Q. What are the best supplements for women?

A. I’d suggest the top three are a multivitamin-mineral, magnesium, and iron. Multivitamins are great for boosting energy. Plus they: compensate for dietary deficiencies; add B vitamins (ideally at least 50mg of B1, B2, B3, and B6), which are critical for energy production; and boost mineral intake.

Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions and is essential for every major biological process, in particular those that are important to cellular biochemistry, notably energy production and the activity of nerves and muscles. Magnesium also assists with: effective absorption of major minerals; cramp prevention; difficulty sleeping, particularly if you keep waking up; restless legs; and stress. A significant percentage of the population is magnesium-deficient due to either diet or long-term stress, so supplements are generally needed. Talk to your natural-medicine practitioner to find the form best suited to you.

Iron is a key constituent of haemoglobin, which transports oxygen around the body. Women are more likely to be iron-deficient because typically they do not eat large quantities of red meat; heavy periods compound this risk. Other deficiency symptoms include brittle hair, pale inside eyelids and ridge-shaped nails. It’s essential to have a GP test your iron levels before using supplements, as excess iron is harmful. Ideally dietary sources (red meat, poultry, fish, oysters, organ meat) should be increased concurrently; plant sources include leafy greens, nuts, legumes and dried fruit.

Christine Pope (AdvDipHom, AdvDipNutMed, BHSc) is a member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society.