Read the full video transcript below
Today I’m going to talk about the importance of vitamin D in the menopause.
Now, for those of us in the UK, we know there’s been a huge amount of publicity over the last few weeks about the fact that many people in the population are very low in Vitamin D. And we’re all being recommended to take vitamin D supplements to help with our general health.
Vitmain D and the menopause
Now, lack of vitamin D can play a big factor in menopausal symptoms. So, let’s have a look at what particular symptoms you can get with low vitamin D. You can get fatigue. You can get low immunity, which means that you may find you’re getting lots of colds and flu and other infections. You can get depression. You can get mood swings. You can get sleep problems. You can get weight gain. You can get something called impaired cognitive function, which basically means that you start to forget things and you can’t focus, and you get muddle-headed.
Doesn’t this sound familiar? This is just like a menopause symptom package. And the problem for us going through the menopause is that, the older we get, the more difficult it is for us to get vitamin D, either through our skin or through our diet.
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In the peri-menopause low vitamin D could cause prolonged periods/bleeding!
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How to get vitamin D
Now, the best way to get vitamin D is to get it through exposure to sunlight. When sunlight hits the skin, it actually manufactures the vitamin D that we need on a daily basis. But, the problem is, that going through the menopause, our skin starts to thin and it becomes more difficult to actually produce the amounts of vitamin D that we need at this particular time.
We also spend a lot more time indoors, don’t we? We maybe don’t go out quite so often. We also put loads of suncreams on when we go out. This is, I think, how everybody is kind of in a panic whereby you must put suncream on before you even go outside in case you end up getting skin cancer. Our digestion also slows down, so it’s more difficult for our digestive system to get vitamin D from the foods that we’re actually eating.
Getting vitamin D while in the menopause
So, what can you do to make sure that you actually get enough vitamin D whilst you’re in the menopause? The best way to get it is through sunlight. So you know, there are two camps here. There are those that are saying, “Don’t ever go out in the sun without putting suncream on.”
But there’s now a new camp coming out saying you need to get 20 to 30 minutes exposure on skin before you actually put the suncream on. In this situation, please be careful. You know your own skin. If you’re fair, if you burn easily then you know, obviously don’t do anything like that. Don’t put yourself at risk. But you should know roughly how much sun your skin can tolerate.
We’ve got this idea of…especially in the UK, a lot of us go away for a week of winter sun and it’s like, “Yes, we’re sunbathing. We’ll get plenty of vitamin D and that will top us up for rest of the winter.”
Firstly, are you actually sunbathing for a little while without suncream? And, secondly, if you are, do you know how long that one week of sunshine will actually give you in terms of vitamin D? It will give you about two or three week’s worth. So that week in the sun, wonderful though it may ben is not going to give you a great amount of vitamin D to last you up until the spring comes.
Vitamin D from your diet
So what’s the best way to get vitamin D through your food? Look at what we call vitamin D rich foods.
That’s your oily fishes. It’s wild salmon, it’s your sardines. And you know, sardines are one of the cheapest foods and also one of the best for the menopause because they’ll give you vitamin D, they’ll give you those lovely fish oils for your brain, for your skin, and they’ll give you the little bonus for your calcium as well. So a plate of sardines on toast once a week in the menopause, if you can cope with it, is worth its weight in gold.
You can also look at foods that are actually fortified with vitamin D. A lot of wheat foods have extra vitamin D in them. You can get vitamin D from butter. But these fortified foods, if you look at the ingredient list, normally contain something called vitamin D2. And vitamin D2 is really not going to be worth much at all. It’s the wrong form of vitamin D, and our body will actually find this very difficult to absorb.
Foods rich in vitamin D include:
- Oily fish, including fresh tuna - but not tinned!!
- Free range eggs
- Shitake mushrooms
- Oysters and, if you want to splash out, caviar!
Vitamin D supplements
So the other way that you can actually get plenty of vitamin D is through supplements. Now, it’s very important to look at the dose here. The recommended daily dose for vitamin D at the moment is round about 400 IU. It’s very important not to go over that unless you have been to the doctors, you’ve had your vitamin D levels checked, and you have been recommended to take a higher dose.
Now, we tend to have this thing, don’t we, whereby when we’re buying something, “Oh, the higher the dose, the better.” Please don’t do that because high vitamin D levels, your liver will store the vitamin D, and that can give you a whole set of adverse side effects. So it’s really important to stick to the recommended dose unless you have been advised otherwise.
You can also get underneath-the-tongue sprays of vitamin D, and that can be another way to top up your levels, if you’re not keen on popping pills, that can be a great way to take your vitamin D.
I hope this has given you a little bit of insight into how important vitamin D is and, if you get the right amount, you might actually find that some of the common symptoms you have are not actually anything to do with the menopause at all.