Are you getting enough B-vitamins?
When it comes to the menopause and feeling fatigued it could be worth you while considering what your B-vitamin status is. This group of vitamins can be easily depleted by stress and a busy lifestyle and are essential for supporting energy, mind and mood…
Considering nearly all women go through the menopause it’s staggering just how many women are under prepared for this time of life! For most women the perimenopause (initial phase of the menopause) begins around the age of 50 but some women will start a little earlier at 45 and some much later at 55. Those who get clued-up and make the effort to get a few dietary and lifestyle changes in place during their 40’s may be more likely to experience a milder, shorter (4-year) and more manageable menopause. However, those women who burry their heads in the sand are likely to have a much longer (10-year) and more troublesome menopause that interferes with their day-to-day life.
Falling hormone levels
During the menopause the hormone production of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone start to become phased out. This shutting down phase tends could be a bit of a bumpy ride, there may be days when you feel fine followed by days when you may feel depleted, tired and exhausted. These low energy and low mood days are typical of the menopause and signal the times when hormone levels have fallen below the level at which you normally feel well, happy and energised.
These days of fluctuating hormones may cause the hypothalamus gland to become a little confused. The hypothalamus gland is in charge of your internal thermostat and the stress caused by falling hormone levels creates disturbances in this internal thermostat causing the hypothalamus to believe that the body is over-heating and reacting by triggering hot flushes, sweats and night sweats in an attempt to cool the body down.
These fluctuating hormone levels may also impact your metabolism, thyroid function and cellular energy systems often creating days of unexplained and extreme fatigue. You could find that there is not other logical reason for feeling so tired and it’s likely, that during the menopause, your fatigue is unresolved by rest or sleep. Even the smallest of tasks could start to seem overwhelming and exhausting. There are several dietary and lifestyle factors such as drinking lots of caffeine and alcohol and being inactive that could make these days of fatigue more pronounced. Swapping the coffee for herbal teas, cutting back on sugar and becoming more active are all steps in the right direction.
B-vitamins to the rescue
If there’s one group of vitamins that can help to support energy, mind and mood – it’s the B-vitamins! These vitamins act as co-factors in the enzyme reactions that convert carbohydrates from our food into units of energy called ATP which all our cells can use. The problem is that the body can’t store these vitamins as they are water soluble, so a good daily source is required. The B-vitamins are mainly found in complex carbohydrates so brown rice, brown bread, wholegrains and pulses. If you tend to opt for refined carbs such as white rice, white pasta, white bread, cakes, biscuits and pastries and sugary breakfast cereals then you might not be getting all the B-vitamins required during the menopause. Adding these foods to your weekly shopping list and switching white refined foods for wholegrain options is a good step. If you have a busy or demanding schedule then topping up with a nutrition supplement containing B-vitamins to help support energy, mood and hormone balance could be of great benefit at this phase of your life.
Susie Debice BSc Hons, Dip ION
Food Scientist and Nutritional Therapist