7 natural ways to good health

Our holistic health experts offer their top tips for common women’s health issues

Cystitis

Cystitis is a common type of urinary tract infection which many women have experienced at some point in their lives. Symptoms include pain or burning during urination and lower abdominal pain.

“Alkalising your urine can help to tackle cystitis by halving the growth rate of most bacteria,” says Anna Sawkins, managing director of Sweet Cures (www.sweet-cures.com).

Anna recommends taking steps to maintain your urine at a pH level of between 7.5 and 8. The best way to do this is through eating more alkalising foods, such as green vegetables. Anna adds: “Use home urinary test strips to monitor the pH levels of your urine and to test for the presence of nitrites (which indicate infection) and leukocytes (which indicate white blood cells and are indicative of infection or inflammation).”

Painful periods

“Painful periods are usually a sign of underlying inflammation,” says Helen Ford, a senior nutritionist with Dr Marilyn Glenville PhD, the UK’s leading nutritionist specialising in women’s health (www.marilynglenville.com).

“So, nutritionally, we need to eat more omega-3 rich foods which includes oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds, and limit saturated fats which can be pro-inflammatory. Saturated fats are in animal proteins, particularly red meat and cheese. Even too much omega-6 from nuts and seeds can be pro-inflammatory if eaten in excess. A simple finger prick test can measure levels of omega-3 and 6, which gives a ratio. This way the levels of omega-3 supplementation can be adjusted accordingly. There is a lot of evidence to show the anti-inflammatory benefit of eating ginger and turmeric so include these in your diet on a daily basis and take a good supplement containing these key ingredients.”

PMS

“The cause for PMS is simply that your hormones become unbalanced – your oestrogen levels increase and progesterone levels decrease,” explains Marianna Sulic, a nutritionist with Savant (www.savant-health.com).

“Common symptoms are irritability, depression, fluid retention, abdominal cramps, breast tenderness, headaches, sugar cravings and more. Studies show that the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in krill oil have been proven to significantly reduce dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) and the emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Other natural compounds that are commonly used alongside omega-3 oils and have beneficial properties with PMS symptoms are rosemary extract (rosmarinus officinalis) and the phytoestrogen isoflavone. Isoflavones from soy improve oestrogen detoxification, reducing symptoms of headaches and breast tenderness, while emerging research is showing that rosemary extract in humans has anti-depressive effects.”

Intimate dryness

“Intimate dryness affects around 40 per cent of women during and after the menopause and is often the result of the breakdown of mucous membranes as we age,” explains Dr David Mantle, a medical adviser with Pharma Nord (www.pharmanord.co.uk).

“Oestrogen levels also decline naturally during the menopause and this can cause changes in the vagina, leading to dryness and greater risk of infection. In a recent Pharma Nord survey, almost half of women (45 per cent) admitted to feeling uncomfortable talking to their GP about intimate dryness, but there are natural solutions that can help. Omega-7 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid which has been found to give relief from intimate dryness, as well as dry eyes and skin, by repairing and renewing our mucous membranes. If choosing a supplement, look for one containing the oil from both the pulp and seeds of the sea buckthorn berry to benefit from the widest range of nutrients. The SBA24 formula does just that and is produced using a special CO2 extraction process to avoid damaging the delicate omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, vitamins and carotenoids. It is the only formula to be used in European studies. A recent study took place involving 50 women with intimate dryness. 93 per cent felt that omega-7 helped their symptoms including burning, itching, dryness and painful sex, while 77 per cent said their vaginal dryness had either disappeared or become mild.”

Osteoporosis

“The word osteoporosis literally means ‘porous bones’; in other words, bones that are filled with tiny pores, or holes,” says Helen. “Our bones change constantly – breaking down and being rebuilt as part of the living process. If the rate of renewal does not equal the rate of breakdown, bone loss occurs. If this continues over years, the result is osteoporosis. Nutritionally we always think of calcium, which is important, but so is vitamin D, magnesium, zinc and boron. Eating a calcium-rich diet is important but not focusing just on dairy to provide this. Include tinned bony fish (sardines and salmon), sesame seeds, nuts and seeds and figs. Dark green vegetables are good too but avoid spinach because the oxalic acid inhibits calcium absorption. Magnesium is also found in many of these foods. Take a good bone support supplement which includes all of the above nutrients.”

Menopause

“Menopause is a time of change for the body, mind and emotions, and whenever there is change, there is challenge,” explains Nancy Lonsdorf, M.D., a specialist in Maharishi Ayurveda. “The more resilient your mind-body system is, the more easily you will glide through this transition. Balance of hormones is influenced by our daily routine, the food we eat, our stress levels and our exercise habits, to name a few things. And, generally speaking, the healthier and more balanced we are when we enter menopause, the more easily our body will adjust and the transition will be smooth.

Here are some tips from the ancient health system, Ayurveda, to help balance your system and alleviate symptoms of hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings:

  • Sleep early. Get to bed before 10pm for deeper, more restful sleep and documented improvement in mood and cognitive performance the next day.
  • Drink plenty of water during the day – room temperature to comfortably warm spring water for best results.
  • If you are having hot flashes and in general feel hotter than before the transition, treat yourself to half a cup of cooling aloe vera juice in the morning and afternoon/evening on an empty stomach, or after meals. This also helps elimination.
  • The best Ayurvedic herb overall for balancing hormones at this time is shatavari, or asparagus racemosus. Meaning ‘100 husbands,’ it is a potent, cooling and nourishing rejuvenative for women of any age and helps to chill hot flashes.
  • Deep breathing for 10 minutes twice a day can help alleviate hot flashes. Alternate nostril breathing of yoga, called pranayama, may also serve the same purpose, via balancing the autonomic nervous system.
  • Meditation, exercise, ground flaxseed (two tablespoons each morning) and Vitex, or Chaste Tree can also help keep symptoms at bay, with the latter possibly reducing the incidence or severity of excessive bleeding.

For more information on Maharishi Ayurveda visit www.maharishi.co.uk

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