In a perfect world, food would offer all of the nutrition that a woman needs. However, when it comes to vitamins and minerals, there are many things working against us. The food we eat now is less nutrient dense than it used to be, and our bodies are working harder than ever before to keep up with the busy-ness of our modern world. But luckily, we can call on supplements to fill in the gaps! Taking vitamins and nutrients is an easy way to boost nutrition and optimize the functions of the body. Choosing the right ones however, can be overwhelming. Although supplement needs are highly individual, there are a handful of supplements that can benefit most women regardless of diet, lifestyle, or age.
Here are my favourite 5 supplements to optimize a woman’s health:
Magnesium is one of the most common mineral deficiencies, affecting up to 20% of the general population. It’s even more common in women, as the birth control pill depletes magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is under diagnosed for two main reasons, the first being that doctors do not commonly test for it. The second reason is that blood tests are not always reliable when it comes to magnesium testing.
Magnesium is necessary for the functioning of over 300 enzymes in human. Some of the main functions of magnesium include electrolyte balance, energy production, DNA and protein production, and cellular and tissue integrity, which goes to show how important this mineral is.
In women, some common reasons to use magnesium include:
- Being on the pill
- Prolonged stress and adrenal fatigue
- Promoting restful sleep
- Depression and anxiety
- Painful period cramps
- Muscle cramps and recovery
- Athletic performance
- Pregnancy & pre-eclampsia
A B-complex refers to a supplement that contains a mix of the 8 B-vitamins including (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), vitamin B6, biotin (B7), vitamin B12, and folic acid. The B-vitamins work together and individually to support the majority of cellular functions in the body.
The most important roles of B-vitamins include:
- Mitochondrial health and energy production
- The breakdown of proteins and fats
- Brain function and neurotransmitter synthesis, like dopamine, serotonin, melatonin, and GABA
- Prevention of neural tube defects in pregnancy (specifically folic acid)
- Hormone Balance
- Maintenance of hair, skin, and nail
However, medications, the birth control pill, and alcohol consumption all deplete B vitamins. Many digestive conditions interfere with their absorption as well. Thus, it should not be surprising to hear that a large percentage of the population are deficient in many of the B-vitamins.
For women, especially those with a history of birth control use, I commonly recommend a B-complex to:
- Support hormonal balance
- Optimize liver function and promote detoxification
- Support chronic stress and adrenal health
- Balance mood
- Enhance energy
Commonly called the “sunshine vitamin”, we are realizing that sunshine may not actually be providing enough vitamin D. Skin may not get enough of this light because urban and polluted areas filter out the necessary UV wavelengths. Sunscreen blocks this process too. Therefore, there is a high rate of vitamin D deficiency even among the urban populations. Hence, foods and dietary supplements are necessary, especially because vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for women’s health.
Vitamin D actually acts as a prohormone in the body. It prevents osteoporosis and acts on many other tissues like the brain, breast, and colon.
- Menstrual dysfunction
- Obesity and insulin resistance
- Breast, ovarian and colon cancer
- Autoimmune diseases, like psoriasis and multiple sclerosis
- Cardiovascular disease
Due to widespread deficiency, testing for vitamin D levels is important for most individuals. To determine your levels, you can do a simple blood test. Supplementation should then be based on these results.
Fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids which are very low in the average woman’s diet. The most important omega-3s, EPA and DHA, come only from algae and fish, or else through supplementation. And it is important to note that there is a poor conversion rate for plant based sources of omega 3s. Thus, vegans, vegetarians and those who do not consume seafood have a very low intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Due to a low intake through dietary sources, women can take fish oil to support their overall health. Omega-3 supplementation can help prevent:
- Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline
- Breast and colon cancer
- Painful periods
- Post-menopausal hot flashes
- Cardiovascular health, etc.
Fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatories. Thus, omega-3s can likely help to reduce the risk of many more conditions, while supporting optimized health, due to their ability to lower inflammation. Therefore, when it comes to fish oil supplements, quality is critical to consider. Testing for mercury and toxic components is crucial for fish oil supplements.
Probiotics are for so much more than a healthy gut. In recent years, research on probiotics has exploded with connections between good gut bacteria and everything from mental health to weight management. There is more emerging research suggesting that the specific strain matters in a lot of conditions. Our gut takes a beating from things like stress, low-level inflammation, the birth control pill, antibiotic use, poor dietary choices, and the list goes on, but all of these triggers are very common in the average woman’s life.
For general women’s wellness, a multi-strain probiotic can help to:
- Maintain and enhance the function of the gut to promote adequate digestion and reduce symptoms like bloating
- Protect against infections like candida and bacterial vaginosis
- Promote healthy weight management
- Support mental health and cognitive function
- Improve performance in athletes
- Support pregnancy and reduce allergies in newborn
- Help support healthy stress management
SUPPLEMENTS CAN HELP PROMOTE A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
Women have unique needs and in our modern world, it sometimes seems like we are swimming against the current. Although you can’t supplement yourself out of a bad diet, it can be challenging to meet your specific nutritional needs through food alone. Supplements do not replace a healthy diet, adequate exercise or good sleep. But for women looking to boost their overall wellness, supplements make a great addition to a healthy lifestyle. If you do decide to take supplements to help achieve your health goals, choose high-quality brands that you can trust.
However, if you are looking to address a specific concern, you may need a more targeted approach. This is when its best to work with an ND or another healthcare provider.