No matter where you are in your menopause journey, your body is at its best when it has adequate amounts of the nutrients it needs. Whether obtained through your daily diet or dietary supplements, specific nutrients can support your health and wellness during the menopausal transition and may even help ease some of your symptoms.
Without a doubt, B vitamins are among the most important nutrients to consider during menopause. Contributing to everything from energy production to brain function, the B vitamins play a vital role in some of your body’s most important processes.
So, what exactly is vitamin B, and what kind of health benefits does it offer, specifically as it relates to menopause? Keep reading to learn more.
What is Vitamin B?
The B Vitamins are composed of a group of eight specific vitamins, which is why it’s also commonly referred to as vitamin B complex. The eight B vitamins are:
- B-1 (thiamine)
- B-2 (riboflavin)
- B-3 (niacin)
- B-5 (pantothenic acid)
- B-6 (pyridoxine)
- B-7 (biotin)
- B-9 (folic acid)
- B-12 (cobalamin)
These vitamins are critical for maintaining healthy energy levels because they help the body effectively process and use carbohydrates, fat, and protein for fuel. They also assist in maintaining the function of the body’s nervous system.1
Although all B vitamins are essential, two are notable for their importance in maintaining overall wellness as well as in helping to provide some specific menopausal symptom relief.
In addition to assisting in energy production, vitamin B6 helps the body maintain healthy levels of an amino acid called homocysteine, which is linked to an increased risk of fractures during menopause, if it’s produced in high amounts.1
Vitamin B6 additionally plays an important role in the creation of serotonin– which is a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger known for communicating signals across the brain; serotonin is also a neurotransmitter associated with good mood.2 As women age, levels of serotonin tend to decrease, which can influence and intensify menopausal symptoms such as moodiness or feelings of depression.3
Vitamin B6 may also help support brain health and cognitive function. During menopause, a common symptom experienced by many women is forgetfulness or mild issues with cognition – it’s often referred to as “brain fog.” According to Bonafide Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Alyssa Dweck, “More than 40% of women navigating through the hormonal changes of menopause often complain of general forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating as well as other cognitive complaints.” These symptoms can be impacted by a myriad of outside influences, including interrupted sleep, an overload on multitasking, increased levels of stress, and changes in hormones, which are commonly experienced during menopause.
Getting adequate amounts of Vitamin B6 from your daily diet may help combat “brain fog”. While consuming foods such as fish and beef liver, in addition to potatoes, other starchy vegetables, and fruit provide B6, many try to avoid these food sources. You can also take a daily supplement of the recommended amount of 1.5mg, if you prefer.4
Vitamin B12 is vital in developing and maintaining nerve, brain, and red blood cells. Low levels of B12 have been shown to be associated with fatigue, memory problems, nerve damage, dementia, and more.1 Additionally, like vitamin B6, B12 also influences the body’s production of serotonin levels, which has an overall beneficial effect on overall mood and emotions.5
As we age, our bodies can lose some of its ability to absorb vitamin B12, which can lead to deficiencies that may cause fatigue, weakness and in more severe cases, anemia.6 To combat B12 deficiencies during menopause and beyond, you can either choose to increase your dietary intake of certain foods, such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products, or by looking to fortified foods. Additionally, you can incorporate a dietary supplement into your routine to ensure you get the recommended amount of 2.4mcg of vitamin B12, daily.7
Vitamin B Benefits for Menopause
B vitamins promote overall health and wellness, but if you’re experiencing certain menopausal symptoms, or are looking to improve specific processes within your body, you may benefit from incorporating more vitamin B into your daily diet. Some specific benefits that B vitamins can provide, include:
Menopause Stress Relief
Low levels of B-complex vitamins have been shown to increase anxiety and irritability while decreasing your ability to handle stress.8 Upping your dietary intake of B-complex vitamins may help to lower your stress levels, which many women may feel intensify during menopause.
