As you drift into midlife, your schedule might become busier with family, career and personal needs.
At this time, though, your body is undergoing changes related to the aging process. So what can a person do to maintain good health during this time of life?
Mark Menolascino, MD, key medical opinion leader at Lycored, believes that the answer lies close to home.
“My model of health is similar to what Hippocrates taught us 2000 years ago – let food be your medicine, your kitchen be your pharmacy, your lifestyle be your physician. However with the fast pace lives we lead, environmental toxins, processed and modified food, there is an epidemic of nutritional deficiencies in America and this is partly driving our chronic disease epidemic,” he says. “By age forty our metabolism is slowing, our DNA repair is less efficient and our nutritional needs are different than when we were twenty years old. Oxidative stress is a real problem by age 40-50 and healthy, ideally organic, food is the key.”
There are five key vitamins or supplements a woman in her 40s and 50s should be taking, according to Menolascino. “In my clinic we talk about the big five for women: a multivitamin, omega 3, vitamin D with K2, calcium and magnesium.”
A good quality multivitamin, ideally with an antioxidant property, omega 3 and vitamin D can provide basic benefits for everyone, according to Menolascino.” For women moving into perimenopause and menopause, the nutritional needs may be higher and more nutritional support may be necessary,” he says, adding that coconut milk can boost calcium levels by 50 percent and also includes some fatty acids with no inflammatory potential.
Many individuals are surprisingly deficient in magnesium, which controls more than 500 biochemical pathways and is crucial to DNA repair, Menolascino notes.
“We have fixed constipation in hundreds of women by simply adding a single magnesium supplement at night, which also improves sleep and can reduce hot flashes,” he says. “Magnesium and calcium work well together for bone health and for menopause symptoms.”
Adding vitamin D
Vitamin D levels vary across the country, but may be lower in certain geographic areas and segments of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) . Menolascino, who lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, reports that nearly every client he sees is low in vitamin D, most probably due to living at a higher elevation with less direct sunlight.
“However, even my colleagues in Arizona are seeing high rates of low vitamin D,” he notes. “Many diseases present in clients with low vitamin D status. As a functional medicine doctor, I see some of the most complex clients with multiple symptoms and diagnoses and they are all very low in vitamin D. I have also seen very low vitamin D levels in women with low mood and by taking vitamin D their mood markedly improves. Vitamin D is crucial not only for bone health, but also for brain, heart, hormone and immune health.”
Menolascino emphasizes that vitamin D should be taken with vitamin K2 to maximize bone health and immune system support. He adds that men sometimes present with vitamin D deficiency as well. “I have seen very low vitamin D levels in men with low testosterone and by supplementing vitamin D the testosterone increases and men feel more energy,” he says.
Digestive function begins to wane in the 40s, according to clinical nutritionist Joelle Cafaro, DC, CCN, “Nexium prescriptions are filled at a rate of 15.2 million a month and symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) are prevalent in 35 percent of individuals age 45 to 79,” she says. “Probiotic supplements may help with digestive health by balancing the digestive system between good and harmful bacteria.”
With the exception of calcium, men have the same basic supplemental needs as women. Menolascino indicates that saw palmetto can benefit men with prostate issues or frequent nighttime urination and control. “Men also benefit from adrenal support with adaptogens or DHEA, but it is best not used in any prostate cancer clients or in women with hormone sensitive cancers,” he says.
Keep it safe
Although no research exists that supports interactions between multivitamins and medications, Cafaro suggests choosing whole food concentrates or supplements made from food for safety sake. “These are low dose supplements that are sourced from food and are most like the vitamins and minerals found in foods. A person should look for ingredients that they recognize.
For example, vitamins A and D from fish oil, acerola powder or camu for vitamin C and wheat germ oil for vitamin E, ” she says. “Be cautious of synthetic sources of fat soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A, D and E, as they may be toxic. Synthetic vitamin A can be found as retinol palmitate, synthetic vitamin D as ergocalciferol and synthetic vitamin E as d,l-alpha.”
To avoid problems or interactions, Menolascino recommends working with someone who knows both medications and nutritional supplements when selecting vitamins. “Glucosamine can interfere with the blood thinner Coumadin and could cause a life threatening bleeding issue. Grapefruit seed extract is the notorious supplement that interferes with the P450 cytochrome system the liver uses to detoxify medications and can cause elevated levels of medications that can cause overdose,” he says.
If vitamins cause stomach upset, rash or other side effects, they should be discontinued, Menolascino asserts. “Ideally you should stop all supplements if having an issue and then add back one per week to see which one was the culprit.”
To obtain the necessary nutrients from food, Menolascino recommends eating organic, especially dairy, eggs, and hormone and antibiotic-free meats.