Five recommended supplements for women's general health - PART TWO
There’s no doubt that women’s lives are busier than ever before, and there are times we could all use a helping hand to support us feeling at our best. So, to follow on from our last post, here are five more supplements that we think are worthwhile to support women’s general health and wellness. As always, check with your health professional before adding in any of these supplements to your regular routine!
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D is another important vitamin for women to pay attention to that is especially necessary for the health of our bones, as well as having a role in cell growth, neuromuscular function, and immune function. Despite its name, Vitamin D functions more as a hormone and its main role is to increase intestinal absorption of calcium and maintain normal levels of calcium and phosphorous in the blood. Calcium is essential for the development and hardening of bones, and when Vitamin D levels are inadequate, the bones can become soft and thin, which can contribute to osteoporosis and lead to a condition called osteomalacia in adults. For older women in particular, when bone health starts to decline after menopause due to decreased estrogen levels and for whom Vitamin D becomes less efficiently synthesized, adequate Vitamin D levels are critical for maintaining bone health and strength and reducing the likelihood of fractures.
Vitamin D is found in a small number of foods, and we also absorb Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. Food sources of Vitamin D include fatty fish (for example salmon, sardines, and mackerel), liver, and egg yolks, and it is also added to some fortified foods like margarine and some cow’s milks. Typically, so long as we eat some of these foods and spend time outdoors, our intake of Vitamin D is sufficient. However, there are a few circumstances under which Vitamin D intake can be lower, and supplementation can be useful. These include for those who have limited exposure to sunlight due to living in a darker climate (particularly during the winter months), those who spend limited time outside or who are covered up when outside (for example due to religious or cultural reasons), and those with darker skin whose absorption of Vitamin D from sunlight is less. Women over 50 years can also often benefit from Vitamin D supplementation to protect bone health.
We recommend Healthspan Elite All Blacks Vitamin D - $14.99 for 60 tablets
- Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the most important things you can consume to support optimal health, and their benefits for both the body and the brain are numerous. There are three types of Omega-3 fatty acids, DHA, EPA, and ALA. DHA and EPA are primarily found in fatty fish, whereas ALA is found in plant-based sources such as nuts and seeds. Some of the most well-known benefits of a high intake of Omega-3’s include a reduction in risk factors for heart disease (including lowering triglyceride levels, reducing blood pressure, raising HDL or “good” cholesterol levels, reducing clotting and buildup of plaque in the arteries, and lowering inflammation), a reduction in chronic inflammation which can decrease the likelihood of not only heart disease but also cancer and arthritis, an improvement of bone and joint health and reduction of joint stiffness and pain, and reduction of age related mental decline and delay in the onset of symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease. For women specifically, taking DHA during pregnancy has also been shown to be important for foetal health and development, and some studies have indicated that Omega-3’s may reduce menstrual pain and possibly be as effective as ibuprofen. Omega-3’s are also great for healthy skin!
Eating fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna) at least twice a week is a good way of ensuring an ideal intake of Omega-3. However, for those who don’t eat much seafood, supplementing with fish oil is also a great option for increasing Omega-3 levels. For vegetarian or vegan women, algae-based Omega-3 supplements are available, but these contain only DHA. Good sources of ALA include walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and soybean and canola oils.
We recommend Sanderson Fish Oil 3000 - $29.99 for 150 Capsules
Adding in a daily probiotic supplement is a simple way almost everyone can boost their general health. Probiotics are live microorganisms that promote a healthy balance of “good” bacteria in the gut, which is linked to an array of health benefits. Their promotion of gut health is particularly helpful for reducing gut and digestive related discomfort and they can additionally prevent or reduce the severity of diarrhoea (especially antibiotic-induced diarrhoea), reduce allergy related symptoms, lessen the severity of symptoms of bowel disorders, help to boost the immune system, and they may also play a role in improving mood mental health symptoms like anxiety and depression due to the link between the gut and the brain. For women, taking probiotics can also help to treat vaginal yeast and urinary tract infections.
Probiotics are naturally found in fermented foods including yoghurt, kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, and pickles. Often our daily intake of fermented foods is not especially high, so a daily probiotic supplement is an easy and recommended way to top up your levels and ensure the good bacteria in your gut are thriving.
We recommend Nutra-Life ProBiotica 50 Billion - $39.90 for 30 Capsules
Zinc is a trace mineral that our bodies need for a host of different processes and systems, including the immune system, wound healing, blood clotting, thyroid function, and our sense of taste and smell. It also plays a role in maintaining healthy digestion and metabolism and has been shown to help reduce inflammation which is a factor in many chronic diseases. Zinc’s role in immune system health is particularly well known, and zinc is crucial for our body’s ability to fight off infection. When zinc levels are low, immune responses are weakened. It is a common addition to supplements and formulas designed to assist with symptoms of the common cold, and supplementation with zinc can reduce the length of time cold symptoms are experienced.
Zinc is found in a number of different foods of both animal and plant origin, however animal-based sources are more readily absorbed by the body. Foods rich in zinc include shellfish (e.g. oysters), other fish, meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, legumes, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, and certain vegetables including mushrooms, spinach, peas, and asparagus. Although most of us take in enough zinc within our daily diet, there can be a need for additional zinc during times of illness to support the immune system, for vegetarians and vegans who consume only plant-based sources and for whom overall protein intake may be lower (zinc absorption is affected by the amount of protein in the diet), for those following restrictive diets, and for older adults who absorb zinc less efficiently as they age. For women, there has also been some indication that oral contraceptives can lower the amount of zinc in the body. Because only small amounts of zinc are needed overall, however, checking with your health professional before introducing any regulation zinc supplementation outside of acute use during illness is recommended.
We recommend North Coast Naturals Boosted Immuno Zinc+ - $24.95 for 90 Capsules
Collagen has received a lot of hype in the health and supplement world lately, and there is good reason for this! It has become an especially popular supplement for women due primarily to its positive effects on the appearance of hair, skin and nails, however it also comes with a number of other health benefits. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and plays a particularly important role in providing structural support, making up the fibres of skin, tendons, bones, cartilage, and all other connective tissues. As we age our natural production of collagen begins to decline, and this can lead to an increase in the appearance of wrinkles in the skin, as well as declining joint and bone health. In addition to the natural age-related decrease in collagen, other lifestyle factors can also contribute to reduced collagen including excess alcohol, a poor diet, and spending a lot of time outside in the sun. Although collagen is found naturally in food sources, modern diets have moved away from some of the food sources that are richest in this protein such as bone broth, gelatin, cuts of red meat that are high in connective tissue, and the skin and bones of fish.
Daily supplementation with collagen provides an easy way to mitigate its natural decline and reap the benefits for the health and appearance of our skin, hair and nails, and the health of our bones and joints. It’s an incredibly versatile supplement that comes in a number of different forms including gummies and capsules, unflavoured powder, or as part of flavoured creamers or protein powders. Powdered collagen dissolves easily and is virtually tasteless and odourless, making it easy to include in things like coffee, tea, and smoothies. Collagen supplements should contain hydrolysed collagen (also known as collagen hydrolysate or collagen peptides) as these are most easily absorbed and utilised by the body, and they are typically derived from either marine or bovine sources. You’ll experience most of the same benefits with either type, however, some reasons you may wish to choose one over the other include allergy (marine collagen is not suitable for those with a shellfish allergy), or cultural or religious reasons to avoid products derived from beef. As collagen supplements are an animal-based product, they are also not suitable for women following strict vegetarian or vegan diets.
We recommend Eve Nutrition Marine Collagen (Beauty Elixir) - $49.95 for 20 Serves