An Introduction to Nutrition and Supplements for Women

An Introduction to Nutrition and  Supplements for Women

With literally millions of branded vitamins, energy boosters, health ‘enhancers’ and mineral supplements available, it’s virtually impossible to know if you’re taking the right ones … or even if you’re doing the right thing taking any at all.

When I started looking at the whole subject of nutritional / dietary supplements, it became quickly evident to me how broad this subject is, but more astonishing is just how diverse opposing views are delivered.

The reality is, approximately 45% of women in developed countries take some form of nutritional supplement., despite research showing that whole foods, with their mix of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, outperform supplements in combating disease.
Furthermore opposition to the whole supplement query will tell you that supplements are simply unnecessary, with some experts going further by claiming that supplements are actually harmful.

Let’s take a step back though; unless we have a perfect diet day in day out, we won’t get anywhere near the levels of micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals absorbed with food) our bodies need.
Add to that, further physiological (like menopause, menstruation or pregnancy), lifestyle (like vegetarians or athletes) even psychological parameters and the whole argument becomes even more subjective.

So where do we go from here?  

Some experts including our own doctors advocate and even prescribe supplements to aid health and well-being. whilst opposing experts tell us its dangerous. 

OK, so where have we got to?

 Too much nutritional supplement is bad for you, whereas too little nutritional supplement is … bad for you.
So what I intend to do over the next two pieces is supply information based on the science of supplements before applying that information into how these supplements affect you in the form of a Q&A forum.

Throughout the pieces, you’ll see references to daily amount, abbreviated to RDA (recommended daily amount) and measurements detailed in mg (milligrams) mcg (micrograms) and IU (international unit).
Whatever you get from these pieces, just remember to aim for as many vitamins and minerals from a nutrient dense diet, and always check with your doctor before taking supplements.

Can probiotics really relieve stomach problems?

Without doubt! The so called “healthy” bacteria that exist in the gastrointestinal system help absorb nutrients and prevent (and in some cases reduce) inflammation, thus improving food processing and metabolic performance.

The best way to maintain healthy levels of probiotics is a high fibre, nutrient- dense foods including whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, and fruits, vegetables and yoghurt. However, if you feel such a diet causes discomfort, consider a supplement.

There is certainly evidence that shows probiotics can help treat a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhoea, intestinal infections and even the dreaded Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Should I take extra supplements when going through menopause?

When menopause hits, oestrogen levels in the body drop significantly which can cause a number of different effects including a susceptibility to osteoporosis, this means an increase in calcium from 1000 mg to 1200mg and vitamin D to help absorb it is often recommended.
Vitamin B12 can also help too, as this will help avoid those low moments and give a welcome energy boost your body needs at this time.

I think I eat pretty well. Do I really need supplements?

Possibly. Though many experts claim that if you eat properly and include a wide variety of fruit and veg, whole grain, protein and low-fat dairy products in your diet, all essential nutrients can be absorbed often working together to improve absorption.

However, it’s fact that most of us overestimate how well we really eat – with recent studies confirming this. So in a nutshell, supplements can help, by providing a firm foundation, in the event too few nutrients are ingested.
This is why, the majority of doctors suggest some form of multivitamin as a core supplement, even if you eat well and are in a good state of health.

What can I do to avoid feeling nauseous when taking vitamins?

Taking a vitamin on an empty stomach (especially iron) can cause nausea, so be sure to eat and drink water with any supplement.
Alternatively, try taking smaller pills with fewer additives, as fillers can also create the same feeling.  If that doesn’t work, consider switching to chewable pills or powders mixed with water – all are just as effective as a hard pill but may be less irritating.

What should I look for in a multivitamin tablet?

The multi should have around 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for most of these vitamins and minerals.

A (at least half of it as betacarotene or mixed carotenoids),
B1 (thiamine),
B2 (riboflavin),
B3 (niacin),
B5 (panthothenic acid),
B6 (pyroxidine),
B7 (biotin),
B9 (folic acid),
C, D, E and K.

Minerals should include: copper, chromium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc.
Iron and calcium are best taken as individual supplements due to absorption rates.

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