Looking for advice on what supplements to take this fall? Check out my segment on CH Morning Live to find out why multivitamins are so important for health, especially during the fall and winter season when we are at risk of getting sick. When choosing a supplement, look for a product designed for your age, gender and life stage. For women, I recommend femMED Multi+ Antioxidants, which provides all the key nutrients for good health in a vegetarian capsule, without dyes, chemical fillers or potential allergens. Also find out about what supplements you can take to get a better night sleep and feel great the next day.
Good nutrition is key for good health. This is particularly important during pregnancy to ensure both the mother and the growing baby receive all the essential nutrients for proper growth and development. However, even those who eat healthy may not be getting enough nutrients because many factors can deplete nutrients from the body. According to reports 20 to 30 percent of pregnant women have a vitamin and mineral deficiency, and without supplementation, roughly 75 percent of pregnant women would be deficient in at least one vitamin. This is why prenatal vitamins are essential for women before, during and after pregnancy—to fill in dietary gaps and prevent deficiencies.
Prenatal supplements differ from regular multivitamins in that they are specially formulated with increased levels of certain nutrients that are required to support a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risk of deficiency syndromes in both mother and baby. These nutrients include folic acid, calcium, vitamin D, iron and zinc.
Folic acid is particularly crucial for women to take in the early stages of pregnancy because studies have shown that it can reduce the risk of neural tube defects, including spina bifida by 70 percent. Since neural tube defects occur within the first 28 days of conception, doctors recommend that women planning to get pregnant take a daily prenatal supplement that contains folic acid.
There are other health benefits associated with taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid. Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto have found that prenatal multivitamins fortified with folic acid can reduce the risk of three common childhood cancers: leukemia, brain tumours and neuroblastoma and they can also reduce the risk of a wide range of serious birth defects, including cardiovascular and limb defects, cleft palate, oral cleft, and urinary tract anomalies.
Women who suffer with morning sickness should look for a prenatal that contains ginger. Clinical research has found that ginger is safe and effective for reducing nausea during pregnancy. Unlike the prescription anti-nausea medication (Diclectin), ginger does not cause drowsiness or dry mouth.
Prenatal supplements vary greatly in quality and composition. Read the labels carefully and look for these key attributes when choosing a product:
- A minimum of 0.4 to 1 mg of folic acid, 30 mg iron, 200-250 mg calcium, 800 IU vitamin D and 100 mg vitamin C along with
- Easy to swallow vegetable capsules
- Free of chemical additives such artificial colours (dyes), titanium dioxide and potential allergens such as dairy, egg, yeast, and gluten
Prenatal vitamins should be taken throughout pregnancy and during breastfeeding. Take with a main meal and a full glass of water.
As a pharmacist, health writer, and new mom, my top recommendation is femMED’s Pregnancy + Ginger formula. It contains all the essential nutrients along with ginger to combat morning sickness. Unlike most other prenatals, femMED’s Pregnancy and Pregnancy + Ginger formulas are free of chemical fillers, dyes and allergens.
Regular exercise is known to lower a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. This has been well documented in a number of studies, but the way in which exercise provides protection has not been clearly understood. Exciting new research released last week has revealed how exercise can guard against breast cancer: vigorous exercise has a positive effect on how estrogen is broken down (metabolized) in the body.
It is estimated that about 80 percent of breast cancer tumours are estrogen-dependent, meaning they require estrogen to grow. Certain estrogen metabolites, or breakdown products, can speed tumour growth, while others are relatively benign and possibly protective.
In this new study, researchers recruited more than 300 healthy, yet sedentary (in active), women from 18 to 35 years old. Roughly half of them were randomly assigned to a vigorous exercise program of 30 minutes a day for five days a week. The remaining women served as a control group and continued with their sedentary lifestyle. Urine samples were collected from the participants so researchers could measure levels of estrogen and estrogen metabolites.
The researchers looked at the ratio of two specific metabolites: 2-hydroxyestrone (2-OHE1) and 16 alpha-hydroxyestrone (16-alpha-OHE1). The metabolite 2-OHE1 is relatively benign with a weak estrogen effect while 16-alpha-OHE1 is considered potentially carcinogenic. Several previous studies have found that as urinary levels of 2-OHE1 increase and levels of 16-alpha-OHE1 decrease, the risk for breast cancer decreases. The ratio of these metabolites, 2OHE1 to 16-alpha-OHE1, is known as the estrogen metabolite ratio (EMR).
