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4 Supplements Every Woman Should Know About

Woman at the doctor's office. Related Service: Primary Care for Women

A well-balanced diet is one of the main ingredients for healthy living. By incorporating the different food groups into your meals, you provide your body with the nutrients it needs to run efficiently. But do you actually get enough nutrients strictly from the food you eat? Many health professionals encourage women to take supplements to make sure their nutritional needs are met.

That said, vitamin stores—even a single vitamin aisle at the grocery store—can be intimidating. With hundreds of supplements staring you in the face, walking in there unprepared can leave you feeling overwhelmed and undernourished, so let's help you figure out a plan.

According to Drexel Family Medicine's Dr. Susanna Evans, there are four primary supplements women should pay attention to. These include the following:

Vitamin D

If you're only going to take one supplement, make it vitamin D. Our bodies use sunlight to manufacture vitamin D. Unfortunately, most of us do not have enough sun exposure, and when we do, we are usually wearing sunscreen. Vitamin D supports the immune system and helps us build and maintain strong bones. When our vitamin D level is low we are more susceptible to depression, fatigue, weight gain, and chronic pain. Dr. Evans recommends Vitamin D3 1,000-2,000 IU (international units) per day. Vitamin D has almost no side effects and is hard to overdose on, so Dr. Evans usually recommends 2,000 IU in most adults.

Folic Acid

All menstruating women should take 400 to 800 mcg (micrograms) of folic acid. Since approximately 50% of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it's important to supplement folic acid prior to pregnancy since it significantly reduces the risk of neural tube defects and other neurologic problems in newborns. According to Dr. Evans, if there is even a remote chance that a woman could find herself pregnant, she should be taking a folic acid supplement.

Fish Oil

If a woman has risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, or strong family history of cardiovascular disease, she should consider a fish oil supplement. Dosage recommendations vary widely from 1,000 to 4,000 mg of omega 3 acids per day. Dr. Evans usually has women start with 1,000 mg and then gradually ups that dosage if her patients tolerate it well. Fish oil can cause upset stomach, burping, and loose stools.

Calcium

The recommendations for calcium are in flux right now. While many women believe they need a calcium supplement, Dr. Evans usually advises her patients to try getting calcium from their diet instead of taking a supplement. She only recommends supplements for patients at increased risk for osteoporosis.

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

The images being used are for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted is a model.

 
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