Uniquely female conditions can strike a woman at any stage, in any walk of life-but they're not inevitable. The right nutrients, a healthy lifestyle, and targeted natural remedies can prevent or relieve the most common ailments.
Nutrients are the raw materials for hormone balance, and a diet low in refined sugars and rich in lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and unrefined carbs is a good start. Unfortunately, today's depleted soils and mass-produced foods are unlikely to deliver optimum nutrition even with the best diets. But these basic supplements can help fill in the gaps:
Multivitamin: Look for a daily dose of 50-100 mg of the main B vitamins; 500-1,000 mg of vitamin C ; and a variety of minerals for overall health.
Fish oil: Aim for 1,000-3,000 mg of fish oil daily for a stable mood and fewer wrinkles; to reduce inflammation; and to support the heart. For vegetarians, flaxseed oil or DHA from algae are plant sources of these healthy fats.
Vitamin D: Aim for at least 1,000 IU daily to support immunity and bone health.
Calcium and magnesium: Aim for equal amounts of both (see "Beware the Calcium Myth," p. 34).
CoQ10: After age 40, take 50-100 mg daily for a healthy heart.
Uncomfortable symptoms of PMS, perimenopause, and menopause share a common cause: shifts in hormone levels. But these symptoms can be avoided with targeted natural remedies.
Chasteberry (Vitex): A study of more than 1,600 women, published in the Journal of Women's Health & Gender-Based Medicine, found that chasteberry reduced PMS-related depression, cravings, bloating, and anxiety in 93 percent of women. The typical daily dose is 200-400 mg of a standardized extract.
Other Remedies: The herb black cohosh and the healthy fats found in fish, flax seed, and evening primrose oils can also help minimize PMS symptoms.
Pueraria mirifica (PM): PM works on estrogen receptors to balance the hormone. If levels of estrogen are too low, it intensifies its effect, and if levels are too high, it reduces its effect. Multiple studies, such as one published in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, show that PM can relieve hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and other symptoms, and is just as effective as-but safer than-conventional estrogen replacement therapy.
According to Gary Gordon, MD, an integrative physician, the optimum daily dosage is 2 mg per kg of body weight. Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2, and then multiply that number by 2. For example: a 150-pound woman would need 136 mg of PM daily. We like: Solgar Platinum Edition PM PhytoGen Complex.
Black Cohosh: In one study, published in Advances in Therapy, black cohosh was more effective than Prozac in relieving hot flashes. And a combination of black cohosh and St. John's wort proved effective for depression in a study of 301 women.In another study, published in the journal Maturitas, black cohosh was as effective as prescription estrogen, but safer-because, unlike prescription estrogen, the herb doesn't appear to raise estrogen levels in the breasts or uterus, but only in the brain and vagina. Black cohosh has not been shown to increase risk for female cancers. A usual dosage is 20 mg of standardized extract, once or twice daily.
Progesterone Cream: Low progesterone levels can cause the same types of symptoms as low estrogen. The most common dosage is 20 mg daily, but follow label instructions and/or directions from a practitioner when using progesterone cream. An excellent resource for learning more about progesterone, as well as bioidentical hormones, is available online at womeninbalance.org.
Beware the Calcium Myth
Calcium alone can't keep bones healthy. And, according to Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, author of The Magnesium Miracle, calcium can also harm you by being deposited in the wrong places, such as arteries (leading to blockage) and kidneys (where it can cause kidney stones). Vitamin D and magnesium are essential to ensure that calcium is used in bones. Dean recommends getting equal amounts of calcium and magnesium, no more than 500 mg of each in one dose. Calcium-rich dairy products and other foods with added calcium, such as orange juice, typically create a deficit of magnesium, and magnesium supplements are necessary to correct the imbalance. Loose stools indicate too much magnesium but just short of that point is the ideal dosage. For women, we like: Natural Vitality Osteo Calm Bone Health Support.
it relieved pain during sex and helped to restore the vaginal lining. Vitamin E is also thought to help when used topically-squeeze out the oil from a vitamin E capsule and apply the area to relieve dryness.
The following supplements can play an important role in warding off cancer.
Cruciferous Extracts: Cruciferous vegetables contain indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which may help prevent breast, cervical, and uterine cancers. In our bodies, I3C is converted into DIM (diindolylmethane). Both forms are available in supplements.In addition to helping decrease cancer risk, I3C and DIM have also been shown to help with hormonal balance, including PMS and menopause symptom relief.
Calcium D-Glucarate: Different from the mineral calcium, calcium d-glucarate helps eliminate toxins, especially the carcinogenic forms of estrogen present in environmental pollutants. It's found in oranges, apples, and cruciferous vegetables, in calcium d-glucarate supplements, and in detox formulas.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Cranberry: As a juice or supplement, cranberry helps prevent UTIs by stopping harmful bacteria from attaching to the walls of the bladder and urinary tract. For prevention, drink at least 3 oz. of pure cranberry juice daily, or take an extract.
Other Remedy: D-mannose helps prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall for UTI prevention and treatment.
Probiotics: Yeast infections occur when your body doesn't have enough friendly bacteria, or probiotics. Probiotic supplements help prevent and treat these infections by keeping vaginal bacteria in balance.
Other Remedies: As a treatment for yeast infections, vaginal suppositories of tea tree oil fight harmful bacteria without destroying beneficial ones. Also consider a combination formula for yeast. We like: NOW Foods Candida Clear.
Pumpkin Seed Oil: A proprietary form of pumpkin seed oil from Austria, Cucurbita pepo, calms bladder irritation and helps strengthen bladder muscles. A typical dose is 1,000 mg, three to four times daily.