October 29, 2009

#7 Natural Supplements

The use of natural food supplements (a.k.a vitamins) is a massive topic with hundreds of books and articles offering help for frazzled hormones – but sorting through it all can frazzle your nerves! Many women assume that if they eat a nutritious diet, they have no need for supplements. The fact is that most of us do not eat the recommended 5 – 9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and it’s difficult to eat a variety of fresh foods year round. Also, our food simply isn’t as nutritious as it used to be due to soil depletion, chemical fertilizers, early harvesting and over-processing. The rising rate of diet related diseases indicates that we are a malnourished nation. There are some common recommendations I’ll cover to help keep you healthy and hopefully happy on the hormonal rollercoaster.

Here are common complaints stemming from lack of nutrition:

· No pep
· Aches and Pains
· Headaches
· Difficulty sleeping
· Constipation
· Infections
· Splitting fingernails
· Dull thin hair
· Backaches
· Leg cramps
· Depression
· Desire for sweets
· Bruise easily
· Nervousness
· Illnesses: colds, flu, allergies
· Diseases: cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes

Sounds like the laundry list for peri-menopause!

Choosing an effective supplement program can be overwhelming. You must choose your supplements carefully, because many ‘drug store variety’ supplements are ineffective. If you’ve tried vitamins before without results, consider the quality of the products you purchase. Basically, there are 3 types of supplements available:
  1. Synthetic – made from petroleum, man-made compounds, no enzymes, poor absorption, questionable additives (color, preservatives). These are your typical drug store variety vitamin.
  2. Natural – isolates some nutrients, but only needs to be 15% natural to be labeled ‘Natural’ according to FDA requirement. Heat processing often destroys enzymes, and they may include harsh binders and fillers. Some include artificial colors or flavors that are known toxins – check the label carefully.
  3. Whole Food – made from the highest quality raw ingredients, enzymes are preserved through careful processing, no harmful ingredients, include synergistic ingredients. Look for double-blind, placebo controlled, clinical studies on the actual product (not marketing studies or studies on the ‘ingredients found in Brand X’). This is the best way to know the product you are purchasing is proven to work.

Here is a basic supplement plan to ease perimenopausal symptoms and support optimal health:

  • Multi-vitamin: A good multivitamin is foundational for a good supplement program. Look for a multi with all 23 essential vitamins and minerals. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of nutrients was established to prevent deficiency related diseases, like scurvy and rickets. The RDA may be less than what your body needs for optimal health.

Additional nutrients to consider:

  • Vitamin B: a supplement containing all 8 B vitamins promotes energy, heart health, and DNA synthesis. Food sources of vitamin B include whole grains, leafy green vegetables and fish.
  • Vitamin D: numerous clinical studies point to the importance of vitamin D. Vitamin D is crucial for healthy bones, immunity, heart, brain, weight management and more. Most Americans are deficient in this vital nutrient. Many experts are recommending 1,000 – 2,000 IU/day. Food sources include salmon, eggs and fortified dairy and soy products. Your multi-vitamin and calcium supplements should contain vitamin D.
  • Vitamins C and E: these important antioxidants support cell health throughout the body.
  • Minerals: zinc, magnesium, calcium and iron are minerals that support women’s health, but most women are deficient. Zinc (15 – 50 milligrams/day): helps to lower estrogen and increase progesterone levels, build strong bones, and keep your immune system strong to ward off viruses. Zinc can also improve memory and attention span. Magnesium (200 – 1,000 milligrams/day): 80 % of Americans do not get enough magnesium resulting in nervousness, anxiety, irritability, muscle cramps, memory loss, depression and many other perimenopausal symptoms. Magnesium is also critical to calcium absorption for bone health.

As I mentioned, choosing natural supplements can be overwhelming, but, choosing carefully and committing to a long term supplement program can make a huge impact on your long term health. A recent clinical study conducted by University of California Berkeley determined the impact of multiple supplements on long term health. The Landmark Study showed that long-term multiple supplement users had markedly better health than single supplement users and non-supplement users. Check out the study to see the benefits of long term, high quality supplement use: The Landmark Study. Not only will your long term health benefit, but you can minimize or alleviate many unpleasant menopausal symptoms naturally.

  • I have found the simplest way to commit to a program with multiple supplements is with a daily vita-strip containing all the nutrients I need, including omega-3s and probiotics. The increase in energy and clarity was dramatic when I began taking a convenient vita-strip daily. I find it simpler to take a once daily strip of all nutrients combines, and it is also more economical than purchasing each nutrient separately.

Important Note: Consult with your physician before starting a supplement program, especially if you are currently taking prescription medication. Do not take mega-doses of any vitamin, mineral or herb unless you are under a doctor’s care. For additional details on nutritional supplements for perimenopause, I recommend The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northrop, M.D.

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