Black History Month: The supplement issue
While supplementation should be individually catered according to syndrome, diet and lifestyle, here are the top 3 supplements I suggest to support menstrual and reproductive health for women of African heritage living in the north (i.e. Canada and northern areas of the United States).
1. Vitamin D3: Without a doubt, Vitamin D is the first vitamin that comes to mind for anyone with a darker complexion living up north. Although there is some debate over whether Vit D is necessary for bone health in Black Americans, here are some reasons you should still consider supplementing with Vitamin D.
First of all, lower levels of vitamin D are noted in Black Americans and the same goes for Black Canadians. Now if that isn’t enough of a reason to start supplementing, here are some other reasons why you might want to consider ensuring you aren’t deficient in the sunshine vitamin;
- Deficient Vitamin D levels are associated with lower fertility rates. There are actually Vitamin D receptors all over the ovaries, uterus and placenta! Supplementing with Vit D leading up to and throughout pregnancy is recommended
- Vitamin D can help you ovulate more regularly (due to the influence that it has on the gene encoding for anti-Mullarian hormone)
- For people with PCOS, it can help balance androgens (male hormones) and insulin resistance (your body’s response to sugar).
- Vitamin D helps support a healthy pregnancy (low levels are associated with Gestational Diabetes and pregnancy induced hypertension.)
- Vitamin D supplementation has also been associated with better IVF outcomes.
- There are many other, non-reproductive reasons why it is beneficial to supplement with vitamin D (autoimmune issues, MS, cancer etc…). A lot more research is going into the benefits Vitamin D, but that is for another blog.
Dose: Recent studies have said that pregnant women regardless of Vit D status, should take 2000-4000iu/day, which is quite a jump from the 600iu suggested daily dose, or the 400iu found in most prenatal vitamins. I have seen up to 10,000 iu/day for people with noted deficiency, who were being monitored by a health professional.
- Because fibroids, PCOS, Endometriosis and menstrual pain all have some degree of inflammation associated with them, taking a quality, high EPA fish oil, is a great idea for helping reduce the inflammatory response.
- In pregnancy, fish oil also appears to help reduce premature labour rates (another disparity that African American women face).
Dose: 750mg EPA : 500mg DHA fish oil, twice daily.
The best fish oil supplement is one that uses anchovies and sardines. It is imperative that the company that produces the fish oil has stringent testing methods for heavy metal contamination. Fish oil should always be kept in the fridge. I like NutraSea Concentrated + D, and Omega Avail by Designs for health.
Black women are much more likely to have iron deficiency anemia. One study noted that non-hispanic White women had a rate of 9-12%, while Hispanic and Black women had a 20% likelihood of having iron deficiency anemia.
If you are experiencing heavy bleeding, long periods or bleeding between periods, please have your doctor check your ferritin levels and start an iron supplement if you have a ferritin below 50. Make sure to recheck your ferritin levels after a few months to ensure your iron supplement is working, or if it’s time to try a different brand.
Here is the rest of the Black history month series:
#3 B.H.M: The PCOS issue