My Top 5 Supplements for Women’s Health
The Best Supplements for women
Having recently run a Ladies Retreat Day where we explored all aspects for long-lasting health – and as it’s International Women’s Day this week, I decided it is a good time to revisit the best supplements to take for women’s health. The supplementation market is huge, so how do you know what to take and are they worth the expense?
As a judge for the supplement category at last year’s Nourish Awards and as a recipient of many supplement samples to try, I am fully aware of the sheer range of products. Let me help you navigate this complex subject.
UK Supplement Market
The supplement market is currently worth £520M, with a growth of 17% since 2017. 38% of the UK population take supplements, and the market is showing no signs of a slowdown:
Why Supplements are not all the same?
Some sceptics have previously declared supplements to be expensive urine. I can understand why. Supplements are often poorly formulated with cheaper ingredients, making it much harder for the nutrients to be absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream.
Some formulas contain too many added fillers and other unnecessary ingredients and chemicals. Some people may react to these, and they may have a negative effect on the health of the gut and the microbiota.
Some may offer only a fraction of the daily nutritional requirements and in stressful challenging times, we may require much higher levels to support the body’s processes, especially nutrients like B vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium.
I truly believe you do get what you pay for. I look for purity, nutrients that work synergistically together, potencies that deliver optimum nutrition – not just adequate nutritional status.
Do women need to supplement?
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.
Many people are relying on ultra processed foods with minimal nutritional value. I recently reported that 50% of the UK calorie intake is from ultra processed foods! It may take more energy and nutrients to digest and process these foods than the nutrition they contain.
The best supplements for Women’s Health
Please note, whilst these are safe in most instances, do check for contra-indication if on prescribed medications.
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 is a factor that contributes to osteoporosis.
Hydrolysed Type 1 collagen is the most highly absorbed in the body and transported to target tissues. Look for a potency of 4-5g daily. I choose powdered marine or a new vegan formula (that mimics human collagen) from Feel, which I add to a protein smoothie.
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 create a deficiency for the other 300 roles!
It is commonly known as Nature’s “Tranquilliser” helping to calm the nervous system. It relaxes tense muscles and can help migraines and headaches.
I usually recommend magnesium citrate at 300 mg daily, available powdered, capsules or tablets.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for a robust immune system. It is a critical anti-oxidant, helping to neutralise free radicals (produced every second to create energy)
that damage cells. It is a component in building strong connective tissue (with collagen) and for wound healing.
Like magnesium, the adrenal glands use large quantities when responding to stress. As a water-soluble vitamin, it is quickly excreted from the body. I recommend, 1000 mg daily with flavonoids (e.g. bilberry) that aid absorption.
- Essential Fatty Acids EPA and DHA
Do you hate oily fish, or are you vegan/vegetarian? Then you definitely need this!
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.
Many disease states today are due to chronic low grade inflammation. These fats have an anti-inflammatory action, so help to maintain the correct balance in the body. They are essential for brain function and can help with a low mood and depression. They help protect the body from heart disease, which is a far bigger risk to women than breast cancer.
These fats are “essential” because the body cannot make them, so they must be consumed in the diet. If you dislike oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) or you’re a non-fish eater, this supplement is non-negotiable.
Look for pure supplements that are checked for heavy metals and PCBs. Either choose a fish oil or an algae based formula containing 750 -1000 mg of EPA/DHA combined.
- Vitamin D3
It is mainly obtained from direct sunlight on the skin (without suntan lotion). Small amounts are available from fats like oily fish and butter, but it is not possible to obtain sufficient quantities this way. As we lack sunshine in the Northern Hemisphere all year and especially through the Winter months, a supplement is not an option, it is essential.
An increasing number of people are deficient in this vitamin and since it has so many important roles in the body I recommend that everyone should look to test their levels (a finger prick blood test costs just £31)
It is required for the absorption of calcium, hence its 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 autoimmune conditions, helping to prevent cancer cell replication and in reducing inflammation.
The advice I received from a senior pharmacist is to supplement all year round with, 1000iu vitamin D3. Fat soluble or spray formulas are well absorbed.
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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