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Menopause Blog: Is a lack of vitamin D the cause of your major symptoms?

 


brightly coloured letter D

It’s taken me a while to put this blog together because it is a huge topic and I wanted to do it justice. You’ll see at the end some of the references and if you’d like all the science (and biology) by all means dig in there is some meaty reading to be had. I’ve taken an overview today to give you insight into just how important vitamin D3 (it’s correct name) or Vitamin D as I’ll call it today in your menopause transition. Today’s blog is inspired by my own changing body! I’ve been symptom free now for 4 or more years since hitting the perimenopause hard when I was in my mid-40s. Upping supplements to serious levels in 2020 really has improved my energy and life; but I got lazy with vitamin D, as soon as the sun comes out as you get enough from the sun – right? In this month’s blog I research if my growing belly fat is an indicator of other health factors in menopause (yet to come)  and is it caused by the lack of this vitamin now classed a hormone? Is a lack of vitamin D the cause of your major symptoms?


This blog is likely to cause overwhelm so … take a deep breath and start taking vitamin D. How to calculate the amount you take daily is at the bottom of this blog.


 

Is a lack of vitamin D the cause of your major symptoms?

 

Firstly, and I have to shout this one A LOT: YOU  DO NOT GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D FROM THE SUN!

More on that later. Vitamin D is now recategorized as a hormone due to its role in regulating various physiological processes which means you’ve got to sit up and take notice of its importance and seek it from other sources of the sun, because we really don’t see the sun that much. There are foods but once you become veggie or vegan you are reducing your intake even further.


We can’t make vitamin D it needs to be obtained and foods are limited to – Salmon, Mackerel, Sardines, eggs, wild-grown mushrooms (i.e. get sunlight) or UV exposed commercial mushrooms ( I know this is a thing my mum gets them!). If you’re craving eggs, it could be you want vitamin D or iodine.


I hear stories similar to this a lot:


“I went from being a leanrunner with great fitness to an overweight woman who could barely complete 5 km. I really didn’t recognize the woman looking back in the mirror.

My bloods were all over the place, inflammation of joints and I was offered five different sets of medications including HRT, anti-inflammatories, sleeping tablets, anti-depressants etc. When I asked medical professionals what the natural alternative was; they didn’t have an answer…”


This is really scary. Doctors don’t know how your body really works they only know the meds to give you if you meet a certain set of criteria and then it can become a guessing game with different brands and dosages. A lot of women say the same of trying HRT, it’s a 50/50 chance of whether it will work at all, let alone the first one you take. 


For me messing with hormones is a delicate balance, one that I am not qualified to do (and I’m not sure many ‘experts’ really are). It is far safer to give the body the nutrients that it requires to help your body run its normal daily functions optimally.


I use the word optimally as you can exist and get by, and just put up with but that’s not optimal health, you’re not thriving. I want you to thrive in menopause and not have symptoms. Symptoms are your body telling you it’s struggling and that something isn’t being looked after so today’s blog dives into what vitamin D is responsible for keeping healthy in your ever-changing body.



woman measuring belly fat

Vitamin D stores in your body as fat in menopause


Even though I specialise in helping women reduce their symptoms naturally I’m still stunned when new research comes out that I know affects me. Since the pandemic the research into vitamin D keeps on reaching new heights and when I read this sentence in an email from Dr Wendy Sweet who is the world’s foremost menopause medical health researcher, I was shocked:

Did you know that women who put on a lot of weight during menopause store this vitamin in fat cells, making it less available to play a role in the thousands of biological tasks it needs to do around the body?

This was even news to Wendy but she is fantastic and when she gets some new piece of information she digs deeper:

 

“Vitamin D declines as our skin changes during menopause. With numerous oestrogen receptors located in our skin, a consequence is that as oestrogen declines during the menopause transition, the conversion of Vitamin D can change as well. (Lerchbaum, 2013).

Because so many of us work inside, and for women who have darker skin, then our Vitamin D absorption may be lower too. This is just another factor which can impact on weight gain.”

 

I started wondering if the reason I’ve put on belly fat over the last couple of years has a vitamin D link. During the pandemic as I’d read Spanish medical research that vitamin D reduced the number of ITU admittances by 95 plus percent I knew vitamin D was a good combatant to take against Covid; I was on a high daily dose of 5000iu.


Then, I got complacent and reduced to 1000iu daily (when the NHS guide line is 425iu), then taking it became a bit intermittent  - I’m just like you!


When I read this news I thought I ought to get my vitamin D levels checked. It’s a simple at home finger-prick test with the results coming back in about a fortnight. My level was so low I was barely sufficient!



Here’s the thing though if I’d gone through the doctors for this test they would have come back and told me my level was fine and I’d be none the wiser. If you have blood tests done at the Doctors GET THE ORIGINAL PAPERWORK and then take it to a professional that can really read the results and give you more direction on what to do.


My blood results of barely sufficient is very low compared to optimal levels; under 50% less the optimal level should be. Putting on belly and thigh fat then means that vitamin D is being stored rather than being used. If I’m not taking vitamin D daily my body isn’t going to dig it out of storage until I lose the weight by converting the fat back into energy and that isn’t happening because a major vitamin that I’d gotten lazy in taking wasn’t at a high enough level to be of any use in my liver – so I’m in a catch 22 and you could be too.

