6 supplement mistakes you might be making

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Menopause Advisor
Ask Eileen

07 October 2019

Today's topic

Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be talking about six simple supplement mistakes that you may be making during the menopause.

Now, our nutritional needs go sky-high during the menopause. Remember all the tremendous changes that are going on inside our bodies – these need energy. And we need energy from our food.

The problem is that, today, not enough of us are getting the right sorts of vitamins and minerals from food. Our diet may not be particularly good and, also, the nutritional value of foods that we buy today often contain around 50% less vitamins and minerals than they did in the 1950s.

So, even if we are eating reasonably well, we may be falling slightly nutritionally short and, because of this, a lot of women decide to take vitamin and mineral supplements during the menopause.

The problem here is, if you take the wrong kind, or if you take the wrong combination, this can impact on how beneficial these supplements can be.

So, I'm going to look at six simple mistakes that people may be making.

Mistake 1: Taking too many different supplements

You will not believe the number of women who contact us who are taking about 12 to 15 different supplements a day.

Now, I know it's easily done – I have been there myself. You read an article about something and think, "Oh, sounds wonderful. I must try that." And then you read about something else and decide to add that in, and so on. And then, maybe a year down the line, you suddenly think, "I'm rattling here. I'm taking so many supplements. I don't even know if they're having any benefits for me at all."

So, the really important thing here is, if you're taking a number of supplements, to check what they contain. A lot of different combinations will have the same vitamins and minerals in them, especially things like magnesium, zinc and selenium.

Taking too many of one vitamin or mineral might not be very good for you and, sometimes, can cause overdose problems. So, this is a really important one here. If you're taking a lot, try to slim them down somehow so that you're getting the right amounts across the range of supplements that you are taking.

The other one you need to be very careful of is vitamin D. There has been a huge amount of publicity recently on how important vitamin D is for us, especially when going through the menopause, and this is very true. But, over the last few years, more and more supplements have come out, and they doses are getting higher and higher.

And there's now research coming out showing that taking too high a dose of vitamin D long-term may not be beneficial and might actually give you side effects. So, this is one supplement where (unless you are instructed otherwise by your doctor or a practitioner) a low dose is far better for you than a high dose.

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Mistake 2: Not taking them for long enough

We also tend to get women who want to try things like our Menopause Support and then come back to us a week later saying, "I don't feel any different."

Some supplements will work really quickly, like B vits on your nervous system and magnesium for just about everything. They can work within days. But the majority of other supplements are probably going to take round about three to four weeks to even start showing benefit.

So, my advice here is, if you decide to take something new, then give it at least a month to start working. At the end of the month, review the situation. And if you think, "Yes, my nails look better, my skin feels better, my mood feels better. I have more energy," then you know that it's working and you can continue to take it for as long as it's appropriate.

Some of the herbs that we recommend will work quite quickly. Again, a lot of the ones for the nervous system such as AvenaCalm, can work maybe within a couple of days.

The flower essences will work very quickly, too. But other herbs such as hypericum, which we would recommend for low mood, again, are going to take at least four weeks. So, give your supplements and herbs time to work properly. If at the end of the month you just think, "I don't feel any benefit at all," that's the point where you should stop taking them.

Mistake 3: Not taking them at the right time of day

Are you taking supplements at the right time? Most tablets need a decent amount of stomach acid in order to break them down. These tablets can be quite hard. You should take them in the morning with a cup of tea and a piece of toast. During the menopause, our production of stomach acid can decrease and these supplements, if taken at the wrong time or with not enough food, may not give you much benefit at all. And some of them could literally travel right the way through without breaking down at all.

Plus, some herbs and supplements are stimulating and, if you take them when you go to bed, then they're likely to keep you awake. So, if you're taking any vitamin Bs, they need to be taken in the morning. Kelp is another one that should be taken in the morning as well.

Watch your magnesium too. A lot of women tend to take magnesium just before they go to bed to help with sleep. Again, magnesium needs lots of stomach acid, unless you're taking the liquid ones. If you want to take it at night time, then take it with your evening meal.

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Mistake 4: Taking the wrong form

Are you taking the right form of vitamin or mineral? There are lots of different kinds and makes on the market, and some of them are not absorbed particularly well, while others are. And my personal opinion is it's far better to take a low dose of a good quality product than a high dose of a vitamin or mineral where the absorption is very, very poor.

