If you're a woman over 40, you might be thinking about taking supplements to help you with common symptoms that come with the perimenopause years.
I believe food always comes first (you can't supplement your way out of a bad diet!), but supplementing vital nutrients can help avoid vital nutrient deficiencies that can contribute to common symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, insomnia, digestive issues, hot flushes and more.
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Your diet is incredibly important in supplying key nutrients for your hormones to work for you, not against you. Avoiding processed foods, eating nutrient dense foods with good quality protein, healthy fat, low GL carbs and plenty of vegetables is the best way to nourish your hormones.
So why do we need supplements at all?
- Your diet; it might not be as nutrient dense as you'd like if you're eating a lot of refined carbs, bad fats, processed foods or alcohol
- Food processing, pesticides and long distance transportation can deplete the nutrients in foods
- Soil quality today is not as rich as it used to be. In fact it has 20% fewer minerals compared to the 1930's (and 50% lower zinc and calcium)!
- We are what we absorb. Your ability to digest and absorb your food can be impaired by many things;
- low stomach acid/digestive enzymes
- food intolerances
- gut health (imbalances and infections)
- Climate and culture; this is particularly relevant for Vitamin D;
- if you don't get strong sunshine all year round
- if you don't get outside much
- you cover yourself up or stay in the shade
- you wear sun cream when you're outside
- Ageing; as we get older, your body needs some extra help to get the nutrients in. We may have;
- hormone imbalances (peri-menopause or menopause related)
- oxidative stress
- wear and tear
The confusing supplement market
The supplement market is a minefield! Just because something is heavily advertised, or marketed as ‘healthy' doesn't mean its any good for you!
In fact many of these mass market cheap brands are the ones they use in the scientific research which come out saying taking vitamins is useless!
That's often because cheap brands contain cheap ingredients that may not be the best bio-available form for the body, meaning it doesn't do a good job. They often have contaminants or cheap fillers and preservatives that you also don't want to be taking in. Some even add sugar or sweeteners!
Your friend (or someone on a forum) might swear by one thing that has worked for them, it may not work for you. Or worse, it may do harm if you're on medication or you have a health condition. Always check with your Dr or get proper qualified advice from a nutritionist or naturopath if you're concerned. And check out this article for some rules around taking common medications and supplements.
What Supplements Are Best?
I'm afraid there's no ‘one size fits all' with supplements. It depends on a whole host of things as to whether a supplement will work for you or not; your genetics, your symptoms, your history, your biochemistry, your diet and lifestyle, your potential hormone imbalance, and of course any medications you’re on.
However there are some basic supplements that I recommend for women over 40 as they are pretty safe to take for the majority (please do check with your Dr if you're on medication or have a diagnosed health condition).
My Top 5 Basic Supplements
From my clinical experience, as a general rule these are my top 5 essential supplements for women over 40:
- A good multivitamin/mineral – unless you are being tested for every nutrient that you need, a good quality multi is your basic insurance policy! But I don’t recommend any old multi from your supermarket. You must look for good levels of all your B vitamins in the most absorbable form and all the essential minerals, including zinc, selenium and iron (if you are still menstruating).
- Vitamin D3 with K2 – unless you live in year round sunshine and expose your skin to it, you will need a vitamin D top up. We know that vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, but it’s a vital immune system regulator, as well as beneficial for mood, heart health, hormones and more. It doesn’t work alone though – it needs magnesium, Vitamin K2 and other nutrients that you'll get in your multi.
- Vitamin C – as well as fighting infection and immune support, Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant – meaning that it prevents too much oxidative stress protecting our cells and our DNA from damage. Its needed for the production of collagen, the major component of skin, bone and connective tissue and it helps the adrenals to produce cortisol.
- Omega 3 Fish Oil – unless you are eating oily fish at least 3 times a week, you are likely not getting enough omega 3 fats. These are called ‘essential fats' for a reason! They are critical for the structure of your cell membranes and reducing inflammation. They play an important role in reducing the risk of arthritis, heart disease and brain and mood disorders. There are many fish oils out there, but many are contaminated with heavy metals or have gone rancid. It’s really important to buy a good quality brand.
- Magnesium – your all round hormone rescuer! Magnesium is responsible for over 300 different enzyme reactions in the body, including energy production, adrenal support, heart and bone health. It's your relaxation mineral, so great for stress and twitchy muscles, and can be helpful for pain.
Check out my Top 5 favourite brands in my collection at Approved Vitamins.
Which supplement brands are best?
It's so important to invest in trusted brands that have the best available forms of ingredients so that your body can use them effectively.
Some of my favourite brands are Nutri Advanced, BioCare, Promensil, Femmenessence, Biotics Research, MPowder, CytoPlan, Designs for Health, Jarrow Formulas, Life Extension, Better You, Pure Encapsulations, Allergy Research and Thorne Research.
Shop my collection at Approved Vitamins for all these brands (and more).
Remember, please check with your Doctor or health practitioner if you want to start a new supplement and you're on medication or you have a health condition.
If you'd like a personalised diet or menopause supplement plan, or want to enquire about testing, please contact us to arrange a free call and we can discuss your requirements.