 


How does vitamin D affect menopause belly fat?

 

Low vitamin D levels are linked to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (can happen when you put on a lot of belly fat) and this is entirely reversible and will be picked up in liver blood testing by your GP so here are some key research facts on vitamin D and belly fat:


Vitamin D and Weight Management During Menopause

• A review article in the "Journal of Women's Health" in 2019 discussed the potential role of vitamin D in weight management during menopause. The review highlighted the importance of maintaining optimal vitamin D levels for overall health and suggested that adequate vitamin D could be beneficial in managing weight gain during menopause.

 (Reference: Cignarelli et al., 2019. "Vitamin D in postmenopausal women: a critical review of the evidence from clinical studies.")


Vitamin D and Belly Fat

• Research published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in 2017 explored the relationship between vitamin D status and abdominal obesity. The study suggested that adequate vitamin D levels might be associated with a lower risk of abdominal obesity.

(Reference: Vimaleswaran et al., 2013. "Association between vitamin D status and adiposity in Caucasian and South Asian women: a cross-sectional study.")


Vitamin D and Menopause

• A study published in the "Journal of Mid-life Health" in 2018 investigated the association between vitamin D levels and menopausal symptoms. The study found that women with lower vitamin D levels may experience more severe menopausal symptoms.

 (Reference: Kapoor et al., 2018. "Association of vitamin D with the modulation of the disease course in postmenopausal women with rheumatoid arthritis.")


 


 

Key takeaway today : Take vitamin D3!


 


3 women  with the sky behind them

Who’s at risk of low vitamin D in life and menopause?


Women with skin of colour require more sunlight to have the same reaction as fairer skinned ones. Shift workers who rarely see daylight and have a lifestyle that interferes with their circadian rhythms i.e. not sleeping though the pivotal hours of 1 to 5 am.


If you wear sunblock – you don’t get any vitamin D


If the sun’s shadow is longer that you – you don’t get any vitamin D


If you’re in menopause then the change to the oestrogen receptors in your skin means you don’t synthesise  vitamin D as you once did.


The affects of sun on your vitamin D levels is only in May to September. By the end of a northern hemisphere winter, you’ll be low as you’ll have used up last summers before the year end.

There is a case for taking vitamin D all year round but altering the levels. You can test your vitamin D levels privately here.

 

Low vitamin D levels can be linked to these menopausal symptoms


That’s all the science let’s get to the symptoms  and how you can turn them around!


Low moods/melancholy


I certainly had this big time around 8 years ago before I took a single vitamin. However, to me it felt like I was emotionally flat, that I had lost my ability to feel joy at anything. Events that I should have looked forward too became a chore to endure and get through and that wasn’t a pleasant time. I’m pleased to say I’m back to being a big kid and getting excited about things and I’ve done this with vitamins.


Now I find there is a term: a description of Anhedonia – a word I didn’t even know existed, until I was researching menopause and my emotional state. 

Have you lost the ability to experience any joy in your life from normally pleasurable life events?

 

Bone health


This is probably the main one that you know about. Along with magnesium and calcium to help bone density and see off post-menopausal osteoporosis. Vitamin D now a hormone in the body helps you absorb the calcium into the bones and regulates the bone metabolism. Big statement follows:


Over 1000 different genes governing virtually every tissue in the body are now thought to be regulated by Vitamin D3.


Vitamin D3 – it’s major!


And no… you don’t get enough from the sun 😊

 


woman blotting the sun out

Belly Fat


If women are also overweight and carrying more belly fat, then because Vitamin D has an affinity to fat in fat storage areas, then the Vitamin D can go to adipose tissue and not to where it is needed – in muscles, bones, nerves and the heart. [Dregan, Rayner, et al., 2020). 


Yep, I’m in this arena – the dreaded belly fat. Taking vitamin D is a start and then the 2nd and 3rd things you need to do is ensure your liver is working optimally with either a daily supplement and/or a liver detox; then cut down on the foods that turn to sugar as these block up your liver and turn into fat.  It’s not low-fat foods you should be eating, its low sugar and natural i.e. not sweeteners either.


The 4th thing you then need to think about is lifestyle and sleep. Sleep should be good, if it isn’t then this is your main concern you do need to work on this. I have blogs, self help and me as a consultant to help you. If you don’t sort out your sleep, you’ll never get to stress management.

Here’s the thing about stress, you may feel that you manage it in your head but if you have symptoms – you have stress in your body. When you have stress in your body it sends your hormones out of whack, like high cortisol and low progesterone. Then depending on your stage in menopause as to whether you have high oestrogen or low oestrogen with then toxic oestrogens stuck in the liver and your adipose fat (this is the stage I’m at).


To summarise  - you’re not going to get rid of belly fat until you’ve resolved:


  • ·       Your sleep

  • ·       Your other symptoms as they are indicators of stress and inflammation

  • ·       Hectic lifestyle and  high impact exercise (leads to more stress in body)

 

Take vitamin D along with the other supplements I recommend (get the guide) and work on your sleep – Sleep before belly fat – got it?

