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The woman in you

Read on for Rude Health magazine’s expert advice for the top 10 of women’s health issues – for every stage in your life

1. Candida/thrush

“Yeast infections are caused by the organism candida albicans, they can affect the mouth and vagina,” says Christina Farry from The Health Store in Whitewater Shopping Centre, Newbridge, co Kildare. “And overgrowth of this bacteria can cause symptoms like burning, discharge and pain in the pelvic area. Foods like keifer (live yogurt), kimchi and sauerkraut support the gut. Coconut, oregano and olive oil are all fungal-fighting foods. Supplements like Citricidal (grapefruit extract) have strong antifungal and antibacterial actions. Probiotics will also help to replace the good bacteria and rebalance the gut flora.”

Antonia Murray is the former owner of Alive and Well in Carlow town. “Most women come across this common problem which can flare up at particularly busy times when we may not have been eating well, or after being on antibiotics, candida bacteria proliferate causing thrush,” she says. “The bacteria requires sugar and yeast to stay alive, so limit all sugar, yeast found in bread, alcohol and caffeine. Prebiotic drinks made with apple cider vinegar or kombucha can help as can a good probiotic.”

2. Fertility

“Fertility can be an issue for some women due to hormonal imbalance, ovulation problems, stress, age and lifestyle,” says Christina Farry. “A diet rich in folic acid with leafy green veg, beans, lentils and nuts and seeds is recommended. Maca powder is good for hormonal imbalance. Supplements like folic acid, coQ10 and pre pregnancy multivitamins can help.”

“Regular juicing and taking green supplements such as spirulina or chlorella can help with cleansing the body of toxins, and in turn improving a woman’s chance of conceiving,” says Antonia Murray. “Install a water filter to remove fluoride and chlorine and other chemicals.”

Other supports include:

  • A good fertility support with a high dose fish oil and a range of minerals and vitamins to support fertility.
  • Add superfoods such as Irish seaweed and spirulina to both partners’ diets.
  • Acupuncture can help with conception.
  • A multivitamin with folic acid, and omega 3 fatty acids, the essential building blocks for the development and growth of the baby’s brain cells.

3. Hair thinning/loss

“Hair loss in women can be caused by hormonal changes like pregnancy and menopause,” says Christina Farry. “Stress, genetics and nutritional deficiency can also be causes. Foods such as eggs are a great source of protein and biotin, two nutrients which promote hair growth. Biotin as a supplement can be found to support and strengthen hair growth. Topical hair loss treatments and shampoos will protect existing hair.”

“Take a good supplement specially formulated for healthy hair, skin and nails,” says Antonia Murray. “Commit 10 minutes a day to massaging the scalp with an oil containing rosemary which stimulates the hair follicle for new growth. Alternatively mix a few drops of rosemary essential oil into half a cup of coconut oil and massage into the scalp, leave overnight or for a few hours before shampooing.”

Other supports include:
Eat more foods containing biotin such as egg yolks, nuts and seeds, salmon and avocados.

4. IBS

“Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is an inflammation and irritation of the bowel wall caused by digestion and increased sensitivity of the gut wall,” says Christina Farry. “Foods like oily fish, vegetables, flax and psyllium husks all help in cleansing the bowel. Supplements such as digestive enzymes will help to break the food down easier and take pressure off the bowel. L-Glutamine is an amino acid which will help to repair the bowel wall, lining the digestive tract.”

“When IBS is severe, some foods may have to be completely avoided for a while,” says Antonia Murray “including coffee, wheat, white bread/flour/rice, dairy, fatty fried foods, processed cereals, caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Your local health store can help with healthy coffee substitutes such as dandelion coffee, and calming herbal teas containing peppermint, fennel and camomile can be very soothing. Taking a good multivitamin and probiotic will help. Return to gentle, simple wholesome home-cooked meals made from millet, plenty of fruit and vegetables. Miso soup can be very calming for IBS.”

Other supports include:
Probiotic strains like Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM, Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52 and Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 can help digestive health issues.

5. Menopause

“Menopause is the period in a woman’s life when menstruation ceases causing symptoms such as fatigue, breast tenderness, irregular periods, hot flushes and mood swings,” says Christina Farry. “Oestrogen-rich foods like seeds and wholegrains and superfoods like maca powder are good for balancing hormones. Sage tea and sage supplements are available for managing hot flushes.”

“The majority of women who take sage find it almost completely eliminates hot flushes,” says Antonia Murray. ”Eat a balanced healthy diet low in sodium, limit or eliminate alcohol and caffeine. A good multivitamin especially for menopause can really help. Keeping active and exercising is important – another reason to join a gym or walking club, attend a yoga class and keep your body and mind happy and healthy.”

