No matter how you grew up, if you’re in your 20s, this is the decade when you establish healthy or unhealthy patterns for the rest of your adult life.
It can be easy to ignore your health when work and social life take all your attention. But this pivotal period determines your future physical and mental wellness. You get to control whether you’ll stay vibrant and healthy as you age or increase your risk of developing chronic diseases.
Your first step is prioritizing healthy eating, regular exercise, stress management, sleep, and preventive healthcare. This sets the stage for optimal health.
But there will be times when you have to manage a health condition or illness. In your 20s, the most common are colds and flu, skin issues, nutritional deficiencies, sleep disturbance, and mental health issues.
This article provides an overview of some of the more popular vitamins and minerals that may help support your health naturally in your 20s and beyond.
Supporting a Strong Immune System
Having a strong immune system is vital for overall health and well-being. A robust immune system helps defend your body against harmful pathogens, reduces your risk of infections, and promotes faster recovery from illnesses. It plays a crucial role in preventing chronic diseases and supporting optimal organ function.
When you adopt healthy lifestyle habits, you boost your immune system and enhance your body's natural defense mechanisms. Eating a predominantly plant-based diet with lean proteins may give you the necessary vitamins to support your health.
6 Herbs That Support Immune Health
Scientific research suggests that taking certain herbs will also support your immune health. These herbs contain potent antioxidants that help protect against free radicals, which can damage cells and weaken the immune system.
- Astragalus: This perennial plant, used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese Medicine, may support a healthy immune response and cardiovascular system.
- Echinacea: Research shows that alkylamides, found in the Echinacea root, support a healthy inflammatory response.
- Goldenseal: Goldenseal is native to North America and is commonly used to support respiratory and digestive health as well as digestive complaints. It is often combined with Echinacea for added immune support.
- Oregano: This herb’s high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids gives it strong antioxidant properties and may help promote a healthy immune function. You can make oregano oil to have on hand when you feel your immune system needs a boost.
- Black Elderberry: This nutritious plant contains protein, fiber, iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and vitamins A and C. It is proven to be higher in antioxidants than blueberries, cranberries, and mulberries.REF#2513
- Bee Propolis: This sticky substance made from bees to protect their hives may support overall health, including skin, oral health, and a normal inflammatory response.
Supporting Skin Issues with Supplements
Most people think of skin issues such as acneas childhood or adolescent problems. But these conditions can last into adulthood for many reasons, including hormonal changes, lifestyle choices, and genetic predispositions.
During adolescence and young adulthood, hormone levels undergo significant changes. Increased androgen production can lead to excess oil production, clogged pores, and acne breakouts. In your 20s, you also face various stressors, including career choices and relationship challenges. Stress can trigger or exacerbate skin issues like acne, eczema, or psoriasis.
Unhealthy eating habits can also contribute to skin issues. Diets that include excessive amounts of processed foods, sugar, and dairy products are often deficient in essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This deficiency may impair your skin health and contribute to inflammation and breakouts.
Habits like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of sleep, and inadequate skincare routines can also negatively impact your skin. Smoking, for instance, can lead to premature aging, dull complexion, and impaired skin healing.
And finally, genetic factors can influence the skin's sensitivity, oil production, and inflammatory response.
Happily, vitamin supplements and plants play an important role in supporting skin health and may be all you need to achieve clear skin that glows.
Vitamins and Minerals that Support Skin Health
Several key vitamins and minerals play a role in supporting skin health and can be beneficial for certain skin conditions:
- Vitamin A: Over the past 80 years, human studies have established that Vitamin A, an essential vitamin for maintaining healthy skin, is an effective treatment for mild acne and other skin conditions because it regulates sebum and keratin production.REF#2514 However, because of the risk of overabsorption of Vitamin A, you should consult your healthcare provider before taking this vitamin as a supplement. Good natural sources of vitamin A include leafy green vegetables, carrots, winter squash, sweet potato, red bell pepper, fish oil, milk, and eggs.
- Vitamin C: As an antioxidant, Vitamin C helps protect the skin from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. It plays a crucial role in collagen synthesis, promoting skin elasticity and supporting good skin hydration and pH balance.* It has also been shown to have potential as an adjuvant for use with other drugs in treating acne, contact dermatitis, and psoriasis.REF#2515 Citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli are excellent sources of vitamin C.
