In Which Jo Tries A Totally Unscientific Experiment!

Edited to add this disclaimer, inspired by the sensible E. in the comments: The results herein are totally my own experience. You should not extrapolate from my three weeks of supplement use to your own life. If you insist on doing so, be warned: some or all of the vitamins et al I mention here might interact with other medications you're taking, might cause you to develop diarrhea, heart palpitations, kidney stones, or muscle spasms (no kidding, people), or cause other problems if you can't metabolize them or overdose on them. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. Do what I did: Talk to your doctor, your pharmacist, and preferably a registered dietician as well before haring off and mega-dosing on stuff. Most of all, to repeat: DO NOT ASSUME THAT WHAT WORKED FOR ME WILL WORK FOR YOU.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled post.

I've been working out and doing Weight Watchers and ignoring the siren call of Cheetos now for about five months, and I've lost fifteen pounds--and maintained that loss. I've also got twenty-five more pounds, several points on my cholesterol, and a few more inches on my waist to go.

So, with Crabby's okay, I've decided to talk about a Totally Unscientific Experiment In Which I Am The Study Animal.

The conversation, which occurred via Gchat, went something like this:

Jo: So, yeah, I've been taking all these supplements lately. Is that something I can blog about, or is that kind of off the Cranky track?

Crab: I think that's a great idea, actually. What have you been taking?

Jo: Oh, just stuff like Evening Primrose Oil and magnesium and so on.

Crab: You do know, don't you, that magnesium can have a laxative effect?

Jo: Oooop! BRB...
(sound effect: Jo's feet pattering toward the bathroom)

What I'm Taking, What It's Supposed To Do, and What It Actually Does:

1. Evening Primrose Oil, 500 milligrams (9% GLA), two capsules every night before bed.

EPO is supposed to be good for getting rid of belly fat, controlling the mood swings that come with PMS, and helping with cholesterol numbers. Because I have two of those three problems (not PMS any more, thank Frog), I decided it couldn't hurt and might help.

I'll tell you one thing: This stuff knocks me on my butt, sleep-and-relaxation-wise. I don't know if that's one of the supposed benefits of EPO, but it's doing wonders for my sleep. I take it about an hour before bed and can feel when it kicks in; the muscles between my shoulder blades start to relax. To make more sure that this wasn't psychological, I tried taking it during the day and found myself falling asleep over my lunch.

2. Magnesium, 250 mg, every night before bed.

Most people aren't deficient in magnesium, but Mama's diet tends to be sketchy when it comes to things like spinach. Mama also likes her pink gin of an evening, and alcohol use can wash magnesium out of your body (even moderate use; you don't have to get completely tooty every night). So magnesium it is!

Yes, it does have a laxative effect. Let's just leave that alone, shall we? Thank you.

Mag is also supposed to help with muscle and nerve function and keep your heart healthy.

I've found that taking mag keeps me from feeling shaky and weird in the mornings and seems to help me recover more quickly from the hellish workouts that Attila puts me through. If I miss a dose in the evenings, I feel...odd the next morning, like my hands and feet aren't quite connected to my body. I'm also much, much more sore, both from Hellish Workouts and just from walking and lifting and twisting at work.

3. Zinc, 50 milligrams, at night after dinner if I've eaten enough not to get queasy.

Zinc is one of those immune-boosting, sugar-craving-busting wonder minerals that, again, Your Faithful Correspondent tends to miss because her diet is like the little girl with the little curl: either very, very good or horrid. (Incidentally, did you know that at the time that rhyme came into being, "forehead" rhymed with "horrid"? See the benefits of a liberal education right here!) Zinc is also used in the naturopathic treatment of alcoholism, to control alcohol cravings (see: sugar cravings), but so far I haven't noticed that effect. (Alcohol cravings, in me at least, tend to be more a function of the people I have to put up with at work, though, so your mileage may vary.)

Sugar, though? If I take zinc with a meal--and that's important, as zinc WILL make you barf if you take it on an empty stomach--I don't get sugar or simple-carb cravings.

As far as the immune-boosting effects are concerned, check with me in January, which is when I usually start coming down with whatever bugs are circulating.

4. B-complex capsule, with things like niacin and folic acid in it, every night before bed.

B-complexes are important for nerve function and energy. B-vites tend to get washed out by stress, caffeine, bad diets...check, check, sorta-check. Repleting them means that I have a heck of a lot more energy, I'm not as anxious about things, and I pee neon-yellow for the entire day. It's like Christmas!

The one drawback is that this particular formula tends to make me flush if I don't take it on a full stomach. Ooo--I forgot the other: B-vitamins have a diuretic effect, so I pee a lot. But I pee a lot anyhow. But now it's neon yellow! Wahoo!

Another benefit is that, combined with the magnesium, the B-complex takes away the horrible disconnected, shaky feeling I get in the mornings if I'm sleep-deprived, which is most of the time.

5. Calcium! Two chewable extra-strength generic version fruit-ick-flavored tabs before bed, 750 milligrams each.

Who doesn't love calcium? It's good for your heart, it's good for your central nervous system, it's great for your bones. It's bad for your kidneys if you're chronically dehydrated or have odd ways of metabolizing the stuff, but I don't have either, so calcium is my friend.

Calcium builds (as we all know) strong bones. It's also good for indigestion. I have no idea if my bones are actually stronger through taking icky fruit-flavored chewables (remind me to get the orange next time), but I don't have heartburn. Then again, I never had heartburn before. *shrug*

Given that I am now closer to 40 than 30--a lot closer--it's important that I don't lose any bone mass. My *grandfather* had osteoporosis, if that gives you any indication of my genetics, so I'm a little obsessive about Ca+ and vitamin D. The vitamin D I get from the sun, but come the dead of winter, I supplement that as well.

For now, that's it. If I'm pressed for time in the evening, I might pop a multivitamin (generic version of Centrum or some such), but I find that I don't feel as good as if I take the more focused stuff listed here. If I had to take only one bottle with me to a desert island, it'd probably be the B-complex; I don't know how I managed without it.

If I feel really adventurous over the next month or so, I may start taking stuff like, say, kudzu or garlic or (ew) fish oil, which makes me burp (ew). You will, of course, be the first to be updated.

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