Note to readers: (April 20, 2014 edit)
I edited this post and moved the information about methylation down to the bottom of the post to clarify my writing. I think I muddied the waters a bit by adding the information into the body of the post. The ensuing comments, although always welcome, focused more on methylation and the MTHFR gene mutation than the information I was trying to present about menopause hot flashes and the B vitamins. I’ve done this not to curtail the conversation below, but rather to clarify my point about supplementing with B vitamins to eliminate hot flashes. If you are an under-methylator, please make sure you read down to the bottom for the additonal information that might be valid to your specific health issues.
There is no question that I’ve presented theory after theory on why we might suffer from hot flashes and what might stop them. I’ve talked about the acid/alkaline body, boron, carbohydrates, raisins, and potatoes.
I’ve read so many different reasons why the “experts” think women have hot flashes it could make your head spin. Do we have a shrinking section of our brains that handles the hot flash signal? This is unsubstantiated and just sounds ridiculous. Is it the release of toxins because we no longer slough off the blood of our periods? Makes no sense to me. Periods are not about getting rid of toxins per se. Can flashes only be treated by replacing the estrogen you’re losing through menopause with HRT like so many doctors say? Why should we work to replace something your body naturally wants to stop producing? This always aggravates me. Why do doctors think they know better than mother nature?
The one thing I’ve read consistently that does make sense is that your thermostat is broken. Maybe not in those words, but that your brain thinks your body is hot before it is and then the brain dilates the blood vessels to throw off the excess heat that’s not really there so you have a flash…or something like that. I’ve read also that the brain thinks you’re cold when you’re not…you get the picture.
If the problem is a dysfunctional thermostat, then it seems it would be a problem with the system of your brain that controls body temperature. This would point to the hypothalamus.
I decided that I needed to solve the broken thermostat problem myself using the logic I’ve used to heal my histamine intolerance. I started with the idea that menopause has caused an imbalance in the hypothalamus and that imbalance needs to be corrected.
It was easy to find within minutes that the nutrient that supports the hypothalamus’ function is B1. But this was just the tip of the iceberg for me. I naturally had to research for three more hours to figure out what the trigger for the imbalance is. Why is the B1 out of kilter? And is it really that?
I continued my search to back-up the B1 finding by looking at what Asian women’s diets look like. No matter where you look, someone is bound to write that Asian women do not suffer from hot flashes and Japanese women don’t even have a word for hot flashes. This is almost always attributed to soy. But again, how short sighted is it to focus only on one thing in an entire diet? I wondered if something they eat has a lot of B1, so I started to research rice.
I wasn’t getting the results I wanted so I moved on. I started researching the fight or flight reaction in the brain because that starts with the amygdala telling the hypothalamus to get busy. So I was back in the autonomic nervous system. It was in that search that I saw the link between anxiety and homocysteine. I honestly cannot remember the original thing I read, but whatever it was propelled me into a search to understand homocysteine.
From the site Life Extension:
Homocysteine is an intermediary within a metabolic cycle known as methylation. Methylation reactions, relying largely on B-vitamin cofactors (particularly, B6, B12, and folic acid), are critical for the proper synthesis of the neurotransmitters that play an important role in mood regulation.
As B-vitamin levels decline, the methylation cycle becomes impaired-leading to a concurrent increase in homocysteine levels (because it is no longer being recycled efficiently) and a disruption in neurotransmitter synthesis. The close relationship between neurotransmitter synthesis and homocysteine formation has lead some researchers to suspect that there is a link between homocysteine and mood. Indeed, studies suggest that levels of homocysteine are an effective marker for B-vitamin status, and that changes in homocysteine levels correlate with changes in mood.
To me it sounded like a relationship between the autonomic nervous system that the hypothalamus is a key part of, or some kind of overlap in symptoms of imbalance.
Keep in mind, methylation is linked to histamine intolerance. It is believed under-methylators (there is a link below if you do not know what I am talking about) do not process histamine or homocysteine properly. This is one of the reasons I kept going in my research on homocysteine.
It is interesting to me that all of these things result in the same kind of symptoms. Take a look at the lists and you will see fatigue, brain fog and a host of other symptoms that could be menopause, high homocysteine, or even mast cell degranulation disorders like histamine intolerance. Depression is a big one that shows up on all the lists.
I started to put together the importance of all of the B vitamins as I worked through my research. Remember that vitamin B6 is vital in controlling the DAO enzyme responsible for breaking down histamine in your gut. B1 (thiamine) is vital for the hypothalamus to function properly. Vitamin B9, (folic acid), helps bring down homocysteine levels. Vitamin B12 is vital for proper neurological health. It all seemed so interconnected to me.
