Supplements are so common these days that it’s easy to forget just how powerful they are. You can go to the grocery store, pharmacy, and most prominently, online to find just about anything you need. I think it’s great that access to supplements is so widely available, but the downside to supplements being so readily available is that they are often taken without as much consideration. Because we can add them to our cart so easily, we may not realize that they could cause more harm than good depending on the supplement and the person.
Again, supplements are powerful, they are an amazing resource to have, but my goal with this episode is to teach you how to analyze supplements that you’re interested in or that are being marketed to you and know go through a series of questions to have an idea of whether or not they are a good fit for you.
I have a bonus episode this week inside Patreon that takes this a step further and highlights certain conditions and supplements that CAN be helpful. You can join my patreon community at patreon.com/hormonehealingrd.
As always this is not medical advice. I’m a dietitian but I’m not your dietitian so please talk with your medical provider before making any changes.
This episode covers:
Amanda Montalvo [00:00:01]:
Welcome to the are you menstrual? Podcast, where we dive deep into all things women’s health to support you on your healing journey. I’m Amanda Montalbo functional and integrative dietitian, also known as the hormone healing Rd. If you enjoyed this podcast and you want to keep learning, check out the podcast Patreon, where I share a bonus episode with additional downloadable resources each week. You can go to Patreon.com forward slash Hormone Healing Rd or check out the link in the show notes. All right, episode three for season five, can supplements harm your health? Like, are there supplements out there that can cause more harm than good? That’s what we’re going to focus on today. I did an episode like this over two years ago for season one of the podcast. Very popular, but it definitely needed some updates. I’m like there’s supplements that I want to add to this list and just more nuance.
Amanda Montalvo [00:00:54]:
So if you’re like, where’d that old episode go, it’s back. I just wanted to redo it, update it and provide not just like, okay, here are supplements that we maybe should reconsider. But also, how do you be a little bit more critical of supplements you’re taking? How can you analyze them more? And that’s really my goal with this episode. And you may think, why does supplements matter? Why does it matter? If we take certain things, I think we forget how powerful they are. They’re so common. You can go to the grocery store, pharmacy, online, like, literally anywhere, and you can get just about any supplement that you want. And while I think that access is really important and great, I also think that they are so readily available that sometimes we just take supplements without even thinking twice about it. And because we can add them to our cart so easily, we may not realize that they could cause more harm than good, depending on the person and the supplement that they’re taking.
Amanda Montalvo [00:01:53]:
So they’re powerful, they’re an amazing resource. But my goal with this episode is to just teach you how to analyze supplements that you’re interested in a bit more, especially if they’re being marketed to you and know how to go through like, a series of questions to ask yourself to see if they’re a good fit. Obviously, I’m not your doctor or your dietitian, so please talk with your provider if you want to make any changes. And I think it’s important to talk with your doctor before you’re going to take a supplement anyway, but I still think we should analyze things a bit more before we even bring it to our provider, so hopefully that will help you do that a little bit more. And then in the bonus episode for this week, I’m taking it a step further and highlighting certain conditions and supplements that can be helpful on my patreon. So you can go to my patreon firstname.lastname@example.org, hormonehealingrd and get access to that before we dig in to how to analyze supplements, be a little bit more critical. I just want to talk a little bit about supplements in the influencer era because I think this is where a lot of the confusion around supplements comes from. I would say most clients come to us taking at least a dozen supplements and many times they start taking it because they saw someone online promoting it and they thought that it would help them, which is not a bad thing.
Amanda Montalvo [00:03:10]:
But last episode I talked about stress and how we live in this age of information, which is great, we have so much at our fingertips, but it can also be very overwhelming and contribute to stress. We’re constantly bombarded with marketing from all types of companies. But I think in the wellness space, supplement companies especially, and I know the feeling of seeing a supplement that sounds like an answer to your prayers. And I even think that if we have a strong foundation and we’re adding in specific targeted supplements for an issue that we have, it can be effective, it can work. But it’s really easy to see a social media post and think that you need to be taking an overwhelming amount of supplements, especially if you really like a company and you try a supplement from them and you love it, and you’re like, oh, I want to support them. I want to get something else too. And you’re like, oh, that sounds amazing. It would definitely work wonders for me.
Amanda Montalvo [00:04:01]:
It’s easy to just tack them on and not even realize, but especially because if you really love someone that you follow online and you support them and maybe you really relate to them and you feel like, okay, if they’re taking it’s working for them, it’ll definitely work for me. We just want to be careful with that because we don’t see everyone. Everything about someone’s life on social media, especially if someone also isn’t necessarily like a health professional, you just want to be very wary. They could be making a commission off that supplement. You don’t know if they really actually take it. I’m not going to name any advertising names, but I’ve had a lot of companies reach out to me to sponsor this podcast. I’m like, yeah, I would literally never have you as a sponsor because I wouldn’t take your product. But not everyone feels that way, unfortunately.
Amanda Montalvo [00:04:51]:
So just something to keep in mind. You got to make a living, I get it. But unfortunately, there’s not always a ton of integrity. And even if a person does like the product, it still doesn’t mean that it’s like a good fit for you. So we just want to analyze our supplements, be a little bit more critical, a little bit pickier, because ultimately they should supplement our diet and lifestyle. They shouldn’t be the main focus, right? Your nutrition and lifestyle should always be number one. That’s when supplements are going to work the best anyway. But let’s get into how to analyze supplements a little bit more critically and figure out could they possibly be a good fit.
