Women’s Midlife Nutrition
Effects of Hormones on Nutritional Needs of Women
Women experience several different hormonal phases throughout their lives that significantly affect their bodies. Each woman passes through the following major phases:
Puberty and the onset of menses; pregnancy and motherhood; and menopause and the end of menses are distinct hormonal stages. The pharmaceutical industry offers a wide array of medications for each, but new studies suggest that nutritional supplements offer safe, inexpensive, and natural alternatives to these common age-old problems.
Do Midlife Woman Need Nutrtional Supplements and Herbs?
In current research, 61% of women agreed that they should take supplements formulated for their particular stage of life;
- 46% agreed that supplements could help to reduce the effects of menopause;
- 32% of women acknowledged using a product for menopause; and
- 64% of women were willing to try a natural product to prevent the common effects of menopause.
Given this growing interest in natural nutritional products, their use in two major conditions affecting women’s lives PMS and Menopause is very important for a large segment of our population.
Menopause commonly occurs between the ages of 40 and 55. It can occur suddenly (at any age) as a result of the surgical removal of the ovaries. The onset of menopause is accompanied by uncomfortable symptoms as hormonal imbalances occur.
Two thirds of American women suffer from hot flashes, especially in the two years after the onset of menopause. In addition, they may experience night sweats, insomnia, vaginal dryness and mood swings. After menopause, women are at increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has traditionally been the recommended treatment for most women for the relief of menopausal symptoms. Initially, estrogen replacement therapy was embraced by health practitioners, until it was discovered that it quadrupled the chances of getting uterine cancer.
Subsequently, progestin was added to estrogen to reduce the risk of cancer. The estrogen/progestin combination relieves hot flashes and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
The effect on the risk of heart disease has been less clear, and the American Heart Association issued a statement in 2001 that said it should not be used in women with existing heart disease because it may actually increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Then a disturbing finding was announced in 2002 wherein the Women’s Health Initiative study of HRT was quickly stopped due to an increased risk of breast cancer, stroke, blood clots and heart attacks.
Because of the risks and side effects of traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy, many women are now choosing alternative approaches to dealing with their menopausal symptom, including diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements.
Adding Soy to Your Diet
For many women, the addition of Soy to the diet with Soy supplements could provide symptomatic relief. One recent study found a link between Soy consumption and reduced hot flashes.
Soy may provide long term health benefits as well, as soy appears to protect against bone loss and provide cardiovascular protection. Soy contains phytoestrogens, or naturally occurring estrogen-like compounds.
These compounds are also found in other food sources such as legumes (pea- type vegetables) and foods containing lignin such as cereals and grains.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids also help to alleviate symptoms such as dry skin and provide long-term cardiovascular effects. In addition to supplements, the best sources of these omega 3 oils are fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines.
Vitamin B, Calcium and Vitamin D
Nutritional supplements such as Folic Acid and B complex vitamins, along with Calcium and Vitamin D provide long term benefits to menopausal women.
Black cohosh herb is a phytoestrogens source that has been shown to reduce many menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, night sweats, and anxiety.