Vitamin E Benefits for Women
Vitamin E supplements are helpful for women throughout their lives, both before and after menopause. And the form of vitamin E that works is the most common and least expensive form of vitamin E, vitamin E acetate (also known as d-alpha-tocopherol acetate and dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate).
Vitamin E For Natural Treatment for PMS and Symptoms of Menopause
Women of reproductive age may benefit from extra vitamin E around the time of menstruation. Many women experience unpleasant changes during the days of their menstrual cycle when estrogen levels begin to go back up, usually at the beginning and through the first 14 days of a woman's period. The added estrogen stimulates the growth of breast tissue and uterine tissue, along with any fibrocystic breast "lumps" and any fibroid growths in the uterus itself. These growths hurt.
The beginnings of the surge in estrogen at just before the period can also trigger a condition known as PMS, or premenstrual syndrome. This is the time of the month a woman's body accumulates fluid, and the additional fluid can cause weight gain, headache, and body aches and pains. (Estrogen does not, incidentally, cause the more serious condition PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which lasts longer, occurs at a different stage of the menstrual period, and causes much more severe symptoms.)
Researchers have found that taking 400 IU of vitamin E reduces the symptoms of PMS after about three months. It doesn't end premenstrual discomfort entirely, but it goes a long way toward making it more bearable. Women may also benefit from calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C, taken in divided doses several times a day, since there are limits to how much the body can absorb.
And for this application, the "cheap stuff," d-alpha-tocopherol acetate and dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate work just fine. The body uses them to build up stores of vitamin E that are used just for a few days in every menstrual cycle.
Women going through menopause may benefit from vitamin E as a treatment for hot flashes. Several clinical studies originating in the Middle East have found that taking a combination of 400 IU of alpha-tocopherol along with 400 milligrams of vitamin tocotrienols every day is very useful for controlling hot flashes.
A study of healthy menopausal women conducted by doctors in Iran concluded that taking this dosage of vitamin E every day for 4 weeks reduced the average frequency of hot flashes from five a day to three. The vitamin E also made the hot flashes much less severe. American studies of women who have had breast cancer also show that vitamin E tends to reduce the frequency of hot flashes, although not as much.
Women of all ages can also benefit from the cardiovascular and anti-cancer qualities of vitamin E, but for these benefits, the "cheap stuff" won't work. For cancer prevention and cardiovascular protection, it's best to take a mixture of vitamin E succinate and tocotrienols, at least 200 IU of succinate plus 200 mg of tocotrienols every day. And women who get regular physical exercise may find that taking any form of vitamin E before a workout, especially a workout involving weight lifting or resistance training, may prevent aches and pains and make building new muscle easier.
Vitamin E and Pregnancy
There has never been a scientific study to find out what happens when pregnant don't get vitamin E. There is a lot of experience, however, in how vitamin E can save sight and lives of babies born prematurely.
Vitamin E and premature babies. Normal pregnancies last 37 weeks. A premature delivery is defined as a delivery before the thirty-second week. Every year over 4.5 million babies are delivered prematurely-and there is solid evidence that vitamin E is essential for their survival.
There is no ethical way to set up a clinical trial in which some expectant mothers receive vitamin E and other expectant mothers do not, giving scientific proof of the importance of vitamin E for the survival of mother and child. But Dr. Sushil Jain of the Louisiana State Medical School in New Orleans has found that newborns use about five times as much vitamin E as their mothers.
That's because there is a lot more oxygen in the atmosphere than in the womb. About five times as much, to be precise. Baby's bodies need lots of vitamin E to deal with the shock of breathing air, and premature babies are at a distinct disadvantage because their antioxidant defense systems have not had a chance to develop.
Vitamin E for Prenatal Care
Natural vitamin E is best for prenatal care. If the mother has enough vitamin E during pregnancy, the baby has a fighting chance. But not all kinds of vitamin E are equally beneficial.
It's hard for vitamin E to pass through the placenta to the baby. Researchers conducting a collaborative study at the University of Texas at San Antonio and Eastern Tennessee State University, working a model of the human placenta, have determined that natural d-alpha-tocopherol passes through the placenta from mother to unborn child about three times as fast as synthetic dl-alpha-tocopherol.
Why does this make a difference for the baby? A big problem for babies born prematurely is blindness. The retina of most premature babies struggles to make enough antioxidants. When the mother has her own supply of natural vitamin E, the baby is better prepared for this possibility.