Amanda Montalvo [00:05:26]:
Of course, please talk with your doctor before you make any changes, but just for your own kind of peace of mind and just so that you know, like, okay, before I even bring this to my doctor or practitioner, let me go through this series of questions first. The first thing is, why would you specifically be taking the supplement? What is it for? Why do you need it? Do you really need it? If you don’t know what something is for, what it’s going to do in the body, then I would say that’s a red flag. If it’s just like, oh, this is for aging or inflammation or something like that. But do you need it? And what is it specifically going to help your body do? Is there any research behind it? That’s always a good one. What are the ingredients? This is the longest series of questions and one that you want to pay the most attention to. Are there vitamins in it? If so, which ones? While vitamins can be really helpful, we don’t want to get anything in excess. And a lot of times people are already taking other supplements that have a lot of vitamins and minerals, and so you could just end up doubling up on that. So look at the vitamins.
Amanda Montalvo [00:06:34]:
Which ones are in there? Are there minerals? If so, which ones? Minerals again, obviously, I love minerals. I think they can be life changing. They’re powerful, but we do want to get them primarily from food sources. When we start getting an abundance in different supplements, it can create more imbalances than supporting our bodies. Those are two big ones. Are there herbs? Herbs are great. And I’m definitely not against herbs. I would just say they’re something that you want to be really mindful of, especially if you’re already taking prescription medications, because herbs are much more likely to react with prescription medications, especially things like antidepressants anxiety medication, blood pressure.
Amanda Montalvo [00:07:13]:
Meds. Really any prescription. You would always want to cross check with your doctor to make sure or dietitian, because they should know, too, if it could potentially interact and cause problems. And typically you want to take supplements away from your medications because a lot of times they can basically increase how well the liver is functioning and metabolizing things, which could speed up how quickly you’re metabolizing medications. And that may not be a good thing. So pay attention to the herbs that are in there. Does it interact with anything that you’re currently taking? And make sure you talk with your doctor before starting anything like that. Are you already taking any of the ingredients in supplements from other supplements that you’re taking? You always want to cross check.
Amanda Montalvo [00:07:56]:
You don’t want to take a bunch of B vitamins. I see this a lot where someone may be taking a prenatal or a multivitamin that has a bunch of B vitamins in it, which would be appropriate, right, to have B vitamins in those. But then they may also like, oh, I took an additional B supplement for maybe like they’re taking a B complex because they have heard that it’s going to be beneficial for things like thyroid health or tolerating carbohydrates. Or maybe it’s for like an MTHFR mutation. You want to pay attention because you can get in excess of these. I know they’re water soluble, but you still don’t want to take too much because they could increase your metabolism and that could be stressful if you don’t have the minerals and other nutrients to back that up. B vitamins could deplete. Magnesium, for example, if we’re taking too many.
Amanda Montalvo [00:08:44]:
So b vitamins are big. Magnesium, are you taking magnesium in a bunch of different forms from different supplements? That would be a big one. If you take too much magnesium, it can lower sodium absorption and then that can make you not respond to stress as well. Vitamin D, you definitely don’t want to take that in excess. And we’re going to talk about that’s. One of the ones that I’m like, please be sure you need that because there can be a lot of downsides to it. Iron, same thing, especially if you’re taking iron in one supplement and maybe you have concerns about zinc or you’re taking zinc in another supplement, you’d want to take them away from each other because iron can impair zinc absorption and vice versa. So that iron and zinc are ones to think about.
Amanda Montalvo [00:09:25]:
And then herbs, of course you don’t want to take like a bunch of herbs and not be understanding how they’re interacting with each other or impacting different systems of your body because again, they do work. And then thinking about, is this supplement meant to be taken short term for a specific issue or long term? And then how am I planning on taking it? If this is a long term supplement, why would you need to take this long term? What is it doing in your body that your body can’t do on its own? And then how will you know when you need to stop taking it? Is this going to be related to a symptom? Like maybe you’re taking a supplement in the short term because you’re dealing with a lot of stress and you want to help reduce your stress or something like that. Then when are you going to stop? What’s the timeline? Is it going to be when you’re out of that season? When do you think that might be? Are you going to be paying attention to certain symptoms like sometimes we take supplements for a specific symptom, or is it going to be related to some lab testing that you’re doing? So you want to think about how are you going to know when to stop taking it? And then do they have any clinical research on their website backing up any claims they’re making. I would say most good supplement companies do so this may not be incredibly difficult to find. If you can’t find it, reach out to them. Do not hesitate to reach out to supplement companies. I would say, honestly, in my experience, some of the most forthcoming companies, I mean, usually there are small companies that are very forthcoming and transparent, but they can be so helpful with being like, okay, here’s more information on this part of our product. Or usually I’m asking about specific ingredients and things like that and then research contamination, that sort of thing.
