Vitamin Deficiencies in Midlife Women

February 21, 2022
Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin Deficiencies

I had a blood test a few weeks ago to check my vitamin levels, thyroid function but more directly to follow up on my iron levels following an iron infusion back in November 2021. I’ve been feeling really run down and tired and very down. I was worried my iron levels were already down again.

Just over a week ago, whilst staying over at Mum’s, I had a Telehealth appointment with my doctor following a text message from them requesting I book an appointment as follow up to blood test results. During this call I was told that I very deficient in Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 and Zinc. I would need to start taking supplements for Vitamin D and for Zinc. I was told I’d need around 2000 IU’s of Vitamin D per day. For Vitamin B12 they want to get a lot of it into me straight up as my deficiency is severe so the plan is that I have three Vitamin B12 injections a week for 2 weeks and then one every 3 months. My iron levels & thyroid function were all AOK! I will have a follow up blood test in 6 months to check how things are going.

So, from my local chemist, I purchased OsteVit-D One-A-Week Vitamin D3 7000 IU because I’d prefer taking less daily tablets. I take two of these once a week. I also purchased Nature’s Own High Strength Zinc 30mg and take one daily. Packs of Hydroxo-B12 injections were also purchased in readiness for the series of B12 injections planned. On the day this post is published I will be in my second week of B12 injections and getting my 4th shot today.

I am so relieved that these deficiencies were picked up because all three of them affect my immune system and let’s face it – these days it has never been more important to look after our immune systems! There are also a lot of other things to be concerned about by these deficiencies. I thought it was worthwhile to share a condensed version of the results of my research into these three important vitamins, so below you’ll see just how important these Vitamins are to our health and wellbeing. There’s so much more I could write on each of these. Maybe another time!

Vitamin B12

VITAMIN B12

Why is Vitamin B12 important?

Vitamin B12 is vital for making red blood cells, cell and tissue repair and nerve health.

What happens if I don’t have enough B12?

Vitamin B12 deficiency is a serious health problem that can lead to a number of health complications. These include:

  • Anaemia — not enough red blood cells in your blood
  • Neuropathy — nerve damage
  • Neurological disorders — ranging from minor behaviour changes to severe neurodegenerative disorders.

Symptoms of B12 deficiency

  • strange sensations, numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet
  • difficulty walking (staggering, balance problems)
  • tiredness, fatigue and weakness
  • light-headedness and breathlessness
  • pale, jaundiced skin
  • rapid heart rate
  • bruising or bleeding easily
  • disturbed vision
  • upset bowel
  • anaemia
  • a swollen, inflamed tongue and mouth ulcers
  • high temperature
  • difficulty thinking and reasoning, or memory loss
  • changes in mood.

How can I get B12 naturally?

  • Beef, liver, and chicken
  • Fish and shellfish such as trout, salmon, tuna fish, and clams
  • Fortified breakfast cereal
  • Low-fat milk, yoghurt, and cheese
  • Eggs

Vitamin D

VITAMIN D

Why is Vitamin D important?

Vitamin D helps the body absorb the calcium it needs to keep the bones and muscles strong and healthy.

What happens if I don’t have enough Vitamin D?

In infants and children, moderate to severe vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets (soft bones).

If you’re over 50, low vitamin D levels can lead to osteoporosis and increase the risk of falls and fractures (broken bones). Osteoporosis occurs when your bones lose calcium and other minerals, making them fragile and more likely to break. Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium, so if you don’t have enough, you can be at increased risk of developing osteoporosis.

People with very low levels of vitamin D (moderate to severe deficiency) are the most at risk of developing health problems.

A number of diseases have been linked to low vitamin D levels such as increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults, severe asthma in children and cancer. Research suggests that vitamin D could play a role in the prevention and treatment of a number of different conditions, including type1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance and multiple sclerosis. 

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency

Many people can apparently have NO symptoms! However, some symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Bone and back pain
  • Muscle weakness, muscle aches, or muscle cramps.
  • Mood changes, like depression & anxiety
  • Being sick or getting infections often
  • Impaired wound healing
  • Bone loss 
  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain

How can I get Vitamin D naturally?

