Amino acids and their significance for the menopause
The menopause, also called the “climacteric” or referred to as “going through one’s change”, is not an illness but rather a natural stage in every woman’s life, signifying the time of the last menstruation. The menopause usually begins once women have reached the age of 45 and lasts between 10 and 15 years. During the menopause, a change in the hormonal system takes place and the female body produces ever decreasing levels of oestrogen. As a consequence, menstrual periods occur less often until they stop completely.
Even though the menopause is not an illness, the changing hormone levels associated with it often cause clinical problems which, when grouped together, are referred to as “menopausal syndrome” or “climacteric syndrome”. The most common symptoms include hot flushes, increased perspiration, heart palpitations, dizziness and vaginal dryness. These can be accompanied by other resulting symptoms such as headache, listlessness, nervousness, insomnia, weight gain and an increased risk of osteoporosis which can all occur to varying degrees of frequency and intensity throughout the menopausal process.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one way of tackling these problems. However, HRT is associated with many serious side-effects and is therefore strongly disputed nowadays. It is highly recommended that a gynaecologist is consulted regarding the indication and necessity of the administration of hormones.
Besides HRT, a healthy lifestyle and supplementation of the right nutrients and vital elements can combat menopausal complaints to a certain degree. Amino acids, so-called phytohormones and other minerals play a significant role in and should not be underestimated.
Arginine increases the elasticity of vessels and thereby helps with hot flushes
Among the most common symptoms of menopausal complaints are those which are principally caused by the constriction or dilation (narrowing or widening) of blood vessels. A study carried out in 2010 showed that women in the early stages of menopause are at increased risk of developing an endothelial dysfunction. 120 women in the initial menopausal stages were assessed for the study. The control group consisted of 24 women who were approximately in the same age group but who had no indications of the menopause.1
An endothelial dysfunction is a functional disorder affecting the regulation of vessel width whereby the blood no longer circulates to a completely optimal degree. As a result of this vascular disorder, approximately four out of five women in the menopause experience so-called “hot flushes”. What used to be played down as an unpleasant but harmless side-effect of the menopause has come to have great significance in accessing cardiovascular functionality nowadays.2
Endothelial dysfunctions occur due to a deficiency in dissolved nitrogen monoxide (NO). This is where the semi-essential amino acid arginine comes in, as arginine is transformed to the important neurotransmitter nitrogen monoxide (NO) in the body. Arginine can contribute to decreasing such a NO synthase insufficiency. In other words a sufficient supply of arginine counteracts the endothelial dysfunction, ensures significantly better vessel elasticity and this in turn decreases the frequency and intensity of hot flushes. Researchers today therefore believe that arginine treatments will increase in importance for women with menopausal complaints in the future.3
Lysine supports the effect of arginine and is important for women going through the menopause
The amino acid lysine can block the absorption of the amino acid arginine in the cells. This allows for more arginine to be contained in blood plasma.5 It can then be transformed into the neurotransmitter nitrogen monoxide much more quickly.
Lysine is a basic and essential amino acid. Essential amino acids are not produced by the human body and have to be ingested with food. Lysine is a vital building block of numerous proteins which are particularly important for menopausal women. These include hormones, enzymes, blood plasma carrier proteins, antibodies and structural proteins of bone, skin, tendons and the muscles. Furthermore, lysine boosts the absorption of calcium in bones and teeth, which is why this amino acid is increasingly recommended for people who are at risk of osteoporosis.6
Carnitine facilitates weight control
Carnitine is a bio carrier which is synthesised from the essential amino acids lysine and methionine. It ensures that long-chained fatty acids pass through the inner mitochondrial membrane. It supports the energy metabolism and colloquially enjoys a reputation as a “fat burner”.
