Vitamins and supplements have increased in popularity over the years, with over half the population regularly taking at least one vitamin or supplement product. While used as a way to "supplement" our diet, just eating a nutrient-rich diet still sees a need for extra supplementation in many of us. Vitamins and supplements are used for many specific reasons: To increase metabolism and energy production, support the immune system and to produce hormones. Many symptoms can be related to a nutrient deficiency, including:
- Trouble sleeping.
- Dry, brittle hair and skin.
- Digestive problems.
- Impaired cognition.
When it comes to knowing what nutrients to add, it's important to remember that you don't necessarily need the same nutrients as friends and family. But we should highlight those which are considered essential, meaning they have to be supplied by diet or supplementation and cannot not be made by the body.
Magnesium is a cofactor for over 300 cellular processes in the body, from energy production to metabolism. Magnesium is considered a relaxing mineral, so anything in your body that's tight, constricted or overstimulated can be a reason to add more magnesium (think constipation, muscle cramps, sleep, headaches and tingling nerves).
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
Known as ALA, DHA and EPA, omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods such as fish, nuts and seeds. They have anti-inflammatory benefits, are heart friendly and support mood and cognitive function. Our present diet is already rich in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids, and requires a proper balance with omega-3s.
Vitamin D is technically a hormone, and can be produced from sun exposure. But we know that sunlight isn't always available for those of us living in Michigan, making us very deficient. Every cell has receptors for vitamin D, making it crucial for proper functioning for all organ systems.
There are eight different vitamins that make up the B-complex family (B1, B2, B6, B12, folate, etc.). Each play a role in metabolism and how our bodies utilize carbohydrates, protein and fat, as well energy production and thyroid and adrenal function. B vitamins are water soluble, meaning any amount that isn't needed by the body are eliminated and not stored, so they must be replaced constantly.
When it comes specifically to women's health, nutritional needs change as we age. Women of reproductive age typically require more iron, while a higher calcium intake is needed for those above age 50. For women who are using hormone replacement therapy (HRT), adding in a DIM (diindolylmethane) supplement can help with estrogen metabolism and clearance. For those women on thyroid medication, it's recommended to add in iodine, selenium and zinc, as all three help support normal function of the thyroid gland and conversion to T3 (a thyroid hormone).
It's important to note that not all vitamins and supplements are created equal, and may vary in potency and inactive ingredients. Always talk to your doctor or a nutritionist before adding any new products in. At Age Management, our team of nutritionists are happy to sit down and talk about your specific supplement regimen. We also offer a NutraEval test to determine your current deficiencies and can be used to guide to treat any chronic health conditions.
Brandi Grimmer, BS, CNC, is a Functional Medicine Specialist at Age Management of West Michigan.
This article originally appeared in the Jun/Jul '23 issue of West Michigan Woman.