Most Australians get their vitamin D when they expose bare skin to ultraviolet B (UVB) light from the sun. Food alone cannot provide an adequate amount of vitamin D and most people are reliant on sun exposure to reach recommended levels. Foods that contain small amounts of vitamin D include fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel and herring), liver, eggs, margarines and some milk products. Infant formula is fortified with vitamin D in Australia.

Zinc

ZINC

Why is Zinc important?

Zinc is a nutrient that people need to stay healthy. Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells.

What happens if I don’t have enough Zinc & what are the symptoms of Zinc deficiency?

Healthy people who don’t have enough zinc in their diet may experience hair loss, diarrhoea, impotence, eye and skin problems and loss of appetite.

When you’re zinc deficient, your body can’t produce healthy, new cells. This leads to symptoms such as:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • wounds that won’t heal
  • lack of alertness
  • decreased sense of smell and taste
  • diarrhoea
  • loss of appetite
  • open sores on the skin

How can I get Zinc naturally?

Whole grains and milk products are good sources of zinc. Many ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are fortified with zinc. Oysters, red meat, and poultry are excellent sources of zinc. Baked beans, chickpeas, and nuts (such as cashews and almonds) also contain zinc. Check out Health Direct’s list of Best Sources of Zinc.

ARE MENOPAUSAL WOMEN MORE PRONE TO VITAMIN DEFICIENCIES?

Please note that there are many other risk factors for vitamin deficiencies that I haven’t outlined. I’m just sharing what might be of interest to mid-life women.

Let’s look at Vitamin D first.  There’s a couple of things that ‘might’ make menopausal women more susceptible to a Vitamin D deficiency. As you get older, your body produces less of the substance (7-dehydrocholesterol) that your skin uses to produce vitamin D from sunlight. In addition, oestrogen increases the activity of the enzyme responsible for activating vitamin D and so declining oestrogen levels during the menopausal transition could lead to symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. You are at increased risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis at menopause. This is because the drop in oestrogen at menopause can speed up bone loss. Having enough calcium and vitamin D is important as you need calcium for building bone, and vitamin D to help your body absorb calcium.

Vitamin B12.  The imbalance of hormones that occurs during and after menopause can lead to a Vitamin B12 deficiency in many women.

Zinc.  Most of the zinc that we do have in our diet is stored in muscles and bones and with the changes that arrive in menopause to both these structures, there are no surprises that zinc intake may be compromised. We are losing muscle and of course, our bones are changing with age too. Strong bones and muscles need zinc!

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After doing my research (as outlined above) this explains why I’ve been so unusually tired, my low mood, and the fact that the wound from where I had a mole removed in October 2021 had still not healed, plus more. You can understand now why I’m so very relieved to have had these deficiencies identified and now being addressed? Phew! 

Here’s another one that I’m not deficient in but that is really important for us women in midlife and it is …

MAGNESIUM.  This mineral plays an important role in over 300 biological reactions in the body, but specifically in bone health and energy metabolism. Energy metabolism is how the body generates energy from the nutrients found in our food. Not getting enough magnesium can affect your calcium levels as well as increase your risk for hypertensive vascular disease, as well as osteoporosis. It helps you sleep much better, reduces your stress levels, brings you some calm, and more!  I wrote this post a while back that explains more about the importance of magnesium – 23 Symptoms that may indicate you are Magnesium deficient. 

Do I take a Magnesium supplement? Yes I do! You can do your own research and decide what might be best for you but I can recommend the one I take which is Cabot Health Magnesium Ultra Potent Powder. I take it in a small glass of water every night before bed. 

Have you had a blood test to check your vitamin levels lately? If you haven’t it might be something to consider!