Amanda Montalvo [00:11:06]:
Most of the time they’re going to have that stuff for you. And if they don’t, or they don’t want to be transparent with it, I would say that’s a red flag for sure. And then is there anything related to your nutrition or lifestyle that you could do that would benefit you more than this supplement right now? I would say that one is almost always a yes. And if it is, then it doesn’t mean you can’t take the supplement. Sometimes we’re in a season of life where we’re like, I don’t have the capacity, I have no space left in my day. And maybe sometimes it’s like a symptomatic thing where you’re like, I don’t have the energy, I just can’t think about it. And taking that supplement is going to help you compensate for a little bit so that you can do those things to help support your lifestyle. I think that’s okay.
Amanda Montalvo [00:11:52]:
But this is just an important one to go back to so that you are not taking supplements instead of focusing on your nutrition and lifestyle. Because then you’re just going to end up on a ton of supplements costing you a ton of money and probably not feeling that much better. So that’s kind of like my spiel on how to analyze your supplements. Be a little bit more picky. I think a lot of it’s like, do you need it? Have you done any lab testing to confirm that you need it? What’s your timeline for taking it? How are you going to know when you are going to stop taking it? How are you going to know it’s working or not working? Those are just really important things to pay attention to. We want to be critical and making sure it’s not interacting with anything else you’re taking. I would say those are like the big takeaways when it comes to supplements that I see that are commonly recommended, that can often cause more harm than good, especially if that person has not done lab testing to confirm that they need it. Or maybe it’s a recommendation, like, I’m going to talk about calcium.
Amanda Montalvo [00:12:47]:
That is so often not keeping the whole person in mind. But these supplements are widely accepted as general recommendations. That’s why I’m going through them. There can always be a time and place for these and I’m even going to talk about some of those, but I just think they should be taken with much more consideration than most people are giving. And that’s not just on you. I would say that’s also on practitioners. And if you’re taking these supplements, but you were specifically recommended them, this does not mean that you should stop taking them. Right? I don’t know you you may need them, but you could bring any concerns that you have to your practitioner, provider, whoever you’re working with.
Amanda Montalvo [00:13:26]:
And I am specifically talking about the synthetic versions of these, not necessarily food sources. So keep that in mind as well. So let’s go through them. We’re going to start with calcium. This is a supplement that I often generally it’s generally recommended during pregnancy. And menopause, I would say, are like the most common times. I see it. Interesting thing about pregnancy is we actually absorb more calcium in our intestines when we’re pregnant.
Amanda Montalvo [00:13:51]:
We have a mechanism in place that increases how much calcium we’re absorption, how much calcium we’re absorbing, because there is definitely an increased calcium requirement during pregnancy and breastfeeding. During the first trimester, our levels of 125 oh, vitamin D, which is the active vitamin D, increases rapidly. And it actually reaches its highest point during the third trimester, right before that baby is going to come and you’re going to be breastfeeding all that. As our active vitamin D levels double, this can increase the absorption of calcium in our gut by 25%. And this increase can happen as early as twelve weeks of pregnancy. So there’s lots of concerns around calcium in pregnancy. I would absolutely encourage women to increase their calcium intake from food. But I think that the idea that we all need a calcium supplement during pregnancy is very much so a myth.
Amanda Montalvo [00:14:47]:
Same thing during breastfeeding, I would say. It doesn’t mean, again, calcium supplements in whole food form, like eggshell powder or pearl powder probably fine if someone really needs it, I would say, like do a hair test if you can. But research has shown that mom’s calcium intake is not going to impact the calcium levels in breast milk, and that as soon as you stop breastfeeding, that bone remineralization occurs. So do we have some bone loss during breastfeeding? Yes. Typically it all is reversed after you stop breastfeeding. So, again, definitely pregnant moms breastfeeding moms should prioritize calcium rich foods. But the idea that they absolutely need a calcium supplement is definitely a myth. If someone has done testing and has low calcium, then they should talk with their practitioner and see what’s best for them.
Amanda Montalvo [00:15:38]:
I personally prefer food sources because they’re not going to lead to calcification, which is one of the big concerns. If we take too much of a calcium supplement, it can impact our heart health, but also our metabolism can lead to a sluggish metabolism, hypothyroid symptoms, and eventually that can affect our hormones and digestion, detox all those things it slows down our metabolism when we have calcium in excess. So we just want to be mindful of that. The other issue is that only supplementing with calcium ignores the interaction between calcium and magnesium. A lot of the times, calcium deficiencies are the result of a magnesium deficiency. So you really need to address both. And that’s kind of like my other beef with taking a calcium supplement as a recommendation for low calcium is because it’s not looking at why it’s low in the first place. The other big one is menopause.
Amanda Montalvo [00:16:28]:
I would say most of my menopausal clients are taking some form of calcium when they come to see us. And it makes sense because a lot of midlife women have concerns about their bone health, and their doctors are recommending it. Yes, we need calcium for bone health, but we also need magnesium. Magnesium influences osteoblasts, which produce new bone, and osteoclasts, which resorb bone and parathyroid hormone, and that regulates our calcium level. So again, like low magnesium can lead to excess calcium loss and then eventually deficiency and then vitamin D. We also need magnesium for vitamin D, which impacts calcium absorption. So all of those are important for bone health. All those are related to magnesium.
