However, did you know your nutritional needs change throughout your lifetime and depend on your overall health and lifestyle, as well as what reproductive phase of life you’re in? To understand more about what your body needs nutritionally at different stages of your life, visit our resource here.

There can be lots of reasons why it’s not always possible to get everything we need from our diets, so there may be times when you need to supplement one or more of these nutrients to reach the recommended intake level.

As well as your age and life events like pregnancy, factors that can affect your nutritional needs are:

For example, if you have type 2 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, or a gastrointestinal condition, you’re more likely to lack certain important nutrients compared with those who don’t have these conditions. Studies show that women with a higher than average body weight are at greater risk of vitamin deficiencies, particularly B12 and vitamin D. The same is true for being of a lower than average body weight, as not eating enough can leave you deficient in vital vitamins!

Skin tone can also impact your nutrient needs. African American women are more likely to lack vitamin D as they have a higher concentration of melanin in their skin. This blocks the UVB sunlight needed to produce vitamin D, so use of a supplement is important.

Women tend to lack different nutrients at different stages of their lives. If you read anything in the following sections that sets off alarm bells for you, it’s most important to think about how you could address these needs through changes to your nutrition as opposed to through supplements. It’s not easy, but that’s why Hormonally is here to help!

Once you’re over 14 years of age, you have the same nutritional needs as an adult. Despite this most teens tend to have diets low in the vitamins and minerals they need, especially vitamin D and folate.

If you’re a young person, or care for one, it can be really tricky to adopt healthy habits when it comes to food. A good first step is to try to add in a few small snack food items that are nutritious, or find ways to make small healthy adjustments to meals that are rich in minerals. If this isn’t an option for you because you don’t have control over the food that is bought in your household, a good multivitamin with iron and folate may help. If you feel nervous asking a parent for this, perhaps think about whether there is anyone at your school that could help you source one.

The most common deficiencies women have in their reproductive years are:

  • iron
  • vitamin D
  • folate (B9)
  • vitamin B6.

We need iron to keep our blood healthy and actually require twice as much as men if we’re having periods. Vitamin D is essential for keeping our muscles and bones strong and healthy, but it can be hard to get this from our diets, so we need to expose our skin to the sun for this or use a good quality supplement. It’s important to remember that using a good quality SPF is essential for keeping our skin healthy. SPF does not impact your vitamin D absorption and everyone benefits from SPF, regardless of their ethnicity.

Folate isn’t just needed when you’re pregnant, it’s an essential vitamin that we use throughout our adult lives and we can feel cranky, low and have headaches if we don’t get enough of it.

Our body can’t store much vitamin B9, so we need to get it from our diets on a regular basis too. It’s found in a lot of plant and animal-based foods, but if you have a higher body weight, a liver, kidney, digestive or autoimmune disease, or if you smoke or drink more alcohol than is recommended, it’s more likely you’ll be deficient in this important nutrient. If you have low B9, you may get skin rashes, mood changes, or find yourself lacking in energy.
If you’re suffering from PMS, read our nutritional tips to help symptoms.

If you’re pregnant, pre-natal vitamins are recommended to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, folate, choline, iron, and vitamin C.

Remember, don’t take supplements containing vitamin A if you’re pregnant!

You can usually continue with these supplements while you’re breastfeeding, as you’ll still have higher than normal nutrient requirements at this time.

If your periods have started to change and you’ve been noticing some symptoms that link to perimenopause or menopause, there’s some nutrients that you’re going to want to make sure you’re getting enough of. This is to ensure you optimize your health and manage symptoms over the next few years and beyond.
Around the time your periods stop, you are more likely to become deficient in:

  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • vitamins C, D, B6, B12.

Calcium, magnesium and vitamin D are the big 3 nutrients that work together to support your bones, helping your body to develop new bone tissue and slow down the rate of bone loss that increases at menopause. Taking these as supplements is a really good idea in your perimenopausal, menopausal and postmenopausal years to help prevent bone-weakening conditions like osteoporosis.

B12 helps your body to produce red blood cells which ensures your brain cells work in the right way. As we age, our bodies cannot absorb vitamin B-12 from the foods we consume, in the same way it has before. For this reason, you may need to get more vitamin B12 from supplements or fortified foods, as it’s easier to absorb when taken in this way.

B6 is another important vitamin to prioritize at this stage of life. It’s possible to get B6 from foods such as turkey, chickpeas, tuna, salmon, potatoes and bananas. However, you may wish to use a supplement to ensure you’re getting the B6 you need.

B6 provides many benefits and although more research is needed, some studies have shown it may:

  • support mood and brain function as you age
  • prevent anemia
  • reduce the narrowing of arteries, lowering your chances of heart disease
  • reduce eyesight deterioration as you age (age-related macular degeneration)
  • reduce inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis.

So are supplements really worth it? Well, in certain situations they can be!

You will want to think about the following:

  1. What stage of life you are in and what your body needs at this time.
  2. Whether you could get more of your nutritional needs from eating more nutritiously.
  3. If you’re coming up short on nutrients after addressing what you eat, then yes, try a good quality supplement recommended by a source you trust.
  4. Always speak to your healthcare provider if you’re interested in taking supplements to prevent or address a health issue. There may be certain ones you have to avoid for reasons relating to factors such as a medication you are taking.

A note on your daily dose

Some supplements will advertise that they provide more than the recommended daily dose of a certain supplement and highlight this as a major pro. The truth is however, you don’t actually need more than the recommended daily amount and the more important factor to concentrate on is the quality of the supplement. Choose an option that is reputable and ideally recommended by your clinician in order to stay hormonally happy!