It’s hard enough keeping my mind–and my mouth–away from warm homemade biscuits slathered in butter and almond croissants. I’m not the least bit motivated to dig up the Nutrition Facts on everything I do eat every single day to see if I’m getting the nutrients my body needs to keep me healthy. I’m pretty certain I’m not. I can go for days without whole grains or vegetables passing my lips, even though I know they’re good for me. Healthy fish? Cooking it smells up the house for days, so I don’t. I once loved almonds, which are filled with massive amounts of nutrients, but I always consumed a mountain of those crunchy little things in one sitting, so now I stay away from them.
Scarily, my inadequate diet raises my risk for developing certain medical conditions as I age, from soft bones to inflamed intestines and heart disease!
Personalized, Doctor-Approved Vitamin Recommendations in Minutes
I know I should take nutritional supplements to help compensate for my sorry diet, but investigating which ones I need, and in what amounts, would be another head-spinning exercise. When an online supplement service called Persona contacted me, I was intrigued by its promise that I could get “personalized, doctor-approved vitamin recommendations” simply by completing a five-minute questionnaire about my health, lifestyle and the medications I’m taking. I filled it out right away, anxious to learn which supplements Persona would advise me to take.
My Persona appraisal included a recommendation for ubiquinol, a supplement that I unequivocally need because I’m on statins to reduce my blood cholesterol and prevent heart disease. When I chatted online with a Persona nutritionist, she explained that some prescription drugs can harm one body function at the very same time they’re helping another. Taking statins has dramatically improved my lipid numbers, but they’re also depleting a critical enzyme that helps protect my body’s cells from oxidative stress, which can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, even heart disease. Persona recommended ubiquinol because it will replenish that vital enzyme. Without it, I could wind up with heart disease anyway. Sounds crazy to someone like me, who wasn’t a gifted biology or chemistry student, but it’s true!
My doctor hadn’t told me about ubiquinol because not every medical doctor is well educated on supplements.
Whether you’re currently taking supplements or haven’t started because you’re confused by the constantly changing reports about what’s beneficial, I urge you to consider the recommendations of Angie Kuhn, Persona’s director of nutrition support and research. I decided to interview Angie once I learned more about Persona and started taking the supplements it recommended.
Angie discussed the common signals our bodies will send us if they’re not getting the essential nutrients and other things they need to help keep us in tip-top shape as we age.
Let’s say you’re a 51-year-old woman who has never taken a single supplement in your entire life and have the standard American (anything-but perfect) diet. You’ve started to experience symptoms of menopause: You’re not sleeping well, you’ve gained weight and you’re getting dreadful hot flashes. The Persona questionnaire will ask you a number of questions related to these symptoms.
“These are signs that your hormones are imbalanced and you could use a supplement to help regulate your symptoms,” Angie said. “Persona’s Menopause Support supplement is a blend of three different root extracts that can help with many symptoms of menopause. It includes EstroG-100, which has been clinically proven to relieve hot flashes, help manage mood and energy swings, alleviate night sweats, promote restful sleep, and even improve vaginal dryness,” Angie told me. And it doesn’t affect your weight.
Any woman would be wise to have a bone density test by the time she enters menopause because estrogen loss can seriously affect her bones. Other risk factors include smoking, drinking, and calcium and vitamin D deficiency. If you’re like I am and don’t eat enough foods like fatty fish, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and orange juice, you probably need a vitamin D supplement. And, if your diet isn’t providing the recommended 1,000-1,200 mg of calcium every day, you’ll want to take a calcium supplement.
“A woman’s calcium needs generally go up as she gets older, but women need other nutrients, like vitamin K2, to help ensure that the calcium gets to their bones, instead of building up in blood vessels and kidneys,” Angie explained. Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, turnip greens, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, parsley, romaine, and green leaf lettuce supply vitamin K, as do brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. I don’t know about you, but none of these are part of my regular lopsided diet.
Decreased grip strength, height loss, cramps, muscle aches, bone pain and lower overall fitness are signs of weakening bones.
JOINTS AND LIGAMENTS
Sore joints and ligaments are common as we age, especially if you’re not as active as you should be. I often become so engrossed in my interviewing and writing during the day that I’ll be sitting at my computer for hours on end. And when I get up, my entire body feels stiff, tight and sore until I start moving around.
The production of collagen, the primary structural protein in cartilage that gives it strength and toughness, slows down after we turn 30. Persona’s UC-II supplement is derived from chicken sternum cartilage and consists of Type II collagen to help support healthy joints and promote flexibility. Studies also have shown that prolonged use of collagen can increase the elasticity of our skin.
