Supplement manufacturers toss the one-size-fits-all and opt for condition-specific products for women.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, as of 2011, there are more than 150 million females in the U.S., representing more than half of the population. And in terms of supplementation in relation to women’s health, a national 2007 survey from ADM World found that one-third of women have tried natural supplements to relieve menopausal symptoms. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that between 2005-2008, 56.9 percent of women in the U.S. admitted to supplement use.
“Women’s health is in a state of rapidly growing awareness and increasing knowledge. The concept of ‘personalized health care’ has finally become very pervasive in a women’s health,” said Joseph Collins, RN, ND, clinical advisor, for Pennsylvania-based Douglas Laboratories. “We have moved from the ‘one-size-fits-all’ model of care to a new standard that honestly looks at the unique needs of each woman. One of the greatest factors that contribute to the growth in personalized health care is that forward thinking wellness organization started investing resources to support personalized health care long before ‘personalized health care’ became a buzzword.”
Going back 10 years, Dr. Collins and his team found that, while many dietary supplement manufactures were advertising their “one-size-fits-all” menopause formulas, “Douglas Laboratories foresaw the need for personalized care, and supported a group of products that could be mixed or matched based on the unique hormonal needs of each menopause aged women,” he said. “Now we see these formulations, and other formulations in that group, being used to give personalized care to women.”
Female consumers are not only searching for condition-specific vitamins and minerals, but also products that are gender-specific and can seamlessly be added into their daily lives. “In recent years, I have noticed that the focus on women’s health has gradually inclined towards preventive lifestyle. We are looking at more and more women participating in high intensity endurance sports, as well as heightened awareness on the need to increase physical activity to reduce the mortality rate,” said Bryan See, regional product manager for New Jersey-based ExcelVite, Inc. “However, women are also busy homemakers or involved in stressful careers that demand high energy throughout the day. Although there are quite many fitness and energy sustenance products or supplements in the market, there is a need to look at ‘designing’ such products specifically for women, as this is going to be a potential market.”
When looking at the dietary supplement industry, women’s products have been categorized to fit specific needs. Like men, women go through different stages in life as they age, and, of course, not all woman have the same lifestyles or health issues, so manufacturers need to take that into consideration when creating products. However, women of all races, ethnicities, religions and sizes do have three things in common. They produce large amounts of estrogen, are born with the physical ability to conceive and go through menopause later in life. Whether a lifetime event or a hormonal imbalance, supplementation is highly encouraged to support women’s health, for example, practitioners should recommend vitamin E to support a healthy gut microbiota during pregnancy.
“The best supplements for any woman are the one’s she personally needs,” Dr. Collins explained. “Again, we are talking about personalized woman’s health care. Does she need a multi-nutrient with iron? Does she need enteric-coated fish oil? What probiotic is best?” These are all questions that need to be addressed separately.
One of the more complex issues to tackle is hormonal imbalance in women. Many consumers may think of teenage PMS (premenstrual syndrome) when the word hormones arise, but, in fact, there is more chemical changes going on when a women’s menstrual cycle runs it’s course, forever. In fact, researchers are finding that women are having more hormonal imbalances and menopause-related symptoms. Reasons may be due to a number of environmental factors, including hormone-disrupting chemicals, chronic stress, starchy diets, birth control and antidepressants. Hormones can disrupt ones growth and development, metabolism, sexual function, reproduction and mood. General symptoms include, fatigue, skin issues, opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome (OMS) endometriosis, infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) among others.
Douglas Laboratories’s Dr. Collins said that the company trademarked its woman’s hormone heath products as “Hormone Specific Formulations,” which address specific hormones in woman. “The ‘Hormone Specific Formulations’ were designed to give women personalized care. The company begins with EstroMend, ProgestoMend, TestoGain and Testo Quench for Women. While TestoGain helps restore a healthy balance of testosterone, TestoQuench helps secrete excess testosterone. Although we look at testosterone as a man’s hormone, research found that 10 percent of women in fact have problems with excessive testosterone. DIM Enhanced is another formulation for woman and helps promote healthy detoxification of estrogens. In addition, Collins recommends Corvalen and Ubiquinol QH for energy at the cellular level, or AdrenoMend for enhanced results. Hormone-specific products provide positive results when used as a supplement to over-the-counter (OTC) aids, however, hormone deficiency is not the only health concern women come across in their life. There are needs to be addressed when woman age, as well as when they start to try to conceive.
According to See, in regards to supplementation, women have different needs at different stages of their lives. “Women at older age[s] would be looking out for supplements that address age-related needs, such as heart and cognitive health, as well as anti-aging. Tocotrienol has been shown to provide neuroprotection, cardioprotection and inside out skin benefits, he explained. Tocotrienols and tocopherols are both members of the vitamin E family and have similar structures however, they differ in a way. See noted that tocotrienol has an unsaturated side chain, and exhibited numerous unique and additional biological activities, which are not shown by tocopherol. “As such, tocotrienol has been touted as the super vitamin E.”