Amanda Montalvo [00:17:09]:
It’s not just calcium. And it’s interesting because low magnesium is associated with a higher parathyroid hormone, which breaks down more of our bone. So again, if someone actually has a diagnosis for osteoporosis or osteopenia, then I would really look so much deeper at other minerals like magnesium. We’ve seen that higher magnesium intake is associated with better bone mineral density and that women with osteoporosis have been found to have lower serum magnesium levels compared to women that are healthy. And we even have some short term studies that I’ll link in the show notes. One of them was only on 20 postmenopausal women. But it’s pretty profound and something that we should definitely look more into. They saw that 20 postmenopausal women took 290 milligrams of magnesium for 30 days, and it was magnesium citrate.
Amanda Montalvo [00:18:00]:
It wasn’t even like the best form of magnesium. And that suppressed bone turnover, indicating that they had reduced bone loss. So again, it’s so much more than just like, calcium for bone health. We have to look at magnesium. Other minerals like Boron as well, even phosphorus is really important. And then for the menopausal population, I would also say iron is really big. So if you have excess iron, that can lead to more bone breakdown and bone density issues as well. And typically that population, they’re no longer cycling.
Amanda Montalvo [00:18:31]:
So that could be more of a concern. But yeah, calcium, I would say definitely a very generally recommended supplement and one that we should for sure be thinking twice about and ideally prioritizing whole food sources for magnesium. And you might be like, you just talked about how magnesium can help these postmenopausal women improve their bone density. I am definitely pro magnesium. So don’t get that confused by having it on this list, but it’s on here because I think a lot of people take magnesium without considering their sodium levels. And magnesium inhibits aldosterone, which that is the hormone that helps our bodies retain sodium. So if we have someone that has really low sodium and they start taking a magnesium supplement, probably because they saw it online, I think magnesium is very well known now, even in the conventional health space. So maybe they were even recommended it from their doctor, maybe probably not.
Amanda Montalvo [00:19:29]:
But they saw it online. Maybe someone in their family told them to take it, a friend. They will have a really hard time increasing their sodium levels, and then that can make them less resilient to stress. So it’s one of those things where I’m like, yes, we can have people that are great candidates for magnesium, especially if someone has really high sodium on their hair test or even normal sodium. This is not like a blanket recommendation, but magnesium is a supplement that I think needs more consideration, and we need to work on our nutrition and lifestyle before we start taking it is my opinion on magnesium, but it is one of those that’s very generally recommended. But I’ve seen way too many hair tests that have low sodium with people that are taking magnesium and they’re not feeling better. And when we back off on that and work on sodium and potassium, they see more improvements. So that’s why magnesium is on this list.
Amanda Montalvo [00:20:23]:
Our monthly cycle is like a report card. Understanding how to track your cycle and know what is and is not normal as far as symptoms go, can help you identify possible hormone imbalances and whether or not a nutrition or lifestyle change you made is working for you. This is huge. So many of us are looking to experts and outside ourselves to figure out what’s going on with our bodies. But tracking your cycle and understanding it can help you do that on your own. And this is why I created my free Healthy Period Starter guide. It walks you through the different phases of your cycle, goes through how to track, teaches you what’s at the root cause of hormone imbalances, and even has a section on nutrition tips for healthy hormones. I think every woman should have this knowledge easily accessible to them.
Amanda Montalvo [00:21:05]:
So if you want to grab the guide, you can get it via the link in the show notes or on my website. Hormonehealingrd.com zinc is the next one. It’s one of those that, again, I think could be helpful for certain people in the short term, depending on what they have going on. But if taken long term, I do worry about things like copper and iron and those levels being depleted, and that’s really the biggest concern with zinc. So we need bioavailable copper to help us keep iron in motion. Don’t worry, iron is next. So we’ll talk about that more then. But it helps support the iron recycling system.
Amanda Montalvo [00:21:42]:
When we’re taking a zinc supplement, it reduces how much copper we are absorbing in the gut and can just lower how much we have available in the liver. And this can make us look anemic on blood work. So that’s why zinc is a very tricky one. If someone is anemic and they actually have low iron or if they’re pregnant and they’re being told that they’re anemic, you really want to be careful with zinc supplements because that can make it worse if someone’s zinc levels are low and that’s why they want to supplement. I would really try to focus on zinc rich foods. It’s really easy to get zinc from food. And we had the Zinc Deep Dive episode last season in season four, and the bonus episode for that. I did like a whole sample day of getting like three times the RDA for zinc from food, which is what you need to replenish a deficiency in six months.
Amanda Montalvo [00:22:32]:
Does it mean that you should never take a supplement? Not necessarily. But again, you want to make sure it’s appropriate for you. I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had struggle with anemia, and then I look at their supplements and they’re taking zinc, and I’m like, well, this probably isn’t appropriate. So that’s like a really big one. The times I do think zinc could be beneficial is very short term, right? So, like a specific timeline, I would say. I don’t think it’s a big deal to take it for an illness or a cold. I really don’t. Especially if it’s just like a few days or like a week.
Amanda Montalvo [00:23:03]:
I don’t think that’s a really big deal. I wouldn’t necessarily worry about that. I do also think it can be really helpful for people that have Ulcers or H Pylori. I talked about this in the Zinc Deep Dive episode as well. Zinc carnicine is incredibly helpful for Ulcers. I think the big thing with zinc, like pretty much any supplement, but zinc especially because it’s one that people can really benefit from if they can’t get enough from food, is to have a timeline on it. It’s really easy to keep taking a supplement because you’re in the habit of it. But with zinc, we really want to make sure we’re not creating more imbalances.
