Supplementing Women’s Health
- Which Nutrients Are Most Important To A Woman’s Health?
- What Is Considered “The Woman’s Mineral”?
- How Are The Reproductive Years Challenging?
- Which New “Food” Can Carry A Woman Through Menopause?
- What Is The 80% Rule?
True/False: The Fundamentals Women’s
Health Go Beyond Diet & Exercise.
“The Pill” Might Be Magic. Look Inside And Find Out Why….
TOPIC: WOMEN’S HEALTH
When our negative emotions emerge, our instinct is to avoid them. The paradox is that when we are present to them, we create an opportunity for personal growth. When we deny them that withholding energy causes our identification to become fixed. Next time, don’t go to food, drink, TV, chatting, etc. Rather, do “the one and a half minute thing” and spend a quiet minute and a half being with those emotions. Carolyn Myss calls this “confronting the fundamental ambiguity of being human”.
Fundamentals of Women’s Health
It is no longer a secret that the state of an individual woman’s health is highly influenced by the culture in which she lives, her position within it, her experiences, and her day-to-day thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. What is unknown to most of us is that we are not victims of our bodies. Regardless of our individual circumstances, our own inner guidance is accessible to us.
We can tune into this guidance to create vibrant health daily – right now. We are empowered to heal mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well as physically. We can trust those things that bring us sustainable pleasure and make us want to get up in the morning. Eventually we come to see that pleasure, not pain, is our birthright!
– Edited from the Introduction to the 3rd Edition of Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup, MD1 (Bantam Books, 2006)
1 Throughout this issue of Nutrition News, I have used quotes from Northrup. I chose them to take your thoughts beyond the physical discussion of “Supplementing Women’s Health”. (That’s me in the photo.)
Supplements For A Lifetime
Trying dietary changes and alternatives to drugs and surgery … are often very powerful and health-enhancing first steps that open us up to new ways of looking at our bodies.
Reading books by women nutrition experts for this issue reminded me that next year I will have been writing Nutrition News for half my life. Soon I’ll be 69 years young. And I mean that. My blood and my vitals are perfect. My bones are good, and my brain is great. I can’t say I owe it all to writing Nutrition News, but my research certainly convinced me of the importance of “walking my talk”.
Magnesium is the featured nutrient in this issue, and while writing, I recalled that magnesium was my first supplement purchase. A dream revealed my need for it. Ah, but that’s a story for another day….
During the years I have been researching supplements, my recommendations have evolved. My current recommendations are: a multiple vitamin-mineral formula (covers at least the B-vitamins and most of your mineral needs), plus additional vitamins C (at least 1000 mg), D (at least 1000 IU), E (400 IU+), and vitamin K2 (90 mcg),2 fish oils (DHA and EPA amounts depend on individual health), and an adaptogen.3
2 Vitamin K2 is a recently discovered form of vitamin K, which has nothing to do with blood clotting and everything to do with a healthier cardiovascular system and stronger bones.
3 The original adaptogen is ginseng (others include ashwaganda and reishi mushroom). Adaptogens have three properties. They must 1) be able to normalize the body, bringing it back into balance from a state of stress; 2) have a nonspecific action, increasing resistance to a wide variety of physical, chemical, and biochemical stressors, and may include uplifting mood; 3) be innocuous or harmless. See Nutrition News, “Balance In A Bottle”.
If you don’t consume dairy products, beans, almonds, or kelp regularly, you may not be getting sufficient calcium or magnesium. Because large amounts of these minerals are needed, few multiple vitamin-mineral formulas provide sufficient amounts. In addition, neither chromium nor selenium may be present. Supplement these four minerals individually.
Unfortunately, my original case for recommending supple- ments has become much stronger. Pollution has increased while the quality of our air, water, and food has decreased. We are far less likely to eat balanced meals and most of us have yet to be convinced of the importance of fresh food, particularly fresh produce. Even with all our labor-saving, time saving devices, we are more stressed than ever.
I have been taking supplements for nearly 40 years. And, I’ve been urging you to do the same for nearly 35. Supplements are good. However, I make this caveat: Supplements supplement. Nothing can replace the energy and nutrients we reap from eating whole, fresh, and lively food.
Magnesium The Magnificent
agnesium requires its own section because it is so often overlooked and it is so important for women’s health.
Years ago, Nan Fuchs, PhD, championed magnesium to me as the premier nutrient for women. Now the author of a number of books for women (including The Ultimate Book of Women’s Health) and editor of Women’s Health Letter, Nan continues to urge women to insure their magnesium intake.
In Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, Northrup devotes eight pages to the benefits of magnesium. In Super Nutrition for Women, Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, calls it “the female mineral” while Hyla Cass, MD, recommends it in most chapters of her 8 Weeks to Vibrant Health (with Kathleen Barnes). Tori Hudson mentions it throughout her Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine.
