When you have a family to take care of, it can be hard to also focus on your own health. Unfortunately, not taking care of yourself can spiral into health problems that slow you down or otherwise hinder you being able to take care of others.
A few basic vitamins or supplements could help you function better in your daily activities and avoid illness. Take a look at these 7 to see if any of them are right for you!
Though I am a pharmacist by profession, the content provided on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please see full Disclaimer for details.
Women’s Multivitamin or Prenatal Vitamin
Unless you have a perfect diet (ha!), it’s a good idea to take a daily multivitamin. But there are a million different kinds, so which one should you choose?
I recommend going for a prenatal vitamin, even if you’re not pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant. Why??? Well, unplanned pregnancies happen all the time, so I believe in “better safe than sorry”. According to the CDC, almost 50% of pregnancies in the United States are not planned!
You don’t need to buy a fancy expensive prenatal vitamin; store-brand is just fine. Just make sure it has at least 400 mcg folic acid and 15 mg of iron. Folic acid is extremely important to help prevent birth defects. The iron helps prevent anemia.
Iron can cause stomach upset, so taking your vitamin with food can help. If you still don’t tolerate it, you could switch to a multivitamin without the iron. You still want to choose one with folic acid – many women’s multivitamins have the recommended amount included.
B Vitamin Complex
If you struggle with having enough energy to keep up with your kids (seriously…who doesn’t???), then you might consider trying a B Vitamin Complex supplement.
B vitamin deficiencies can leave you feeling tired and even cause anemia in some cases. Pregnant women also have increased B vitamin requirements to keep up with their babies’ growth!
So it is possible that part of your feeling exhausted all the time could be due to you not getting enough B vitamins in your diet. If you think this might be the case, a trial of B vitamin complex supplementation could help you figure it out. It’s easier and cheaper to do than making a doctor’s appointment and getting labs drawn. If you’re feeling better after a week or so, though, bring it up with your doctor in case she wants to check your blood levels or evaluate for possible anemia.
In general, B vitamins are pretty well tolerated as long as you don’t take more than the directions indicate. They are water-soluble, which means if you take in more than your body actually needs, you’ll just pee it out. Be warned though: your urine will probably turn neon yellow while taking B vitamins! Vitamin B3 (Niacin) can also cause flushing in some people.
Every bit of shut-eye you can get as a parent is precious. If you have a hard time getting to sleep, it might be worth giving melatonin a try!
Melatonin is a hormone that your body naturally produces to help you sleep. When you are exposed to light in the evening, your body may not make enough melatonin for you to be able to get to sleep (a reason to practice good sleep hygiene!)
In my experience as a pharmacist, I will say that melatonin doesn’t work for everyone. Maybe about 1/3 of people. But in that 30ish percent that it does work for, it usually works very well.
It’s also very rare to experience side effects from it. Some people may be especially sensitive and experience some drowsiness if they take larger doses. If you are taking other medications, check with your pharmacist to make sure there are no interactions before starting it.
In addition to the overall unpleasantness of them, no mother has time to deal with stomach or digestive problems. Especially if you have young kids, having to run to the bathroom frequently or for long periods of time introduces way too many opportunities for your children to wreak havoc.
If you are dealing with bathroom problems, it could be worth trying probiotics to see if they help. They generally are very well tolerated and appear to be safe to use provided you do not have a weakened immune system (examples would include patients with cancer, those recovering from major surgeries, or people on long-term steroids).
Calcium + D
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 80% of Americans with osteoporosis are women. They estimate that half of women over the age of 50 will break a bone because of it.
Now is the time to evaluate whether or not you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet to help prevent this. While most women develop osteoporosis after menopause, it is possible for younger women to have it. And you don’t want to hit menopause with already low bone density.
Women between the ages of 19-50 should be aiming for 1000 mg of calcium per day. The recommended amount increases to 1200 mg daily for women over 50. You should not exceed 2500 mg per day.
If you aren’t getting enough calcium in your diet, consider taking a supplement. You can check out the National Institutes of Health page on Calcium for a great chart that has the amount of calcium in different foods to figure out where you’re at diet-wise to decide how much more you need per day.
With calcium supplementation, taking more than the recommended daily amount of 1000 mg (or 1200 mg for older women) does not provide more benefit. Instead, it puts you at higher risk for kidney stones and constipation, so don’t go overboard.
Make sure your calcium supplement also has Vitamin D, which is needed to help your body process the calcium. You should be aiming for at least 600 IU of Vitamin D per day, but do not exceed 4000 IU.
If you are already taking a multivitamin, check the ingredients to see if it has any calcium and vitamin D that you can count towards your daily goals!
Quick Tip – Calcium citrate is more easily absorbed by your body. If you have calcium carbonate supplements, you must take them with food for your body to absorb them. Also, calcium is better absorbed in smaller amounts, so if you are taking more than 500 mg per day, split it up and take half twice a day instead of all at one time.
Fiber intake can be another key factor in staying regular. Your time is valuable and you absolutely don’t want to waste it stuck in the bathroom. Getting the right amount of fiber in your diet can prevent both constipation and diarrhea.
There are 2 different types of fiber you can get: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can help with both constipation and diarrhea. Popular soluble fiber products include Benefiber and FiberCon. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and will only help you with constipation; it can actually make diarrhea worse. Citrucel is an example of an insoluble fiber product. Some products have a mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber; Metamucil is an example of this.
When adding fiber to your diet be sure to increase the amount slowly. If you add too much too fast it can cause bloating and gas.
Check with your pharmacist prior to taking a fiber supplement if you are on other medications, as it could interfere with their absorption.
Keeping up with your kids is always a struggle when you are sick. I always keep zinc on hand so that I can start using it at the first sign of a cold. While it can’t prevent you from getting a cold, it could help reduce the severity of your symptoms and how long they last. You need to start it quickly for it to work best.
There are several different formulations of zinc available, including lozenges (like Cold-Eeze), dissolvable tablets (Zicam RapidMelts), and tablets. There haven’t been a lot of studies, but evidence suggests that the products that melt or dissolve in your mouth work best.
Do not use nasal spray formulations of zinc – there have been cases of people losing their sense of smell with them!
Just a warning – zinc will leave a terrible taste in your mouth. To me, though, it’s totally worth dealing with to get over a cold more quickly.
Check with Your Pharmacist for Any Questions
Your local pharmacist is a great resource for any questions you have regarding over-the-counter vitamins and supplements. She can help you choose the right ones that will work best for your specific situation. And it doesn’t require scheduling a doctor’s appointment!
Be sure to always keep your health providers up to date with your current list of both prescription and over-the-counter medications. It’s always a good idea to ask your pharmacist before starting anything new to make sure it won’t affect any other medications you are taking.
Have you found any other great supplements that have made a significant difference in your day-to-day functioning? Let me know your experiences in the comments!