Supplements are everywhere in our society now, from health food stores to big box shelves to yes, even doctor offices. Research is starting to unmask the truth behind supplements, that is: when they’re high quality and used correctly, certain supplements can have dramatic impacts on health and wellness.
Women especially seek supplement remedies for everyday ailments like stress, menstrual problems, sleep issues, digestive health, immunity, and more.
Here are the top supplements that women should consider adding to their natural medicine cabinet, with research-backed benefits. But don’t get fooled by cheap supplements — we will also explore how to know you’re getting the best quality before you buy.
7 Best Supplements for Women’s Health
Even if you live a healthy lifestyle, you might benefit from adding these supplements to your wellness routine. Always check with your doctor before taking supplements, to ensure there are no interactions or additional concerns.
Multivitamin: If you suffer from any type of chronic disease, are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, or you follow a restrictive diet of any kind (such as gluten-free, vegetarian, or Paleo), you could likely benefit from taking a daily multivitamin. Doing so might eliminate the need for single-nutrient vitamins or minerals, except in certain cases of specific conditions or deficiency.
Probiotics: Probiotics are the friendly bacteria that populate the microbiome in the colon. The health benefits may range from protecting bone health in women to reducing anxiety to helping promote weight loss. Various strains of probiotics offer different benefits, with single-strain supplements like l. acidophilus offering the most benefit with the least potential for side effects.
Calcium/Vitamin D: Calcium and vitamin D are two nutrients often found together in supplements for bone health. That’s because they work synergistically and are both necessary for benefits like bone strength and decreased risk of bone fracture, and even mood regulation and depression.
B Complex: B vitamins are vital for nervous system health and might be low in women, especially if they take oral contraceptives, are pregnant, vegetarian, or breastfeeding. Additionally, as much as one-third of the population has one or more genetic mutations that makes activating B vitamins problematic, so taking methylated (or activated) versions might offer the best benefits.
Magnesium: A mineral that is associated with muscle function, magnesium is also associated with mental health benefits. For women, it can also ease the symptoms of PMS.
Myo-inositol: Sometimes referred to as inositol, myo-inositol is a pseudovitamin that is often lumped into the B-vitamin family. Benefits include boosting fertility and improving insulin sensitivity, especially in conditions like PCOS and type II diabetes. It has also been shown to have mental health benefits like reducing signs of anxiety and depression.
CBD Oil: CBD has surged onto the market in recent years as a go-to supplement for everything from pain to skin conditions, and it certainly offers promising supplemental benefits for women, particularly in the areas of inflammation and anxiety, which might provide relief from menstrual problems like cramping and mood disorders. CBD does interact with estrogen receptors, however, and might impact fertility, so if you’re trying to get pregnant, taking hormonal birth control or other hormone replacement, you will probably want to avoid. CBD oil is not safe during pregnancy and has not been cleared as safe for breastfeeding, either.
How to Decode Supplement Labeling & Buy the Best Quality
Decoding the supplement aisle is tricky, especially when it comes to the claims that the labels make regarding quality. Most supplements say natural, organic, certified, or pure—but how do you know what those words really mean?
Natural: This is not a strictly regulated term on labels and is ultimately only restricted for use by products that contain certain synthetic ingredients, except in meat, poultry, and eggs, where it is highly regulated. However, what the FDA decides is natural in non-meat products is highly subjective because, in some cases, high-fructose corn syrup is considered “natural.”
Organic: This term is more strictly regulated, although it still doesn’t mean 100 percent organic unless it literally says “100 percent organic.” Organic products can be as little as 95 percent organic, and “made with organic” can be as little as 70 percent organic.
Pure: Another meaningless term, since “pure” could be highly subjective. This is not a term regulated or approved by the FDA or USDA.
Good Manufacturing Seals: While the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements for effectiveness or safety, they have provided guidelines for good manufacturing practices, or GMPs, and inspects facilities that make supplements. Additionally, there are many third-party organizations that offer independent certification and analysis of supplements and brands that can provide additional levels of trust. These can include Consumer Lab, NSF International, and U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP). Labels like USP Verified help to ensure that what’s on the label is actually in the product, giving consumers a higher level of confidence.
FDA Approval: The FDA does not regulate the effectiveness supplements because they are treated as food, not as drugs. They are intended to supplement a diet, not have standalone medicinal properties, even though many of them function that way. The key differences between drug regulation and supplements are that for pharmaceuticals, drugs must be tested and approved for treating and curing diseases and health conditions, whereas supplements are not pre-approved before being marketed and sold. Supplement companies only get into trouble with the FDA if they claim to cure, treat, or prevent disease or if they produce extreme reactions or side effects and are deemed unsafe. The FTC, or Federal Trade Commission, also keeps tabs on supplement advertising claims to prevent misleading claims.
Labeling is everything, but even some supplement manufacturers won’t label their supplements correctly, whether for ingredients or dosage. This can be especially true for CBD, which is one of the newer supplements on the market. This is why it’s vital to consider other aspects of manufacturing and branding to determine supplement quality.