In this week’s blog, we will be covering vitamins for menopause fatigue, what causes fatigue and what foods we can incorporate into our diet to manage its symptoms.
What is Fatigue?
Fatigue, or lack of energy, is a symptom often experienced by women during peri-menopause and menopause. The cause of fatigue can be due to multiple factors. One cause is the changes in hormone levels, such as oestrogen, progesterone, adrenal hormones, and thyroid hormones. These hormones all control energy in the body. Additionally, sleep disruptions, such as night sweats and hot flushes, can contribute to feeling tired during the day .
Why Does Fatigue Occur During Menopause?
Thyroid hormones control metabolism in the body, which is the rate at which your body breaks down food into energy . Adrenal hormones, produced by adrenal glands, also help to regulate metabolism, as well as its influence on your immune system, blood pressure and other functions .
During perimenopause and menopause, when oestrogen and progesterone levels drop , this can affect the levels of adrenal and thyroid hormones in the body, impacting metabolism . A slow metabolism means that your body is using energy at a slow rate, meaning that your body is not getting the energy it needs to function effectively, leading to feelings of fatigue .
In terms of sleep disruptions, many studies are identifying the link between reduced sleep quality and an increase in fatigue [7, 8, 9]. Therefore, this highlights the importance of managing symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes and night sweats, as their effect on sleep may lead to further issues, like fatigue. For more information on managing symptoms of menopause, refer to our previous blog on “Nutrition to Manage Menopausal Symptoms”.
What are the key vitamins for menopause fatigue?
Numerous vitamins play a role in energy metabolism in the body, to prevent fatigue, including B vitamins, vitamin B12, vitamin C, and vitamin D .
B vitamins, such as thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid, pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), and folate/folic acid, help the body to release energy from food:
- Thiamine – found in peas, nuts, fortified cereals, oranges, bananas, and wholegrain bread – daily recommended intake of 0.8mg for women
- Riboflavin – found in milk, eggs, mushrooms, and fortified cereals – daily recommended intake of 1.1mg for women
- Niacin – found in meat, fish, eggs, and wheat flour – daily recommended intake of 13.2mg for women
- Pantothenic acid – found in chicken, beef, eggs, mushrooms, and avocados
- Pyridoxine – found in pork, turkey, fish, peanuts, oats, milk, bananas, and soya beans – daily recommended intake of 1.2mg for women
- Biotin – found in low levels in eggs, fish, meat, seeds, nuts, and sweet potatoes. Only needed in very small amounts each day
- Folate/folic acid – found in broccoli, leafy green vegetables, peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, liver, and fortified cereals. Daily recommended intake of 200mg for women or 400mg if you are trying for a baby or until 12 weeks of pregnancy
You should be able to get all the B vitamins you need by maintaining a healthy, balanced diet .
Vitamin B12 is used to make red blood cells, release energy from food, and maintain nervous system health.
Food sources of vitamin B12 include meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, and some fortified foods. The recommended daily intake of B12 is around 1.5mcg per day. You should be able to get the B12 that you need from your diet, however, there are some considerations.
If you are vegan, or a vegetarian who does not eat eggs and/or dairy, you are more at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency as B12 does not occur naturally in fruit and vegetables. In this case, you should aim to consume B12 fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals or soy milk, or take a daily vitamin B12 supplement containing around 1.5mcg .
Vitamin C is used to help protect cells, encourage wound healing and maintain healthy skin, blood vessels, bones, and cartilage.
It is found in many foods including citrus fruit, peppers, strawberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and potatoes. The recommended intake for vitamin C is 40mg per day.
You can get the vitamin C you need from a balanced diet; however, it can’t be stored in the body, so it is important to consume vitamin C-containing foods every day.
Taking too much vitamin C can cause stomach pain, diarrhoea, and flatulence. Therefore, supplements are not recommended if you are getting enough vitamin C from your diet .
Vitamin D is used to maintain your bone, teeth, and muscle health. It also helps regulate calcium and phosphate in the body. It is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the UK, especially during winter months when sunlight is low. Vitamin D deficiency can cause fatigue.
People most at risk of vitamin D deficiency include those who are not outdoors often, wear clothes that cover up a lot of their skin when outdoors, and people who have dark skin. Vitamin D supports calcium absorption which is a key nutrient for menopausal women.
Vitamin D is found in foods such as oily fish, red meat, liver, egg yolks, and fortified products. However, dietary intake is usually not sufficient in meeting the recommended daily intake of 10mcg per day. Therefore, a supplement of 10mcg per day is recommended for those at risk, or for everyone during months of low sunlight .
In summary, there are several essential vitamins for menopause fatigue. We should aim to include these foods into our diet to meet our daily recommendations and prevent symptoms of fatigue. You should be able to meet your daily vitamin intake with food. However, you may require vitamin D supplements may during times of low sunlight.
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Caroline Hill is a specialist menopause dietitian supporting women making dietary change. Caroline uses her extensive knowledge, skills and expertise of food and nutrition to help women manage their symptoms and weight during menopause. Caroline believes in providing sustainable, individualised, evidence-based advice to women making dietary change.