Menopause can be a challenging time for women. The hot flashes, insomnia, and mood changes can take its toll on even the most stoic of females. Unfortunately, conventional prescription treatments for menopausal symptoms have not proven to be particularly effect and may be risky, particularly the use of hormonal therapy.
Herbal treatments haven’t fared much better in treating the symptoms of menopause in women with few studies supporting their effectiveness. Fortunately, the results of two new studies conducted in Canada appear encouraging when it comes to treatment for menopausal symptoms. These studies suggest that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids may be of benefit.
The first study addressed the issue of how omega-3 supplementation affects the symptoms of depression frequently experienced by women going through the change of life. After looking at 120 women who were supplemented with either omega-3 fatty acids or placebo, the study showed that both groups of women experienced improvements in their symptoms of depression. Although this study didn’t make clear that omega-3’s were better than placebo since both groups improved, previous studies have supported the use of omega-3’s for treating general depression.
The second study that looked at omega-3’s for menopausal symptoms addressed the issue of hot flashes. It was found that those women who were supplemented with omega-3’s experienced a decrease in the frequency of hot flashes when compared to the placebo group, although the intensity of the hot flashes wasn’t significantly reduced. The fact that the hot flashes decreased in frequency is encouraging news for women who suffer from this common symptom of menopause.
Although both of these studies were small, they do suggest some modest benefit of supplementing with omega-3’s for menopausal symptoms. Hopefully, larger clinical trials will be conducted in the future to determine whether omega-3’s can be more widely recommended to women.
Should you supplement with omega-3’s if you’re experiencing menopausal symptoms? While these studies are preliminary, omega-3’s have other health benefits. Studies have shown they not only have anti-inflammatory properties but may reduce the incidence of heart disease as well. For this reason, there seems to be little reason not to add omega-3’s to your diet if you’re going through menopause. The exception would be if you’re taking a blood thinner where omega-3’s could increase the risk of bleeding.
How much should you take for menopausal symptoms? Start with 1,000 milligrams and gradually increase the dose up to a maximum of 3,000 milligrams per day. Some people experience mild digestive upset and flatulence when they first start omega-3’s which usually subsides over time. Be sure to discuss it with your doctor before starting any type of supplement, particularly if you’re on other medications.
Could omega-3 supplements be the answer to the hot flashes of menopause? It looks hopeful.
Contributing Arthur: Kristie Leong,M.D