Amanda Montalvo [00:23:37]:
Too much zinc can also negatively impact our immune system, which is typically why people are taking it in the first place. So again, it’s like you don’t want to cause more harm. And a lot of it is just because people don’t know, which is why I’m making this podcast episode. So that is zinc and then Iron, the controversial one. I have two episodes on Iron from last season. So before anyone gets really upset about Iron and feels like I’m not addressing the whole picture, please listen to those episodes. I’m going to link them in the show notes. I would say iron is probably the most recommended supplement I see in women, especially without blood work.
Amanda Montalvo [00:24:15]:
If a woman’s fatigued and she has a regular period, iron is typically one of the first recommendations, or if blood work is drawn, but they’re only looking at something like ferretin, they’re not looking at the other labs, oh, you have low ferretin, you’re fatigued, here’s an iron supplement. And then, especially if they’re not, I mean, most doctors are not going to be looking at things like copper, vitamin A and ceruloplasmine, unfortunately, that which have a great impact on how much iron we have available for use in the body. So iron is a really controversial one. It’s not that I think someone should absolutely never supplement with iron. I think whole food forms are a different animal than the synthetic forms. But if we only supplement with iron, it’s not addressing why the iron is low in the first place, which is our iron recycling system. We all have an innate iron recycling system in the body. It helps keep iron in motion.
Amanda Montalvo [00:25:07]:
And iron does have to be stored because when it’s free, it’s toxic. So it’s got to be stored in tissues. And then in order to get it out and functional for use in the body, we need bioavailable copper, that ceruloplasm, that available copper protein measurement that you can measure in the blood. So that’s like one of my major concerns when we supplement with iron is typically we’re not addressing other areas or we’re not looking at the whole picture of the person, or they’re not looking at labs at all, which would be very concerning. My other big concern is that a lot of women with PCOS are very likely to have iron overload and they’re often recommended iron for things like fatigue and low ferretin, even though their iron saturation is high. So I’ve seen a lot of clients that, especially if they have hair loss in PCOS, if their ferretin is low, then they’ll be recommended to take iron even though they have a high iron saturation. And then that can worsen their insulin resistance, their high androgens infertility, things like that. So that’s a really big one.
Amanda Montalvo [00:26:10]:
And I talk about that more in episode two of the Iron Deep dive episodes. And if someone is truly iron deficient, say they have excessive blood loss from something like really heavy periods, endo, fibroids, anything like that, then I would still want to support copper and vitamin A levels to make sure that they are using that iron properly. It could mean that they need less iron supplementation, which is better for iron absorption. The more iron supplement supplements with, the less they tend to absorb. Because of these internal mechanisms that we have in our bodies to ensure we don’t have excess iron, right? Our bodies are monitoring iron and they will create more of a certain protein called hepsitin, which can either increase or decrease iron absorption in the. Gut. So this is why a lot of doctors recommend not taking iron every day. They say take it every other day, and if you supplement with more than 25 milligrams of iron, it could lead to a reduction in zinc absorption.
Amanda Montalvo [00:27:07]:
Another reason why a lot of doctors have people alternate. So, something to consider, especially if you’re taking iron and you haven’t had blood work done, or it’s only been based on ferretin, or you don’t feel better, right, if it’s not actually helping. And that goes for any supplement, but definitely something to consider. But I’ll link those episodes in the show notes as well. And then the next one, again, could be confusing because I just talked about how important copper is. But copper, because, like most nutrients, I think we should get copper from food sources. That’s the goal. And there are a lot.
Amanda Montalvo [00:27:41]:
Beef liver has an incredible amount of copper in it. So does liquid chlorophyll in small amounts too, right? And they naturally contain high copper. I would say beef liver is more beneficial in that it also contains vitamin A. And that’s really my biggest concern. I feel like people are so focused on copper, whereas they’re not focused enough on the vitamin A source that’s in beef liver, yes, we need copper, but we also need vitamin A in order to use that copper properly. The other thing we need is a healthy thyroid and properly functioning adrenals. So sometimes if someone say they’re not seeing an improvement in their iron status or energy production, something like that, they’ll keep increasing the amount of copper that they’re taking, but not focus enough on vitamin A. Or they’re focusing on both, but they’re super stressed.
Amanda Montalvo [00:28:30]:
Their metabolism and their thyroid are exhausted, so they can’t make enough ceruloplasmin and they’re not seeing the results that they want. So do I think there can be a time and place for additional copper? Specifically? Yes, we have utilized it with clients in the past, but I really only think you can do that with lab testing. I don’t think you can generally just take a copper supplement, one, see results, two, not create other imbalances, and you would definitely want to take your health history into consideration with that. But vitamin A, so, so important for using copper. If someone has done a hair test and they are a fast metabolic type, they typically require more copper. So that’s a person that I would say can definitely get away with taking a higher amount and might even need a higher amount. But again, you can get a lot from beef liver. You could do liquid chlorophyll.