Other supports include:
Sage and vitamin E – for hot flushes and sweating.
A herbal support – to balance hormones is important at this stage in life.
Herbal teas such as lemon balm – to relax the overburdened mind and body.

6. Osteoporosis

“Women tend to have smaller and thinner bones than men,” says Christina Farry. “Approaching menopause oestrogen levels which protect bones can decrease, causing osteoporosis in women. Foods rich in calcium include milk, cheese and yogurts. Salmon, mackerel and tuna are all rich in vitamin D. Vitamin K-rich foods include dark green vegetables like kale, spinach and Brussels sprouts. Calcium, magnesium and vitamin D are the bone-supporting supplements.”

“From the age of about 45 years on it’s a good idea for women to take a supplement designed for healthy bones,” says Antonia Murray. “Doing weight-bearing strength training helps as well as most other forms of exercise as it strengthens the bones. Have your vitamin D level checked and take a good calcium and magnesium supplement. Eat a good balanced diet with plenty of nuts, grains and leafy greens.”

Other supports include:
Turmeric – useful for inflamed joints.
A joint support complex – to keep your bones strong.
A diet rich in fish oil – to lubricate joints.

7. PMS

“Pre Menstrual Syndrome is the physical and emotional symptoms that occur in the last 14 days before a woman’s monthly cycle,” says Christina Farry. “Symptoms can vary from acne, tender breasts, fatigue, bloating, irritability and mood changes. Magnesium-rich foods such as apples, lentils and nuts and seeds are recommended. Nettle or dandelion tea can help with water retention and bloating. Agnus castus and evening primrose will help with hormonal imbalance.”

“Younger women in particular can suffer from lower abdominal pain, irritability, and low mood in the days leading up to or during their period,” says Antonia Murray. “Avoiding alcohol, coffee and salty foods can make a big difference as well as keeping physically active and well hydrated. Taking evening primrose oil helps to stabilise the hormones and improve skin outbreaks. Agnus castus is a herbal remedy which can help with heavy periods, reducing the associated pain and skin eruptions.”

Other supports include:
Magnesium – for cramping and a healthy immune system.
Vitamin B complex with high B6, a magnesium supplement, good quality essential fatty acids – for PMS.

8. Stress

“Stress can be defined as a reaction to change, causing physiological changes in the body having a direct effect on our systems,” says Christina Farry. “Positive stress makes us excited, negative stress makes us depressed. Eating a diet rich in calcium and magnesium (nuts, seeds, green leafy veg) will help. Herbal teas like lemon balm and chamomile can be relaxing. B-complex supplement (anti stress vitamins) are good.”

“Knowing our own personal limits and establishing boundaries between oneself and the outside world will help us avoid doing too much,” says Antonia Murray. “See the signs of stress creeping in and learn to control it by doing less and factoring in relaxation time to your lifestyle. Time to just be, take a bath, go for a walk, commune with nature. Avoid overstimulating activities such as screen time and foods such as coffee, sugary foods and other stimulants. Drink herbal tea blends containing lemon balm, camomile, lavender and valerian will help with stress.”

Other supports include:
Siberian ginseng and vitamin B12 – for energy
Melissa Dream – if you are having trouble sleeping.
A multivitamin – if burning the candle at both ends.

9. Underactive thyroid

“An underactive thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones,” says Christina Farry. “The thyroid controls how your body’s cells use energy from food. If the thyroid is underactive, metabolism will slow down, also causing fatigue, weight gain and depression. Iodine-rich foods are seafood, eggs and potatoes. Lemon balm and chamomile teas are good for stress. Iodine supplements like kelp and tyrosine can help in the thyroid hormone production.”

“Many women suffer from an underactive thyroid causing weight gain and tiredness,” Antonia Murray. “Taking kelp tablets rich in iodine can help rebalance the thyroid.”

10. UTI/cystitis

“Cystitis or urinary tract infections are caused by the e.coli bacteria,” says Christina Farry. “This happens when bacteria enter the bladder or urethra and begin to multiply, causing infection. Alkalizing green veg and oily fish, flax and hemp can help with inflammation. I recommend lots of water and unsweetened cranberry juice. Probiotic supplements will replace the good bacteria in the gut and an oregano tincture has powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties.”

“If you suffer from regular UTI infections prevention and management become the focus,” says Antonia Murray. “Avoid all sugar and eat well. Drinking sugar-free cranberry juice regularly helps as both a remedy and for prevention. Certain probiotics, taking kyolic garlic and the herb echinacea will help your immune system to avoid getting UTI infections.”

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