Supplements to Support Women

Supplements to Support Women

Posted on 21. Sep, 2016 by in Articles

By Jolie Root

Women are busier than ever. As a result we suffer nutritionally because of time-crunched, multitasking lifestyles and eating on the run. Not surprisingly, surveys show that most women are not getting 100 percent of the various vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that support peak health. The busier the woman, the less likely it is she has time — everyday — to cook meals comprised of fresh, whole-food ingredients.

Think of supplements as health insurance for those times when you grab a protein bar and a cup of coffee rather than lunch. Or when the kids’ soccer match means dinner is pizza. Supplements are solutions for real women living real lives, who need to cover their nutritional bases and zip through exhausting to-do lists at the same time.

Women’s supplement regimens typically prioritize reproductive health, maintaining strong bones, and keeping the mind sharp. We must not forget to factor in women’s number-one health challenge: heart health! Here are some evidence-based suggestions for building a lifetime of good health for women at every age.

A Multi is A Must

It is always a good idea to begin with a multivitamin. Prior to menopause, a multivitamin should provide iron, which helps build red blood cells to transport oxygen in the body. It boosts immune function, supports a sharp mind, and is essential for proper cell growth.

Poor iron intake causes a body to produce fewer red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. Anemia will leave you feeling zapped of energy and may cause shortness of breath from performing activities that should be easy. Iron deficiency causes decreased immune function, increasing susceptibility to infection. Blood loss due to menstruation reduces iron stores, so it’s particularly important for women in their childbearing years to eat iron-rich foods or take supplements.

Iron-rich foods include red meat, poultry, seafood, dark-green leafy vegetables, beans, raisins, and apricots. After menopause, most women are able to get adequate iron from food. A blood test will reveal if an iron supplement is necessary. Daily vitamin C increases iron absorption from the diet.

Vital Vitamin A

Vitamin A plays a vital role in vision, and night vision suffers when vitamin A levels are too low. This vitamin is also important for a healthy immune system. Vitamin A reduces the rate of respiratory infections and aids in growth and development.

Beta carotene, which the body uses to produce vitamin A, is found in leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow veggies, tomatoes, and many fruits. Dairy products, liver, fish, and fortified cereals supply preformed vitamin A. You’ll find vitamin A in a multivitamin as well as in cod liver oil and stand-alone supplements, often in the form of retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate.

Folate For Mothers-to-Be

One of the most important nutrients for women of childbearing age is folate. Folate in supplement form is sometimes listed as folic acid. A member of the B vitamin family, folate helps the body manufacture new cells, including red blood cells. Folate is necessary for proper brain function.

Folate is essential during the earliest weeks of pregnancy; deficiency can lead to premature births and an increased risk of having infants born with neural tube defects. Supplementation with folic acid before conception and during the first trimester significantly reduces the risk of neural tube defects.

The daily recommended amount is 400 micrograms, but this need increases to 600 micrograms for pregnant women and 500 micrograms for those who breastfeed.

Folate is abundant in leafy green vegetables, fruits, and beans, and folic acid is found in multivitamins and prenatal vitamins.

Bone Builders

Calcium and magnesium are particularly important to women, and ideally, supplementation should start during early adolescence. Since a woman’s body needs calcium to build and maintain strong bones, calcium consumption is important as we get older. At particular risk are postmenopausal women, whose bone breakdown outpaces new bone formation, resulting in bone loss and the risk of osteoporosis. But young women need calcium too, because we begin losing bone density in our twenties.

Magnesium supports muscle and nerve function, keeps our heart rhythm steady, and partners with calcium to keep bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and may play a role in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

Magnesium deficiency symptoms include muscle cramping, facial muscles twitching, and migraines. Teenagers who do not get adequate magnesium may have painful periods. Aim for 800 to 1,000 mg calcium daily and 400 mg magnesium daily.

Vitamin C for Vitality

Vitamin C is needed for growth, development, and collagen formation. It supports the healing and repair of muscles, skin, blood vessels, bones, and teeth. Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant to mitigate some of the oxidative damage caused by free radicals.

Powerhouse vitamin C’s healing and antioxidant properties make it essential for vibrant health. Although we think of vitamin C as a cold fighter, it has not been proven to prevent colds or flu. Yet when taken in the earliest stages of the infection, it may help reduce the duration of the illness. Vitamin C is often used as an ingredient in skin care products, since increasing collagen production helps to reduce wrinkles and moisturize the skin.

Signs of deficiency include gingivitis or inflammation of the gums and bleeding gums. A woman may also have rough, dry, or scaly skin. Wounds will be slow to heal, and a woman might bruise easily. She may have nosebleeds and a decreased ability to fight infection.

Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption, which is necessary for strong bones. It supports cell growth, a healthy mood and cognitive function, immune function, and reduces inflammation. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become weak, leading to osteomalacia, or a softening of the bones. Low vitamin D is also linked to muscle weakness. Seniors with low vitamin D levels are at increased risk of falling and fractures.

Evidence suggests that an optimal vitamin D level is linked to reduced rates of breast, colorectal, and skin cancers. The sunshine vitamin supports a healthy mind. A recent study finds that seniors with the lowest levels of vitamin D were at twice the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s compared to those who had normal levels.

Vitamin D is also essential for a healthy heart. It helps reduce high blood pressure, supports blood vessel elasticity, is linked to higher levels of protective HDL cholesterol, and calms inflammation. A simple blood test will reveal a woman’s level of vitamin D, which should range between 30 and 100 ng/ml.

Essential Omega-3s

A woman’s healthy heart and mind depend on her getting plenty of omega-3 fats from fish or supplements. Research shows that EPA and DHA omega-3 fats reduce inflammation and may help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. What’s more, studies find that women who eat more fish high in omega-3 fatty acids are less likely to have macular degeneration, a condition that robs you of your central vision, compared to those who ate less fish. Higher levels of DHA have been linked to a decreased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as women get into their 70s and beyond.

Fish — particularly salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel — supply the EPA and DHA linked to all these health benefits. Also consider a fish oil supplement, or an algae supple- ment if you’re a vegetarian. There are even omega-3 products formulated specifically for mothers-to-be.

The American Heart Association suggests 500 mg of combined EPA/DHA daily for healthy adults and 1,000 to 4,000 mg for those with heart disease or diabetes. Pregnant and lactating women need to get a minimum of 200 to 500 mg DHA daily to support a healthy mood and the developing brain and eyes of her child.

About the author:

- who has written 14 articles on Health e Times.


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