Amanda Montalvo [00:29:18]:
Just know that liquid chlorophyll does not have vitamin A. So you need to get vitamin A rich foods as well. Slower metabolic types, I would say be a bit more mindful, because typically they have enough copper, they can accumulate it more easily, and they should probably focus more on vitamin A rich foods, for sure. So just a little nuance with copper. I do have a copper deep dive episode that goes into a bit more detail on how to support ceruloplasmin levels, like that bioavailable copper. But it’s truly like optimal adrenals, optimal thyroid getting copper and vitamin A from your diet. And then if you have excess, an imbalance of excess copper, there are certain things you can do to help support that. So definitely check out that episode if you have not.
Amanda Montalvo [00:30:03]:
That is actually an older one. It’s from season three, I think, but I’ll link it in the show notes and then vitamin C. And again, this one’s also kind of related to copper, where we do need vitamin C, very important nutrient for many different reasons. But when we have it in excess amounts, especially the synthetic ascorbic acid form, it can lead to imbalances in minerals like copper, especially. Like if you have excess copper and you’re taking more than 500 milligrams, you can get copper dumping, which does not feel good. And again, we want to rebalance copper, but we don’t want to do that too quickly. So taking an excess amount of vitamin C can cause issues with copper. We want to get enough vitamin C, but I would just make sure there’s a specific reason why you need more than what you can get from food, because it’s pretty easy to get from food.
Amanda Montalvo [00:30:56]:
So if there should be like, a specific reason that you need more, I’m thinking of like, maybe someone does have high copper and they want to take 400 milligrams. That could be hard to get from food, right? So maybe you go for a whole food source of vitamin C, like Camu, camu powder. That could be a great option. Maybe someone has low levels of vitamin C, like they’ve confirmed it on blood work, so they need to increase that obviously. Right. That’s not good. That can lead to a poor stress response. Lots of other health issues, thyroid conversion issues.
Amanda Montalvo [00:31:28]:
So that would be one that you do want to support through supplementation if it is low. Or the other one I think of is histamine symptoms. Sometimes those can be greatly improved with vitamin C supplementation. And I’ve seen it work with both whole food, like kamu, kamu powder. Most people tolerate that. But if someone absolutely cannot tolerate a whole food vitamin C supplement, then ascorbic acid, again, 500 milligrams or less could be beneficial for someone with histamine symptoms. I would still want to know, how long am I going to take this? Is it till I don’t have symptoms anymore? And then I’m going to try to titrate off, what is that going to look like for you? But vitamin C is one where, again, very generally recommended. If you’re taking it short term, I don’t think it’s a huge deal, but you do want to be mindful of your copper status and make sure that it’s appropriate for you.
Amanda Montalvo [00:32:22]:
And then vitamin D right, can’t end this episode without talking about vitamin D. It’s one of those that is so widely recommended without any testing. It’s like we think that it has no repercussions, which is wild to me, because it really acts much more like a hormone than a vitamin and it can greatly impact the levels of other nutrients in our body. So vitamin D, while I’m not saying like you should never ever supplement with vitamin D, it’s one where I am like, do you need it? And if you are going to take it, are you supporting the areas it could have possibly impact? Just like any other supplement? When we do supplement with vitamin D, it can lower vitamin A, which we need vitamin A to activate vitamin D receptors. So that in and of itself is crazy. It can lower potassium and magnesium levels. It can cause an excess of copper. I see a lot of really high copper on hair tests for people who supplement with vitamin D.
Amanda Montalvo [00:33:21]:
It can lower energy production and lower iron levels in our blood. So just keep that in mind because if you do start supplementing with it and then you see a negative change in other labs, then I would say that could be part of why. And then when we are just kind of generally recommended to supplement vitamin D, I feel like it ignores why is it low in the first place? Which is the question. Do we have enough magnesium? Because magnesium is needed for every step in vitamin D conversion. The body will purposely lower the storage form of vitamin D if there isn’t enough magnesium or if we have an excess of calcium. So if we have an excess of calcium, we can have calcification slows our metabolism, right? That’s why I don’t recommend calcium supplements. So we want to be mindful of is there a vitamin D deficiency present? If so, you may want to work on that first before you add vitamin D or make sure you’re at least taking it with it. How is kidney and liver function? We need a healthy liver and kidneys to convert and use vitamin D.
Amanda Montalvo [00:34:22]:
And if we have a really high toxic load, maybe we’re really depleted in minerals or we’re getting rid of a lot of heavy metals that can all impact this. And low minerals and high heavy metals go together because low levels of certain minerals, that’s what allows our body to accumulate heavy metals in the first place. So supporting your minerals is in a really great way to support your liver and kidney function. Certain minerals like phosphorus are also really important for kidneys and liver. So are you getting phosphorus rich foods in? Have you done a hair test? Do you know if you are specifically low in certain minerals that affect your liver? Again, things that you may want to try first before you go straight to vitamin D, or at least cover your bases and do them at the same time. Lack of sunlight. Right. A lot of people don’t get enough sun exposure or time outside, or they’re using a lot of SPF, and then they can become deficient in vitamin D.
