As another busy, stressful year unfolds for numerous women around the world, it’s time to have a bit of focus on our nutrient intake, especially those of you who may be experiencing gut health changes and/or menopause mood changes. If you are a regular exerciser and you are experiencing sore, aching muscles and joints, then this vital vitamin is equally important.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin which as many of you know, is in numerous fruits and vegetables. But did you know how important it is to include Vitamin C-rich fruits in your diet every day now that you are transitioning menopause or if you are in post-menopause?
From reducing the muscle loss condition called sarcopenia, to improving recovery from exercise, to improving gut health, reducing menopause-related depression and improving brain-fog, the mechanisms of Vitamin C are only just being explored now in the context of our ageing. [Lewis et al, 2020; Figueroa-Méndez et al, 2015].
The connection between Vitamin C intake and gut health and menopause depression is an intriguing one. Did you know that when you feel stressed and overwhelmed, or you’ve been on the oral contraceptive pill for years, or you have been a regular exerciser or athlete or you are experiencing menopause-related depression, then your gut needs Vitamin C?
Every day as part of our normal metabolism, the human body loses approximately 3% of its Vitamin C. If you are exercising intensely, then you can double this loss assuming that your intake of Vitamin C is low. Furthermore, if you are already overweight as you move through menopause, then low Vitamin C is also changing your gut health, leading to more inflammation. (Traber, Buettner & Bruno, 2019).
Vitamin C is a ‘first-line’ anti-oxidant acting as a ‘free radical scavenger’. In non-technical terms, this means that Vitamin C is an important nutrient that helps to protect cells from the damage caused by harmful substances (called ‘free radicals’).
Vitamin C is also important for iron absorption, collagen repair and it helps to make hormones too. The highest concentrations of collagen in the human body are found in tendons, skin, artery walls, the cornea in the eyes, the endomysium (this is the sheath which surrounds muscle fibres which gets tight as we lose oestrogen), cartilage and the organic part of bones and teeth.
It’s such an important vitamin for all of us as we transition menopause, that I wanted to bring it to your attention. And if you can get red or blood oranges at the moment, then relatively new research suggests that these are best. Citrus fruits have
well-documented nutritional and health benefits and you’ve heard me talk about their importance during and after menopause before. [Duarte et al, 2016]
The red (or blood) orange (Citrus sinensis) is a pigmented sweet orange variety typical of eastern Sicily (southern Italy). Research supports their huge contribution to an anti-inflammatory and heart-protective as well as anti-cancer diet. Blood oranges help enzymes to fight harmful free-radicals in the body, including in the gut.
Then there is the importance of Vitamin C for menopause-related depression. If you’re already on anti-depressants or you have gut health concerns or you aren’t recovering well from exercise, then take note of my delicious Blood Orange Smoothie!
In 1753, the Scottish physician, James Lind, noted that the low intake of Vitamin C in sailors was associated with “melancholy and despondency of mind”. I think that many of us might just relate to this comment. It is well known how Dr Lind advised for lemons and oranges to be loaded onto ships to prevent scurvy.
The highest concentration of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in humans is in neuro-endocrine (nerve-hormone) tissue such as the adrenal and pituitary glands and our brain. Many of you who can’t sleep, might just need a little focus on your Vitamin C intake with that knowledge. Higher levels of Vitamin C are known to help with brain healing overnight and in depression management.
Pulling the pieces of the menopause-depression puzzle together is important for women to do – even more so, those of you dealing with a lot of stress in your life as you move from peri-menopause towards menopause (when periods stop for a year or more).
Stress exacerbates feelings of depression and if you’ve experienced post-natal depression, then your risk for menopause-related depression is higher too. But whether you are on anti-depressants or not, it’s crucial to understand that peri-menopause is a vulnerable time for your mental health and it doesn’t go past me, that it’s a vulnerable time for gut health as well – and yes, these two factors are connected.
That’s why, to help you connect both of these issues – depression and gut health – I want you to have a focus on your Vitamin C intake this week. Vitamin C is essential for repair and healing in the body. In the brain it is needed to convert dopamine (a mood hormone) to our calming hormone nor-adrenaline.
As such, you might want to have a bit of a focus on making this beautiful blood orange smoothie.
The MyMT™ KITCHEN: Blood Orange and Carrot Smoothie
It’s easy peasy and takes no time at all. If youdon’t have a decent cold-pressed juicer, then use a hand juicer instead and put the carrots in the Nutribullet if you have one of those. The texture will be a bit different for you, but the nutrients will still be full of gut-health goodness.
- 3 medium carrots (juiced in the juicer).
- 1 medium apple (juiced in the juicer).
- 3 blood oranges
- ½ cup of low fat Greek yoghurt
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric.
Place the blood oranges and low-fat yoghurt and turmeric into the Nutribullet or use a hand-blender. Add the juice from the apples and carrots. Blend all togehter and fill your glass to get the beautiful Vitamin C vitality.
Duarte, A., Fernandes, J., Bernardes, J.P., Miguel, M. (2016), 289, 304, Citrus as a component of the Mediterranean diet. ResearchGate online.
Figueroa-Méndez R, Rivas-Arancibia S. Vitamin C in Health and Disease: Its Role in the Metabolism of Cells and Redox State in the Brain. Front Physiol. 2015 Dec 23;6:397. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2015.00397.
Lewis LN, Hayhoe RPG, Mulligan AA, Luben RN, Khaw KT, Welch AA. Lower Dietary and Circulating Vitamin C in Middle- and Older-Aged Men and Women Are Associated with Lower Estimated Skeletal Muscle Mass. J Nutr. 2020 Oct 12;150(10):2789-2798. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxaa221.
Traber MG, Buettner GR, Bruno RS. (2019). The relationship between vitamin C status, the gut-liver axis, and metabolic syndrome. Redox Biol. 2019 Feb;21:101091.
Related Tag: Perimenopause Symptoms NZ