What Supplements Should Women Take? Vitamin Supplements For Women

Women have specific nutrient needs that change throughout their lifespan. Vitamins are essential to women’s health and play numerous roles in the body: Nutrient needs may differ depending on your age, overall health and lifestyle.

Vitamin supplementation isn’t necessary for all women, but some may need to supplement to reach their recommended intake levels. Although most vitamins are concentrated in many foods and adequate intake can be reached by consuming a well-rounded diet, many women will never reach their vitamin needs through diet alone.

Certain factors and circumstances, including pregnancy and breastfeeding, medical conditions, medication use, and lifestyle choices, increase a woman’s risk of vitamin deficiency.

Women who are either concerned they may be at risk of developing a vitamin deficiency or interested in optimising their vitamin intake should work with a qualified healthcare provider to ensure optimal dosing, safety, and necessity.

Vitamin Overview

Vitamins are divided into 2 categories: water-soluble and fat-soluble.

The water-soluble vitamins consist of eight B vitamins: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin), as well as vitamin C.

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are considered fat-soluble vitamins.

Water-soluble vitamins are not readily stored in your body and need to be supplied continuously through your diet. On the other hand, fat-soluble vitamins are stored in your body’s tissues and retained for longer periods.

Depending on their age and health status, women and teens have differing daily vitamin needs. Both water- and fat-soluble vitamins are needed for critical bodily processes, which is why a vitamin deficiency can lead to adverse health outcomes.

Women who smoke need an extra 35 mg of vitamin C per day. Also, pregnant and breastfeeding women under the age of 19 need 5 mg less vitamin C per day than pregnant and breastfeeding women 19 years or older.

Water-soluble vitamin functions

Water-soluble vitamins play many important roles in your body. B vitamins are perhaps best known for their roles in energy production, while vitamin C is best known for its role in immune function.

However, these nutrients are involved in many other critical processes as well:

  • B1. Thiamine helps convert nutrients into energy and is required for proper cellular function. Pregnant women, women on long-term diuretic medication, and women who have undergone bariatric surgery are at a greater risk of thiamine deficiency.
  • B2. Riboflavin is needed for energy production and growth and development. It also functions as an antioxidant. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, women with eating disorders, and older women are at a greater risk of developing a B2 deficiency.
  • B3. Niacin is essential to nervous system function, energy production, and enzymatic reactions. Niacin deficiency is rare in the United States, but women with a deficient intake of niacin-rich foods may be at risk.
  • B5. Pantothenic acid is a precursor to coenzyme A, which is needed for various essential processes, such as the production of hormones and neurotransmitters. A deficiency in B5 is extremely rare.
  • B6. Pyridoxine is important for macronutrient metabolism, immune function, and neurotransmitter production. Certain populations, such as women with obesity and autoimmune diseases, are more likely to have low B6 levels.
  • B7. Biotin plays a key role in energy production and the regulation of oxidative stress. Women who are pregnant, those who excessively use alcohol, and women on certain medications are more likely to have low biotin levels.
  • B9. Folate is needed to produce DNA, RNA, red blood cells, proteins, and neurotransmitters. A deficiency can result from inadequate dietary intake, malabsorption conditions, medication interactions, pregnancy, alcohol dependence, and more.
  • B12. B12 is essential for neurological functioning and red blood cell and DNA production. A deficiency can result from inadequate dietary intake or medical conditions, including autoimmune diseases and malabsorption.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant and plays a role in immune function and collagen and neurotransmitter production. Smoking and excessive drinking increase the risk of vitamin C deficiency.

Note that choline is a water-soluble nutrient often grouped with B vitamins due to its similar functions in the body. However, choline is not a vitamin and found in both fat- and water-soluble forms in the diet.

This nutrient plays an important role in brain development, metabolism, neurotransmitter synthesis, and more. Choline needs increase during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Fat-soluble vitamin functions

  • Vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for healthy vision, immune function, cellular growth, and fetal development. Women with cystic fibrosis and women in developing countries are at a greater risk of vitamin A deficiency.
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is common. This vitamin plays an important role in maintaining calcium levels, insulin production, and immune function. Women with obesity, older women, and hospitalized women are most at risk of deficiency.
  • Vitamin E. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and is needed for cellular communication and blood vessel and immune health. Vitamin E deficiency is rare but can occur in women with conditions that cause fat malabsorption.
  • Vitamin K. Vitamin K is important for bone and heart health and required for healthy blood clotting. Vitamin K deficiency can occur in women with certain genetic disorders and be caused by inadequate dietary intake or the use of certain medications.

Vitamin Supplements For Women – When To Supplement

Although a healthy and well-balanced diet should always be maintained to promote optimal vitamin intake, it’s not always possible for women to get all of the vitamins they need through their diet alone.

The following groups of women may need to supplement with one or more vitamins to reach and maintain optimal levels:

  • older women
  • women with certain medical conditions
  • those who follow diets that eliminate certain food groups
  • women with eating disorders
  • women who smoke or drink heavily
  • women with obesity
  • pregnant women
  • women using common prescription drugs, such as proton pump inhibitors and blood-sugar-reducing medications

In addition to consuming a varied, nutrient-dense diet, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to take a prenatal supplement before, during, and after pregnancy.

Doing so may help maintain healthy nutrient levels and support their body through pregnancy, breastfeeding, and postnatal recovery.

Even though health professionals focus on the importance of increasing vitamin intake during pregnancy and breastfeeding, studies show that the intake of certain nutrients is insufficient in many women during and after pregnancy.

For women over the age of 50, most experts recommend a B12 or B-complex vitamin due to the high prevalence of B12 malabsorption from food in aging populations.

Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency are widespread. Women, especially those with obesity or certain medical conditions, as well as those who are pregnant or older, should have their vitamin D levels checked to determine an appropriate supplement dosage.

Women at risk of developing a vitamin deficiency should work with a healthcare provider to develop an appropriate and safe supplement regimen based on their specific needs.

When choosing a vitamin supplement, always purchase high-quality products from trusted companies. If you have questions about vitamin brands, vitamin forms, or dosing, consult your healthcare provider for advice.

Source & Original Article: Healthline.com

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