As I kept researching, I started finding links to folate and hot flashes, with the suggestion that women should take it to reduce hot flashes.
The last thing I wanted to know that brought it all home was do homocysteine levels rise as estrogen falls?
So did menopause trigger my histamine intolerance alone or did it also raise my homocysteine level? I’ve always said it is never one thing that causes our problems. In my final theory as to why I am histamine intolerant I explored adrenal fatigue and too much cortisol. I still believe this could be the case. But now I also wonder if I have a high homocysteine level. If that’s the case, supplementing with B9 could really help eliminate hot flashes. And I’ll go one step further. Why not supplement with B1 for the hypothalamus and B9 for the homocysteine, because I still have not ruled out a sluggish hypothalamus.
Theoretically you could supplement with B6 to support DAO production, B9 to lower homocysteine levels and B1 to support hypothalamus function. Add in B12 for neurological health and you have a full spectrum of support.
I don’t really like to take supplements, but it seems to me it’s difficult to get the daily amounts eating food only, so I am going to supplement for a few weeks and see if I notice a difference.
It is my opinion, and keep in my mind I am not a doctor but just a menopausal woman sitting at her laptop at her dining room table with a cat in the way, that if you supplement with vitamins B1, B6, B9, and B12, you can bring your body back into balance and reduce histamine intolerance and high homocysteine levels, as well as eliminate hot flashes.
As long as you are careful to not overdo, you can supplement with B vitamins. If you are getting too much B6, for example, you might have numbness or tingling in your extremities or sensitivity to light. You’d probably have an upset stomach and other digestive issues before that happens, however. And before you decide to take anything, please read about the contraindications and results of overdosing.
Other than taking a multivitamin, there is a very easy way to supplement with all of them at once. Red Star Nutritional Yeast has all the B’s. I used it in the past, but worried at some point that I was getting too much B6 with it and instead of just cutting back on it I stopped it all together. And ya know what happened, now that I look back on when my hot flashes started again…
Red Star is an inactive yeast. It is not a probiotic. The B vitamins are actually an additive. There are other products called Brewers yeast that say their vitamins are natural to the product, but you have to take a lot of it to get the same amount that Red Star has in it, and I figure if I’m going to take a supplement this one seems to work for me. (I have no affiliation with this product other than I’ve used it for years. I am vegetarian and am aware of B12 deficiencies in non meat-eaters)
If you do decide to supplement, it is best to do it so you get B9 (folic acid) with vitamin B12. Folic acid can mask a B12 deficiency, so it is recommended to take both.
Ultimately, if the B vitamins do work I might not really know which one worked I guess. If I only need to take B1 to jump-start my hypothalamus and I don’t really need to lower homocysteine I won’t really know. Or vice versa. But I have the Red Star here and I’m not really feeling the need to figure that out right now. If someone out there tries one and not the other, I’d love to hear the results.
For now, I want my hot flashes to stop and am willing to take all the B’s to stop them.
So there you have it. My latest big stab at vanquishing those demonic hot flashes. Let me know down in the comments what you think or if you’ve already tried to eliminate hot flashes with the B’s.
A word to the under-methylators in the crowd
I am talking about hot flashes in separate terms from histamine intolerance. I do not believe I am an under-methylator. Menopause triggered my histamine intolerance. My hot flashes were quite horrible when I was acutely histamine intolerant so I do still believe there was a connection there, but my histamine is under control now and I still have quite a few flashes a day. They are milder and quicker, but still quite bothersome. I also believe they are an indicator of an imbalance in the body and show the presence of inflammation. I do believe inflammation is deadly, thus the ultimate goal in getting rid of hot flashes is to get rid of systemic inflammation.
If you are reading all of this and think you are histamine intolerant and think you are an under-methylator, taking B vitamins, especially vitamin B9 (folic acid) as I will ultimately suggest might not be a good idea for you. If you do not know what methylation is I suggest you take a look at this link. It is a very complicated system and I would not be able to explain it better than the blog I am suggesting you read. There are many scientific and medical sites that explain methylation, but this guy does it very clearly and succinctly.
If you are an under-methylator and want to explore the idea of using B6, research the alternate way to keep homocysteine from building up with B6/magnesium. But supplementation with folic acid might not be for you.
Also, there is something called the MTHFR gene mutation. Interestingly enough people who have this often suffer from mast cell dysfunction which could very well manifest as histamine intolerance. They also often cannot regulate homocysteine levels. I think that’s a really interesting overlap. But if you have that mutation, supplementing with folate might be complicated. Some people do well with folate supplementation and others don’t. But it is something you have to solve to get your homocysteine levels down and folate is the thing to do it.