Do you remember looking at exotic sounding 'fortified with...' on the back of cereal packets as a kid?? No... just me then :)
They've been boosting our wheat/cereal based products since the 50s at least and there's a good reason for this, we're always deficient in the array of vitamin B's. Now I don't know why there are so many of them, but I do know that they are critical to our health, and never more so than as we transition through the peri/menopause.
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 last month, the product creator of a supplement that really gave me back my energy when I was feeling the effects of Covid, 2 months after I had caught it. This supplement came into my life just at the right time, and so I got interested in how it works, and got through to asking him just that. If you'd like to watch the 15 minute interview, click here.
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 its own supplement can be B12. Many women (and men) can hit this deficiency that often requires an injection if your body doesn't create/process it properly and it can become as severe as pernicious anaemia, an autoimmune disorder.
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. In the list below you'll see 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, 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; a lot of things AND they aid production of energy/reduce tiredness (just in case you hadn't cottoned on :) . We know we should be taking them, so the next part of the puzzle is:
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. 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 however many in a day'. 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, for example, taking a well know high street brand that I think is pretty good (Wellwoman), this is how they help you with B vitamins:
B1 - 909%, B2 - 357%, B3 - 225%, B6 - 714%, B12 - 800% of your NRV (nutritional reference value) and so on
So just why are these percentages so high? And can I 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 (then we get into gut health - get this great probiotic!)
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, and at certain times of our life, and with certain health conditions we need a very robust dose to help.
However I have clients that are extremely sensitive to B vitamins and therefore can't take a strong dose, so it really does become individual.
WHERE TO START?
I start by telling my clients to take an age 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.
NEED MORE ENERGY?
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.
I have a recommended 'sublingual' vitamin B12 supplement. It dissolves under the tongue, and directly into the bloodstream, so is an efficient way to get a good dose into your system quickly.
WOULD YOU LIKE SUPPORT?
I offer a mini consultation for helping women understand if their supplements are right and whether they are on a high enough dosage. The likelihood is 90% of you are not, and if you've been told not to take vitamin D when the sun shines, you've been given bad advice , and especially so if you wear sunscreen. We all need vitamin D as much as the B vitamins, so if the sun is out but your energy and moods are low there is work to do on your supplements, please contact me to book a consultation to help you get your buzz back!
You don't need to put up with peri/menopausal symptoms, they are your body telling you it 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.
Find out more about all of Andrea's really helpful solutions here, including her free download if you don't yet have it, and join her growing community on facebook!