I am not a trained doctor (although I might know more about vitamins than 'old-time' doctors), nor even formally schooled in the vitamin field. I am a firm believer in self-education, and even more important, self-awareness. Take my recommendations as lightly or as seriously as you wish, but don't substitute my knowledge for your own self-education.
Growing up, I watched my mom and dad take a multitude of vitamins. My older brother was forced to as well, but I just couldn't manage to swallow pills :) We used to have a kitchen table with bunkettes (or is it bankettes? Benches that opened for storage). My brother used to stash his vitamins in the benches; the smell of the B vitamin was especially pungent! I grew up learning that vitamins were important and gradually absorbed info from various sources such as Dr. Oz, Dr. Weil, Dr. Roizen, Dr. Durand and more.
But shopping for vitamins is overwhelming. You know you need Omega 3, but the number of options is boggling! You know you need calcium, but do you want it with magnesium AND zinc, or with none? Chewable, long-lasting, natural flavoured vitamin C? The red iron or the green iron? Recently Pharma Plus had a really good sale on ALL their vitamins/herbals; no more guessing what was on sale and what wasn't. So I stocked up. Of course, vitamin therapies only work if you actually take them. I have been trying really hard lately, and I have definitely noticed a difference. My regime is the 'basic' regime that most doctors promote, and for me, a bit of added focus on mood stability, craving control, and better sleep. Others may need immunity improvements, heart health, or another specific concern. Again, use your own self-education. My goal today is to provide a general vitamin therapy plan that will work for most women of child-bearing ages, and to provide shopping info, especially for other Canadians on a budget :) (Although I am not trying to endorse particular brands, these are reasonably priced and easy to buy here).
Vitamin B12: An important vitamin for red blood cells and brain function. See the post I wrote last year about a great book "Could It Be B12?" It also promotes energy, and I recently learned to not take this supplement at night time :) Right now, I'm using Jamieson B12, 100mcg, once per day. Make sure you are not folate deficient; there is much about that in the book I mentioned.
Vitamin C: I am not a big fruit eater and don't drink juice. I know I am low on vit. C all year (except perhaps during Ontario strawberry season), but others might just need a little over the winter to increase their immune system. If the kids are sick, I bump up the number I take, and I have definitely noticed that I don't get as sick as before, although I will still feel a little under the weather. The choices for vit. C are incredible. As with most vitamins, lower-dose/more frequently is usually the way to go. Right now I am using Equate (Wal-Mart) Vitamin C Plain, 500mg, 250 tablets. I take one/day unless the kids are sick, and then I take up to 3.
Vitamin D: This is the latest 'must have'. If you live north of Atlanta, you are probably deficient (as many as 60% of adults are). It's being linked with just about every aspect of health, but is important for helping calcium absorption (hence, why it's added to milk). Make sure your vit. D is "D3" (Cholecalciferol) and is at least 1000IU/25mcg. I'm taking Premium Jamieson Vitamin D 1, 000IU. There are some health experts out there though that say Vit. D supplements are a waste of money because our body doesn't process it well enough, and too much Vit. D can have problems. I suggest more research, but the big name doctors do highly recommend everyone take a Vit. D.
Vitamin E: Not really necessary for most women, so do some research before you spend the money. There has been mixed evidence about Vit. E and heart health. I'm taking it just because I bought it to use on my incisions/scars after the surgery, so I bought the cheapest one, Equate Vitamin E Regular, 200IU.
Calcium: "Drink your milk!" has been the motherhood cry for a couple generations now. We know women stop building bone mass as early as their mid-20s. But there is a growing anti-dairy group, so supplements, while not as efficient as food sources, are a good option. Calcium by itself can be constipating, so it is often mixed with magnesium. I"m not sure why zinc is added, but zinc is good for the sex drive..... There are also differing opinions on the type of calcium one should have in the supplement. It just gets me confused, LOL. I'm taking Jamieson MEGA CAL High Absorption Calcium "Calcium Magnesium with Zinc". It has 333mg of Elemental Calcium, 167 mg of Elemental Magnesium, and 20mg of Elemental Zinc. I aim for two per day, but usually end up with just one. They are large capsules. Between ovulation and period I really try hard to have two per day to help control cravings and improve my sleeping. Women need about 1000mg of calcium per day, so factor in what you consume in food too.
Iron: I can never remember if I should take the green iron or the red iron. Iron in general is hard for the body to absorb, and should be taken with Vitamin C and not at the same time as Calcium or caffiene. It can also be constipating. If you're feeling tired, weak, and pale, try taking it every other day throughout your cycle for several months. Also add in the B12 for energy. I don't take it every day, but the week before my period, and during, I will take it every other day (sometimes two days in a row if I'm feeling 'regular' but iron deficient, LOL). I go for cheap instead of name brand. Value Priced (bought at Zehrs/Loblaws I think, but every drug store has a store brand) Iron Supplement Ferrous Sulfate tablets, apo-ferrous sulfate 300mg. It says on the side, "Each tablet supplies 60mg of elemental iron as 187mg of dried Ferrous Sulfate USP".
Omega 3: This is a hard one to figure out. Some brands label the different ratios for Healthy Heart, or Mood Control, or Women's Formula, etc. That can help, but use it as a reference, and then pick based on other criteria--size of capsule, price, source of the oil, etc. I was looking for one that would help my moods, but the store didn't have that one on sale. So I used the info on the label, and found that it was very close to Premium Jamieson Omega-3 Complete, 40% EPA, 20% DHA, 1000mg which is promoted as Healthy Heart and Brain Function. I haven't noticed improved brain function, but my moods are MUCH more stable throughout my cycle now. I aim for two capsules/day, especially in the PMS week :) The dosage is 3 capsules/day, but they are large, and fishy (though not as fishy as another brand I had tried). Megan though will chew up a capsule with no complaint! I highly recommend Omega 3 for any woman suffering from the 'witching week'.
I also give the kids a couple things, a chewable B12/6/Folic Acid and a chewy Omega 3 (Megan loves them and I have to keep the jar up high. Huey is not so keen, but loves the B12/6/FA).
If budget is a concern, watch for sales. Never pay full price for vitamins/supplements. Some have long shelf lives, so you can stock up. If it's still a little pricey, I'd recommend dropping Vitamin C and E, maybe a cheaper B complex.
I'd love to have input from others on what has worked for them!