Vitamin E for Infants
Natural vitamin E is best for baby's formula. Breastfed babies usually don't get enough vitamin D, but they do get enough vitamin E. When babies are fed formula, however, it's a different matter.
Many baby formulas are made with synthetic vitamin E, the dl-alpha-tocopherol form of the vitamin. Synthetic vitamin E is a mixture of eight isomers, or chemical variations of E, seven of which are not utilized by the human body.
The one form of synthetic vitamin E that actually does any good at all is a chemical combination of the vitamin E and succinic acid that the baby's digestive enzymes have to break down. Since babies don't have lots of digestive enzymes early in life (and this particular enzyme isn't one you can give a baby as a supplement), natural vitamin E, preferably a mixture of d-alpha-tocopherol, other tocopherols, and tocotrienols, is best.
Vitamin e for Stretch Marks After Pregnancy
Natural vitamin E also helps mothers adjust to life after pregnancy. There's another application of vitamin E that many new mothers find very important: Erasing stretch marks.
Some go to extremes to try to erase stretch marks after pregnancy. They may try laser dermabrasion. They may have collagen injections. They get prescriptions for Retin-A, which keep them from breastfeeding their babies. And they try treatment with alpha-hydroxy acids to try to exfoliate stretch marks away.
These treatments are very expensive, and not terribly effective. Prevention is much better than cure. That's why need to know about topical vitamin E and pregnancy.
Stretch marks occur when collagen breaks down. Vitamin E creams and creams with a kind of vitamin C called ascorbyl palmitate can help the collagen in skin stretch out to accommodate pregnancy-related weight gain and then back to normal without breaking down. But it helps to take care of skin both inside and out.
Pregnant can use a cream containing d-alpha-tocopheryl acetate about two months before their due date. And they should take a multivitamin supplement including d-alpha-tocopheryl succinate during pregnancy.
It's not a good idea to take a separate vitamin E supplement during pregnancy unless the obstetrician agrees. A product with at least 10 mg of a palm oil derived complete vitamin E supplement like Tocomin® twice a day is enough. But providing vitamin E and vitamin C directly to the skin greatly reduces the breakdown of collagen that can lead to ugly stretch marks after baby is born. Using the right kind of vitamin E makes sure the skin is well-protected.
Vitamin E and Hot Flashes
Dr. Susan Lark, an internationally acclaimed expert in women's health, claims that she started having hot flashes the moment she signed the contract to write her Hormone Book. Forced to find her own cure as she wrote the authoritative guide for other women, Dr. Lark noted that vitamin E helped control the sudden surge of heat she would feel at odd hours of the night and day. Vitamin E, however, was not the only remedy.
The Hormone Revolution Book tells us that Dr. Lark also found relief by taking calcium (1,200 mg a day, in three separate doses), vitamin D (400 IU a day), and black cohosh (the herb), along with eating up a cup of soy foods each and every day. But can vitamin E control hot flashes all by itself?
It certainly can.
Taking a combination of 400 IU of alpha-tocopherol with 400 milligrams of vitamin tocotrienols every day is an important part of controlling hot flashes. A study of healthy women in menopause conducted in Iran found that taking this dosage of vitamin E every day for 4 weeks reduced the average frequency of hot flashes from five a day to three, and also made them less severe. Women who have hot flashes after treatment for cancer also get relief, although not as much.
Hormone Replacement Therapy for Hot Flashes
Hormone replacement therapy, as many women find out, sometimes does stop hot flashes completely. The problem is estrogen replacement increases the risk of breast cancer, stroke, blood clots, and uterine cancer, and it can't be used by women who have had any of these conditions or fibroids, fibrocystic breast disease, liver disease, cervical dysplasia, or undiagnosed vaginal bleeding. Since estrogen is extracted from horse urine, women who are allergic to horses may have adverse reactions to hormone replacement therapy.
And hormone replacement therapy is always something that should be given in the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time.
That's why a strategy involving vitamin E, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium to balance the calcium (something Dr. Lark would now recommend), plus herbs like black cohosh works best for most women. It requires taking multiple remedies instead of just estrogen replacement, but it's safer and nearly as effective.
Ziaei S, Kazemnejad A, Zareai M. The effect of vitamin E on hot flashes in menopausal women. Gynecol Obstet Invest. 2007;64(4):204 - 7. Epub 2007 Jul 30.