Menopause is a dreaded stage for most women. It not only includes hot flashes and mood swings, but also marks a series of manifestations of issues and other problems that begin to develop, triggered by either a shortage or increase of certain hormones. This process change causes women to become more vulnerable to developing metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, and skin, heart, or bladder issues, among others. (1)
There are certain vitamins that are very important for menopause because they pump the brakes on these problems. Among those is the vitamin B complex.
Let's take a brief look at how B vitamins can help:
Indispensable for energy production
We usually talk about vitamin B12, but vitamins B2, B6 and B9 are just as important. B vitamins work together in metabolizing carbon units, a chemical element that is key to generating energy, with enzymes that produce energy for carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. (1)
Promotes good mood
Vitamin B6 is involved in the production of serotonin, a substance needed for the transmission of brain signals, sleep regulation, appetite, and good mood (among other tasks). It is normal for the passing of time to reduce the amount of serotonin we produce, especially women around menopause. This leads to mood swings and the development of degenerative issues. Maintaining stable vitamin B6 levels can help regulate serotonin. (2)
To protect the heart and brain when they are most vulnerable
Vitamin B9 is another member of the vitamin B complex family, better known as folic acid or folate. One study found that just three months of B9 supplementation in healthy postmenopausal women with an average age of 52 helps reduce the level of homocysteine, an amino acid that the body uses in protein production. Very little of this substance should remain in the blood after being used, which is very important for preventing heart disease and other problems. (3) With menopause, the heart is more vulnerable due to a lack of estrogens that used to protect it.
Homocysteine levels are also related to strokes. It has been proven that lowering homocysteine through vitamin B intake reduces the risk of stroke by 19 to 24%. (4)
Necessary for nervous system regulation
Vitamin B complex also plays a vital role in maintaining the proper functioning of the central nervous system. Reduced vitamin B is associated with cognitive dysfunction or impairment that can lead to memory loss (5). There is abundant research showing a direct relationship between high homocysteine levels and low concentration of B vitamins (like B2, B6 and B12), with cognitive decline and impairment, dementia, and risk of Alzheimer's disease during menopause and old age. (6,7,8)
Necessary for healthy bones
Several studies have also confirmed that high homocysteine in the blood has a link to the decrease of mineral density in bones, making it easier for fractures to occur during menopause. Lower amounts of vitamins B6, B9, and B12 mean bone mineral density is also lower (9). It has also been proven that low vitamin B2 intake in menopausal women increases the risk of fractures (10).
Why does the amount of B vitamins decrease so much during menopause?
With time, there is a natural reduction in vitamin B9 and B2 from diet, malabsorption of B12, and less B6 due to a greater demand as we age. (5)
There may also be malabsorption due to intestinal problems.
Use of medicines that alter the metabolism of B vitamins. (5)
All of this prompts many physicians to recommend vitamin B supplementation along with a multivitamin or separately to their patients approaching menopause.
Talk to your doctor before using supplements on your own. They can recommend an adequate amount to consume daily. Many women increase their vitamin B12 intake by eating fortified foods or by taking supplements. It's important to know how much vitamin B you need to add daily to avoid overdoing it.
Too much of these and other vitamins can alter blood sugar levels and blood pressure. It is important to talk to your doctor about the use of vitamins, especially if you have diabetes or low blood sugar levels or fluctuations in blood pressure.
In the case of vitamin B6, too much can increase the risk of hemorrhage. It is not recommended for use in combination with anticoagulants.
Vitamin B12 also has contraindications for people with heart problems, high blood pressure, cancer, or gastrointestinal issues, among others.
Your doctor will know exactly how much of each vitamin you as an individual need to add for your unique health condition if you need it. Despite any changes...
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