What is vitamin E?
At one time vitamin E was known as the "sex vitamin" because you need it to stay fertile
, or able to produce a baby. In fact, the scientific name for vitamin E, tocopherol, comes from two Greek words, tokos
(meaning "offspring") and pherol
("to bear"). More recently, vitamin E has been in the news because it acts as an antioxidant
, a substance that protects your cells from damage. Some studies show that taking vitamin E may help protect older people against heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, and other serious conditions. back to top
Why do I need vitamin E?
Vitamin E plays a major part in keeping your reproductive system
, nerves, and muscles healthy and in forming normal red blood cells. It also helps thin your blood, reducing your chance of developing blood clots, which in older people can lead to heart attacks or strokes. back to top
Can vitamin E help treat period cramps and PMS?
Some people find vitamin E to be helpful in treating premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
, period cramps
, heavy periods, and menopausal symptoms. So far, the scientific evidence for these uses is not that strong. In particular, if you are hoping to get rid of period cramps, vitamin E alone will probably not do the trick. back to top
What foods are high in vitamin E?
Some good food sources of vitamin E are nuts (especially almonds), sunflower seeds, whole grain breads and pasta, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and collards, avocados, and olive oil.
Other foods that are rich in vitamin E include vegetable oils, mayonnaise, and margarine. But these sources are also brimming with unhealthy fats, so it's not a good idea to load up on them. back to top
Why would I take a vitamin E supplement?
The amount of vitamin E you get in a normal diet is probably enough to keep you healthy, especially if you eat the foods on the above list. But if your goal is to treat a particular condition such as PMS
or period cramps
, you probably can't get a high enough dose of vitamin E through food alone. To get the amount of vitamin E in a typical daily dose prescribed by many health care providers, you'd have to eat a pound of sunflower seeds, more than five pounds of wheat germ, or two quarts of corn oil a day. Needless to say, that would make for a whopping overload of fat. Taking a vitamin E pill would obviously be a better choice. back to top
What is the best form to take?
Here is one case where it is important to select a natural form of a vitamin. Studies have shown that your body can absorb the natural form of vitamin E much better than the synthetic
(manmade) kind because the natural form stays longer in your body's tissues.
Vitamin E comes in the form of capsules, tablets, softgels, or liquids. Whichever form you choose, read the label carefully. The words "d
-alpha-tocopherol" tell you that you're getting a natural form of vitamin E. Avoid vitamin E products whose labels say "dl
-alpha tocopherol"—that means they're not natural. Be sure to look closely, though: the difference between the two forms is simply one letter! back to top
What is a typical dose?
Your recommended daily allowance for vitamin E—the amount you should get from food to stay healthy—is only 11 mg to 15 mg. But to offer protection against conditions such as heart disease or cancer, or to treat problems such as PMS
, that amount of vitamin E is not nearly enough. Many health care providers prescribe 400 mg of vitamin E a day, taken with a meal. Taking vitamin E with food that contains some fat enables your body to absorb it well. back to top
Vitamin E is quite safe if you take it at the recommended dose. Higher doses may thin your blood too much. Older people taking blood-thinning drugs or daily aspirin should talk with their health care provider before taking vitamin E, as should anyone who uses the herb ginkgo
Stop taking vitamin E a week before any kind of surgery to reduce the chance of excess bleeding. In addition, people receiving chemotherapy or radiation for cancer should discuss taking antioxidants
such as vitamin E with their health care provider. Be sure to tell your doctor or health professional if you are taking any herb or supplement.
The use of supplements is not recommended during pregnancy and breast-feeding except under the guidance of a health professional. back to top