HAIR AND NAILS
Hair and nails are made of structural proteins known as keratin, which is why protein deficiency can be one of the main causes of thinning hair and brittle, splitting nails. If your diet doesn’t include foods packed with proteins such as fish, chicken, red meat, eggs or dairy, you may want to try Persona’s exclusive Hair, Skin & Nails Formula, Angie said. Besides protein, it contains collagen and horsetail plant extract, an herb that has been shown to support hair and nail health.
THE GUT, PART 1
We know pretty quickly when our digestive system is out of whack, because we experience gas, bloating, constipation, or indigestion, among other symptoms. “Perhaps you’re moving less than you used to, drinking less water, and exposed to numerous environmental stressors that are throwing off the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. Probiotics can aid your overall wellness and immunity by helping to stabilize your gut flora (that’s the complex community of microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts),” Angie explained.
There’s a mind-boggling range of probiotics on the market. Persona recently added one called Culturelle with LGG, reportedly the world’s most studied probiotic strain since 1990, when it was first used in dietary supplements. Studied in hundreds of clinical trials, LGG has been shown to help get the gut flora back in balance and assist in immunity and digestive health. “Probiotics also have been linked to brain health, so if you’re fatigued and not thinking as clearly as you used to, it could be linked to your gut health,” Angie said.
THE GUT, PART II
As we get older, our ability to digest certain nutrients might decrease. “If you’re no longer able to absorb the sugar (lactose) in milk, for example, your body can’t create lactase, the enzyme it needs to break down the sugar. Or you might not be able to digest certain types of vegetables and beans,” Angie explained. You’ll also experience gas, bloating and constipation. Digestive enzymes can help give your system what it needs to properly absorb foods.
If you’re fatigued and lack energy, you might not be eating enough animal products, which could give you a vitamin B12 deficiency. “An energy drink isn’t going to solve the problem, so you’ll want a B12 supplement. We recommend B12 for vegans and vegetarians, who should also take iron supplements because it’s common for them to be anemic,” Angie said.
The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic rate as well as heart and digestive function, muscle control, brain development, mood and bone maintenance. Its correct functioning depends on having a good supply of nutrients such as zinc and iodine from the diet. “If your thyroid isn’t working properly you might gain weight, feel fatigued, become sensitive to cold and see your hair thinning, and you may just need a boost of these nutrients,” Angie said. Persona offers a Thyroid Support supplement with selenium, zinc, iodine and ashwagandha. “It’s important to see your doctor if you’re experiencing these symptoms,” she stressed.
Perhaps you can’t see as well as you did, have trouble driving at night because you can’t make out the road signs, or have been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Supplements with the nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin can help reduce the risk or improve a range of vision-related problems, Angie said. “Americans also get an average of 11 hours of computer screen time each day, which exposes us to a lot of blue light. Lutein and zeaxanthin can help lessen the harmful effects of this light over time,” she added.
Acute inflammation, the body’s response to injury, works to heal wounds such as cuts. That’s good inflammation. Chronic inflammation isn’t so good. It might happen when the immune system is trying to defend itself against a serious infection like Crohn’s Disease, but failing. Or it can occur when the immune system senses that something isn’t right, such as the buildup of plaque in the lining of an artery, but can’t fix it and might even make the situation worse.
Symptoms of chronic inflammation include joint pain, skin rashes like psoriasis, low energy and poor digestion. If your body is sending you signals like these, get a blood workup and assess with your doctor whether you should change what you’re eating and how you’re exercising so you minimize inflammation. Probiotics, turmeric, resveratrol and fish oil supplements are known to help fight inflammation.
A FINAL NOTE ABOUT MULTIVITAMINS
“Many people think they just need a standard one-a-day multiple vitamin, but the nutrients in many of those aren’t very bioavailable. This means that not enough of their nutrients are absorbed by the body’s circulatory system to be actively effective,” Angie said. “Persona has developed its own multivitamin with bioavailable nutrients, many of which are hard to find in other multivitamins, such as methylated folate,” she added. A form of vitamin B, folate is responsible for cell division, the conversion of carbohydrates into energy, and the formation of DNA and other genetic material, which makes it pretty important. But many women actually can’t absorb folate properly, so a common multivitamin with standard folic acid (a synthetic form of folate) won’t work for them. Methylated folate, the natural, active form of folate, will work. It is especially important for the growth and development of fetuses.
“As a Registered Dietitian I firmly believe in getting your nutrients through whole foods, but it is often difficult to do that every day, unless you’re eating 10 different fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lots of green leafy vegetables and healthy fats. Multivitamins with highly bioavailable nutrients and other supplements based on lifestyle factors, age and medications provide reassurance you’re getting what you need,” Angie concluded.