As a mother myself, I have learned and witnessed firsthand the importance of self-care. Mothers often have the important role of raising our children, being role models for our children and others, support and care for other family members, and many more roles and responsibilities. We often place our own needs on the back burner while caring selflessly for others and feeling guilty when we do take a little time for ourselves. However, I’m sure you have heard of the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” It is a very true statement. In order to provide our best selves for the ones we love and to offer our quality attention and energy, we need to care for ourselves. This means maintaining our health, stress levels, well-being, emotional health and spirituality. In times of stress, busy schedules, and life itself vitamins, herbs, and nutritional supplements are a great way to fill in the gaps of our nutritional needs as well as finding balance.
Self-Care with Vitamins, Herbs, & Nutritional Supplements Importance
Health and well-being starts with a balanced diet by eating a varied diet full of mostly whole foods, vegetables, fruits including as many colors into your meals as possible. Many refer to this as eating the rainbow. Not only is it visibly pleasing but it improves the chances of getting important nutrients. It’s important to consider your daily nutritional intake when considering starting implementation of vitamins, herbs, and nutritional supplements. As the name states, they are supplements to the daily nutritional diet such as a multivitamin. Some can be used daily while others would be used during specific times, such as increased stress levels, illness, pre/during/post menstruation, and/or during times that meals are not normal such as during ball season or holidays. Having an awareness of the normal daily nutritional intake and understanding when they are not normal will assist in identifying when supplements will be helpful. It is always a good idea to consult with your physician before starting any new vitamin, herbal, or nutritional supplement especially if you have any health conditions or taking any medications including over-the-counter (OTC). I also recommend recording you’re a three-day food journal for yourself or even better a professional to look over to determine what nutrients you are missing in your diet. For more information on three-day journal check our references at end of presentation.
Start with Balanced Nutrition by Eating the Rainbow: Filling in the gaps & finding balance.
Where to start…
All vitamins and minerals are important for health of all humans as well as gaining must of the nutrients from a varied and balanced diet. Often, even with the best planned diet there are still gaps in meeting nutritional intake of these nutrients. For women, there are a few nutrients which are important to pay attention to for well-being.
The vitamins & minerals that are increasingly important for maintaining health for women include vitamin B9 which is also known as folic acid or folate, vitamin B-12, vitamin D, calcium, and iron.
Women's Health- Vitamins & Minerals:
Folic acid/folate (Vitamin B9) is often recommended to supplement for all women of childbearing age. It plays an important role in building blood cells and the DNA for new cells, assists in prevention of certain birth defects including neural tube defects, and helps prevent premature births and low birth weight. Foods which have folic acid include spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables, oranges and pure orange juice, nuts, beans, chicken, lean beef, whole grains, and cereals with added folic acid. Recommended dose is 400–800 mcg of folic acid each day from foods and/or supplements, which most prenatal vitamins include this amount.
Vitamin B-12 assists in building red blood cells and helps your neurons (which are the cells in your brain and nervous system) work correctly. Those that are at higher risk of low B12 include pregnant women, vegetarians/vegans, and those over the age of 50 and are recommended to speak to their doctor about supplementation. B-12 is often found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs, and fish and other sources include clams, sardines, flounder, herring, nutritional yeast, and foods with vitamin B-12 added, including some cereals, fortified soy beverages, and veggie burgers.
Vitamin D assist the body in using calcium, helps build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis. It is also known to help reduce inflammation in your cells and assist the body’s immune system to fight off germs that can make you sick. Those who may need to supplement include those who do not get much sunlight (such as those in northern areas, homebound, or work indoors during daylight hours), certain ethnic backgrounds (including African-American, Hispanic, or Asian-American), woman who are postmenopausal, obese, those who have a inflammatory bowel disease or any other disease that makes it harder for the gut to absorb fat (vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it has to be absorbed by the gut), and anyone who has had gastric bypass surgery (weight loss surgery). Vitamin D is known as the sunlight vitamin and for those who don’t get much sunlight can get if from foods such as fish (like tuna and salmon) and fortified foods such as low-fat or fat-free milk and some brands of orange juice, cereals, soy beverages, and yogurt so be sure to check the labels.
Calcium is known for protecting and building strong bones and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Calcium also plays a role in assisting messages to go between your brain and muscles. Girls ages 9 to 18 need 1,300 milligrams (mg) of calcium each day as this is the time when bones are absorbing calcium and building strong bones for adulthood and older age, adult women need 1,000 mg of calcium each day to maintain, and women after menopause need 1,200 mg of calcium each day to help slow the bone loss that comes with aging. Calcium is found in dairy products such as yogurt, milk and cheeses; canned salmon; and dark green leafy vegetables as well as foods with calcium added, such as some soy beverages, 100% orange juice, tofu, and cereals.
Did you know: “Your body stores calcium in your bones, so if you don’t get enough calcium from food, your body will take calcium from your bones, making them weak and easily broken.”
Iron is essential for building healthy blood cells that carry oxygen in your body as well as helps make certain hormones and connective tissue in your body. All women who have menstrual periods is at risk of having low iron levels as iron is lost during monthly periods. And pregnant women need increased iron to supply enough blood for their growing babies. Low iron can lead to iron-deficiency anemia which is a condition that causes your heart to work harder to pump blood so that more oxygen can reach the whole body. Anemia symptoms include feeling tired, weak, and dizzy. Foods that contain iron include lean red meats and liver, chicken, seafood, cereals/breads with iron added, beans, dark chocolate, spinach, tofu, and canned tomatoes. Many women find it difficult to get enough iron from their food intake. The recommended iron daily intake for women ages 19 to 50 is 18 mg, during pregnancy it is increased to 27 mg, and women ages 51 and older is decreased to 8 mg.
Resource: Vitamins and minerals for women. (2018, October 18). Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/healthy-eating/how-eat-health/vitamins-and-minerals-women
Herbs for Women Health- Many women prefer natural remedies and support rather than prescription medications or OTC medications.
Often herbs can provide just that and more without the harmful side effects while also providing the consumer a sense of control over their health and well-being.It’s important to speak to your physician and/or pharmacist if you have any health conditions or taking any medication before using any herbal remedy.
Precaution: There are not many studies on herbal supplements during pregnancy, therefore many health professionals do not recommend. Be sure to speak to your healthcare professional team if you are pregnant and considering herbal use.
Black cohosh is known for helping with hot flashes without the uncomfortable side effects of most hormone therapies.
Valerian root is known to help with insomnia making it easier to fall asleep and sleep deeper naturally without leading to dependency or addiction.
Ginkgo is known to improve memory and slow down the progress of Alzheimer’s
Ginseng has strong immune enhancing properties
Garlic enhances immune and kills many types of bacteria and fungi including Candida which causes yeast infections.
Resource: Beck, L., & Rosenbach, A. von. (2003). The Ultimate Nutrition Guide for Women : How to Stay Healthy with Diet, Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs. Wiley.
In conclusion, there any many vitamins, minerals, and nutritional supplements that can benefit women’s health and well-being which promotes a balanced life for us to provide our best selves for the ones we love and care for. We must honor ourselves and be the role models for our children, families, friends and community. By caring for ourselves we are care for them all.