Do you remember looking at exotic sounding 'fortified with...' on the back of cereal packets as a kid?? No... just me then :) Vitamin B's have been boosting our wheat/cereal based products since the 1950s at least and there's a good reason for this, we're always deficient in the array of these vital vitamins. As a nation it's been recognised that we need supplementation to support us daily but as you transition through peri and menopause you tend to cut down on the products that are fortified. Vitamin B's are critical to your health, and never more so than as you transition through the peri/menopause so this month my perimenopause blog is: Why B's are a peri girl's best friend!
Why B's are a peri girl's best friend!
One of the major symptoms as we progress through our 40s towards the inevitable is a loss of energy, with this can come a real fatigue that isn't sated by sleep for many, anxiety runs rife, brain fog closes in and memory becomes shot, and that's before we get to the whole host of knock on symptoms that you don't realise are connected to a lack of the B vitamins.
I was lucky enough to interview Dr Charles Rouse an American Doctor turned Naturopathic Dr who creates supplements that are right for your body. When I hadn't gotten over the energy effects of Covid bac in early 2020, he explained that I really needed a B complex of vitamins.
He was great at summarising how important the B vitamins are, often called B Complex if you have them altogether, but the standout one that often requires supplementation is B12. Many women (and men) can hit this deficiency that often requires an injection if your body doesn't create/process it properly. However I see women who are given a B12 injection by the NHS and they are still on the floor with a lack of energy, which used to surprise me but now I've learnt with research and observation with my clients that B12 on it's own isn't enough for your body to pick up. A standalone mineral needs support!
During the menopausal transition women nose dive in B12 and the other B's and this can be brought back into balance by taking an uber dose of vitamin B6, which regulates all female hormones however the best way to go is taking a B complex, this is all the B's in a supplement together. Here's why all the B's are so important:
B1 (Thiamin) - boosts your cardio vascular health (relieves Hot flushes of the future), nervous system and energy
B2 (Riboflavin) - prevents headaches, improves eye Heatlh (I've definitely seen a difference in my eyes for the better), reduces tiredness
B3 (Niacin) - feeling happy, healthy joints and nervous system; reduces tiredness
B5 (Pantothenic acid)- adrenal support (to reduce anxiety) aids sleep and boosts energy
B6 - regulates all 50 female hormones, boosts immunity and energy yielding (another way of saying it reduces tiredness!)
B7 (Biotin) - known mainly for hair & nails but important in nervous system and energy yielding
B9 (Folic Acid) - aids blood, immunity and pyschological function - reduces tiredness (there's a theme here!)
B12 - balances iron levels, thyroid, adrenals - sort these out and you get energy!
Now we know what the vitamin B's do ,, why they are so critical to your body working well as you transition through menopause and life beyond you need to know:
How much Vitamin B's should I take?
I was on a course the other year and was told that finding the supplement to take was only half the job, the other half is the dosage, and this is individual per person, but we'll find a common starting point. We're in a world where we're used to reading the instructions on the back, especially for painkillers that will say: take 2 every 4 hours, don't exceed daily amount. We've kind of got used to being told exactly what to take, but for supplements it's not so straightforward. The reason is that you may all have fatigue but it will be to a different degree and caused by any number of things that need to be resolved and balanced.
A multi vitamin does its best to cover this off for you, and you'll get all those trace minerals your body craves as well. I started on a well known high street brand around 6 years ago and that was doing me good until I got hit by Covid and my energy just didn't come back quickly. So I needed to take supplementation more seriously and I moved to an online-plant based brand where the content of minerals is virtually doubled, but the price isn't!
Check out these values on the back of your bottle, here's what mine is, if you're lacking in energy and your percentages are a fraction of these then you need to up your daily intake.
We can start on weaker supplements but as your body transitions, as life becomes more stressful and tiring the stronger the supplements you'll need. As/when life gets easier then you can ease off, but right now if you're exhausted you do need high doses! 100% NRV i.e. recommended daily allowance, is decades out of date, it was set when our soil was rich in nutrients.
