The Top 5 Women’s Health Issues
Happy Women’s Day to all the strong and beautiful women. This is a day we celebrate being a woman or simply appreciate our female counterparts. It is a day we commemorate the cultural, political, socioeconomic achievements of women around the world. The female gender encompasses both strength and vulnerability, both courage and sacrifice and much more.
Many of the women I know who hold multiple roles – having leadership positions in companies, being a mother, a daughter, and a wife. It is no wonder by the time they reach their 40s or 50s, they are frequently burnout and exhausted as they are always taking care of the needs of others but neglecting their own health needs. So, this Women’s Day, I am highlighting the top 5 women’s health issues and the dietary nutrients and nutraceuticals to include.
1. Metabolic and weight issues
One major issue women face as they reach their 40s to 50s is that of poor metabolism leading to weight gain and metabolic issues like insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and blood pressure. For women facing weight issues or metabolic issues, it is recommended to check the metabolic blood biomarkers including insulin, glucose, lipid level and the thyroid panel. For the diet, maintain a low sugar and low carbohydrate diet, and include more phytonutrients and antioxidants in the diet from colorful fruits and vegetables, omega 3s from fatty fish and good monounsaturated fats from olive oil and nuts and seeds. Beneficial lifestyle changes include frequent cardio exercises for fat burn. Nutraceuticals which are helpful are berberine for sugar control, plant sterols and omega 3s for cholesterol control and magnesium and nitrates useful for controlling blood pressure. Resveratrol and Coenzyme Q10 are beneficial for maintaining good heart health.
2. Female hormone imbalance
As women go into their 40s, they will start to face symptoms of hormonal decline like frequent waking up at night, fluid retention and middle weight gain. The periods will also become less frequent and of a shorter duration as they go into the perimenopausal age at the end of the 40s. Around this time, hot flushes will start to appear and when it gets to menopause when estrogen drastically drops, the hot flushes may get worse and affect sleep at night. When symptoms of hormone deficiency start appearing in the 40s, it is useful to see the practitioner to screen for hormone deficiencies. With diet change and nutraceuticals, it is possible to delay or alleviate the symptoms of the rapid hormone decline. Eating a diet rich in polyphenols from various colorful fruits and vegetables, eating lots of good monounsaturated fats in the diet from nuts and seeds and omega 3s from fatty fish is helpful to fight inflammation and balance the hormones. Phytoestrogens from good organic soy products are helpful for preventing symptoms of estrogen decline. Evening primrose oil, curcumin, and omega 3s are nutraceuticals to include to help fight symptoms of inflammation.
3. Thyroid issues
In recent years, more and more young women have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroid disease which is a type of autoimmune thyroid problem. The symptoms of a sluggish thyroid include weight gain, hair loss, cold intolerance, and irregular periods. Many times, during a health screening, only a single FT4 or TSH is checked and this may appear normal but when the full thyroid panel is done, the thyroid antibodies will appear to be high. When thyroid antibodies are high, it is important to deal with any leaky gut that may be present, possible heavy metals toxicity or inflammation coming from food sensitivities. Stress affecting cortisol can also affect the thyroid function. A diet high in antioxidants is helpful for supporting the thyroid and iodine if there may be iodine deficiency. Stress reduction exercises are important for maintaining a healthy cortisol level or supplement with adrenal adaptogens like ashwagandha and rhodiola. Selenium, which is an antioxidant found in Brazil nuts, is helpful for controlling the thyroid antibodies.
As women get more successful in the workforce, they are pushing having children to a later age in their childbearing years. However, as a woman gets older, the number of fertile eggs start to decline. Besides this, women are now facing more difficulties getting pregnant due to high work stress, environmental toxins, and hormonal imbalance.
To optimize fertility, besides a well-balanced diet, it is also important to include antioxidants and good healthy fats to ensure hormone balance. Include more phytonutrients in the diet from colorful fruits and vegetables, and monounsaturated fats from avocados, nuts, and seeds.
When facing fertility issues, it is recommended to see the practitioner to screen for causes of infertility including hormone deficiencies, thyroid issues, endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Nutraceuticals which are helpful for enhancing antioxidants to improve eggs health include N-acetyl-cysteine, Vitamin C and E, glutathione and quercetin.
5. Breast cancer
It is becoming more common in recent years to hear of female family or friends having breast cancer. About 1 in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. It is more common in women more than age 50, but women of any age can have breast cancer. Prognosis is good only if it is caught early. Hence, it is recommended that women perform their own self-check regularly and see the GP to do breast screening regularly, especially pertinent for those who have strong family history of breast cancer and have genetic predisposition.
Women who are obese have a higher risk of breast cancer. Organic pollutants and xenoestrogens in the environment can mimic estrogen and increase the risk. Hence, to prevent breast cancer, start with eating a clean, well balanced diet high in antioxidants to fight oxidative damage in cells that can cause cancer. Buy organic, hormone-free meats to avoid any external hormone exposure. Avoid eating from plastic containers but instead choose glass bottles or more bio-degradable, BPA free materials. To enhance estrogen detoxification, eat a diet high in fiber and cruciferous vegetables, and include nutraceuticals like broccoli sprout extracts or DIM.
As we celebrate the day of women’s success and achievements, it is also a good time to remind us womenfolk to take a pause from our busy lifestyle and take a raincheck on our own health. Only when we keep our bodies healthy and feel more optimal, then will we be in a better position to take care of our families and achieve greater heights in our career.
This article is provided for educational and informational purposes only. The information is obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. The information does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis or treatment in general or for any specific condition and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. No doctor-patient relationship is established as a result of the provision of this information and disclaims any obligation, responsibility or liability of whatever nature for any loss, damage, costs or expenses (whether direct, indirect or consequential) arising from or in respect of this content.
Dr See Yunn Ho
Dr Ho See Yunn is a Physician with more than 15 years experience. She is board certified in both Singapore and Hong Kong and received her specialization in Family Medicine from Singapore. She also received her Advanced Fellowship in Functional and Nutritional Medicine and Peptide certification from the American Academy of Anti-Ageing and Regenerative Medicine. Dr Ho is trained and certified under Dr. Walsh’s advanced nutrient therapy protocols that use personalized nutrient treatment strategies to treat patients with behavior disorders, ADHD, autism, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease.