The nutritional requirements of men and women differ. A woman’s body needs extra nutritional support during various physiological transitions such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, lactation and menopause. Women are affected by different health problems than men and are more often diagnosed with autoimmune diseases, arthritis, osteoporosis and depression. Despite popular belief that heart disease is a male problem one in four menopausal women die from heart disease, thus making heart disease, not cancer, the major cause of death for women in the United States. At different stages of life, women benefit from properly selected micronutrients to assure the optimum function of the cells building the nervous, immune, cardiovascular and endocrine systems.
Mental health: The nervous system monitors and controls almost every organ system in the body. The cells that build it have extremely high requirements for nutrients to support production of neurotransmitters (chemicals that convey information throughout the body) and maintain the cellular membranes of the nerve cells. These cells consume more energy than the cells in any other organ and, once damaged, have limited means of reproduction. The most important nutrients for supporting the brain cells are vitamins C, B6 and B12, inositol and choline, working in synergy with other nutrients. The brain has the highest amount of vitamin C compared to other organs and needs cholesterol for optimum function.
Immunity: The female immune system is challenged repeatedly during puberty, pregnancy and menopause, which increases the risk of autoimmune diseases and other health problems. Autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disorders, celiac and Cohn’s disease, arthritis, psoriasis, skin disorders and others, are the leading causes of disability in women under 65. To support the immune system vitamin C, B vitamins, selenium, folic acid, and soy isoflavones are beneficial. In older age, supplementation with Intrinsic Factor is important for optimum absorption of vitamin B12.
Hormones: Optimum function of the endocrine system is critical at various phases of growth and metabolism. Although secreted in small quantities, hormones affect a woman’s metabolism during puberty, the reproductive years and menopause. Many symptoms such as PMS, menopausal symptoms and migraines relate to hormonal imbalances. Vitamins C, B5 and B6, iodine, soy isoflavones and selenium are particularly important in all aspects of hormonal functions and metabolism. Vitamins B5 and B6 affect cortisol, progesterone and estrogen levels involved in metabolic aspects of female development and stress response. Pregnancy, lactation and oral contraceptive use increase the risk of deficiency in vitamins C and B. Excess estrogen in oral contraceptives and estrogen replacement therapy has been associated with increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease. Iodine is an essential trace mineral for the production of thyroid hormones.
Heart disease: Heart disease symptoms in women are quite different from men, thus the diagnosis is often missed. Several nutrients work in synergy to enhance and optimize the functions of a healthy cardiovascular system. These include vitamins C, E, B3, B6, B9, B12, and the amino acids lysine and proline. Vitamin C is critical for the vascular system. It is essential for the synthesis and proper structure of collagen, which gives strength and flexibility to the heart and blood vessels. Vitamin C is involved in cholesterol metabolism and supports lowering of Lp(a) and LDL, as well as increasing HDL blood levels.
Menstruation, pregnancy and menopause are natural processes in a woman’s life cycle. They are not diseases but require specific nutritional support. A woman’s nutritional requirements also increase during illness, stress, and with the use of oral contraceptives and other pharmaceutical drugs. Any imbalance among these demands for nutrients contributes to health problems. Appropriate synergistic nutrient supplementation provides women with a solid foundation for a healthy life.