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Healthy Guidelines for Women's Health Month
by Dave Foreman
The month of May is all about women! Not only is it Mother’s Day, but it’s also Women’s Health Month – so it’s a perfect time to focus on women’s health. The following will focus briefly on the basics of supporting general health through the many different stages of womanhood. The foundation of women’s health should be relatively clear – but for many, it isn’t that simple. You need to support the basics of health, address potential pitfalls, and prepare for the future. After you accomplish these three things, you can then address some of the other health issues that may not be specific just to women’s health.
With age, the demands of life and the changes in the body will gradually change your foundational requirements. I always start with the “4 Pillars of Great Health”: Supplementation, Diet, Exercise and Mental Health. The dietary, physical and mental aspects are basically the same as we age, but supplementation will change.
When it comes to supplementation for women, I always recommend starting with a good multi-vitamin and mineral formula (MVI). If you are still having your period, then I recommend that your MVI contain iron. Otherwise, I wouldn’t use a MVI with iron unless advised by your health care provider. There are several vitamin lines (New Chapter and Enzymatic Therapy) that specifically address the needs of women and are even broken down by the age of a woman.
Many women have concerns about osteoporosis – and rightly so. (Men should also be concerned.) A Naturopathic Doctor friend of mine always says that you are “putting bone in the bank” up until you are 18 years old. After that, you are trying to maintain, or not lose what you already have built. Osteoporosis is not an “old lady’s” disease. You need to prepare today for tomorrow. Weight bearing activities (like walking, for the lower body; and lifting, for the upper body) are the number one thing you can do to prevent this horrible disease. Aside from this, supplementing with calcium is important and has been readily accepted as an important supplement. What often gets overlooked are the other key nutrients needed to support bone health. I never recommend taking any one mineral by itself. Minerals work either together, or against each other, and therefore should be taken in a balanced blend. Some of the newer coral mineral supplements will provide you with a natural blend of all minerals, including the trace minerals that are not common in the American diet. Vitamin D may be the next most - if not the most - important supplement for bone health. You need vitamin D to be able to absorb your calcium. Other key players in bone health are magnesium, copper, zinc and fish oil. I find it necessary to use all of these to maintain healthy bone structure. You should seek out a calcium supplement that is also a multiple mineral and contains vitamin D. The fish oil I use and recommend is Coromega ®. This is third party-tested to not contain contaminants like heavy metals and pesticides.
If you’d like more in-depth information, read the book The Osteoporosis Solution, by Carl Germano, RD, CNS, LDN, and William Cabot, MD – it’s one of my favorites. This book addresses both the traditional “solutions” and the natural answers to dealing with bone health.
What about hormonal support? This is where things get sort of sketchy. Depending on your needs, what works for one woman may not work for the other. It is for this reason I will usually default to combination products (the shotgun approach) to address hormone balancing. Herbs like dong quai, black cohosh, red clover and vitex are the ones most commonly used for hormonal support. Dong quai is a female organ tonic (supporting good overall health), while black cohosh is more for estrogen support, and vitex is more for progesterone support. Depending on your needs - PMS, menopause - your supplement suggestions will change.
Finally, the point needs to be made that “you are what you eat” - and that includes your supplements. Too many times, women focus on taking care of the external appearance by applying cosmetics, creams, lotions, etc. To achieve the best look outside, you really need to take care of the inside (see my article, “Is Beauty Only Skin Deep?”, March/April 2006 newsletter). Yes, using high quality skin care products can also enhance the appearance, but for long lasting and better results, using supplements for healthy hair, skin, and nails is the best approach.