Vitamins and Women’s Health
Americans have the most expensive urine in the world! Let me explain.
We are massive consumers of vitamins in this country, and unfortunately, much of the good stuff is eliminated from our body before it has any beneficial effect. That is not to say that vitamin supplements are a waste, in fact, we strongly recommend that patients use certain vitamins and minerals. Yet in a billion-dollar industry like the vitamin market, you must be a discerning consumer. If you are going to take vitamins (and many of you should), you must first know your individual needs, and second, choose an appropriate dosage and quality.
In general, most women in the country conform to the SAD diet (Standard American Diet), which leaves them short on some essential nutrients. Vitamin supplements are used to either meet basic nutritional needs or to treat a particular problem such as anemia or hot flashes. For most folks, the best way to make your body happy on a day-to-day basis is to eat balanced whole foods; but if you don’t (let’s be real here!), a basic multivitamin that contains Vitamins C, E, A, D, and the B series is essential. Many will also contain important minerals for women including iron, calcium, magnesium, boron and potassium. In spite of the many advertising claims otherwise, there is very little real difference among quality multivitamins. We suggest doing your homework (a good place to start is www.ConsumerLab.com ) and get comfortable with a particular brand and then stick with it. Your pharmacist or health food store may also be a great source of information. Don’t walk into a discount warehouse or a grocery store and buy the first bottle you see.
Two vitally important caveats go with any vitamin or supplement. First you must take an appropriate dose, and second, you must take the supplement for an appropriate time frame. Herein lie many of the problems with vitamin use. Dosage is important! That sounds simple, but consider what would happen if you took a tenth of an aspirin for a headache. Probably nothing! And it would be absurd to then conclude that aspirin doesn’t help headaches. However, that is what happens all the time with vitamins and herbs. The scientific studies that show beneficial effects of supplements are always performed with specific dosages, and it is essential to know what amounts are proven to be effective. There are many reference books that list evidence based dosages from various studies.
Don’t forget that most vitamins and supplements don’t work overnight. Many may take up to four to six weeks of continual use to achieve any benefits. Some, like the antioxidants, need to be used on a regular basis to exert their action.
Certain individual vitamins have been shown to help specific problems. Below is a list of common problems and their vitamin remedies that have at least one good study to compliment their use:
Hot Flashes, Breast tenderness, Vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) 800IU /day
Antioxidant, immune enhancement Vitamin C (1-3 grams a day)
PMS Vitamin B6 (50mg twice a day)
Anemia Vitamin B12 (100 micrograms a day)
Vision Vitamin A (2,500 IU a day)
Cold sores Zinc 50 mg/ day
Bone health Calcium 500-600 mg /day
Boron 3-5 mg / day
As with all vitamins and supplements, always tell your doctor what you are taking, as there can be interaction between these substances and prescription medicines.