So, the main ones to look at would be things like magnesium. There's a huge range of magnesium supplements. I tend to recommend magnesium citrate a lot, purely because it's the one that's easy to find. Most health food shops will stock it. And I know a lot of you don't have time to be trawling through the internet looking into specialist stores.

The other form of magnesium that you could look at would be magnesium gluconate. Also, look at the chelated magnesium. They're called amino acid, chelated magnesium supplements. These are very well absorbed but, sometimes, they're not particularly easy to come by.

Vitamin C is another one. High doses of vitamin C can give you a little bit of diarrhoea. Some people have a very sensitive stomach. So, ascorbic acid for some people is not necessarily the best form. We have a lovely one called Nature-C which is a food state one and this is what I take. And I find that it's really nice and gentle on my stomach as well.

Mistake 5: Not taking the right combination

It's amazing, again, how many people will take vitamins, and herbs, and supplements that are doing complete opposite things, so really be careful here. We get this a lot with things like the herb Agnus castus and our Menopause Support.

They do completely different things and taking them together, in theory, could basically just cancel each other out. So, do a little bit of research on that one.

We also need to look at the B vitamins. Some of the supplements you can get can contain quite a low dose. Sometimes, people will take single ones and we know that, during menstruation, a lot of women get PMT. They'll take a vitamin B complex because it's supposed to help with mood and anxiety.

The problem with the B vits is that they work in synergy with each other. There's a whole range of B vitamins that fit very nicely together, and they enhance each other's abilities to do the job that they need to do. If you take a really high dose of one, that can upset the balance of the other and, again, you then end up not getting the best benefit.

So here, unless you've been directed by a practitioner, especially for the B vitamins, I tend to recommend what's called a complex.

The range I like best is what's called a vitamin B50 complex, and this is where vitamins B1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 are all round about the 50-milligram mark. And this is a really nice dose to take to help to support your immune system.

Mistake 6: Taking too low of a dose

I've talked before about the B vitamins, so we need a nice, decent range of the B vitamins. Magnesium needs to be, for menopausal women, round about the 400-milligram mark.

Again, if you're taking something like our Menopause Support and you're taking a single magnesium supplement, the total should be round about 400 milligrams.

Some women can tolerate it a bit higher but just be aware that, when it comes to magnesium, we have what's called a bowel tolerance. So, if you take too much magnesium, you end up with loose bowels or diarrhoea. This is an important thing to watch for. If you end up with loose bowels or diarrhoea, you know that you're taking too much and you need to just decrease that slightly.

If you're looking at a general calcium supplement, 500 milligrams is usually enough for most people. Again, unless you've been directed otherwise, then that's fine, especially if you've got a reasonably good diet.

Calcium is in so many foods and, you know, as I say, your diet would have to be really poor for you to be deficient. Very often, taking a magnesium and a calcium supplement together is a good idea. Remember, magnesium is the bus that takes calcium to the bones, so they work very well in harmony with each other.

Remember vitamin D3 too. We recommend (again, unless you've been directed otherwise) to 400 IU per day. It's a nice, safe dose that you can take long-term, right the way through the menopause.

Zinc is another really important mineral and, again, this one you're looking at maybe 15 milligrams per day – this is normally absolutely fine.

My supplement regime

Myself, I have my own little vitamin and mineral regime. This is not for everybody. This is my own personal one but it can let you see the sorts of combinations that you can go with. I take a vitamin B50 complex to calm my nervous system down. B vits are also great for brain function.

I take our Menopause Support just to keep everything ticking over nicely. I will take our Nature-C little and often, which seems to work really well for me. I will take a fish oil for my joints – I don't have problems with my joints but I want to keep it that way, and I find that a fish oil supplement helps to keep everything nice and well-lubricated.

Every second day, I take sea buckthorn oil for my skin. I take a vitamin E supplement because that's known to be really good for heart health, and for us women, our heart health can decrease post-menopause.

And, every now and then, I'll treat myself to a general multivitamin. If I feel I'm really busy, if I'm traveling a lot, if I'm feeling a little bit run down, then I'll take a little something extra just to make sure that I'm not deficient in anything else.

So, I hope that this has been helpful for you and has maybe given you a few pointers in the best way to use your supplements during the menopause. If any of you out there have any other tips, we would love to hear them.

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Did you know?

You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.

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