Excelvite address symptoms for older women with different health issues than younger woman. The company’s EVNol is a natural full-spectrum tocotrienol complex that is extracted and concentrated from virgin crude palm oil through a mild extraction process, which ensures maximum preservation of phytonutrients. It contains predominantly full spectrum tocotrienols and other phytonutrients, such as alpha-tocopherol, plant squalene, phytosterols, co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and mixed carotenoids that are naturally extracted together with tocotrienols.
ExcelVite’s product was created with EVNol SupraBio, a patented self-emulsifying delivery system specifically designed to provide consistent and enhanced oral absorption of tocotrienols. In addition, it contains a mixture of oil and food emulsifiers at an optimum ratio that will self-emulsify in the gastrointestinal tract. There, physiological processes generate conditions essential for optimal absorption of each tocotrienols into the plasma. This novel delivery system results in a rapid and consistent absorption of tocotrienols independent of dietary fat or food intake. “Clinical study on healthy human volunteers confirmed the efficacy of SupraBio system, which increases the rate and absorption of each individual tocotrienols by an average of 250 percent,” See noted.
In addition, the largest human clinical study for tocotrienol published in the journal STROKE, involved 121 subjects and found that EVNol SupraBio supplementation for two years at 200 mg twice daily slows down the development of white matter lesions (WMLs) in human brain. WMLs are closely related to vascular events of the brain and are indications of fragile brain vascular network, and an independent prognostic measure of future stroke risk. Tocotrienols can also help maintain healthy level of blood cholesterol, since its ability to signal the degradation of the rate-limiting liver enzyme (HMG CoA-reductase) involved in cholesterol reduction, according to See. In a human trial involving EVNol SupraBio, it was shown that it might reduce arterial stiffness in healthy adults after two months when taking oral supplementation of 50 mg of d-mixed-tocotrienols, twice daily. “Since arterial stiffness is an independent risk factor of cardiovascular disease, it is conceivable that improvement in arterial compliance (reduced arterial stiffness) may reduce the risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease).”
ExcelVite manufactures the ingredient that has been put in Carlson Labs’ Tocomin SupraBio (containing EVNol SupraBio), Doctor’s Best Tocotrienols (containing EVNol SupraBio), Life Extension Super-Absorbable Tocotrienols with EVNol SupraBio, Jarrow Formulas TOCO-SORB with EVNol SupraBio, Healthy Origins Tocomin SupraBio 50 mg (Tocotrienol Complex), VitaCost Tocomin Suprabio and Allergy Research Group Tocomin SupraBio Tocotrienols.
Dr. Nicholas Perricone, dermatologist at the Yale Medical Center, published the New York Times best seller, The Wrinkle Cure discussing the use of tocotrienols in cream to promote skin health and prevent aging. Alpha-tocotrienol has been shown that it is 40 to 60 percent more potent than that of alpha-tocopherol, which is regular vitamin E, in preventing lipid peroxidation. According to See, the higher recycling efficiency from chromanoxyl radicals can uniform distribution in the cell membrane and better interact with lipid radicals. The overall result, he said, is that tocotrienols are more efficient than tocopherols in scavenging and quenching the free radicals.
Pregnancy is a part of a woman’s human nature. But, according to the CDC there are 6.7 million (10.9 percent) women ages 15-44 with impaired fecundity, the impaired ability to become pregnant or carry a baby. Suzanne Munson, MS, vice president of product development and compliance at Washington-based Fairhaven Health, LLC, the main cause of female fertility issues is due to ovarian dysfunction that can lead to the complete absence of ovulation, infrequent ovulation or impaired egg quality. There have been primary areas of research on PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and reproductive toxicology, and found that environmental factors can contribute to decreased fertility. “Because PCOS is now the leading cause of female infertility, and the causes of PCOS are not well understood, researchers are motivated to learn more about the condition,” she explained. “Similarly, the area of reproductive toxicology is growing rapidly as connections continue to be made between exposure to environmental toxins and risk of fertility issues.
Nutrient deficiencies can also negatively impact egg quality and menstrual cycle regularity, therefore, there is a large market for vitamin, mineral and herbal supplementation to support female fertility. Munson lists different supplements available for women. These include, Vitex Agnus-castus, CoQ10, L-arginine, myo-inositol, vitamin D, folic acid and iron.
Vitex Agnus-castus promotes hormonal balance and menstrual cycle regularity by decreasing prolactin levels in the body, as well as level hormones that lead to healthy pregnancy. CoQ10 helps the energy production of living cells in the egg, and prevents oxidative stress. L-arginine works as an amino acid to boost fertility by promoting blood flow to the uterus, ovaries and vagina, while also increasing the production of cervical mucus, enhancing the libido and improving sensation from sexual stimulation, which all play a part in improving the chances of conception.
Myo-inositol, a member of the vitamin B complex, can improve insulin sensitivity to help support fertility, promote hormonal balance, ovulation and regular menstrual cycles. Another vitamin, vitamin D, has been recommended to women of childbearing age, especially when trying to conceive, since science found that vitamin deficiency has been associated with impaired fertility, endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome. Part of the vitamin D family, folic acid helps pregnancy and fetal development by decreasing the risk of neural tube birth defects like spina bifida, and has shown to reduce other birth defects like congenital heart conditions. Lastly, Munson found that iron may also be beneficial when pregnant because it helps the blood cells carry oxygen in a woman and their developing baby. It may also support energy, a healthy growth and strong teeth and bones.
