My Top 5 Supplements for women over 40
It’s International Women’s Day as I write this, so, I’m dedicating this blog to help women cut through the maze of supplements and make the best choices that will support your health at this time in your life.
Let’s take a look at why supplements can be necessary.
Do women need to supplement?
There are several important reasons why you may be lacking certain nutrients in your diet.
Our soils are severely depleted of minerals compared to 50+ years ago, especially magnesium, zinc and calcium. Our food is often grown far away and stored for long periods, further depleting its nutritional value.
Our lives are so demanding and we are often living under immense stress. This places huge demands on our adrenal glands, especially for magnesium, vitamin C and certain B vitamins.
With busy lives, we may not always be eating nutrient-dense food. Processed food is nutritionally poor and leaves a nutrient deficit: when it takes more energy and nutrients to digest and process the food than it actually contains.
Why it’s a challenge to “go it alone”
You will be aware from online and print advertising, health food shops and supermarkets, that we are awash with companies trying to sell supplements to us. Each one is promising relief to symptoms, to better health and better ageing.
In my experience, some of my new clients turn up with a bag of supplements that they take at random in the hope they deliver some benefit. Usually at a huge cost. Others are taking one or two based on the recommendations of a friend or non-nutrition therapist.
Supplements are often poorly formulated. The ingredients are poorly absorbed and utilised by the body. They can contain a lot of added nasties like fillers or cheap sweeteners. These can have a negative effect on the health of the gut and the microbiota. I remember supplements being called “cheap urine” and this is probably why!
So just where should you start? Please note, whilst these are safe in most instances, do check for contra-indication if on prescribed medications.
My Top 5 Recommended Supplements
These supplements are those that provide the important nutrients that are often lacking at this time in your life. They support hormone health, fatigue, brain health and structure (bones and skin). Alongside this they will help your body cope better with the demands of stress, both emotionally and physically.
Magnesium is always at the top of my list. This mineral is involved in over 300 processes in the body that help it function. It helps the body produce energy. It is involved in the natural circadian rhythm, helping you to sleep and wake at the appropriate times. It is utilised in large quantities at times of stress which can leave insufficient for the other 300 roles! It is essential for thyroid production and female hormone balance. It is commonly known as Nature’s Tranquiliser” helping to calm the nervous system. It relaxes tense muscles and can help migraines and headaches.
I usually recommend magnesium citrate at 300mg daily, available powdered, capsules or tablets. Skin sprays are useful for tight muscles.
- Essential Fatty Acids EPA and DHA
The word “essential” is included because the body cannot make these fats so they must be consumed in the diet.
These fats have an anti-inflammatory action in the body. They are essential for brain function and can help with a low mood and depression. Every nerve ending and cell membrane contains these fats. They are required as the precursors to making female steroid hormones like progesterone and oestrogen. And they help protect the body from heart disease – a far bigger risk to women than breast cancer.
Whilst you will have heard of Omega 3, EPA and DHA fats are not well known yet it is these fats that the body needs. Omega 3 has to be converted to these fats but the conversion process is poor.
We can obtain EPA and DHA from oily fish like salmon, mackerel and salmon but most people fail to eat adequate amounts (3 portions a week). Look for pure supplements – those that have sourced fish that are checked for heavy metals and PCBs. A suitable potency of EPA/DHA combined is 750-1000mg.
- Vitamin D3
This is known as the sunshine vitamin since it is converted to its active form after direct contact of the sun on our skin. Food sources (like butter and oily fish) cannot supply sufficient amounts. And since we lack sufficient sunshine in the Northern hemisphere a supplement is not an option, it is essential.
Vitamin D is required for the absorption of Calcium hence it’s role in supporting strong bones and teeth and the prevention of osteoporosis after menopause. It has an immune role that cannot be replicated by other nutrients. This includes helping protect against auto-immune conditions, helping to prevent cancer cell replication and in reducing inflammation. Most disease states are thought to have inflammation at its core. As it is required for glucose metabolism it has a role to help in the prevention of diabetes.
Even though you may feel you have some exposure to the sun through the Summer months, the latest advice is to supplement all year round with 1000iu vitamin D3. Fat-soluble or spray formulas are well absorbed.
Collagen is a component of all connective tissue that gives structure and support to the body. This includes bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, skin, nails and hair. Collagen provides the strength to tissues and elasticity to skin. Collagen represents 30% of the total protein in the body.
Everyone loses collagen through ageing, but women lose about 30% of collagen during the first five years of the menopause. This leads to more pronounced lines and wrinkles and a contributor to osteoporosis.
Hydrolysed Type 1 marine collagen is the most highly absorbed in the body and transported to target tissues. Look for a potency of 500mg daily. For additional support to the skin, I choose a supplement combined with hyaluronic acid (helps cells hold onto water) and vitamin C (to protect against oxidative stress).
- High Strength Multi vitamin and Mineral
As a result of modern lifestyles and soil depletion, it is difficult to ensure a nutrient-dense diet. It’s why a good quality multi formula is a useful addition.
Be careful of cheap supermarket brands. The formulations are usually poorly absorbed and the potency/strength of the nutrients is usually very low so the effectiveness is minimal.
Don’t be alarmed to see certain nutrients – especially B vitamins included at high strengths. They are water-soluble (so not stored in the body) and are designed to provide the levels of nutrients most often required. B vitamins are involved in the stress response so often rapidly depleted. They are important for energy production (especially B12), the nervous system, brain health (like memory loss) and B6 is especially important in hormonal balance. A good formula will include all the important minerals, trace minerals and vitamins.
Of course, there are other supplements and nutrients for specific conditions and symptoms, but for good all-round female support, these are my Top 5 recommendations.
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