What Are You On? The Importance Of Supplements

Do you find that you are CONSTANTLY TIRED? You could be DEFICIENT in some VITAMINS …

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If you are feeling underpowered to the point of constant exhaustion, and blood tests have revealed nothing to concern your GP or warrant further testing, it could be you are deficient in some vitamins and minerals (general blood tests usually only include iron level testing, not depletion or deficiency of any other vitamin or mineral). The body needs over 40 vitamins and minerals to function properly and it can be difficult to absorb from your diet, even if it is a varied one. A blood test revealing depleted iron levels explained why I was having trouble getting to the top of a stairs without feeling out of breath, with alarming palpitations, as well as the rather odd symptom of a “burning” tongue. After four weeks on an iron supplement, these symptoms had all but disappeared, and my own desultory interest in other supplements as a means to address other midlife malaises was piqued. The doctor had also prescribed me high-dosage vitamin D, noting as she did how prevalent low levels were in many of her patients after a long, dark winter. The effect on mood can be dramatic, and a few weeks of a high dose (25,000iu – or international units – a week) can lift “brain fog” and improve mood and outlook, without resorting to a chemical anti-depressant. A daily dose – 1000iu – in a supplement should do the trick.

Lisa Moran, a pharmacist at All Care in Moycullen, Co Galway, emphasises the importance of finding a pharmacist you trust. “The pharmacist can build a picture of your health, will know your medication history and help you negotiate the huge array of supplements.” Moran believes every woman, in the first instance, should know her numbers: weight, waist size, BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels – a good pharmacist can test all of these.

Supplements can provide a foundation for health and trouble-shoot specific symptoms, says Moran. “Firstly, take a complex supplement containing a broad list of ingredients for a few weeks to see if you feel better. Then address your other symptoms, the most urgent one first – are you still anxious or not sleeping well? Consider a B Complex supplement. Do you have sugar cravings, and are gaining weight? Think about taking a chromium supplement to regulate blood sugar. Aching joints? You could take a joint complex with marine collagen and glucosamine to treat the cartilage, which as we age, may be depleting faster than it can repair. You can even take a collagen supplement to improve skin (often combined with vitamin C and B vitamins).”

A few are non-negotiable, says Moran. “Iron of course. Folic acid is vital in women of childbearing age. Calcium for bone health, particularly if you cut out dairy from your diet. Good fats, like those found in Omega 3 oils, are vital for cardiac health and also good for skin. Evening Primrose Oil for pre-menstrual symptoms, from teenage years to menopause. Zinc and magnesium are also important at perimenopause and menopause, as levels of both minerals dip, resulting in a range of symptoms including sleeplessness. And because gut health is now linked to the performance of our immune systems, a sachet of probiotics every day is also an excellent idea.

“Don’t give up on your supplement,” says Lisa Moran. “You might miss it one day and say, I’ve abandoned it, that’s it. Take it when you think of it – it’s still doing you good, even if you miss a day or two. And give everything four to six weeks to work.” And if you are still baffled by it all, Moran says a good idea is to take the supplements you have in the cupboard to your pharmacist. “They can do an audit of what you have, advise, replace, or fill in the gaps.”

Sarah McDonnell

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