After four months, the women in the vigorous exercise group had a much more favourable ratio of these two metabolites than the sedentary participants, according to the study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
This study adds to the body of evidence supporting the value of strategies that can improve a woman’s EMR. A previous study conducted on femMED’s Breast Health formula found that use of this supplement for a month period of time had a positive effect on EMR. This was the first time a supplement had been studied for its potential protective effects against the biomarkers associated with breast cancer.
There are various supplements and strategies that can help manage those troublesome hot flashes and night sweats. But for many women, it is much more challenging to keep body weight under control.
There are many factors that can contribute to weight gain in menopause. Hormones are partly to blame. A lowering of estrogen and testosterone can cause women to store fat. Lifestyle and genetic factors are also involved.
Stress also tends to become more prevalent in menopause. Whether triggered by personal, financial, or health reasons, stress impacts weight in a number of ways. Rising levels of the stress hormone cortisol make it easier to pack on weight, particularly around the mid-section.
Stress may also trigger unhealthy habits, such as overeating and eating unhealthy foods (comfort foods). It also has a negative effect on sleep, and lack of sleep is a recently recognized factor that can lead to weight gain, along with many other health problems.
Muscle mass also declines with age and since muscle helps drive metabolism and calorie burning, if you have less muscle you will burn fewer calories.
Despite all these factors that seem to be stacked against you, it is possible to keep weight under control by making some simple lifestyle modifications.
- Boost muscle mass. Do weight training or resistance exercises to help build and maintain muscle mass. Increasing your muscle mass will raise your metabolism, so you will burn more calories and you will develop a leaner physique. Joining a gym is great, but if you are pressed for time/money, there are plenty of exercises that you can do at home, such as push-ups, squats, lunges, and chest presses.
- Make better dietary choices. You don’t have to count calories or follow a restrictive diet, just make better choices and limit portion sizes. For example, start your day with oatmeal and berries, a large salad with chickpeas or grilled chicken for lunch and baked fish with mixed veggies for dinner. Choose healthy snacks between meals such as nuts/seeds, yogurt, dark chocolate and healthy energy bars, such as Luna Bar or Larabar.
- Use supplements to complement your diet. Supplements that provide soluble fibre, such as femMED Weight Management, can help to reduce appetite and cravings and promote better blood sugar control – all factors that are helpful for managing weight.
These strategies will not only benefit your waistline, but they promote better heart health and improve your overall well-being.
By Sherry Torkos, Pharmacist and author of Saving Women’s Hearts and The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine
February is heart health awareness month, so this is the perfect time to talk about what we can do to protect ourselves against heart disease. We all know that it is important to exercise, eat healthy and avoid smoking, but you may be surprised to learn about these additional strategies that can help prevent heart disease:
Get another hour sleep
Why? Lack of sleep has been shown to raise blood pressure, trigger inflammation and promote clotting and atherosclerosis. All of these factors raise the risk for heart disease. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Make sleep a priority for better health.
Why? Stress is a powerful risk factor for heart disease. Stress raises blood pressure and cholesterol, triggers inflammation and promotes blood clots. To better manage stress, try deep breathing, meditation, yoga and get regular exercise.
Add more colourful fruits and vegetables to your diet.
Why? Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables contain plant pigments, which are rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants offer a number of health benefits. They can help fight free radical damage, support the health of your blood vessels, and reduce inflammation.
Choose smart supplements
Why? It is difficult to get enough essential nutrients from diet alone. Certain nutrients are known to play an important role in heart health, such as the omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish. Omega-3s lower triglycerides, reduce blood pressure, fight inflammation and prevent clotting. Look for a supplement that pairs omega-3 fatty acids along with coenzyme Q10 (a vital antioxidant), such as femMED Heart Health.
Why? Laughing relaxes and expands the blood vessels, which protects the heart. On the contrary, negative emotions such as anger, hostility and pessimism are associated with increased heart disease risk.