The initial post in this three part series on the use of supplements to optimize health reviewed the benefits of Prenatal Vitamins, Active Folate and Omega 3 Fatty Acids in pregnancy and beyond.
The second post covered three favorite supplements including Lemon Balm, which has been used medicinally for over 2000 years, N-Aceytl Cysteine (NAC), which is a natural mood stabilizer, and Probiotics, which effect general health through the gut/body axis.
This final article wraps up with Vitamin D, of which 40-60% of the US population are deficient, Magnesium Glycinate, which helps the 80% of deficient Americans reach normal magnesium levels, and Curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant.
Designs for Health – Vitamin D Supreme, 60 Vegetarian Capsules
At least 400IU/day up to 1500-2000 IU/day or as determined by your current vitamin D level
Vitamin D has been called the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ as the body naturally produces it in the skin when exposed to the sun. Vitamin D helps the body use calcium to strengthen bones, but this is only one of the many roles of vitamin D in the body.
People spend less time outdoors and often use sunscreen, which prevents production of vitamin D. Furthermore, those with lactose intolerance often are deficient in vitamin D, as fortified milk is one of the few dietary sources of the vitamin. Other sources include egg yolk, cod liver oil and salmon. Other causes of low vitamin D include advanced age and obesity, among others. These, among other reasons, are why vitamin D levels are routinely low in the population. A shocking 40-60% of the U.S. population is deficient in vitamin D.
While the number is not definite, many believe that levels should be at least 30ng/ml in adults. Supplementation with anywhere from 1500-4000IU daily is often sufficient to increase and maintain a healthy vitamin D level, but speak to your practitioner for personalized recommendations as some people will require even more vitamin D to boost an otherwise low level.
Supplementing otherwise low vitamin D levels has been associated reducing the risk of death from any cause by half! People with chronically low vitamin D levels have been found to have a three times higher risk of death from any cause as compared to people with normal vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D is beneficial for:
- Strengthening bones
- Lowering high blood pressure
- Reducing risk of development of Multiple Sclerosis
- Immune regulation
- Cancer prevention
- Treatment of Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Prevention and treatment of type 1 and 2 Diabetes
- Prevention of heart disease
Vitamin D deficiency may cause:
- Increased risk of death from any cause
- Bone pain
- Heart disease
- Cognitive impairment (in older adults)
- Mood impairment / depression
- Increased risk of certain cancers, autoimmune diseases, neurologic diseases, insulin resistance, cardiovascular diseases
Vitamin D in pregnancy:
Up to 97% of pregnant women have been found to be vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D depletes as pregnancy continues, and can cause poor mood if not supplemented for accordingly. Most if not all prenatal vitamins have no more than 400IU/tablet, which is insufficient to support a healthy vitamin D level, especially as pregnancy progresses.
Sufficient Vitamin D levels support maternal:
- Immune system
- Cell division
- Bone health
- Absorption of calcium and phosphorus
Adequate vitamin D aids in the prevention of:
- pre-term labor
- infections (when dosed at 4000IU/day)
Low vitamin D is associated with:
- Poor fetal growth
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Less efficient glucose-metabolism
- Increased rates of caesarian sections
Pure Encapsulations – Magnesium (Glycinate) – Supports Enzymatic and Physiological Functions* – 180 Capsules
Magnesium is an essential mineral that is very important to ensure normal functioning of the bones, heart, cells, nerves and muscles. There are no fewer than 3,751 magnesium binding sites on human proteins, and magnesium is found in over 300 enzymes of the body. Glycline is a non-essential amino acid. Magnesium comes in many forms, but this form is often preferred as it is readily absorbed and is less likely than other forms of magnesium to have a laxative effect.
Most people can obtain a normal magnesium level through eating a healthy, balanced diet, yet up to 80% of Americans may have low magnesium levels. Foods rich in magnesium include leafy green vegetables (especially spinach and Swiss chard), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, whole wheat, nuts (especially almonds and cashews), avocados, beans, soybeans and halibut. Eating a high-fat diet will negatively affect the absorption of magnesium through food.
Increased age, diabetes, alcoholism, kidney disease, abnormal GI absorption (ex leaky gut, Crohn’s disease, among others), and various medications will impair the absorption of magnesium from food sources.
The daily recommended dosing for adult men is 270-400mg; women: 280-300mg; pregnant women: 320mg; breastfeeding women: 340-355mg. Magnesium should be balanced at 1:1 with calcium intake, and ideally is taken along with calcium, vitamins D and K2 for optimal effects.
There is no great test for determining the body’s magnesium levels. Only 1-2% of the body’s stores are found in the blood, so blood tests are highly inaccurate. Other tests that are sometimes used include 24 hour urine and sub-lingual epithelial tests.
Symptoms of low magnesium include (but are not limited to):
- Muscle cramps
- Tiredness / fatigue
- Appetite loss
- Nausea / vomiting
- Irregular heart beat
Magnesium is beneficial for:
- Reducing the risk of metabolic syndrome (diabetes, heart disease)
- Reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes
- Improving energy metabolism
- Supporting normal blood pressure through preventing loss of calcium from cells (the body’s natural calcium channel blockers, which are used to treat high blood pressure)
- Helping the body to detoxify, such as from heavy metals and environmental toxins
Magnesium may minimize symptoms of:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Mood lability / depression
- Atrial fibrillation
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Pre-menstrual syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
Magnesium levels are often low in women, including going into and then through pregnancy, which may play a role in development of postpartum depression after delivery.
Supplementing before, during and after pregnancy has many benefits:
- Improved mood
- Relaxation of mind and of muscles
- Sleep enhancement
- Minimize leg cramping
- Improve / decrease constipation
- Optimizes blood pressure
- May improve nausea
Low magnesium in pregnancy has been associated with:
- Eclampsia in severe cases
- High blood pressure
- Impaired sleep
- Mood instability / depression
- Premature birth
CurcuminIntegrative Therapeutics – Theracurmin® HP – Bioavailable and Water-dispersible Curcumin – Triple Strength – 60 Capsules
Curcumin is the highly absorbable form of turmeric. Curcumin is an extremely potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant that can be highly beneficial for promotion of total body health.
- Stomach bloating
- Liver problems
- Menstrual problems / irregularity
- Various cancers
- Alzheimer’s disease (has been used for prevention and for treatment)
- Water retention
- Yeast and parasitic infections
Curcumin use in pregnancy remains unclear. Some consider it safe and highly beneficial. However, many feel it has not yet been studied sufficiently in pregnancy to support its use. Chinese medicine has consistently warned against its use in pregnancy because it increases blood flow, and as a result may increase miscarriage risk.
Some research indicates curcumin may be effective to prevent pregnancy, so consider forgoing the supplement if you are trying to conceive.
Studies supporting its use in pregnancy have found that curcumin is beneficial for:
- Prevention of genetic mutations / birth defects
- Minimizing the risks to a fetus from maternal alcohol consumption
Given the uncertainty regarding its use in pregnancy, please discuss the issue with your healthcare provider prior to making any informed decision regarding curcumin in advance of and during pregnancy.
My Favorite: Integrative Therapeutics – Theracurmin® HP – Bioavailable and Water-dispersible Curcumin – Triple Strength – 60 Capsules
Taking supplements is most beneficial when coupled with eating an optimal diet – eating well and supplementing as needed is an important step towards improved health and wellness.
Psychotherapy can have profoundly positive impacts for ensuring mood stability. Alternative treatments such as acupuncture and meditation, as well as exercise and engaging with friends and family are critical for stable mood and healthy body and mind.