Dr. Andrew Weil recently posted information on his website about Amberen that's worth sharing.
Question: I have been hearing a lot about a product called Amberen for relieving symptoms of menopause, including irritability, weight gain and an inability to focus. But I am worried about the long-term effects. What can you tell me about this supplement?
Answer (Published 3/25/2010)
I'm unfamiliar with the product, so I asked Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., director of the Fellowship at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, and an authority on dietary supplements, what she knows about it. She told me that Amberen contains monosodium L-glutamate (MSG), glycine, ammonium succinate, calcium disuccinate, magnesium disuccinate hydrate, zinc difumerate and tocopherol acetate (a form of vitamin E). Dr. Low Dog said that she doesn't know of any long-term side effects from these ingredients, although MSG can cause headaches and other side effects when consumed as a food additive.
Dr. Low Dog checked the pricing on Amberen and concluded that it is "pretty expensive stuff." She also saw "no evidence of effectiveness" and no reason to take a daily dose of MSG. I recommend the following supplements and nutritional approaches for menopausal symptoms:
* Soy foods. The isoflavones these foods contain help balance hormone levels and have some estrogenic activity. Choose whole soy foods such as tofu, soy milk, roasted soy nuts, edamame, or tempeh rather than supplements, concentrated isoflavones, or soy isolates.
* Flaxseed. The lignins in flaxseed are important modulators of hormone metabolism. Grind flaxseeds in a coffee grinder and sprinkle one to two tablespoons daily on salads, cereal or potatoes or when baking, add them to breads and muffins. (Lignans are not usually present in flaxseed oil).
* Dong quai. Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) can support and maintain the natural balance of female hormones. Don't take it if you're experiencing heavy bleeding.
* Black cohosh (Cumicifuga racemosa). One of the best-studied traditional herbs for menopause, black cohosh can help alleviate hot flashes, although it doesn't work for everyone.
* Vitamin E. A daily dose of 400 IUs of natural vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols) may help alleviate hot flashes.
* B vitamins. These water-soluble vitamins may lessen the stress of menopausal symptoms.
* Evening primrose oil or black currant oil. These are sources of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid that can influence prostaglandin synthesis and help moderate menopausal symptoms. Start with 500 mg twice a day, and then use once a day for maintenance.
As far as menopausal weight gain is concerned, part of this problem is due to the fact that as we get older, we need fewer calories because there's a shift from lean muscle mass to fat and a consequent slowdown in metabolism. To avoid gaining weight at this time of life, you must reduce your food intake by about 200 calories per day.
Beyond that, ample evidence suggests that regular exercise prevents menopausal weight gain. Regular physical activity may also help reduce hot flashes, counter depression, sharpen your thinking, and promote good sleep.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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