activates more anti-inflammatory pathways than other omegas, is a good idea if you have joint issues or pain.”
1000mg daily is a safe dose. Lynch adds that if you have issues around vaginal dryness or atrophy, "omega 7 can help - sea buckthorn is a good source. It could particularly be helpful for women who are unable to use topical vaginal oestrogen." Try Pharma Nord Omega-7 Sea Buckthorn Oil, £43.95 .
“Not a non-negotiable as such, I’ve seen sage supplements work really well for women who have hot flushes. It works because of its high antioxidant content and doesn’t interfere with any HRT you might take.” Try Healthspan Sage 2000mg, £12.95
- A quality multivitamin-and-mineral supplement
“There is a good argument for taking a decent multivitamin and mineral supplement during menopause, as you can easily run on empty during a challenging time such as this. Like the foods mother nature provides, they contain a little bit of everything, but at carefully balanced levels that don’t cancel each other out. Minerals, for example, need to be very precisely dosed so they work with, not against each other, and this is done for you in a good complex."
What about B vitamins and iron for menopause?
“If you have severe tiredness or brain fog, a lack of nervous system-supporting B vitamins (especially B12 and folate) or deficient iron/ferritin may be the issue,” says Lynch. It’s is why you will find B’s in most menopause supplements. But when it comes to B vitamins and iron, says Lynch, “it really is best to get your levels tested and get a doctor’s advice on how to supplement. You can get a blood test that measures your folate, B12, iron and vitamin D (and more) from your GP.”
Should you invest in a ‘dedicated’ menopause supplement?
“Looking at the menopause supplements that are available, they are often really a multivitamin and mineral blend, so should be helpful except that they are priced much higher than equivalent but not ‘menopause’-labelled multivitamins,” says Lynch. “the truth is, you don’t need a ‘menopause multivitamin’.”
Of course, many menopause blends have additional menopause-focused ingredients you don’t find in regular multivitamins, such as ashwagandha and other adaptogens for stress relief, and phytoestrogens (plant sources of oestrogen) for hormone balancing. But this is where things can actually get problematic, says Lynch.
Should your take phytoestrogens for menopause?
There is research, says Lynch, that shows phytoestrogens and plants with oestrogenic activity, such as black cohosh, red clover and soy, can increase oestrogen in the body and alleviate menopausal symptoms. But that means they mustn’t be supplemented if you have a history of oestrogen-receptor (ER) positive breast cancer, she warns.
They also shouldn’t be taken alongside HRT: “phytoestrogens can counteract HRT,” she says. “There is no issue supplementing soy isoflavones with foods such as tofu or tempeh if you’re on HRT – but you mustn’t take concentrated levels in a supplement. It means menopause supplements that have phytoestrogens added to the usual multivitamin mix can actually be counterproductive for some women.”
Is taking collagen good for menopause?
“Collagen is important in your diet, not in the least for your bones and joints,” says Lynch. “But in my opinion collagen supplements are not a good investment, as the collagen in these powders, drinks and pills is not readily recognised by the body." Lynch is not convinced by the clinical evidence that's available. Instead, she recommends giving the body the ‘bricks’ to build its own collagen: “Vitamin C is one if its most important co-factors, and green leafy veg has twice the vitamin C of an orange. If you take your collagen seriously, up your fruit and veg intake to at least seven portions a day.”
Should you take different supplements for perimenopause and menopause?
There are symptoms that are exclusive to different menopausal stages; ‘flooding’, for example (long or extreme periods), only happens in perimenopause. But overall, says Lynch, “it’s really just semantics. Mood swings, hot flushes, anxiety – you’ll have them all to a greater or lesser extent from the start of perimenopause and beyond. So I wouldn’t bother with specific supplements for specific menopausal stages, but focus on your personal issues and symptoms instead.”
How do you choose a ‘quality’ menopause multivitamin and mineral?
“It’s primarily about bioavailability, or absorption,” says Lynch. “Many vitamins come in a choice of different forms, some far more easily digested and absorbed (and, unfortunately, pricier) than others.”
Lynch lists ‘glycinate’, ‘citrate’ and ‘picolinate’ as examples of forms (and words) that indicate compounds that are well-absorbed. Suffixes such as ‘-oxide’, ‘-carbonate’ and ‘-sulphate’, on the other hand, indicate cheap compounds. “They may be perfectly fine for you if you have guts of steel, but for many they can cause digestive issues and you risk much of the beneficial nutrient never ending up in your bloodstream,” she says. “For menopausal women who often already suffer from IBS and other issues, this is particularly pertinent.”
