[This is a guest blog post contribution by Brenna Wallace of Real Dietician. More information on Brenna is below.]
Maintaining a nutritious, healthy diet is essential for women to manage the common symptoms of the body’s natural maturation and function. When it comes to women’s health matters, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause and sexual activity are inevitable cycles most women experience and, therefore, can become remarkably affected by. As a woman, how educated and aware are you of the impact diet has in relation to these normal cycles?
Understanding what is happening in your body and how diet influences it (for the negative or positive) is a vital piece of the puzzle in managing women’s health issues as they occur.
4 Women’s Health Issues and How Nutrition Can Affect Them
1. Menstrual Cycle
About every 28 days women experience their menstrual cycle. While cramping and bloating, migraines and other symptoms associated with a woman’s period are seemingly inevitable, did you know that these monthly symptoms can be managed and even tamed through a proper diet?
Hormones produced during the menstrual cycle, such as estrogen and progesterone, are needed to maintain health. As a result, changes in hormone levels have a great impact on the menstrual cycle. Production of hormones is directly linked to diet, proving that diet does have an impact during your period. In order to avoid mood swings, bloating, cravings and other surprises your period may bring you, use diet to your advantage:
- Stay away from caffeine and alcohol. Doing so will avoid dehydration, a contributing factor to depleted hydration levels during blood loss.
- Get necessary vitamins through whole foods. Calcium and vitamin D consumption can reduce menstrual distress. Foods rich in Vitamin D and calcium include tuna, fortified juices, leafy greens, and dairy products. If you find you’re not able to eat these foods as much as you’d like, you can try supplementing.
- Avoid foods with high sodium content. According to the FDA, increased amounts of sodium raise blood pressure and poses health risks. In order to retain less water and feel less bloated, increase your intake of potassium, found in bananas, oranges and tomatoes, to help balance sodium consumption by lowering blood pressure and move your body. It is important to get your body moving to keep blood, endorphins, and dopamine flowing to curb even the worst PMS.
Everything an expecting mom consumes during her pregnancy can affect the developing baby’s health. It’s a popular adage that pregnant women believe they should “eat for two,” however, the average pregnancy actually only requires about 300 extra calories during the second trimester and 400 during the third. Overeating puts mom at risk for developing gestational diabetes, preterm delivery, and preeclampsia. When pregnant, avoiding alcohol, caffeine and junk foods that are processed with excess salt and sugar, and getting adequate iron, calcium and folate are important for both mom and the baby’s health because they do not contain the ideal nutrients that the developing fetus needs to properly grow. Eating a nutritiously balanced diet is the best way to live your pregnancy to the healthiest extent. When experiencing even the worst pregnancy symptoms, eatright.org recommends these nutritional tips to maintain liveliness:
- Heartburn/indigestion: Avoid spicy foods and lying down for too long after a meal as spicy foods can cause heartburn and indigestion and increased resting time will decrease blood circulation. Be sure to maintain proper posture throughout the day to ensure digestion is operative.
- Nausea: Keep hydrated to fend off symptoms of nausea as it is vital to stay hydrated to support the growing fetus. Keep blood sugar level by consuming small, frequent meals and sipping on water or warm ginger or peppermint tea.
- Gas, Bloating and Constipation: Don’t overdo it on fiber intake. Consume the FDA recommend amount of 25 grams and avoid excess beans as well as other gassy foods to curb symptoms of constipation and bloating.
At the average age of 51, women’s reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone are less productive. Their levels decrease, causing menstrual cycles to increase in length from cycle to cycle and eventually lead to your final period. Menopausal women can experience negative symptoms such as midsection weight gain and mood changes, and, most commonly, hot flashes and night sweats. Throughout menopausal hormone imbalances, maintaining a balanced diet during is essential:
- The North American Menopause Society recommends taking a calcium supplement or making sure to include extra calcium in your diet. This is because aging and menopause cause women to lose bone mass more quickly increasing risk of osteoporosis. Including a Vitamin D supplement is crucial as well due to decreased vitamin absorption during menopause.
- A study published by the NIH found that women who avoided foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt during menopause gained less weight around their stomach and middle section. Along with these limitations, avoid alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods, as they may worsen hot flashes and night sweats.
4. Sex Life
Libido, a reference to sex drive and desire, is directly influenced by diet. A balanced diet ensures appropriate, natural sexual function. Being overweight or living by an unhealthy lifestyle diminishes sexual drive. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help regulate sex hormones and increase your desire.
- Avoid fried foods with trans fat. Eat good fats found in foods such as avocados, nuts, fish and olive oil. Good fats will increase hormone production of estrogen and even dopamine.
- Add Chili peppers, ginger, garlic, avocados and even dark chocolate. These foods can increase blood flow to the genitals, helping raise one’s libido. Be sure to add these spices to your meals. You may even be able to include a small portion of dark chocolate to your diet as a daily treat!
- Try Soy, legumes, nuts, apples, celery and cherries. These foods have been studied and proven to contain estrogen-affecting isoflavones. Including these foods in your diet will be beneficial for vaginal lubrication, easing sexual discomfort.
How WellnessFX Can Help
WellnessFX created a Women’s Health Package, an extensive panel of women’s health-focused biomarkers. It’s not just for fertility – the panel can also test for imbalances in the hormones discussed here that affect factors like sleep, energy, longevity, and mood.
About Brenna Wallace
Brenna is an intern and writer for Real Dietitian, a virtual nutritional care company empowering better health through better nutrition by simplifying access to a registered dietitian. By prescribing real, whole foods, Real Dietitian enables clients to experience optimal health and energy. Brenna is passionate in all aspects of health and well being through proper nutrition. She aims to promote healthy lifestyles to those in need by blogging, volunteering at hospitals and teaching healthy cooking and exercise classes at community schools, fitness centers and hospitals. You can follow her blog at https://brennarwallace.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.