In our quest to optimize our performance, we often need to understand what our baseline should be. Even the healthiest ones among us stand to benefit from diagnosing our current nutrition and improving it through supplements. We turned to one of our favorite pharmacists, Dr. Ross Pelton, for his recommendations on the top nutritional supplements every woman should take.
1) A Daily Multivitamin/mineral supplement which should be the foundation of everyone’s supplement program – a high potency, broad spectrum vitamin/mineral supplement. I do not mean a 1-a-day vitamin supplement. A 1-a-day supplement contains doses of nutrients that are equal to or similar to the RDA, which stands for the Recommended Daily Allowance. I think the RDA stands for the Really Dumb Allowance. I have thousands of studies in my data bases which report that doses of nutrients substantially higher than the RDA provide significant health benefits. I am not going to recommend a specific brand. I simply want to present the concept of a higher potency supplement. If you need advice, ask someone who works in a health food or vitamin store, or a knowledgeable health care professional. Taking your supplements in divided doses twice daily is much more beneficial than just taking them once a day.
2) Folic Acid is an incredibly important nutrient for women. A deficiency of folic acid increases the risks for:
- Anemia, which results in fatigue and lack of energy
- Plaque buildup in the arteries which can cause strokes and/or heart attacks
- Birth defects such as spina bifida, cleft lip and cleft pallet
- Breast cancer, uterine cancer and colon cancer
One reason I stress folic acid for women is because oral contraceptives deplete folic acid from a woman’s body. Hence, women who take birth control pills are much more likely to become folic acid deficient. I also urge women to have a blood test to assess their folic acid requirements.
3) Iron is especially important for premenopausal menstruating women. Every month when a woman has her period she looses some blood. A deficiency of iron causes anemia (tired ness, weakness & low energy) as well as a weakened immune system. However, iron is a double-edged sword. Too much iron can be harmful. This is why I always suggest that women have a lab test to have their iron levels checked. Do not take supplemental iron unless a lab test confirms that your iron levels are low.
4) Vitamin D is one of the most commonly deficient nutrients in America. For decades it was thought that vitamin D’s primary function was to facilitate calcium absorption and reduce risks to osteoporosis. In the past decade, research into vitamin D’s activity and function has exploded. Scientists now realize that virtually every cell in our body contains vitamin D receptors and vitamin D controls thousands of genes. Some of vitamin D’s most important functions are now known to be regulation of genes that control many things, especially our immune system, and several different ways of protecting against cancer.
Vitamin D does itself is hard to measure. Therefore, vitamin D levels are determined by measuring a compound called 25-hydroxy vitamin D, or 25-OH D. Most labs state that levels of 25-OH D above 30 are optimal. I strongly disagree. I follow the world’s leading vitamin D researchers and their opinion is that optimal vitamin D levels should be between 50 to 60 ng/ml. I suggest that adults take 4,000 to 5,000 IU/day. The RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU/day, which is ridiculously low. VitaminD is a fat-soluble nutrient, and we do not absorb fat-soluble nutrients very efficiently. Taking vitamin D at your largest meal of the day, which is likely to contain some fat-containing foods will enhance the absorption of vitamin D.
5) Omega-3 Fish Oils are non-negotiable…I recommend them for everyone. We need to talk about both omega-3 and omega-6 fats, because their ratio and their relationship to each other is a critical health issue. Our body cannot make these fats, so they must be obtained from the foods we eat.
It is important to understand that these fats are counter-regulatory. For example, some of the functions of omega-3 fats include lowering blood pressure, thinning the blood, reducing cancer risks and strengthening the immune system. Omega-6 fats do the opposite; increase blood pressure, stimulate blood clotting, increase cancer risks, and suppress the immune system. What is critical is the amount and the ratio between these two classes of fats. Experts suggest we our dietary ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 should be somewhere between 1 to 2 and 1 to 4. Unfortunately, many Americans consume a ratio of 1 to 20 or 1 to 30. Americans consume FAR too much of the omega-6 fats and far too little of the omega-3 fats. The overconsumption of omega-6 and underconsumption of omega-3 fats greatly increases risks to a wide variety of health problems.
I suggest that people take one or two omega-3 fish oil capsules twice daily. Quality is extremely important in this class of supplements. I only recommend the Nordic Natural brand as they have been independently shown the highest quality product on the market worldwide.
Nutritional supplements are not a substitute for a food. Supplements should be considered along with a healthy diet, exercise and other lifestyle attributes