- Vitamin E: This fat-soluble antioxidant has anti-inflammatory properties that may soothe skin inflammation after UV exposure.* Studies also indicate that people with chronic inflammatory skin diseases have lower serum Vitamin E levels, suggesting that increasing levels may help support better skin health.REF#2516 However, more research is needed to determine direct cause and effect and appropriate vitamin levels. Foods rich in vitamin E include almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, and avocados.
- Zinc: Zinc is an essential mineral that supports immune function and plays a role in skin health. It has anti-inflammatory properties that may help mild acne flare-ups. Good dietary sources of zinc include oysters, lean meats, legumes, and pumpkin seeds.
- Selenium: This antioxidant plays a role in skin elasticity and can help reduce inflammation and premature wrinkles. Good dietary sources of selenium include turkey, chicken, Brazil nuts, seafood, brown rice, and eggs.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to play a critical role in maintaining good skin health.REF#2517 Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish (such as salmon and mackerel), walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.
The best way to consume the vitamins and minerals you need for healthy skin is to eat a variety of whole foods, as listed above. But when specific skin conditions affect your health, consult your healthcare provider to discuss what, if any, deficiencies you may have that can be supported with vitamin and mineral supplements.
Herbs that Support Skin Health
Many herbs have properties that support great skin health. Here are a few favorites:
- Tea Tree Oil: Topical use of Tea Tree Oil, an essential oil extracted from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia, has been clinically shown to support the management of acne.
- Vitex Berry: Vitex agnus-castus, also known as Chaste Tree, is approved for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome by the German Commission E and is a popular herb for supporting healthy female hormonal balance. It may help reduce the effects of mild premenstrual acne.*
- Oregano Oil: Oregano is a natural source of carvacrol and thymol, two organic compounds with proven properties that support skin health. It contains vitamin C, which helps make collagen, and vitamin B6, which supports healthy skin.*
If you use essential oil for the skin, dilute it with a carrier oil first, such as olive or coconut oil, at a ratio of one drop of essential oil to one ounce of carrier oil. If you have a skin condition, doing a patch test using an herbal oil on a small area of your skin free of infection is important. If you have any adverse reaction, do not use the oil.
Supporting Nutritional Deficiencies With Supplements
Poor diet choices can lead to inadequate intake of essential nutrients. Even when you think you’re eating well, you may still lack all the vitamins and minerals you need for good health. This is often true if you’re a vegetarian or vegan or have an eating disorder.
A balanced diet of primarily whole foods is crucial for good health. Still, if a lab test identifies deficiencies, you may need to supplement your diet with a multivitamin or specific supplement. Common deficiencies include:
- Vitamin B12: This nutrient is found primarily in animal-based foods and is essential for proper nerve function and the production of red blood cells. If you don’t eat meat, you may need to take vitamin B12 or consume fortified foods such as plant-based milk or breakfast cereal.
- Iron: Iron in plants is not as readily absorbed as the iron found in animal-based foods. You can increase your iron intake by eating leafy greens, beans, shellfish, sardines, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Cooking with cast-iron cookware may transfer a small amount of iron into your food.REF#2518
- Calcium: You need calcium to build and maintain strong bones. Dairy products, dark green vegetables, tofu, and sardines are common sources of calcium. You can also get calcium from fortified plant-based milk and almonds.
- Vitamin D: Few foods contain vitamin D naturally. Fatty fish, fish oil, liver, egg yolks, and mushrooms are potential sources. It is often added to fortified cow’s milk. Another way to get vitamin D is to spend more time out in the sun (wearing sunscreen and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes). If you are deficient, you may need to take a vitamin D supplement.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These healthy fats are important for brain function and heart health. While they are found primarily in fatty fish, you can obtain them from plant-based sources such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
- Iodine: This mineral is critical for thyroid function, helping regulate your metabolism and affecting muscle growth. Many young women have an iodine deficiency, so it’s especially critical to take an iodine supplement when pregnant or breastfeeding. Seaweed is a good source of iodine if you don’t eat seafood or dairy (other good sources of iodine) or use iodized salt.
Discuss the issue with your healthcare provider if you suspect you could be deficient in a vitamin or mineral. Depending on your health insurance, you may be able to get tested for specific vitamin and mineral levels the next time you have a blood panel taken. There are also lower-cost blood tests you can request yourself online. Knowing your vitamin and mineral levels is key to good preventive healthcare.