Not surprisingly, magnesium is involved in the activation of at least 300 different enzyme systems. It is also needed for DNA and RNA formation, and is vital to energy production on a cellular level. Although calcium continues to take the headlines, it is magnesium that regulates the absorption of calcium into our bones and teeth. A USDA press release states that we need magnesium for strong bones, a healthy heart, and a smoothly functioning nervous system.
Because it is required for the transmission of nerve impulses, magnesium is integral to muscle function, including the heart muscle. Currently, there is an effort to educate women about the importance of taking care of their hearts.4 Women are far more likely to have heart problems
than breast cancer.
4 See Nutrition News, “A Woman’s Heart”, a fabulously informative issue.
Magnesium supports the heart by —
• Protecting against heart attack.
• Improving energy production in the heart.
• Dilating the arteries, bringing more oxygen and other
nutrients to the heart.
• Improving blood flow.
• Regulating heartbeat.
• Strengthening heart muscle contraction.
• Inhibiting blood platelet stickiness.
• Helping maintain normal blood pressure levels.
Beyond the cardiovascular system, magnesium protects against sroke. It is important for building bone, plus it curtails the effects of diabetes, “female problems” (discussed in “The Reproductive Years”), and a litany of other health concerns, including asthma, fibromyalgia, glaucoma, hearing loss, kidney stones, migraine and tension headaches, stress, and the synthesis of serotonin.
Preventing osteoporosis is a health goal for all women. Along with vitamin D and vitamin K2, magnesium is imperative to healthy bones and teeth. It is necessary to calcium metabolism, and a deficiency is associated with abnormal bone calcification. In fact, a deficiency can cause bone growth to stop and it increases bone breakdown and fragility. Naturopath Tori Hudson notes that women with lowered bone mass who also have adequate levels of magnesium show excellent structural calcification. There is no increase in fracture rates in spite of reduced bone density.
Magnesium affects asthma by promoting relaxation of the bronchial smooth muscles. Airways open and breathing is easier. (Intravenous magnesium is an accepted measure for acute asthma attacks.) With fibromyalgia, 300-600 mg daily of magnesium malate has decreased pain as well as the number and intensity of trigger points. In glaucoma patients, supplements can improve peripheral vision. Further, sufficient magnesium can be effective in protecting against noise-induced hearing loss.
Magnesium in combination with vitamin B6 is known to prevent and heal kidney stones. It increases the solubility of calcium in the urine. This prevents the formation and recurrence of stones. The effects of the mineral on the nervous system and blood vessels help us to relax, protecting against stress, stress headaches, and migraine. Lastly, again with B6, magnesium supports mental equilibrium because it supports the synthesis of serotonin, the happiness neurotransmitter.
Surveys show that adolescent and adult women, plus the elderly, are especially short of magnesium. Official recom-mendations are a little over 300 mg daily. However, the late Mildred Seelig, MD, suggested an intake based on weight, calculating 6 mg for each 2.2 lbs.5 Thus, a 150 pound woman would need 400 mg daily. Because magnesium is part of our energy cycle, a second recommendation is to take magnesium that integrates into this cycle: magnesium citrate, malate, fumerate, or succinate.
5 Dr. Seelig’s forty years of research established her as one of the world’s foremost magnesium researchers and reviewers.
It usually takes 6 weeks for tissue magnesium saturation. Your multivitamin-mineral formula supplies other nutrients to enhance the utilization of magnesium. Build intake slowly. Over enthusiasm results in diarrhea. (Think “Milk of Magnesia”.)
The Reproductive Years
ecome the physical embodiment of your soul so that you discover the woman you were always meant to be.
These are the years of a woman’s greatest energy output. Education, work/career, home care, marriage, children, and all the accompanying responsibilities are our commitments. It’s a juggling game of time and “to-dos”. It is also a time when we can build on our youthful health or repair damage from earlier years.
The Big Question at this stage of life is “How do I find time for myself?” Traditional ways include getting up early or going to bed late, taking your baby or younger child with you in a stroller on your walks/jogs, joining a gym with child care, exchanging time with the kids with another mother or your husband.
With all this and more going on, “female problems” are the last thing you need. PMS, cramping, and certain complications of pregnancy can be remedied with magnesium supplementation. PMS patients are significantly lower in magnesium than women without PMS. Emotional instability, nervousness, and a lower premenstrual pain threshold all indicate magnesium deficiency.
Although there are no studies on menstrual cramps per se, magnesium helps. It is believed that uterine relaxation in response to magnesium is what lessens cramping. (Works with leg
Further, magnesium supplementation may reduce the complications of pregnancy and improve infant health. Deficiency is linked to preeclampsia, preterm delivery, and fetal growth retardation. When pregnant women take magnesium supplements, there is a significant decrease in these complications. (450 mg per day is recommended.)