Amanda Montalvo [00:35:18]:
Now, everyone’s going to be different with their health history, their work schedule, their lifestyle. But that is one where sunlight, yes, it supports healthy vitamin D levels in the best way, that sulfated form, which is protective for many, many reasons. Another downside of vitamin D supplementation, it’s not as protective as sunlight, but we also get so many other benefits of being outside. It’s important that sunlight is important for our circadian rhythm, which affects our digestion and detox and hormones. So, yes, you could replace the sunlight that you’re not getting with a vitamin D supplement, but I would be concerned for other aspects of your health because you’re not getting enough sunlight. So that’s kind of one of the downsides. Low fat diets are having an excessive amount of unsaturated fats that are deficient in vitamin A. Again, we need vitamin A to activate the vitamin D receptor.
Amanda Montalvo [00:36:12]:
If we don’t get enough saturated fat in our diet, we’re not going to get enough vitamin A, and then we’re not going to have adequate levels of vitamin D. So that’s a big one, inflammation. So inflammation is another one where it’s a very common root cause of low vitamin D on blood work. A lot of times, people, the way the information is presented that I see it online a lot, is that low vitamin D causes inflammation. But low vitamin D is more of a symptom of inflammation. And a really common vitamin D pattern when someone is dealing with inflammation is having low storage form vitamin D. So if you’re looking at your blood work, that would be the 25 oh vitamin D, and then high 125 oh vitamin D, that’s the active form. So if you were looking at something like blood work and you’re comparing your two levels, and you have active 125 oh and you’re not supplementing with vitamin D, you probably aren’t a good candidate for vitamin D because you already have high levels of active D in the body.
Amanda Montalvo [00:37:10]:
You’re just not seeing that reflected in the 25 oh and really common causes for this pattern, of this inflammatory pattern is our pathogens in the gut. Your body’s, like, responding with an immune inflammatory response and iron overload. So we really want to make sure that we understand that low vitamin D is a side effect of inflammation and it doesn’t cause inflammation. And we would want to dig deeper and figure out, do I actually have high active vitamin D or not? And then the last big one is aluminum. Not only do sunscreens block the sun, but a lot of them have aluminum not. All right, especially if anyone’s listening to this podcast. I feel like you guys are definitely knowledgeable and intentional, and you probably use, like, a healthier nontoxic zinc based sunscreen is my guess for most of you. So that would not necessarily apply to that.
Amanda Montalvo [00:38:01]:
But I think a lot of us have used them in the past. Right. I think about the thing, the products I use growing up, and I just cringe. But aluminum can actually disrupt the pathway to make sulfate and make that proper vitamin D. So not only does the SPF block the sun, but it can block that aluminum can further block that vitamin D production. So those are more of like the root causes of vitamin D deficiencies, like magnesium deficiency, poor liver kidney function, lack of sunlight, low fat diets, are not getting enough saturated fat inflammation, and aluminum, or just too much sunscreen, not getting enough time with sun exposure. So we want to consider those as well. I think that’s the issue when we just go straight to vitamin D.
Amanda Montalvo [00:38:46]:
It’s like, are you addressing these other areas too? Because if not, you may not improve your vitamin D levels or the function of it in your body, like how your body can use it, which is what matters most. I think the thing often when people will take it the wrong way, when I’m like, oh, we don’t want to take iron or vitamin D, it’s like it’s not because they’re not important. They’re actually so important that we want the mechanisms that our body has in place to use them and make them to function properly. And that’s how I feel about vitamin D. If someone has very limited exposure to the sun, but they’re also working on other nutrient levels like magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, things like that, then I don’t think a small amount of vitamin D is necessarily going to cause harm. But I would still test your 125, that active vitamin D level to make sure that it’s not high so that you know that you’re actually a good candidate. Again, my concerns with a lot of supplement recommendations is that they’re not based off of sound recommendations where we’re doing lab testing or we’re looking at the person’s whole health history and ensuring that they actually need the supplement. So that’s vitamin D.
Amanda Montalvo [00:39:52]:
The last two I’m going to go over are adrenal supplements that manipulate cortisol. So I’m going to talk about certain ones that can cause high cortisol, and then certain ones that lower cortisol and then multivitamins and prenatals. But I feel like by now you could probably guess why I don’t love those. But adrenal supplements are ones where I just see them a lot still, and I’m like, man, we’re still doing this. And I talked about this a bit in the last episode where I talked about cortisol, but so often we’re looking for this external solution to an internal problem. And when someone wants to take a supplement that’s either going to lower or increase their cortisol levels because of deeper dysfunction in the body, then to me this is a big red flag. People often want to lower their cortisol levels because they’re like, okay, I heard stress is bad for my health. I don’t want to have too much cortisol.
Amanda Montalvo [00:40:41]:
But the concern there is that we need enough cortisol to have a healthy stress response. So we don’t necessarily want to just lower our cortisol levels just because we’re worried about having too much. We may already have low cortisol, and that’s why we’re not handling stress well. So that’s the other thing. Like taking these without doing testing, not a great idea, but even if you do lab testing, you just want to be really mindful. When I think of ingredients that are specific to lowering cortisol, I think of phosphatidal serine, which is, one, it does lower cortisol and then ashwagandha. I don’t necessarily think that these are bad short term use, but if we’re constantly taking a supplement to lower cortisol, my question would be like, why is your cortisol high, number one? And two, are you doing anything with your nutrition and lifestyle to support that? Because eventually high cortisol turns into low cortisol because that feedback loop that makes cortisol in the first place gets disrupted over time with chronic stress. So by taking supplements that are going to lower our cortisol, it can just really mess with things long term.
