B vitamins and menopause

by Hannah de Gruchy May 09, 2023

B vitamins and menopause

All female bodies go through a transition called menopause, triggered by a gradual decline in the female sex hormone, oestrogen, as they get older. Many women will also experience a period (which can last around seven to ten years) before menopause, called perimenopause.

Common symptoms of perimenopause and menopause include physical symptoms such as night sweats, hot flashes, weight gain, aching joints, headaches, itchy skin, heart palpitations and mental health symptoms including brain fog, mood swings, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.

Experiencing these symptoms can be difficult and can impact your quality of life. Medications such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be helpful and can be organised through your GP. 

Some women also look for ways to help them deal with their symptoms naturally, either with or without other help. Many benefit from a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. As part of this, many women also choose to take dietary supplements that can help. The B vitamins are a group of vitamins that can support women through their menopause and beyond.

Vitamin B and menopause: Fast facts

  • The menopause is triggered by a decline in oestrogen and can cause symptoms including night sweats, hot flashes, a low mood, and brain fog.
  • Symptoms often begin when a woman is in her 40s, although some experience them at a younger age.
  • Symptoms can last for as long as a decade and can impact a woman’s enjoyment of life.
  • Some women find that their menopausal symptoms can be reduced or managed with food supplements, including vitamin B complex, which contains all of the B vitamins in one daily tablet or capsule.
  • Vitamins B6 and B12 can be particularly beneficial for managing menopause symptoms.

What are the B vitamins?

B vitamins - molecules

There are eight main types of B vitamins: 

  • B1 (thiamine)
  • B2 (riboflavin)
  • B3 (niacin)
  • B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • B6 (pyridoxine)
  • B7 (biotin)
  • B9 (folic acid)
  • B12 (cobalamin) 

The B vitamins are all water-soluble, meaning that the body cannot store them, and any excess that we consume is therefore eliminated from the body in the urine. This also means that we must consume them in our diet or obtain them from a supplement daily.

Each of these vitamins plays an essential role in various bodily processes, including our metabolism, releasing energy from our food, energy levels, nerve function, hormone and red blood cell manufacture, heart health, and brain function.

Signs of a vitamin B deficiency in women 

meat, salmon, shellfish

The symptoms of a vitamin B deficiency are vague, and frustratingly, can even cross over with some of the symptoms of menopause. They include tiredness, muscle weakness, tingling in the fingers and toes, brain fog, confusion, balance problems, and a low mood. 

Vitamin B-rich foods include meat, salmon, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, whole grains, beans, pulses, peas, and leafy greens. Vitamin B12 is slightly different in that it’s difficult to obtain from plant-based foods, as it’s found mainly in animal-based foods such as meat and dairy.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you may become deficient in B12 without a supplement, and similarly, if you don’t eat a diet rich in these foods, you may benefit from a vitamin B supplement.

How the B vitamins can help with menopause symptoms 

Even if you do eat a varied diet, it can still be beneficial to ensure you’re getting enough of the B vitamins by taking B vitamin supplements. This is because a deficiency might not be easy to spot, yet could add to our risk of developing age-related health conditions such as strokes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia, the risk of which could increase as a woman goes through her menopausal years. 

two women comforting each other

In addition, two B vitamins are thought to be beneficial for helping to manage the symptoms of menopause – B6 and B12.

Vitamin B6 is essential for the manufacture of the happy hormone, serotonin. Serotonin helps to regulate our mood, helping to reduce our risk of developing brain fog, mood swings, low mood, depression, and low energy levels. As we age, our serotonin levels drop, and research suggests that topping up with B6 can help to reduce these common menopausal symptoms.

As well as also assisting in the manufacture of serotonin, vitamin B12 helps to prevent fatigue, weakness, and certain forms of anaemia. As we age, we may absorb less B12 from the food we eat, therefore, taking a B12 supplement can help to ward off these symptoms, also common to menopausal women. It’s also thought to help protect the nervous system, which is affected by declining oestrogen levels that can then trigger symptoms such as hot flashes.

In a separate study, researchers also found that vitamin B9 helped reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes in menopausal women.

Why choosing a vitamin B complex may help

Bioactive vitamin B complex capsules - G&G

There are numerous different B vitamin supplements available, but perhaps the most beneficial way to take them is in the form of a vitamin B complex that contains all eight B vitamins and covers all bases in one easy-to-take capsule or tablet.

A supplement such as these bioactive vitamin B complex capsules from G&G Vitamins contains a complete spectrum of highly absorbable, high-quality B vitamins.

They’re suitable for vegans and are free from gluten, lactose, soya, GMOs, and artificial fillers and binders.

There are no known side effects to taking a vitamin B complex. However, a very high daily intake may cause numb limbs and skin flushing, so avoid taking more than one supplement that contains vitamin B.

Vitamin B for the menopause

Some women find that the B vitamins help their symptoms, whilst others feel that they don’t benefit. As with all supplements, they’re worth trying for 12 weeks to see if they begin to make a difference to you.

Going through menopause might be a natural event, but it doesn’t mean you have to struggle. If you’re finding your symptoms difficult, speak to your GP who can help.

Either way, eating a healthy, balanced diet, staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and supplementing your diet with vitamin B complex can support your mind and body as you go through sometimes difficult hormone-related changes.   

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Hannah de Gruchy
Hannah de Gruchy

Author

Health and wellness author and biologist specialised in sustainability, nutrition and eco-living.


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