 

Heart Disease


It starts now! I know women in the depths of peri/menopause feel they have enough to deal with without thinking about future health symptoms but if you wake up to this one now and work on reducing the chances of being the ¼ women who die from heart disease you can resolve pretty much all your other symptoms too; it’s your body – everything is connected.

Around the age of 60 1/3 of women are diagnosed with Hypertension (high blood pressure) with hot flushes appearing or returning , sleep disturbances and insomnia. They say it’s like the full force of menopause reappearing. Starting now to respect your body and it’s inner workings by eating nutrient rich food and topping up with good plant-based supplements where necessary you’re giving your body what it is asking for.

 

Symptoms are your body crying out for help – listen to it and save yourself from a life of major health concerns in the future

 

Take a good dose of vitamin C everyday this helps reduce the chance of arterial stiffness.


 




 

Symptoms are your body crying out for help ~ listen to it

 


 


Thyroid Health


This is very much dependent on your liver health; in early stages of an under-active thyroid, I would encourage you to seek help and manage this before going on thyroxine. A cleaner liver can help your thyroid work more efficiently. The less visceral fat the better your thyroid can be, I’ve had a client recently prove this and lower her thyroxine level as her liver was working so much better.


Newer research suggests that Vitamin D deficiency is commonly seen in this period too. Low Vitamin D can impact thyroid health leading to hypo-thyroid function, which in turn impacts negatively on hot flushes. (Ashok et al, 2022; Arslanca et al, 2020).

 

Burning tongue


Your tongue is a muscle and as oestrogen declines it does have an effect on muscle mass plus your saliva glands reduce by around 40/50%. This can manifest as a dry mouth at night and for some a burning sensation on the tip of the tongue. These are signs that you’re nutrient deficient so you can start on a good multivitamin that includes zinc and the B complex. There will be vitamin D in an MV but not enough. Get my handy Supplement Starter Guide here >>>

 

Hot Flushes


Are the most complex of all menopause symptoms because they are the result of vast combination of health imbalances colliding to create this thermos-effect. When I do my talks, I show the symptoms as a pyramid with Hot Flushes the capstone. All of the layers beneath were built on each other to create the final piece – the flushing. Tackling your symptoms at ANY STAGE can massively reduce the likelihood of you ever getting a hot flush – this is a good thing.

I see women in their 60s and 70s just putting up with flushes – this is a very bad thing. This is your body continually telling you that it is struggling and you just pushing on rather than listening and resolving.


Many women don’t think you can resolve hot flushes and so live with them but I bet if a bloke was suffering this debilitating symptom up to 5 times an hour there would be a load more research into it.

 

Vitamin D along with B12, iron, folate, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C and iodine all play a part in supporting the various intricate workings in your body to help regulate you and bring your health imbalances back to a balanced point where you will exhibit no symptoms.

Your body does not work in isolation. All of your organs in the body are connected via chemical messengers, called hormones. They work synergistically together. The role they play inside your body is to maintain the body in homeostasis.


This is a term that physiologists and endocrinologists refer to as maintaining the body in a state of equilibrium. When one hormone is low (or too high!) this sends chemical and neurological messages to other hormones to counteract the environment changes. The one effective way you can manage your hormone imbalances is to feed your body the nutrients it requires to work optimally.


Optimal levels of nutrients in your blood are higher than the levels measured by the NHS which are to keep you existing. If you want to THRIVE in your menopause rather than just SURVIVE you need to up your nutrition with the right foods and good supplementation.

 


woman sleeping well in menopause


Are there lifestyle solutions to help reduce menopause symptoms? 


Absolutely YES! If you are experiencing mild to moderate symptoms you can mostly likely do this yourself. You need to follow a specific regime for sleeping, eating, moving and boosting Vitamin D production as well as reducing any inflammation and managing menopause weight gain.


You also need to focus on gut and liver health repair plus your nutrition levels too ( you do not get enough nutrients from food to combat the state of health you’re currently in). Sleep you need good sleep  - this is your starting point before any other symptom and many will improve if you work on your sleep. I specialise in this area I help you rebuild your sleep from the Chinese medicine point of view we break down your sleep into 4 blocks through the night and rebuild each one specific to the organs it affects.


DO NOT launch into any vigorous exercise programmes; this will make your symptoms worse. If you don’t sleep well then too much exercise can worsen hot flushes, moods and send you into adrenal fatigue which crashes your energy levels too. 


I bring all this together for you delivered to you by video - Check out the 28 Days Menopause Programme here



Find out if you're taking enough vitamin D3?


In an interview I did with MD and naturopathic Dr Charles Rouse he stated this is how you work you your daily intake of vitamins D:

multiple 35iu x the number of lbs you weigh


If you are 10 st that would be: 4900iu. The amount recommended by the NHS to keep you alive is 400iu, the NHS recommend you don’t take over 4000iu but this is not a given this is advice. I’m currently taking 6000iu a day to up my levels from sufficient to optimal and I will do a another test after 3 months. I got my vitamin D tested here.