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Wonder woman

Being a woman can be a challenge with numerous health issues affecting the fairer sex at different times in life. Rude Health magazine discovers the best natural options for common issues

“The main health issues women have that come to the store are sleep problems, menopause and PMS issues, constipation and stress,” says Mary Buckley of Horans in Listowel, co Kerry. “I don’t think these problems are specific to a certain age group, but maybe with lifestyle in general. People eat more on the go nowadays, and more convenience foods than meals made from scratch. Also everyone seems to be rushing and people don’t take the time to care for themselves as well as they should. The best support for women’s health comes from B vitamins, omegas, probiotics, homeopathic remedies, magnesium and seeds.”

THE ROLE OF DIET

“One of the ironies of nutrition is that when women are stressed and most need their B vitamins and magnesium, they are more likely to reach for unhealthy foods full of sugar and salt and caffeine, which not only contain few nutrients but also drain the body of the ones they need,” says Alison Cullen, nutritional therapist at A.Vogel. “Magnesium, for example, is used up in the processing of any refined sugar that you eat.”

It’s easy to make a healthy difference. Why not snack on dried fruit, nuts and seeds instead of sugary or salty nibbles – they contain more nutrients, including the ones you need for your nervous system, and keep your energy levels more stable too. Many foods have a greater role to play in health. Beans, lentils and chickpeas, for example, all have high phytoestrogen content which helps to balance hormones. Superfoods are foods that are particularly nutrient-dense and can give you a real natural boost – numerous fruits such as blueberries and vegetables such as kale are superfoods as well as goji berries, seaweed, chia and maca among others.

“You can get a lot of the vitamins and minerals you need from food sources such as orange juice for vitamin C, red meat for iron and wholegrains for B vitamins,” says Angela McGlanaghy of Simple Simon in Donegal town. “However, it can be difficult to get your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of certain vitamins from just food and drink. For example Vitamin D, which helps with calcium absorption.”

VITAMIN SUPPORT

“There are so many supplements out there it’s difficult to know what to take, however some vitamins and minerals are absolutely essential for optimum women’s health,” says Angela McGlanaghy. “Vitamins A, B, C and D are extremely important for women, and in the case of minerals, calcium and iron are vital for a woman’s wellbeing. A high quality multi-vitamin is a good place to start,” says Angela McGlanaghy. “You can also get supplement tablets on their own, or in the case of Vitamin D it comes in a handy spray form for those who have trouble taking tablets.”

“Vitamin B is a vitamin that women often lack,” says Alison Cullen. “as the body can’t store it. It is great for mood and skin health and energy production. Women with heavy periods often lack iron, and it’s a good idea to take a natural iron tonic.”

For women who are under stress, too busy and not getting enough sleep B vitamins, magnesium and L-theanine can all help.

“Optimum levels of magnesium are a huge contributor to a women’s overall health,” says Meaghan Esser, registered holistic nutritionist at ITL Health. “Magnesium relaxes our nerves and muscles which helps reduce our stress, helps induce better sleep and improves cardiovascular health. It is also essential for hormone health from PMS to pregnancy to menopause. Magnesium is a key player in bone health, which is often an issue for women as they age.

“Leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are all excellent sources of magnesium,” says Meaghan, “however cooking and processing causes magnesium depletion so it’s best to eat these foods raw or lightly steamed. Because it is extremely difficult to get adequate magnesium intake from food (it is estimated that 90% of people are deficient in magnesium), it is recommend to take a highly bio-available magnesium supplement.”

GREATER DEMANDS

Sometimes the demands on a woman’s body are greater, e.g. when having heavy periods, when pregnant or breast-feeding, or when juggling a very busy life and not sleeping so well. The menopause is another time when nutrient demands can be greater.

here are a number of natural options that can help at times when the female body has increased demands put upon it:

For fertility support women are advised to cut out alcohol and caffeine, eat plenty of oily fish, supplement with folic acid, and include foods rich in zinc such as seeds and lentils (and red meat). Supplementing with folic acid is essential as well as taking a high dose fish oil, and fertility formulation.

During the menopause taking sage tablets or a tincture can help with disturbed sleep. Lemon balm and other herbal teas are soothing and uplifting. Vitamin E can be very helpful for hot flushes; and there are some good natural libido supports available now for women. Melissa Dream is a sleep aid that contains lemon balm, L-theanine, chamomile, vitamin B and magnesium.

For post-menopausal women inflamed and sore joints can be an issue and turmeric is a great help at this time. Eating lots of fruit and vegetables can help to keep the body in a more alkaline state which helps bone health, as well as taking a joint support complex, multivitamin, CoQ10 and lecithin. Amino acids such as arginine and CoQ10 as well as exercise and a high fibre diet all play a vital role in cardio health.

HERBAL HELP

“Many women find that Agnus castus helps with evening out PMS problems” says Alison Cullen. “Later on, when moving through the menopause, fermented soya isoflavones are very helpful to many women suffering from falling oestrogen levels.”

For haywire hormones nettle tea can help as well as taking a vitamin B complex along with evening primrose oil, magnesium and agnus castus. Siberian ginseng is good for women who are under stress, too busy and not getting enough sleep.

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