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A Mini-Guide to Vitamins and Supplements for Women

A Mini-Guide to Vitamins and Supplements for Women

Every body is different, and every person will have a different set of nutritional needs.

When it comes to women’s health, we have to pay particular attention to certain vitamins and nutrients, as we tend to lose a significant amount of them when we menstruate: the average woman who gets her period at age 12 or 13 and goes through menopause in her early 50 has 40 years’ worth of mineral loss to make up for. Fun, huh?

The vitamins and minerals listed below are a few that women need to ingest on a regular basis, whether through supplement form, or through a very well-balanced diet. Granted, all nutrients are important for optimal health, but these are the ones that we really need to be diligent about.

Iron

Since the average woman menstruates for at least 30 years, there are going to be a lot of minerals lost with every menstrual period. One of the primary nutrients that leaves the body when blood is lost is iron; something that’s vitally needed for overall well being. Anemia caused by iron deficiency can have some significant effects on one’s health if left unchecked, so it’s seriously important to ensure that enough iron is being absorbed on a daily basis.

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Foods rich in iron include mollusks (clams, oysters, and mussels in particular), kale, pumpkin seeds,

*Note: Iron supplements can wreak havoc on some people’s digestive systems, so it’s good to check with one’s health provider to determine which would be the best option. Remember that folic acid and vitamin C aid in iron absorption, while caffeine prevents proper absorption, so you can take your iron pills with orange or grapefruit juice, but not coffee or tea.

Calcium

Our bones are made of calcium, and women’s bones in particular tend to deteriorate over time, leading to osteoporosis and injuries like broken hips, femurs, knees, and arms. Women who have given birth to several children are particularly at risk for calcium deficiency, as the developing fetus draws nutrients from its mother’s body to form its own, and if an insufficient amount of calcium is absorbed via the mother’s diet, it will be drawn from mama’s bones and organs instead.

Calcium is found in all dairy products, but if you’re lactose intolerant or vegan, you’ll have to go for fortified soy or almond milk instead. Dark leafy greens like kale, chard, and spinach also have calcium in them, as do chick peas, white beans, tahini (sesame seed paste) and almond butter.

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Vitamin A

This goes along with iron when it comes to regulating red blood cell production, and it’s actually the nutrient that allows iron to be incorporated into hemoglobin; the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. This vitamin is also important for maintaining eye health, and for keeping your immune system strong. The retinol form of vitamin A is responsible for maintaining the function of cells that make up the linings of your respiratory, urinary, and digestive tracts, so when you don’t get enough of it, you’re at greater risk for issues like ulcers, urinary tract infections, and lung complaints.

Some dietary sources of vitamin A include all orange vegetables (carrots, sweet potato, squash), as well as spinach, kale, eggs, and cod liver oil.

Vitamin D

Vital for bone health, this helps you absorb calcium, and also helps to defend your body against immune disorders and possibly even certain cancers. Vitamin D assists in weight management, and may even reduce the risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis. People who get a significant amount of exposure to natural sunlight tend to have good levels of this nutrient, but if you live in a place that’s often cool, foggy, smoggy, or overcast, you may be lacking in it. Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can include depression and worsening of symptoms like rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

There aren’t many natural food sources for D, but salmon, tuna, mackerel, and fortified cereals have decent levels therein.

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Vitamins B6 and B12

These are 2 of the 3 major B vitamins (the third being folate, which follows next), and it’s in our best interest not to let these get too depleted. In addition to assisting with the production of hemoglobin, B6 helps to regulate white blood cell production, and assists in maintaining your glucose levels. When it gets depleted, you can end up depressed, anxious, lethargic, and prone to gastro distress. B12 helps you process fats and carbohydrates, and is also responsible for producing DNA, and for governing your nervous system as well. A deficiency of this nutrient can lead to all kinds of neurological impairments, including nerve damage and dementia.

You’ll find B6 in avocados, spinach, potatoes, and bananas, as well as beef, poultry, and fish. B12 is found in trout, haddock, tuna, and clams, as well as cheese, milk, eggs, and enriched cereals.

Folate (Folic Acid)

As mentioned earlier, this lovely nutrient helps the body to absorb iron properly, but it actually serves other purposes as well: this member of the B vitamin family may be vital in maintaining heart health, and it’s also needed to ensure that one does not develop anemia.

Folate is also incredibly important for pregnant women, or those who are planning to have children—a lack of it can result in birth defects such as spina bifida, or any number of issues relating to lack of brain cell development.

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Dietary sources of folate include dark-leaved greens, citrus fruits, and beans. Many whole grains also have folic acid within them, but the best source of it is actually fortified cereals, breads, and flours.

A daily multivitamin can keep your vitamin levels where they should be, provided that you remember to take it every day! If you have a history of anemia or B12 deficiency (which is common in women who suffer from heavy menstrual bleeding, or have Celiac or Crohn’s diseases), or if you have a family history of osteoporosis, it’s also good to ensure that you eat plenty of the foods that are rich in the nutrients your body may be craving.

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Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 3, 2020

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life. To control your thoughts means to influence the way you live your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affects your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive, and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Be someone who can control your thoughts—become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have a few thoughts that are not of my choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in control of your thoughts.

If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create unhealthy and unproductive thoughts.

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words—many times your parents
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples’ expectations
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance, and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is youwhy else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future—in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear, which is often irrational and has no basis. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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3. The Reactor or Troublemaker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration, and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

This person can be set off by words or feelings and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control. He is run by past programming that no longer serves you—if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity, and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You can control your thoughts, but you must pay attention to them so you can identify “who” is running the show—this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind.

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go-to” thoughts in applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

1. For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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You can also have a dialogue with yourself to discredit the ‘voice’ that created the thought—if you know whose voice it is:

“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready.

This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

2. For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally, and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind, and creates anxiety in the body. This may make it more difficult for you to control your thoughts effectively.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above-stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time, you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense. Both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

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Now, take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like! Do it until you feel that you’re close to being in control of your thoughts.

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

For example: If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place.

Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

3. For the Troublemaker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers. But until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain.

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds—just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize. Now, you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior, and you’ll be more in control of your thoughts.

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One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

4. For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher, and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with a replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and thoughts, and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method, I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (closed, of course). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon
  • Shut down your thinking
  • Calm your feelings
  • Simply focus on the present moment

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable, and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. You can be in control of your thoughts. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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