Amanda Montalvo [00:41:52]:
Even ones that are going to raise your cortisol, it can just negatively impact your body’s. Ability to respond to stress in the long run. Doesn’t mean you can’t take them in the short term, but these are ones that I would really make sure you’re being critical of, especially if a practitioner is recommending them to you. Certain ingredients that can raise cortisol that you want to be on the lookout for are licorice root and licorice. It’s not like causing high cortisol, but it blocks the conversion of cortisol to cortisone. Cortisone is the inactive form, which it means that you’re going to have higher amounts of circulating cortisol. Again. Could this be okay in the short term? Possibly.
Amanda Montalvo [00:42:33]:
But we have this mechanism to turn cortisol into cortisone because after a certain amount of exposure to cortisol, our body does this to protect us. So if we’re taking a supplement that’s going to manipulate that, you just want to think about how is this going to impact my cortisol levels in the long run? And then adrenal glandulars, very popular. I remember when I first got into the functional nutrition space, these were so popular amongst protocols and stuff I was learning about. And when I learned, I’m like, okay, so these are the glands of animals that are made into these adrenal extracts. And then it’s either like the whole gland or just the outer parts. But the main ingredient in the extract from the whole gland, of course, is the hormone hydrocortisone. So these can raise cortisol levels. They do work, and they’re something that can be helpful in the short term.
Amanda Montalvo [00:43:24]:
If someone is extremely fatigued and they can’t make lifestyle changes in order to support their health. I think you could use all these potentially in the short term, like licorice or glandulars, I would say 30 days or less, so that you have enough energy to make a lifestyle change if you really are really struggling. But that would not be my go to for most people. And then Phosphatidal, Serine and Ashwagandha, they could be helpful. Like say you can’t sleep one night, you have something big going on the next day, or you have a big stressor that day and you can’t sleep. Yes, you could take something as needed, but if you’re taking it all the time, I would be like, why are you so stressed? What is the issue here? What needs to be addressed? I mostly feel like these are just like manipulating stress levels, which in the long run could hurt us more than it’s helping us in the short term. So just make sure you’re being intentional with those kinds of supplements because they can make a big difference in your ability to respond to stress long term. But if you’re not using it short term, then I would say that’s a big red flag.
Amanda Montalvo [00:44:29]:
And then finally, multivitamins and prenatals. What is my concern with multivitamins and prenatals? You probably know by now, most of the nutrients I went through, they’re in them, right? Most voltivitamins are going to contain calcium and vitamin D and abundance of different B vitamins, possibly iron, copper, zinc, all those things, usually in smaller amounts. So that’s not really the concern. My issue with multivitamins and prenatals is mostly that I feel like people think if they’re taking that they don’t have to worry as much about their nutrition or they’re expecting to meet all of their micronutrient needs with one supplement and it’s just not possible. I would say that prenatals, for example, the ones that I recommend, they’re like eight capsules for a serving and people get annoyed. But I’m like if you’re taking a prenatal or multivitamin that is really low, like one or two capsules, even like three or four, it’s probably not providing as much as you think it is. I like full well and needed for brands of prenatals. I still don’t think they have enough vitamin A, and that is a really big concern for both mom and baby’s health.
Amanda Montalvo [00:45:43]:
So they’re great brands, but I still think they’re lacking in that area, a few others, and vitamin A is really important during pregnancy and postpartum. So, again, even if I were to say I do think these could be a good option for some people, I still don’t think they meet 100% of their needs. I don’t think any one supplement will need 100% of someone’s needs. So we just want to be mindful that even if we are taking certain supplements, that we’re still paying attention to our nutrition and lifestyle because ultimately that’s what’s going to move the needle most for people and you can’t out supplement your diet and health like you really can’t. They can support you and help you, but any supplement that you don’t need can throw things off. So we just want to be picky, strategic, have a why of why we’re taking a supplement, a start time, an end time, some sort of marker of improvement. You’re monitoring to know if it’s working for you or not, and that it’s worth the time, energy and financial investment that you are making in order to take it. So that is my list of commonly recommended supplements that could cause more harm than good.
Amanda Montalvo [00:46:49]:
Remember, it doesn’t mean that they’re causing you more harm than good if you’re taking them. If you have concerns, talk with your provider, bring this up to them. Make sure that it’s actually a good fit for you. If you haven’t done lab testing, ask them for lab testing. You have the right to do that. I think sometimes it can be hard to have those confronting conversations with the practitioners we’re working with, but they’re really important and you absolutely deserve to feel comfortable with what you’re taking, know why you’re taking it, and know if it’s actually helping you. So if you want more information on supplements that can be supportive for certain health conditions, definitely join my patreon, Patreon.com Hormonehealingrd and I will see you in the next episode. Thank you for listening to this episode of the Are You Menstrual? Podcast.
Amanda Montalvo [00:47:36]:
If you want to support my work, please leave a review and let me know how you like the episode. This lets me know what you guys want more of less of. I read every single one and I appreciate them more than you know. If you want to keep learning, you can get access to the bonus episode and additional resources on Patreon.com Hormonehealingrd at. Love to have you in there. Thanks again and I will see you in the next episode.