Lynch advises to look at the very bottom of the product label, often below the INCI list: this is where, by law, manufacturers have to list the exact forms of the nutrients they include. “In most cases, they will use all-cheap or all-expensive nutrients, so you’ll see soon enough which way your product is leaning.”
The best menopause supplements to tackle your menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms
Best menopause supplement for metabolism and weight gain: Minerva Reset, £35 for a one-month supply
This has the full spectrum of multivitamins and minerals alongside sage leaf to assuage hot flushes and soy isoflavones to balance hormones: do not use these alongside HRT. Its prime point of difference, however, is a broad-spectrum, 5 billion CFU probiotic blend selected to support the gut and vaginal microbiomes, promising to tackle the bloating, sluggish metabolism and weight gain that can rear their heads in menopause.
Best menopause supplement for brain fog: Wild Nutrition Food-Grown Perimenopause Complex, £35 for a 30-day supply
If you’re in perimenopause and believe it causes more anxiety and brain fog while the menopause itself is more typified by low mood, then this one is for you. Powered by highly bioavailable nutrients obtained through a food-grown process, this has B vitamins, magnesium and iron to support the nervous system and reduce fatigue, a premium saffron extract shown to balance emotions and keep you chipper, and shatavari, an adaptogenic herb that ‘helps maintain balance in female physiology’, meaning it helps balance hormones. If you’re on HRT, the brand recommends a free consultation with one of its nutritional therapists to make sure it’s okay to take.
Best menopause supplement shake for libido: M Powder Meno-Boost, £75 for a one-month supply
Dozens of highly absorbable multivitamins, minerals, superfoods, adaptogens and isoflavones (avoid if you have a history of breast cancer or take HRT) that together target libido, hot flushes, weight, energy, sleep, anxiety, brain fog and even blood pressure and heart health. Comes as a powder that you turn into a daily drink.
Best menopause supplement for hormone balancing: Feel Menopause, £35.04 for a one-month supply
B vitamins, energising ginseng, hot flush-cooling sage, and dandelion, beetroot, broccoli and red clover extracts which are all thought to help balance hormones. Developed by a hormone specialist and menopause nutritionist, you can swallow the capsules or sprinkle their contents into a cold drink.
Best phytoestrogen-free menopause supplement for mood: Eostre Perimenopause and Menopause Support Supplement, £37 for a one-month supply
High in powerful bioflavonoid antioxidants, stress-relieving ashwagandha and a whopping 2000mg of vitamin D alongside essential B vitamins, this settles mood, overheated episodes and vaginal dryness. Another one developed by a nutritionist.
Best menopause supplement for fatigue: Welleco The Goddess Elixir, £35 for a one-month supply
Powerful sources of vitamin C and ginseng to energise, B vitamins, magnesium, hops and progesterone-promoting agnus castus to calm and settle anxiety, and red clover to balance hormones from our menopause-defying columnist Elle Macpherson.
Best menopause supplement for hot flushes: Bettervits Menopause Complex, £35 for a one-month supply
Maca root, milk thistle and sage all help assuage hot flushes and night sweats, while isoflavones help balance hormones and ashwagandha, D3, B vitamins and magnesium support stress and mood swings.
Best menopause supplement for sleep: Holland & Barrett Expert Peri & Menopause Night Support, £24.99 for a one-month supply
Clinically supported nutrients for inducing a restful night such as hops, l-theanine and ashwagandha are joined by sage leaf powder to help reduce night sweats.
Best-value menopause supplement: Starpowa Meno Balance, £19.99 for a 30-day supply
Multivitamins and minerals with sage leaf and soy isoflavones to settle hot flushes and hormones, all in two blackcurrant gummies a day.
Best phytoestrogen-free vitamin complex for menopause: Biocare Menopause Multinutrient, £38.20 for a 30-day supply
A basic multivitamin and mineral with optimised levels of vitamin D, magnesium, zinc and calcium for menopausal conditions, plus powerful antioxidants (lycopene and green tea) to boost and protect your cells – all in bioavailable forms.
Best collagen supplement for menopause: Revive Collagen Menopause Max, £49.99 for a 14-day supply
Of the brand’s three hydrolysed collagen drink supplements for menopause, this is the most potent one with the science-backed 10g of collagen peptides per daily serving. It comes alongside a multivitamin complex, reishi mushroom and ceramides to ensure it tackles menopausal symptoms as while supporting skin, joints and bones.
Best Menopause supplement to stop night sweats: Purolabs Meno Complex, £27.99 for a 30 day supply
Sage leaf for night sweats, B6, soy isoflavones and maca root for hormone regulation and libido, vitamin D, magnesium and calcium for better metabolism and stronger bones. If you feel it doesn’t work, you have a 60 day money-back guarantee.