Supporting Mental Health With Supplements
Mental health is as important to your well-being and healthy aging as physical health. During your twenties, you’re faced with many new experiences, challenges, and significant life transitions, which can impact your mental and emotional status. While proper professional care and support are essential for managing mental health issues, improving your lifestyle may make a noticeable difference. This means eating well, sleeping well, and getting plenty of exercise.
It’s important to determine your nutrient levels and supplement, as needed, to support better emotional health.
7 Herbs that Support Mental Health
Several herbal supplements may also be beneficial:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Eating chia seeds, flaxseeds, and fatty fish, such as salmon, or taking fish oil or flaxseed oil may support better mental health.*
- Ashwagandha: This herb is an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt to stress and may help nourish and restore optimal nervous and immune system health.*
- St. John's Wort: This popular plant extract is being used to treat depression, but since it can interact with other medications, consult your healthcare provider before taking it.
- Kava: This relaxing nervine may support emotional well-being.*
- American Skullcap: This may promote a naturally calm and balanced mood and support the uptake of nutrition to the nerves.*
- Valerian: This calming herb may be helpful with stress management and occasional sleeplessness.*
- Chamomile: This may have calming effects and help with occasional anxiousness.
Whether you want to take vitamins, minerals, or herbs, you should not substitute them for professional mental health treatment. Always consult with a healthcare professional before introducing new supplements or making significant changes to your mental health management plan.
Supporting Sleep Health with Supplements
If you’re not getting at least nine hours of sleep — the suggested amount for young adults — you may struggle to get through the day. Sleep helps to support emotional regulation, cognitive function, and overall well-being. Irregular sleep patterns, insomnia, or poor sleep quality can contribute to anxiety, depression, and health issues.REF#2519
If you suffer from sleep deficiency, read our article, “How to Improve Your Sleep With Better Sleep Hygiene,” for tips on turning your sleep patterns around. If making lifestyle changes doesn’t improve your sleep, consider checking your vitamin D level since studies show that vitamin D deficiency may affect sleep quality and duration.REF#2520
5 Herbs That Support Better Sleep
There are several herbs that can help relax your body and mind so you can get a restful night of sleep.
- Valerian: Many studies indicate that the root of the Valerian plant has significant calming properties and may improve the quality of your sleep. You can take Valerian Root in tincture or capsule form or drink it as tea before bed.
- Passionflower: If you’re dealing with restlessness and frequent wakeful periods throughout the night, Passionflower, a nervine relaxant, can be taken as a supplement in the hours before bedtime to help calm an excited nervous system.*
- Ashwagandha: Your adrenal glands influence your body’s stress response and sleep patterns. As an adaptogenic herb, Ashwagandha supports adrenal health and may help you manage stress and occasional sleeplessness.*
- Chamomile: Providing a sense of calm for your nervous system, Chamomile may provide a gentle way to help you relax and fall asleep. Drink a cup of tea an hour or so before bed.
- Lavender: One of the most popular fragrances in the world, Lavender essential oil can be used in aromatherapy to support stress, sleep, and relaxation. It can be used topically when diluted in a carrier oil such as coconut oil or added to an essential oil diffuser.
While any of these herbs may help improve your sleep, test them out on a night when you don’t have to be up at dawn. Every person reacts differently to herbs, and it’s possible you will sleep more deeply than before or you’ll have no reaction to the herb at all.
Adding Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs to Your Health Routine in Your 20s
Incorporating the right supplements into your self-care routine in your 20s can be a proactive step towards promoting overall well-being. By nourishing your body with essential nutrients and harnessing the potential benefits of herbs, you can support your physical and mental health.
However, it's important to remember that supplements should not replace a healthy diet and lifestyle. They should be complementary tools to provide additional support when you need it.
When purchasing supplements, know that not all brands are identical. Some use fillers or combinations of ingredients that make nutrients less bioavailable (in other words, the nutrients go right through your body without being absorbed). When comparing supplements, look for those with the following high-quality characteristics:
- Certified organic or wild-crafted herbs and other ingredients
- DNA tested for identity and tested for purity, pesticides, heavy metals and microbes.
- No artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or fillers
- Transparency in sourcing: Check out Gaia Herbs' “Meet Your Herbs” herb traceability program for an example of how transparent a supplement company can be.
If you’d like to add vitamins and herbs to your routine, find a healthcare provider who will support your journey and help you determine your needs. Embracing a holistic approach to health in your 20s can lay a solid foundation for a vibrant and fulfilling life.
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