Supplements are often thought to be unnecessary for people who follow a conventionally healthy diet. After all, what more could you possibly need if you have well-balanced meals every day? Turns out, a lot. Especially for women since they go through significant changes throughout their lives. We spoke to Dr Sonali Kohli, MD in Dermatology and expert in Functional Medicine, about supplements for women’s health, and why women, especially in their 30s and beyond, need them. We also spoke to her about the significant benefits these supplements could have even for women who are perfectly healthy and fit.
“A woman’s body is a complex interplay of hormones and their systemic manifestations,” Dr Kohli tells us. “The smooth operations of these hormones is solely dependent on our environment, nutrition, essential minerals, vitamins, and to a small extent, our genetic predisposition. Lifestyles impact not only our diet but also the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals. And with today’s stressful lifestyles, and poor eating habits, supplements have become an integral and indispensable component for a well-functioning body. For example, before your menstrual cycle starts, it is normal to be constipated and bloated. Taking a good amount of Omega 3 and Vitamin B6 can help with PMS and maintain the sugar balance in your body to avoid cravings.”
Supplements for women’s health: Why do already healthy women need them?
Along with lifestyle factors, there are certain issues which are unique to Indian women in this context. While you may be trying actively to control your diet and eat healthy, you can’t control the source of your ingredients. Dr Kohli explained this problem to us in more detail.
“The role of supplements in the Indian scenario is of great significance, due to the high adulteration of food that comes to our table,” Dr Kohli says. “Perfectly healthy women are also exposed to high levels of oxidative stress due to the poor quality of air that we breathe in metropolitan cities. The soils are devoid of all essential minerals due to the rapid increase in urbanisation, which disturbs the ecosystem and natural human microbiome of the gut and skin. That’s why I always like to stress that supplements are not medication, they are synergistic to your diet to help you achieve holistic health.”
Since everyone has varied opinions on supplements, we asked Dr Sonali Kohli to set the record straight for us. We also asked her which are the best supplements for women’s health and what kind of problems can be controlled through them. Armed with her experience and expertise in the field, this Q&A with her will be beneficial for every woman who would like to lead a healthier, more active life. Check out what she had to say.
All About Eve: If a person hasn’t taken any supplements, what should they start with?
Dr Sonali Kohli: Vitamin C and Vitamin E supplements are safe and beneficial for everyone. Most Indians are Vitamin D deficient so it’s always good to have that tested and go on supplements as needed. Vitamin D is an essential supplement, not only for bone health, but also for good skin and mental health. Omega 3 is a potent anti-inflammatory and is excellent for heart health, skin and hair.
AAE: What kind of supplements help with common issues that women in their 30s face?
Dr Kohli: Ageing is a slow and gradual process that is initiated post the age of 25. To help slow down the ageing pattern, it is essential to incorporate a few cell support vitamins that decrease oxidative stress in the body, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Astaxanthin. A commonly overlooked vitamin essential for women in their 30s is Vitamin B6 and B12. PCOS, adult acne, bloating and weight gain are common issues now. Adult acne can become unresponsive and adding a zinc supplement can help significantly. A lot of women in their early 30s also experience hair loss. In such cases, it’s important to consider their iron levels. Healthy hair supplements include biotin and folic acid.
AAE: Are supplements safe to consume long term?
Dr Kohli: It is very subjective to the supplement being consumed. For example, Vitamin D comes in daily dosage and weekly dosage, prescribed as per the deficiency. However, a supplement like Vitamin C and Omega 3 are safe to be consumed long term with no side effects.
AAE: Are there any side effects to supplements that we should be aware of?
Dr Kohli: Supplement dosages are decided according to the signs and symptoms of the patient and, in certain cases, after reviewing the blood values. Most supplements are safe, except if they are consumed in cases of known allergy to any ingredient in the supplement.
We also asked Dr Sonali Kohli to give us a quick overview of the kind of supplements a particular issue would need. We asked around and formulated a list of 8 issues that women in their 30s should address. From bone density to better skin and sexual health, we got Dr Kohli to address several concerns.
- Supplements for better digestion: Up your dose of probiotics and prebiotics, which work together to maintain a balance of healthy bacteria in the human body. Prebiotics are what probiotics need to do their job in protecting the body against illnesses. Fiber-rich foods like whole grains, vegetables and fruits are good sources of prebiotics.
- Supplements for better bone density: Take calcium, Vitamin D and Glucosamine supplements. Of course, this depends on the patient’s blood reports and any specific deficiencies they may have.
- Supplements for better sleep: Use chelated Magnesium and melatonin to improve your sleep cycle and get an adequate amount of rest every night.
- Supplements for better skin: Vitamin C, Vitamin E and B Complex are essential for skin health. Also, add zinc and Omega 3 supplements to your arsenal to improve the health of your skin.
- Supplements for increased immunity: Curcumin and Vitamin C are good supplements to increase your immunity. An increased immunity ensures that you don’t fall prey to common illnesses doing the rounds.
- Supplements for thinning hair: Take biotin, folic acid and amino acid supplements to counter the problem of thinning hair.
- Supplements for eye health: Use Vitamin A, E and C, niacin, riboflavin and Omega 3 supplements for eye health.
- Supplements for sexual health: Take supplements which contain ashwagandha, ginseng and cranberry extract to avoid recurring problems like urinary tract infections.
These supplements for women’s health are not limited to women in their 30s. In fact, as women age, the need for supplements increases. According to Dr Sonali Kohli, “As the female body completes its stages of monthly cycles, it begins to prepare for menopause. This phase is accompanied by a dip in hormones which impacts skin, hair and bone health. This is why it’s important to take the right supplements and in higher doses, according to your requirement.”
As important as supplements may be, one should remember that they cannot replace a healthy lifestyle or diet. You can take all the right supplements in the right doses, but they won’t help if you binge on junk food often or don’t get any physical activity. Before starting any supplements, you must consult a doctor and get all tests done to ensure you don’t have any adverse reactions.
Since supplements generally don’t need prescriptions, it’s tempting to just pick up something that you think is good for you. But that does not work for anyone. As Dr Sonali Kohli says, “No one size fits all where supplements are concerned. They need to be customised and monitored by a trained physician or nutritionist for the right benefits and, most importantly, the correct dosages.”
About Dr Sonali Kohli:
With a keen interest in the impact of nutrition on skin, dermatologist Dr Kohli is pursuing a holistic approach to overall health. She has studied Functional Medicine to develop a better understanding of the human body and what it needs to perform to its full potential.
To consult Dr Sonali Kohli, call +91987317700, 011 29845500/55 and make an appointment at La Biologique Clinic in Lajpat Nagar 3, New Delhi.