A to Z to Women’s Health
Every women deserves to thrive. There are many health issues unique to women but did you know many of these can be managed with nutritional support and diet and lifestyle changes? Feel empowered with these simple nutritional tips tailored for women’s health.
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world and much more frequently affects women than men. Iron deficiency causes anaemia, symptoms of which include tiredness and lethargy, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and a pale complexion. If you have these symptoms, you should get a blood test to confirm your iron status, then speak to your health food store about a gentle iron food supplement or organic liquid iron tonic.
For women, maintaining optimal bone health throughout life is vital for the prevention of bone density problems in older age. Stopping smoking and taking regular exercise is key. A diet rich in calcium or food supplement use to support an intake of 1000 – 1200 mg daily, along with 800-2000 IU of vitamin D, 50-100mcg of vitamin K, 200-300mg of magnesium and 1 gram per kilogram of body weight of dietary protein are the most important considerations nutritionally.
Food has a profound impact on your skin health, and we recommend a specifically formulated blend of targeted minerals, botanicals and fat-soluble carotenoids in a base of beneficial bacteria for clear, fresh-looking skin. Because skin dryness, visual appearance and elasticity can be affected by a low intake of omega 3 essential fatty acids, it can be useful to improve your oily fish intake to 3-4 portions each week. Alternatively, consider supplementing with a certified organic, sustainable omega 3 oil or a marine algae derived omega 3 oil.
Good health starts from the inside out; if your digestive health is poor your whole body can suffer due to the poor absorption of nutrients. Modern research has highlighted the importance of a diverse population of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and how it supports a healthy mind and body. For many people, a good quality beneficial bacteria formula taken daily can support their digestive health, and potentially the health of their whole body.
High up in the Peruvian Andes grows a remarkable super food that is prized for improving energy and vitality, but most importantly as a folk remedy for female health. Maca (Lepidium meyenii), has been used for centuries in the Andes to support fertility and hormonal balance. Indeed, modern research has found that maca may help to improve energy and mood, decrease anxiety, and improve sexual desire. Specific to menopause and perimenopause, studies have concluded that maca is a safe botanical to relieve menopausal symptoms, especially the relief from hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, besides improved libido, mood, and emotional wellbeing. In the studies the women experienced a reduction of symptoms in two days to 8 weeks in response to 3 grams of maca daily. Choose responsibly sourced, certified organic maca extract, to help both the environmental sustainability and the livelihood of the indigenous farmers of Peru.
Taking a daily multivitamin and mineral formula is a useful way to ensure that you receive all the nutrients that are important for a health and an active lifestyle. Due to modern agricultural practices, it can be an increasing challenge to get all the nutrients you need through food alone. Individual nutritional requirements can vary, dependant on stress levels, quantity, and type of exercise or due to a health condition. For more advice about choosing a multivitamin, visit your local specialist health store.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
It is estimated that between 6 and 15% of women of reproductive age have polycystic ovaries. PCOS is characterised by a dominance of testosterone, and can include menstrual irregularities, infertility, and metabolic abnormalities such as insulin resistance. There are several approaches to managing PCOS and a low glycaemic-load diet in addition to regular exercise have been shown to help. A nutritional treatment that has been shown to be effective in research is the twice daily intake of myo-inositol and folic acid. Which produced the reduction of the testosterone to oestrogen balance, regular ovulation, improved blood glucose regulation and an improvement in the quality of ovarian health which attributed to improved fertility.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Around 25% of women of reproductive age suffer with moderate to severe premenstrual syndrome symptoms, which occur can occur 1-2 weeks prior to menstruation. The most common PMS symptoms are irritability, anxiety, tension, mood swings and depression, besides abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, headache, water retention and food cravings. In some cases, the symptoms are so severe that medication may be prescribed. However, some natural alternatives can be very helpful.
Saffron, a highly prized spice from the crocus flower, has long been used to improve mood and wellbeing. Specifically, it has been shown to reduce the symptoms of PMS, especially the emotional symptoms, as well as reducing food cravings in a number of clinical studies.
In one study, 15mg of saffron extract taken twice daily for two menstrual cycles significantly reduced the symptoms of PMS, especially emotional symptoms. Magnesium and vitamin B6 have also been shown to reduce PMS symptoms including cravings, fluid retention and anxiety. In fact, there are at least nine clinical trials that show improvements in PMS in response to vitamin B6. However, when vitamin B6 is combined with magnesium it has been shown to be even more effective. Both magnesium and vitamin B6 play an important role in regulating hormones and mood.
The prevalence of hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, is 3% to 18% (which equates to up to 11 million people), with more women affected than men. The symptoms of underactive thyroid function include fatigue, weight gain, constipation, and sensitivity to cold. If you think your thyroid function might be lowered, you should speak to your doctor. One reason for an underactive thyroid can be due to dietary intake, often if your diet is low in iodine. Suboptimal iodine intake is common, and it is estimated that up to 50% of women may have a suboptimal intake in the UK. For some people with low thyroid, taking 150-200mcg of iodine daily can help along with supportive nutrients such as vitamin A, B vitamins, selenium, and zinc.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Cranberries are well known for their tart flavour in sauces and juice, but they also have a long history of use as a natural remedy for urinary tract infections (UTI), subsequently attracting a great deal of scientific interest over the last 100 years.
It is estimated that one in five women will experience a urinary tract infection during their life, and UTIs have a very high (up to 20%) risk of recurrence. Safe and effective ways to prevent recurring UTIs are therefore very important and this is the main use of cranberry. The berries are rich in nutrients that prevent infections taking hold, and a review of several studies concluded a significant benefit when at least 36mg of cranberry proanthocyanidins were taken daily.
Other natural approaches include the use of potassium citrate which alkalizes the urine to prevent bacterial adhesion, the prevention of the overgrowth of infectious bacteria by taking beneficial bacteria, and the use of D-Mannose, which can reduce the development of an infection.
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The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.
Agha-Hosseini M, et al. Crocus sativus L. (saron) in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: a double-blind, randomised and placebo-controlled trial. BJOG. 2008 Mar;115(4):515-9.
Wyatt KM, et al. Ecacy of vitamin B-6 in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: systematic review. BMJ. 1999 May 22;318(7195):1375-81.
De Souza MC, et al. A synergistic eect of a daily supplement for 1 month of 200 mg magnesium plus 50 mg vitamin B6 for the relief of anxiety-related premenstrual symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, crossover study. J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2000 Mar;9(2):131-9.
Jepson RG, et al Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Oct 17;10:CD001321.
Altarac S, Papeš D. Use of D-mannose in prophylaxis of recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women. BJU Int. 2014 Jan;113(1):9-10
Gonzales GF, Gonzales C, Gonzales-Castañeda C. Lepidium meyenii (Maca): a plant from the highlands of Peru–from tradition to science. Forsch Komplementmed. 2009 Dec;16(6):373-80. Lee MS, Shin BC, Yang EJ, Lim HJ, Ernst E. Maca (Lepidium meyenii) for treatment of menopausal symptoms: A systematic review. Maturitas. 2011 Nov;70(3):227-33.