Fairhaven Health provides practitioners with a variety of fertility supplements to offer their patients. FertilAid for Women is the company’s dietary supplement containing a full prenatal vitamin with herbs (including Vitex) known to promote hormonal balance and cycle regularity. FertileCM helps to promote the production of fertile quality cervical fluid. OvaBoost is a dietary supplement targeting egg quality and include, melatonin, folate, myo-insitol and a blend of antioxidants intended to promote egg quality. FertiliTea is another product in an herbal medicinal tea form to promote hormonal balance and overall reproductive health. Lastly, FertileDetox is a dietary supplement helping to support the body’s detoxification systems.
In addition to vitamins and minerals, probiotics have been shown to provide support for pregnant and nursing woman. “Incredible advances have been made and countless hours in research and clinical trials have demonstrated that the gut plays a very powerful role in transforming woman’s health,” explained Natasha Trenev, president and founder of Natren, Inc., the original probiotic company in Westlake Village, CA. Research shows that probiotics are important for the infant’s gut microbiota and the factors from Mom that contribute to a unique “blueprint” that Mom passes to the baby during pregnancy, delivery, nursing and growth, she continued.
Seventy percent of the immune system is found in the digestive tract, and with friendly bacteria like probiotics, the human body is able to promote healthy proper digestion. Supplementing with probiotics for woman’s health is no secret, in fact, “more and more medical practitioners are becoming familiar with the abundance of probiotic research and they’re recommending probiotics to their patients too,” Trenev said.
Perhaps one of the most exciting areas of probiotic research at the moment pertains to infant gut health. According to Trenev, there has been ongoing institutional and product research to support this area of health and wellness. “For example, an article published in Pediatric Research in January 2015, out of a group at the University of California, Davis, just named Bifidobacteria infantis ‘the champion colonizer of the infant gut,’ since it supports the digestion and consumption of any human milk oligosaccharide structure. In addition, it may also be used as an anti-inflammatory in premature intestinal cells and it has been shown to decrease intestinal permeability. Together, these properties protect the baby from exposure to potentially harmful items that pass through the delicate infant gut. “Natren has always been very careful and very selective with the particular genus, species and strains of bacteria we use as probiotics and research like this proves the importance of really understanding what bacteria we utilize to achieve the right probiotic effect,” she said.
Natren offers other products that are designed specifically for women, including Gynatren, a dual-action probiotic health system designed for feminine health needs, which uses the probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus, NAS super strain. This probiotic is a naturally occurring human strain already found in a woman’s digestive, urinary and vaginal tracts. The company also offers Healthy Start System, a beginner’s probiotic kit and the company’s flagship probiotic, Healthy Trinity, which has been benefiting women for more than 20 years. In addition, the company has recently added a vegan option to its Life Start line for infants, toddlers and expectant or nursing mothers; this entire Life Start line is based on the probiotic bacteria Bifidobactierum infantis.
California-based Nordic Naturals also offers products targeting woman who are pregnant, trying to conceive or are nursing with Prenatal DHA, the Official Omega-3 of the American Pregnancy Association. ProOmega is another product that provides women with omega-3, but in fewer soft gels, and has been clinically proven to support a healthy heart. Its ProOmega –D is the sister product with the same ingredients as ProOmega but with 1,000 IU of vitamin D. The two most beneficial omega-3s are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Each has unique benefits, for example, EPA supports the heart, immune system and inflammatory response, while DHA supports the brain, eyes and central nervous system, which are important for pregnant and lactating women. It has been found that omega-3 is essential for both neurological and early visual development of the baby, as well as helping mothers to make breast milk during nursing. Also, EPA and DHA have been shown to prevent pre-term labor and delivery, lower the risk of preeclampsia and increase the child’s birth weight. According to the Association, in a 2006 national survey, over two-thirds of pregnant women and new mothers said that they had not received any information from their health care provider about the benefits that omega-3 could provide during the pregnancy and in postpartum time.
There are a million factors that contribute to improving women’s health today, Treven said, from pollution, toxins in the food and water, antibiotic resistance, antibiotics in our meats, preservatives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), artificial sweeteners and more. Dr. Collins believes that practitioners need to address biochemical foundations of health with their patients, including high grade multiple vitamin-mineral formulation, daily intake of fish oil and probiotics. Dr. Collins concluded that he feels the best way to start the conversation is to honestly start with the basic requirements.
For More Information:
Douglas Laboratories, (800) 245-4440, www.douglaslabs.com
ExcelVite Inc., (732) 906-1901, www.excelvite.com
Fairhaven Health, (800) 367-2837, www.fairhavenhealth.com
Natren, Inc., (805) 371-4737, www.natren.com
Nordic Naturals, (800) 662-2544, www.nordicnaturals.com