I had been waking up with hot and cold flashes for weeks it seemed. At times, my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest, and sometimes I walked around in a fog. I felt like shouting, “I’m too young for this!” at the top of my lungs. Despite being barely 40, it seemed like I was going through menopause.
I worked hard, so I assumed the exhaustion was from not getting enough rest, and to make matters worse, I slept very poorly most nights. My moods were fluctuating more and more often. I finally decided to go to the doctor.
After a few lab tests, I learned I had a vitamin B-12 deficiency that was likely causing most of my problems. My vitamin D was in the normal range, but barely. And that’s when my doctor told me the problem: vitamin deficiencies often mimic early menopausal symptoms.
Before you jump to the conclusion that you are starting to have menopausal symptoms early like I did, you might want to check with your doctor. It turns out, many women diagnosed with premenopausal symptoms really had vitamin deficiencies. The primary two vitamin deficiencies commonly mistaken for menopausal symptoms are Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin D because the symptoms from both these vitamin deficiencies often mimic those of menopause.
Mandy Wright, a nurse practitioner who specializes in vitamin deficiencies, tells SheKnows that some of the most common symptoms of vitamin B-12 and D deficiencies mimic those of menopause, including hot flashes, sleep disturbances and mood changes. When seeing a patient, Wright always checks for vitamin deficiencies as part of routine blood work knowing that in her experience, this is something that many clinicians tend to overlook. Left untreated, these simple vitamin deficiencies can cause far more serious health challenges. Wright recommends women ask their health provider to check for these deficiencies if they are experiencing any of these symptoms to reduce further risks of other health issues.
There are many overlapping symptoms of menopause, vitamin D deficiency and vitamin B-12 deficiency, Wright says. In the early stages of menopause, as the hormonal levels fluctuate and change, women often experience depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, headaches, hot and cold flashes, difficulty sleeping and mood swings. Other symptoms you might experience are muscle weakness, heart palpitations, breathlessness and pain. These are some of the main symptoms associated with both vitamin B-12 and vitamin D deficiencies.
Vitamin B-12 is essential for many biological functions, such as metabolic energy, a properly working nervous system and cognitive clarity. Even our reproductive system relies on it to perform correctly. People with vitamin B-12 deficiency tend to have chronic fatigue and are at a greater risk of having a stroke or heart attack. While you can also take supplements to increase your intake of B-12, some excellent food sources are beef liver, sardines, tuna, salmon, eggs and raw cheese. If you need to supplement vitamin B-12, you’ll probably need between 100 and 400 micrograms daily.
According to the Endocrine Society’s clinical guidelines, vitamin D is essential for having healthy bones, reducing inflammation, moderating immune function and helping to fight colds and flu. It has also been found to boost one’s mood and sense of well-being.
If left untreated, a vitamin D deficiency could put you at greater risk of developing cancer, obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes and high blood pressure. You can add some vitamin D to your diet through foods like fish, egg yolks, cheese, beef liver and milk that’s fortified. If you decide to go with a supplement, Endocrine Society guidelines recommend vitamin D3 instead of just plain vitamin D. Recommended daily doses of vitamin D range from 600 IU to 2,000 IU, depending on the health and age of the patient. Of course, one of the best sources of vitamin D is still sunlight. Spending 15 to 20 minutes three times a week in the sun is a great way to get vitamin D in your system.