A dietary supplement describes anything that you take that has a dietary ingredient which is intended to add some sort of addition nutritional value to your diet. This doesn’t just mean vitamin and minerals tablets, protein powder, BCAA’s etc are all considered a supplement. Supplements should not be used in place of a healthy diet. Eating nothing but ‘junk’ food but popping a multivitamin everyday is not healthy. But there are times when supplementing your diet to ensure you are getting all the nutrition that your body needs can be beneficial.
Before I was even thinking of having children I used to take a number of different supplements. I used to take those dissolvable vitamin drinks, like Berocca but I used to get the cheaper own brand versions (if you compare vitamin content they are usually exactly the same just a lot cheaper). I also used to take evening primrose oil to balance my hormones and for the Vitamin E, which is really good for the skin. And I used to use whey protein powder after exercise to aid muscle recovery. Another exercise related supplement that I used to use was BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids) the purpose of these is to increase the process of protein sythesis, or in more basic terms your bodies ability to build and repair muscle following exercise. Protein rich foods such as meats already contain BCAA’s I would just drink extra during workouts. I gave these up when I fell pregnant as I couldn’t find any concrete information as to whether they are safe to take during pregnancy.
Around two months before my partner and I started trying for a baby I started taking a pre-conception multi vitamin. I personally believed that this helped my body prepare for pregnancy and balanced my hormones. We were fortunate to fall pregnant very quickly, obviously I cannot say this was down to the supplement but it might be helpful to take something like that if you are planning on starting a family. Before falling pregnant you want your body to be in the best condition possible so that it copes with pregnancy well and can provide your developing baby with everything that they need.
Currently I take a few different supplements. I took a pregnancy specific multivitamin throughout pregnancy and it also happens to be suitable for breastfeeding mothers so I am currently still taking that on a daily basis to ensure my breastmilk is providing everything my baby needs. Something else that I take is Omega 3 fish oil capsules. These contain fatty acids know as DHA (docosahxaenoic) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic…don’t ask me to pronounce them!) The body produces some of its own fatty acids but it can’t make Omega 3 and I do not eat a lot of the natural sources of Omega 3 like oily fish, so I feel like the capsules help ensure I am getting enough. Evidence suggests Omega 3 can help with conditions such as depression, heart disease, and arthritis aswell.
Another supplement I take is calcium tablets. My son is intolerant to cows milk protein so whilst I am breastfeeding I have to avoid any products that contain it, like cheese and cows milk. Seeing as I used to be fairly passionate about cheese and would consume a fair amount of it in my diet I now choose to take calcium tablets to ensure I am getting enough for my baby and my bones. Because of Rafes cows milk protein intolerance I can no longer use whey based protein powder post workout so I have switched to vegan either pea or rice protein powder. Working out on a regular basis and breastfeeding means my bodies daily protein requirements are greater than they were, so I use vegan protein powder on a daily basis to ensure I get enough. This is alongside eating a healthy diet high in meat and pulses.
Lastly I take the ‘Biokult’ probiotic tablets. I have taken these since before I fell pregnant, it says that they are safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding but double check with your healthcare provider before taking anything during pregnancy. Probiotics provide ‘good’ bacteria to the body and this can help improve digestion and give the immune system a boost. The Biokult brand is freeze dried so they can be stored at room temperature (some probiotics have to be kept in the fridge) and they have a two year shelf life. They can be purchased fairly cheaply on Amazon.
Obviously as mentioned at the start of my post taking any vitamin or mineral supplement does not make up for a bad diet. In addition it is important not to over do it when it comes to taking supplements. Water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B complex can be excreted through the urine if you have too much but the fat soluable vitamins (A,D,E and K) are stored in fat and can be toxic to the body if taken in excessive amounts. During pregnancy and after having a baby supplements can be helpful in aiding recovery and ensuring your body is in good health, especially if you are breastfeeding. Do check with your midwife before taking anything during pregnancy. Adding a protein supplement to the diet may also be helpful to anybody starting to exercise as it may help you recover from workouts and build lean muscle.
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