Comedians get a lot of chuckles when describing hot flashes, but these sudden disruptions in normalcy are no laughing matter. In fact, according to research, “Hot flashes are one of the chief menopausal complaints for which women in Western societies seek medical treatment.”
If you’re waking up during the night drenched in sweat or experiencing hot flashes while trying to carry out your daily routine, you may immediately assume they’re related to menopause, but first impressions aren’t always right.
Decreasing Estrogen Is Just One Thing to Investigate
Despite the prevalence of flushing and hot flashes experienced by women during perimenopause, as well as data that indicates that reduced levels of estrogen may factor into their occurrence, other things may figure into the equation. Researchers have determined that, “Although hot flashes accompany the withdrawal of estrogen at menopause, the decline in estrogen levels is not sufficient to explain their occurrence.” So, if lack of estrogen isn’t solely to blame, what else could it be?
B Vitamin Deficiencies Can Mimic Symptoms of Menopause
Of all the vitamins your body needs, the B vitamins come in at the top of the list. And a deficiency in either B12 or B9, also known as folic acid, can increase hot flashes and even mimic them in non-menopausal women. If you’re experiencing night sweats or hot flashes, you may get some relief by increasing your folic acid intake.
Inadequate B12 levels may also cause you to feel more rundown than normal. B12 keeps your nervous system functioning properly, is used to make red blood cells and DNA, and is one of many B vitamins that fights the fatigue that women often refer to as “brain fog” around menopause. Most of the time, your body gets what it needs from food, but during perimenopause you may struggle to meet all of your vitamin and mineral requirements. Taking a supplement can help plu the nutritional gap.
Find Out If You Have a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Before assuming your vitamin B12 levels are low and self-diagnosing using Doctor Internet, schedule a visit with your primary healthcare provider. Many symptoms of B12 deficiency can also be indicative of other conditions, so it’s important to consult with an expert to rule out something potentially more problematic by doing appropriate blood tests to check for B12 deficiencies that may be caused by anemia, an autoimmune disorder, or another underlying condition.
In the interim, the following symptoms may help your physician diagnose your situation. Be on the lookout for:
- Fatigue or lightheadedness;
- Gas, diarrhea, constipation, or a lack of appetite;
- Increased heart rate;
- Shortness of breath;
- A smooth tongue;
- Muscle weakness, tingling, or numbness;
- Signs of memory loss or depression; or
- Yellowing of the skin.
How to Increase Your Vitamin B12 Levels With Food
Adult women need 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 every day to maintain healthy levels in the body, and up to “15% of the public” has a B12 deficiency. Animal products, such as beef and poultry, can remedy the problem by providing ample vitamin B12, as can dairy products like milk and eggs. Tuna, sardines, trout, and clams contain B12, too. If you’re vegetarian, vegan, or simply prefer to avoid these products, look for cereal that is fortified with vitamin B12. You’ll find this clearly labeled on the packaging. Fortified nutritional yeast, in particular, has a buttery flavor and makes a wonderful addition to vegetables or even popcorn.
Consider a Vitamin B12 Supplement
When food options fail, adding a vitamin B12 supplement is another option. Check the label of your multivitamin or consider taking a standalone supplement. You may also want to discuss other options with your doctor. Beyond food sources and oral supplements, prescription B12 injections and nasal sprays also make it easier to maintain healthy levels during transition from perimenopause to menopause.
Add Vitamin B6 to Improve Your Serotonin Levels
Along with increasing your vitamin B12 intake, you may want to consider adding vitamin B6 to your daily supplement routine as well. Studies revealed that vitamin B6 plays a role in maintaining serotonin levels, which can help ward off depression and improve your energy levels.
Vitamin E Reduces Multiple Menopausal Symptoms
Research studies cited in “The Effect of Vitamin E on Hot Flashes in Menopausal Women” found that “Vitamin E at daily doses of 50-400 IU effectively decreased hot flashes and other menopausal complaints when compared to placebo.”
Vitamin E’s antioxidant properties prevent the body from free radical damage while also reducing oxidative stress and lessening your risk of menopausal weight gain and depression. Many nuts, seeds, shellfish, and dark green vegetables, like spinach and broccoli, provide vitamin E, so try to incorporate them into your diet daily.
If considering including a Vitamin E supplement to your diet, we recommend consulting with your doctor first as Vit E can be toxic in high doses.