Compare your vitamin B levels to mine:
B1 - 1818%, B2 - 1429%, B3 - 100% B5 - 833% B6 - 714% B9 - 100 B12 - 4400% of your NRV (nutritional reference value)
So just why are these percentages so high? And can you over dose on vitamin B's?
To answer the latter first, as these vitamins are known as water soluble we can wee out the excess, this means we're less likely to have too much, but it also means you can wee out what you still require if you don't absorb it properly; this would be known as a leaky gut. When you want to support your gut for the best health and absorption of all your nutrients you'll want to repopulate your microbiome with a probiotic. This puts back in a variety of bacteria. The secret is variety, not count, supermarket one's are a waste of money. If you want to get healthy and energised, get serious about a probiotic. This is the one I took after I got a gut parasite which left me with a host of symptoms, this one not only got me back on my feet it also reduced my lifelong hayfever by over 95%, and incredible side effect I'd just not thought about. However allergies tend to get worse for women in perimenopause and mine got better! Check out Microbz if you want to get the best probiotic in my opinion out there
To answer the high percentages part, the NRV (set in 1993) or RDA (recommended diertary allowance, set in 1943) are out of date. They are the minumum we should get to prevent a deficiency, however we don't get enough from our food sources anymore due to poor bacteria in the soil, and at certain times of our life, and with certain health conditions we need a very robust dose of vitamins and minerals to help you get back to being you!
As a medical note I have a client that is sensitive to B vitamins and therefore can't take a strong dose, so it really does become individual and you should consult with your Dr if at any point you're unsure. However vitamins and minerals are the building blocks for your body so for a vast majority of people they are fine to take.
Listen to your body, if you start to feel better within a few days to a few weeks of taking a supplement then you are on the right track. If you feel different or worse then stop taking, reintroduce more slowly. There's a reason why a multivitamin was created, it is what just about everyone needs to take!
Where to start with taking B vitamins and supplements?
I start my clients with a menopause-stage appropriate multivitamin, not only does this give you a good amount of the vitamin B's it also gives you all the other little nutrients you need like copper and manganese , as well as the NRV of zinc, iron, chromium and selenium. Minerals that you don't necessarily need to take as a separate supplment, (but you still can if you need too). Then you will get vitamin C and D, and Magnesium and you'll never get enough of these, they're quite bulky and so you will most likely need additional supplements of these (depending on your symptoms).
The point is it's somewhere to start, and so if you're reading this and you don't know where to start with supplements, really, get started on a multivitamin and then everything comes after this. I see a lot of women listing very fancy supplements but they've missed the basic foundation, so please start here and this gives you a good spread on all your multivitamins and a decent amount of the vitamin B complex. I have created a free supplement guide to get you started - download it from here!
Do you still need more energy even though you've started taking B vitamins?
If however you're really not picking up on energy after a couple of weeks then you'll more than likely need to boost your vitamin B's further. B12 can ramp up into the 10-20,000% range (and higher), keep going until you feel your energy coming back. This is why it's personal to you, you may require more or less than your fellow peri-peers, and only you will be able to feel and notice the affects that the vitamin B's are having.
One single vitamin or mineral on it's own can only do so much , they work far better when brought together, this is why a multivitamin is so important, it covers the foundations of your body chemistry. The one I suggest also has a really good vitamin B complex in it along with vitamin C, D, Magnesium and all the trace minerals you require. You will though need additional Magnesium as it's bulky you need a standalone supplement. Then I would recommend a really high dose of vitamin D and C daily. Read about why vitamin C is just so important in menopause and beyond here.
Next steps to resolve your menopause symptoms once and for all!
You don't need to put up with peri/menopausal symptoms, they are your body telling you it that is out of balance. I use my knowledge from Chinese Medicine to understand your energy patterns from your symptoms and support you with practical, natural solutions and supplements to help you alleviate your worst symptoms.
Andrea is a shiatsu and chinese medicine practitioner who uses the principles of chinese medicine in a completely practical way to help you resolve your symptoms naturally and effectively. If you live locally you can book in for wonderfully relaxing Shiatsu for Menopause, otherwise Andrea does online indepth consultations where you'll leave with an actionable plan to follow. Andrea is also passionate about doing workplace talks.
KNOWLEDGE . PAUSE . FLOURISH