Menopausal Mood Swings
As mentioned, vitamins B6 and B12 are involved in the production of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Serotonin is nicknamed the “feel-good” neurotransmitter because it promotes a sense of wellbeing and helps stabilize your mood. If you’re experiencing more intense mood swings and feel that depressive moods are bringing you down, supplementing with B-vitamins may be just the thing to help even things out.9
Nervous System Support
The nervous system is responsible for regulating and maintaining balance in your body. B vitamins are used in many ways by the nervous system, including for the production of the protective sheaths that insulate nerve cells.10
The decrease in estrogen levels experienced during menopause influence the entire nervous system, leading to a potential increase in physical symptoms such as hot flashes as well as psychological symptoms such as increased stress and anxiety.11 B vitamins can help support the nervous system during this hormonal transition and potentially alleviate the severity of some of these symptoms.
Healthy Adrenal Function
The adrenal glands are responsible for the release of stress hormones like cortisol, as well as the production of estrogen and other sex hormones in the body. B vitamins work to support the adrenals’ ability to produce and release these hormones.12
The adrenal glands also help regulate the body’s stress response, so supporting them with B vitamins can help you to more effectively manage the stressors that menopause (and life in general) can throw at you.12
Vitamin B Rich Foods
Given the importance of B vitamins for general health and wellness during menopause, it’s fortunate that so many foods are abundant in them. Some of the most vitamin B-rich foods include:
- Spinach and other leafy greens
- Beef, turkey, and chicken
- Chickpeas, beans, lentils, and other legumes
- Oysters, mussels, and other shellfish
- Milk and yogurt
B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning your body doesn’t actively store them, but rather excretes what it doesn’t need through the urine. Because of this, B vitamins must be regularly consumed in the form of food or dietary supplements in order to maintain the appropriate amounts in the body.
Choosing the Right Vitamin B Complex for Menopause
Although getting nutrients from the food you eat is ideal, you may not always be able to get enough vitamin B from your diet alone. You could consider incorporating a high-quality, vitamin B-complex in the form of a dietary supplement to help fill any nutritional gaps you may be experiencing and to potentially ease some of your menopause symptoms, including stress, mood swings, and fatigue.7 But how do you know which supplement is right for you?
When choosing a vitamin B supplement, consider looking for one that contains all eight essential B vitamins. Amounts may vary from product to product, so it’s a good idea to check that one you’re considering contains the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of each B vitamin. Also consider a supplement that contains vitamin B12 in the form of methylcobalamin, since that is the form most easily absorbed and utilized by the body.13
Remember, it's always best to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider before starting a new supplement, no matter what it is. They know your medical history best and can better advise on what to consider.
Whether through your diet or a nutritional supplement, B vitamins can help provide your body with the support it needs to enable you to thrive during menopause and beyond.
1. Milart P, Woźniakowska E, Wrona W. Selected vitamins and quality of life in menopausal women. Prz Menopauzalny. 2018;17(4):175-179. doi:10.5114/pm.2018.81742
8. Young LM, Pipingas A, White DJ, Gauci S, Scholey A. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and 'At-Risk' Individuals. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2232. Published 2019 Sep 16. doi:10.3390/nu11092232
9. Sangle P, Sandhu O, Aftab Z, Anthony AT, Khan S. Vitamin B12 Supplementation: Preventing Onset and Improving Prognosis of Depression. Cureus. 2020;12(10):e11169. Published 2020 Oct 26. doi:10.7759/cureus.11169
10. Calderón-Ospina CA, Nava-Mesa MO. B Vitamins in the nervous system: Current knowledge of the biochemical modes of action and synergies of thiamine, pyridoxine, and cobalamin. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2020;26(1):5-13. doi:10.1111/cns.13207
11. Genazzani AR, Spinetti A, Gallo R, Bernardi F. Menopause and the central nervous system: intervention options. Maturitas. 1999 Jan 4;31(2):103-10. doi: 10.1016/s0378-5122(98)00112-1. PMID: 10227002.
12. Camfield DA, Wetherell MA, Scholey AB, et al. The effects of multivitamin supplementation on diurnal cortisol secretion and perceived stress. Nutrients. 2013;5(11):4429-4450. Published 2013 Nov 11. doi:10.3390/nu5114429