A clinical study from 2013 was able to show that motivational training in connection with the daily administration of 500mg of L-Carnitine can lead to significant weight loss. Each of the overweight test people lost 400g of body fat within 4 weeks and reduced their abdominal girth by 1.3cm without having to change their nutritional or exercise habits.7
Phytoestrogens can act as herbal hormone therapy
The consumption of herbal hormones either in addition to or instead of chemical hormone therapy has proven effective in many studies.8 These herbal hormones are known as phytoestrogens and are able to assist with many of the health complaints associated with the menopausal process. Phytoestrogens are found inter alia in schisandra berries, goji berries, green tea, hops or linseed/flax seed. The quantities are nevertheless usually too low for women going through the menopause which is why a suitable nutritional supplementation with the corresponding phytoestrogens is highly recommended.9
Magnesium deficiencies in the menopause should be remedied
Publications from 2013 affirm the considerable importance of a sufficient supply of magnesium for women going through the menopause. Hormonal changes which take place during this time lead to mostly unutilized magnesium being excreted through the kidneys.10 This is even more significant as magnesium is already absorbed in insufficient quantities from the diet. This inadequate provision can have a negative impact on heart health as magnesium plays a vital role in the energy metabolism of all cells, (especially in the menopause) and in particular in the heart cells.11
A plentiful supply of magnesium is also recommended in the prevention of osteoporosis. This is because even sufficient supplies of calcium and vitamin D are meaningless if there is a magnesium deficiency during the menopause.12
1Bechlioulis, A. et al. (2010) Endothelial Function, But Not Carotid Intima-Media Thickness, Is Affected Early in Menopause and Is Associated with Severity of Hot Flushes, The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 95, issue 3, (pp. 1199-1206)
2Sekhon, L. H., & Agarwal, A. (2013) The Menopause and Oxidative Stress, Studies on Women's Health (pp. 181-203)
3Tuomikoski, P., Ylikorkala, O., & Mikkola, T. S. (2012) Plasma nitrite/nitrate levels in women with postmenopausal hot flushes, Climacteric, Volume 15, issue 2, (pp. 153-156)
4Torricelli, P., Fini, M., Giavaresi, G., Giardino, R., Gnudi, S., Nicolini, A., & Carpi, A. (2002) L-arginine and L-lysine stimulation on cultured human osteoblasts, Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy, Volume 56, issue 10, (pp. 492-497)
5Endres, S. & Eigler, A. (1997) Hemmung der NO-Synthase im septischen Schock, Der Internist, Volume 38, (pp. 466-469)
6Civitelli, R., Villareal, D. T., Agnusdei, D., Nardi, P., Avioli, L. V., & Gennari, C. (1992) Dietary L-lysine and calcium metabolism in humans, Nutrition, Volume 8, (p. 400)
7Odo, S., Tanabe, K. & Yamauchi, M. (2013) A Pilot Clinical Trial on L-Carnitine Supplementation in Combination with Motivation Training: Effects on Weight Management in Healthy Volunteers, Food and Nutrition, Volume 4, (pp. 222-231)
8Lethaby, A. E., Brown, J., Marjoribanks, J., Kronenberg, F., Roberts, H., & Eden, J. (2007) Phytoestrogens for vasomotor menopausal symptoms, Cochrane Database Syst Rev, Volume 4, issue 7
9Metka, M. (2001) Phytoestrogene, Phytogestagene und Phytoandrogene, Journal für Menopause, Volume 8, issue 4, (pp. 13-20)
10Jurczak, A. et al. (2013) Effect of menopausal hormone therapy on the levels of magnesium, zinc, lead and cadmium in post-menopausal women, Annals of agricultural and environmental medicine, Volume 20, issue 1, (pp. 147-151)
11Avinash, S. S., Sreekantha & Manjunatha Goud, B. K. (2013) Magnesium Metabolism in Menopause, Nutrition and Diet in Menopause (pp. 213-223)
12Fazlini, M. F., Suriah, A. R., Zaitun, Y., Kandiah, M., Chee, W. S. S., Chan, Y. M., & Chan, S. P. (2013) Calcium supplementation amongst postmenopausal women: effect on serum calcium, phosphorus and magnesium level, International Food Research Journal, Volume 20, issue 1, (pp. 477-480)