The Secret Weapon for Menopause: Unleashing the Power of Vitamin D

Menopause is the time in a woman’s life in which hormonal changes occur that pose a substantial impact on many elements of her health. Symptoms during this period vary in severity and length, affecting quality of life. A decline in oestrogen and age-related changes raise the risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, loss of muscle strength, and osteoporosis.

Menopause
Menopause

Vitamin D is also a steroid hormone that acts as a crucial player in the maintenance of a healthy body. It plays roles in:

  • Calcium absorption,
  • Bone strength,
  • Osteoporosis prevention,
  • Promotes muscle function
  • Promotes nerve function,
  • Assists in immune system functions
  • Reduces inflammation,
  • Regulates biological processes such as glucose metabolism.

What is menopause?

Menopause is an inevitable biological process that occurs in women aged 45 to 55, signalling the end of their reproductive years. It is described as the time at which a woman has gone 12 months without having a menstrual period, marking the cessation of ovarian follicular function and the end of monthly menstruation. Most of the menopause-related symptoms are due to a marked decrease in female hormones (oestrogen and progesterone). Symptoms are mainly caused by fluctuating oestrogen levels and can start in a woman’s 30s and 40s during the perimenopause period. Apart from hot flashes and night sweats, there are 34 other symptoms associated with menopause.

Menopause and health concerns

Menopause brings a lot of health issues with it, mainly because of low levels of oestrogen. A decline in oestrogen, together with ageing, elevates the risk for cardiovascular problems. Decreased oestrogen results in the narrowing of the arteries and increased deposition of cholesterol and triglycerides in the arteries. The narrowing of the arteries also increased the risk of having a stroke. One of the major health issues faced by women after menopause is osteoporosis, which results in weak and fragile bones.

Oestrogen levels begin to decrease and subsequently diminish as hormone shifts occur during menopause. As oestrogen plays a role in bone metabolism and the reduction of bone loss. The reduction of oestrogen during menopause significantly speeds up the process of bone loss, which leads to osteoporosis. Other health issues faced by women after menopause are urinary incontinence, urinary tract infections, dry mouth, cavities, vaginal dryness, loss of vaginal elasticity, and many more.

How is vitamin D crucial during menopause?

Research studies suggest a strong correlation between menopause-related symptoms and vitamin D deficiency. Oestrogen enhances the activity of an enzyme that is responsible for vitamin D activity. So, when oestrogen levels decline, the body’s ability to absorb and utilise Vitamin D also decreases, potentially leading to a deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with worsening symptoms and disorders associated with menopause, according to research. Therefore, to prevent bone loss and other symptoms sufficient Vitamin D intake during peri- and post-menopause is recommended in women. 

Health benefits of vitamin D for menopausal women

Vitamin D and immune regulation:

Oestrogen is a female hormone that has a huge impact on immune regulation. After menopause, when oestrogen levels decrease, immune parameters can be affected, which can make women more prone to autoimmune diseases. Studies have shown that in post-menopausal women due to the absence of oestrogen, levels of pro-inflammatory markers are high while the number of immune cells is low.

Vitamin D is not only crucial for the bone’s health but also helps in regulating the body’s immune response and can reduce inflammation. A link has been found between diminished vitamin D levels and the occurrence of severe autoimmune diseases.

Vitamin D and bone health

As we age our bones and muscles become weak which results in weakened and fragile bone (osteoporosis). Osteoporosis risk increase with increasing age. After the occurrence of menopause in women, decreased oestrogen levels increase the risk for calcium deficiency and osteoporosis. A variety of roles are played by vitamin D in maintaining bone health:

  • Absorption of calcium,
  • Bone production,
  • Regulation of calcium.

Vitamin D and cardiovascular health

Oestrogen plays a protective effect on heart health by:

  • Reducing bad cholesterol (LDL)
  • Increasing good cholesterol (HDL)

During the peri and post-menopause phase oestrogen hormone becomes low which leads to the abnormal deposition of body fat, and weight gain. Abnormal fat distribution and disruption of lipid metabolism can give rise to metabolic disorder syndrome. Therefore, the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hyperlipidemia becomes high after menopause.

Vitamin D has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune cell-regulating properties. Vitamin D can also improve insulin sensitivity and immune functions. Because vitamin D deficiency is widespread in menopausal women, supplementation with this vitamin may be useful.      

Vitamin D and mental health

Loss of ovarian function results in the lowering of oestrogen and other hormones in menopausal women. Due to hormone deficiency, menopause can bring depression, anxiety, mood swings, and hot flashes. Depression and anxiety have a strong link with low vitamin D levels. Vitamin D receptors are present in the brain areas that control emotions. Depressed people usually have low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D improves mood by triggering the release of some mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain. Therefore, Vitamin D supplementation in menopausal women can be beneficial in improving cognitive and brain functions.

Vitamin D and genitourinary health

Decreased oestrogen levels after menopause result in vaginal atrophy, thinning of the vaginal wall, decreased vaginal secretions, and increased pH. All these factors lead to vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse, inflammation of the vagina, and urinary tract infections. These problems can be alleviated by hormonal therapy. However, women with breast or endometrial cancer cannot undergo hormonal treatment. Vitamin D therapy can help maintain genitourinary function in menopausal women. Vitamin D receptors are present in the basal layer of the vaginal tissue. Research study has shown that vitamin D show a protective effect on the vaginal tissue by regulating intracellular junctions. Vaginal or oral use of Vitamin D can help alleviate menopause-related vaginal atrophy. 

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How can you get it?

Sunrays can help in the synthesis of this vitamin in the body. Daily exposure of skin to sunlight can enhance its synthesis. However, overexposure of the skin should be avoided.

Another source is supplementation. Oily fish milk, calf liver, egg yolk, milk, yogurt, and cheese are some natural sources of this vitamin

Ensuring adequate vitamin D levels through sunlight exposure, diet, and supplements can be beneficial in managing menopausal symptoms and promoting overall health and well-being. It is recommended that you get personalised guidance before beginning any supplementation.

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