Ciao for now,

Sources used for information contained in this post include: healthline.com | balancehormonecenter.com | menopausecentre.com.au | healthdirect.gov.au | independenceaustralia.com.au | equelle.com

Linked up with Denyse Whelan Blogs for #LifeThisWeek

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10 Comments

  • Reply Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au February 21, 2022 at 11:10 am

    Hi Min – I’m so glad this was discovered and you have a plan in place to replenish your levels. When I had all my period issues and my iron levels were so low, my Vit D dropped as well. Fortunately things stablised again after the bleeding was stopped. I thought living in Australia we’d all get heaps of sunshine on our skins for absorption, but I think we tend to shelter from it a lot and cover up so much that we sometimes don’t benefit from it as much as we assume. I hope things continue to improve for you and that your immunity stays strong – we need all the help we can get during these covid times.

    • Reply Min February 22, 2022 at 10:32 am

      Hi Leanne, I have been a lot more conscious of the risk of skin cancer and have avoided long periods in the pool or beside the pool so this may have contributed to my decline in Vitamin D? Who knows? I’ve had 4 x Vitamin B12 shots and still feeling really tired so it going to take a while it seems to get me right again but I’ll get there!

  • Reply Lydia C. Lee February 21, 2022 at 3:35 pm

    Good post. Glad you are getting it sorted. I’m all over the place symptom wise but when I get my bloods done, I’m fine. Weird.

    • Reply Min February 22, 2022 at 10:34 am

      Thanks Lydia! How annoying for you. That has happened to me many times. This time I was expecting that all would be fine and that my tiredness was most likely from being so busy with looking after Mum etc so the deficiencies came as quite a surprise!

  • Reply Debbie Harris February 21, 2022 at 4:37 pm

    This was very interesting Min and I’m so glad you’re onto these deficiencies. A few months after my grandson was born he was being tested for all sorts of things and it was found that he was deficient in B12 which as you say can have significant impacts. He was given B12 and immediately improved but tests later revealed a quite serious genetic condition that we weren’t expecting – we had hoped the lack of Vitamin B12 was the main issue but it wasn’t.
    I also take Vitamin D and capsules daily and my blood test results show it is above the recommended level now. We have to keep checking on these things!

    • Reply Min February 22, 2022 at 10:35 am

      Hi Deb – thank you. I hope your grandson is doing ok now? Yes we do have to keep checking these things. Just because all is ok one time when you check, doesn’t mean it will still be the case the next time you check!

  • Reply Joanne February 22, 2022 at 6:56 am

    I started taking vitamin D supplements in the fall and will continue taking them until spring then I think being outside in the sun will provide enough (I hope!). I also take calcium supplements as osteoporosis runs rampant in my family. Thankfully my iron levels were AOK at my last check to; I was taking several of those a days as well and while they are just all vitamins and supplements I don’t enjoy taking so many of them!

    • Reply Min February 22, 2022 at 10:37 am

      Vitamin D and Calcium supplements are important ones to take Joanne, especially if there’s osteoporosis in your family. Glad your levels are all looking good! I don’t like taking a lot of tablets every day either which is why I take the once weekly Vitamin D ones!

  • Reply Denyse Whelan February 23, 2022 at 9:29 pm

    Hi Min, gosh I am glad you are getting to find out what you needed and can move along to better health with these. I only had one bout of B12 deficiency post Head and Neck cancer and had a couple of injections. Much more importantly though, because of my ability to eat limited sources of iron, an iron infusion 12 months ago has kept me from needing another. I have been taking Vit D in capsule form for about 20 years probably. My GP way back made sure I did that. It IS ironic isnt it in our sunny country that we need it but ageing seems to affect most things!

    Thank you for linking up to Life This Week at Denyse Whelan Blogs.
    Next Monday, on the last day of February, I have a special announcement of interest to all who link up their blog posts with my blog’s link up party.

    I look forward to catching up with you then.

    Denyse.

    • Reply Min March 15, 2022 at 3:49 pm

      Hi Denyse, it is strange isn’t it that in our sunshiney (usually) country we can have a Vitamin D deficiency but alas it happens! I’m feeling a lot better since the first lot of B12 injections and being vigilant with taking my Vitamin D & Zinc supplements. I feel such high maintenance now that I’m getting older! Lol

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