As a menstruating person, you’re likely on a mission to quell PMS symptoms, once and for all. And hey, we don’t blame you—PMS can be a literal pain.
Luckily, there’s a group of water-soluble vitamins that can lend a hand: thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), pyridoxine (B6), folate (B9), and cobalamin (B12). We’ll call ‘em “the Bs.”
Since the Bs are water-soluble, they aren’t stored in your body. With that said, taking supplements can help you build a safety net and meet your daily requirements. Oh, and as for PMS? Here’s how the Bs can make way for much-needed relief.
THIAMIN (VITAMIN B1)
Thiamin, or vitamin B1, is the oldest member of the Bs. It was the first water-soluble vitamin to be discovered.
The vitamin is a major player in essential biological functions, including the replenishment of blood—i.e., the stuff that flows out of your uterus.
It also supports carbohydrate metabolism. This is super important, as you need complex carbs (keyword: complex) to support your mood and energy. Complex carbs have this effect because they’re slowly digested and absorbed by the body. Think unprocessed oats, brown rice, and quinoa.
Plus, thiamin is involved in neuromuscular and central nervous system activities. This means it regulates uterine muscular contractions, better known as cramps.
By the way: Alcohol can mess with your body’s absorption of thiamin, which is one of the many ways booze increases your risk of PMS.
Summary: Thiamin plays a role in producing blood, controlling your mood, and reducing those pesky cramps.
RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2)
Next up is riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2. Two major coenzymes, flavin mononucleotide (FMN) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD), require riboflavin to function. (Coenzymes are substances that help enzymes do their thing.)
FMN and FAD are involved in energy production, along with cellular function and fat metabolism.
Riboflavin is most noted for its relationship with B6 and folate. It’s necessary for converting both vitamins into forms your body can use. We’ll chat about why B6 and folate are crucial for menstrual health in a sec.
Moreover, riboflavin also works as antioxidant and contributes to red blood cell formation.
Summary: Riboflavin helps your body make energy, produce red blood cells, and activate B6 and folate.
PYRIDOXINE (VITAMIN B6)
Pyridoxine, better known as vitamin B6, exists in the body in two forms: pyridoxamine 5’ phosphate (PMP) and pyridoxal 5’ phosphate (PLP). PLP, in particular, is involved in more than 150 reactions in your body. As you’d expect, getting enough vitamin B6 is kind of a big deal.
PLP and PMP are necessary for protein metabolism, while PLP also plays a role in carbohydrate and fat metabolism. This ensures your body gets enough energy from the food you eat, which is especially important just before and during your period.
Vitamin B6 can do wonders for the emotional symptoms of PMS, too. It’s needed to convert tryptophan into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates your mood. And since serotonin levels tend to fluctuate just before your period—causing low mood and anxiety—it’s important to keep it in check.
But remember, vitamin B6 can’t do it alone. As mentioned above, riboflavin is required for B6 to efficiently function. That’s why it’s worth taking a B complex, rather than a single B vitamin supplement.
Summary: Vitamin B6 helps metabolize essential macronutrients and produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that controls your mood.
FOLATE (VITAMIN B9)
One of the most talked about B vitamins is folate, or vitamin B9. It’s known as an essential vitamin for healthy pregnancies, but all women need folate, even if they’re not expecting or TTC.
Folate helps your body make energy, DNA, and neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. This regulates your mood and emotions, particularly during that time of the month.
It also works with B12 to produce red blood cells and support the function of iron. With this combo on your side, your blood can efficiently deliver oxygen to your organs, muscles, and brain. Peace out, fatigue!
Folate also needs riboflavin to work its magic. (Clearly, this vitamin is a serious team player.) It’s easily destroyed during cooking, but supplements can help cover your bases.
Take note of the type of folate, though. Most supplements are available as folic acid, which can be difficult to convert into L-methylfolate—the biologically active form of folate—if you have a MTHFR gene mutation. This is a common genetic variant that reduces your ability to properly convert folic acid into a usable form.
With that said, look for folate at L-methylfolate to get the most out of your supplement.
COBALAMIN (VITAMIN B12)
Specifically, B12 is involved in the production of myelin, the fatty layer that protects your nerve cells. Myelin helps these cells quickly send electrical impulses to each other, which is crucial for cognitive performance.
B12, like other B vitamins, is needed to make red blood cells. This is critical for replenishing blood during your period, especially if you have heavier flow.
Generally, B12 as methylcobalamin is preferred because it’s the type of B12 that’s naturally found in food. It’s also the most bioavailable form of B12. Cyanocobalamin, on the other hand, is synthetic and only found in supplements.
Summary: Vitamin B12 aids cognitive function and the formation of blood.
Ultimately, the Bs might very well be the girl gang you didn’t know you needed. And while all these nutrients are available through food, it can be difficult to consistently meet the mark. (Because… life.) But by taking a multivitamin with a B complex, you can fuel up on essential nutrients while controlling symptoms related to Aunt Flo.
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