Many of us are motivated to make healthy modifications for our babies when we become pregnant. Switch this to yourself. As Northrup suggests, perceiving your physical self as the embodiment of your soul may provide the motivation you need to take better care.
Of course, a case can be made for optimal health at every stage of a woman’s life, but if you let down here, the price you pay is diminished energy – the very thing you need the most.
Women Of A Certain Age
ithout a commitment to looking at all aspects of our lives and accessing our power to change them, improving habits and diet alone is not enough…. Illnesses are designed to make us rest, and bring our attention back to the things that give our lives meaning and joy – aspects of life that we often put on the backburner until “someday”.
If you are a “woman of a certain age”, then you know that “someday” has come. Menopause determines “a certain age”. I’ve noticed women love to talk about menopause among themselves. And no wonder. According to recent research, an estimated 60 percent of American women aged 40-65 fail to find relief from menopausal symptoms.
Not long ago, I gave my “Ready Or Not!” lecture, offering the many solutions women (including me) have found useful. Several women testified to their great success ameliorating symptoms with maca. At the time, I only knew that maca was an adaptogen from South America. (See footnote 3.) However, maca grows in the Andes above 12,000 feet (a feat of adaptation in itself), and the bulb has been used for infertility and as an aphrodisiac by both women and men since pre-Colombian times.
Now a small group of researchers has documented maca extract as a control for the hormonal fluctuations that drive menopausal symptoms. Up to 87 percent of women taking maca reported improvements in relieving symptoms, including hot flashes, fatigue, night sweats, and mood swings. In addition, maca has favorable effects on blood lipid profiles and bone density markers. (Both of which go in negative directions with menopause.) Maca also helps reduce the depression and anxiety which some women experience at this time. Lastly, maca has beneficial effects on sexual desire and function.
Julius Goepp, MD, delivering a cutting edge report in Life Extension magazine, explains that maca promotes the function in our bodies which governs the hormonal system. This has positive effects on aging ovaries as well as on the thyroid and adrenal glands. The result is improved hormone balance and greater vitality. Goepp believes this research may revolutionize menopausal management in the future. Certainly there are a number of gals out there whose menopausal experience has already been revolutionized by maca use.
Maca extract is widely available at natural products stores. It comes in liquid (45-60 drops, 2-3x/d), tablets (3-6 per day), caps (2-6), and powder (1 tsp). Remember, these forms of maca are highly concentrated. To give your body the experience of maca as food be sure to drink plenty of water.
The 80% Rule
ollowing a special diet or running three miles a day won’t make a woman feel well if [she is bringing herself down] by a subconscious belief that she isn’t good enough, or that she is the wrong gender, or that it’s a woman’s lot in life to suffer!
Eat Right And Keep Fit – 80% of the time. We can drive ourselves nuts trying to be perfect. But perfectionism can defeat us. We may use our failures to beat ourselves up, or as an excuse not to continue to build healthy habits. Rather than “being good” 100 percent of the time, do your best to be good 80 percent of the time. That leaves room for parties, carefree picnics, holidays, and other forms of celebratory eating.
Accessing your inner guidance can help you distinguish between the part of you who’s talking in your head: the adult part of you who knows balance; the parent who always tells you “No”; and the child who always tells you “Yes”.
I am not going to go on about the rules for eating right and keeping fit. Many of you could write this section yourselves. The books I have used to inform this newsletter are excellent.
I know most of the authors personally, and they all walk their talk. For more detailed direction on healthy living, use their books. Last words: The most fundamental of [all healthy changes] is learning how to love and accept your precious self – warts and all. – Christiane Northrup
Good News About “The Pill”
Fifty years ago, the world’s first oral contraceptive hit the market. A milestone for womankind, for the first time in history, women could choose if and when to have a child. Further, the pill took the muss, fuss and most of the doubt out of birth control. However, there have always been questions about the safety of longterm use. Finally, we have some answers.
Back in 1963, British researchers made the decision to follow 23,000 women taking the pill along with a control group of 23,000 not taking it. Recently, the British Medical Journal published a stunning 39 year follow-up of these women. This is “a mind-boggling cumulative total of 1.2 million women-years of observation”.
Writing for the LA Times, Malcolm Potts, MD, British OB/GYN and professor at Cal Berkeley, remarked “At last… we can say with unprecedented confidence that the pill … can extend life by a measurable amount.” He commented that the pill is the only drug known to prevent cancer. In short, this is because the pill suppresses ovulation, decreasing the amount of estrogen interacting in the body during the reproductive years. The risk of developing uterine or ovarian cancer is effectively cut in half. Women who have used the pill are also less likely to develop colon cancer and have fewer melanomas.
The protective effects persist for many years after use is discontinued. Over time, even heart disease deaths are fewer. This doesn’t mean the pill is safe for all women. Those who smoke or are over 35 are warned not to use it. This warning made, Potts concluded: “Not until the pill is on sale next to Excedrin … will women believe how safe it really is.”
Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2010