Top Supplement for Women of All Stages in Life

by Dr. Nadia Saleem ND | Follow on Twitter

Whether you deal with chronic stress, PCOS, infertility or menopause, these foods and supplements can help support hormonal health.

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WOMEN ARE COMPLEX, and our health issues deserve special consideration. We have a plethora of hormones that are constantly fluctuating, and imbalances in these leave us with all sorts of symptoms and conditions.

Most of us have resided our fates to having acne, painful periods, fertility issues and crazy menopausal symptoms, normalizing these symptoms to “just a part of being a woman”. However, we can all learn to break the cycle of suffering from these symptoms and to take charge of our bodies, and we can do it naturally.

In this blog we will be discussing some common conditions we treat women for and will give you tips on how to combat these naturally.

Generally for women’s health, age is only one factor of hormonal health.

Diet, environment and lifestyle habits also play a major role in how our hormones behave throughout our life. There are a few basic supplements and foods that are beneficial for all women of any age and any stage of life.

B-Complex

B-vitamins are required for red blood cell production, nerves, energy, stabilizing mood, reducing PMS symptoms and improving our cycles. We often don’t get enough B-vitamins, especially from our standard North American diets, and every woman can benefit immensely from adding a B-complex to their day.

Magnesium

Magnesium levels fluctuate during a woman’s cycle, and increasing our magnesium intake can help significantly with headaches, bloating, cramps, water-retention and sugar-cravings, all symptoms most women experience at some points of their lives.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, collard greens, and cabbage have compounds called indole-3-carbinol (I3C) which help to detoxify unwanted hormones from our bodies, improve hormonal balance, and reduce cancer risk. These should be added in raw or cooked forms every day to our diets.

How Stress Affects Women’s Health

Stress is one of the major culprits for hormonal issues women face. Our body responds to all types of stress in the same way, by pumping out cortisol from our adrenal glands.

While historically this was just what we needed to run from a predator, we get the same response in our body whether we are facing a deadline, running a marathon, worrying about finances or not sleeping enough. All of these cause the same “stress”.

Cortisol is naturally secreted in varying amounts at different times of the day.

However, long-term stress causes chronically elevated cortisol, which eventually gets depleted and leads to an inability of our body to fight stress. Many hormone systems are affected in the process, leading to:

  • blood sugar imbalance
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • sleep issues
  • fatigue
  • mood changes
  • weight gain
  • menstrual irregularities/infertility
  • poor immune system
  • decreases thyroid function

Basically, all hormone systems are affected by poorly controlled cortisol.

Are you taking these supplements?

  1. Ashwagandha supports the adrenal glands in combating stress, and supports healthy thyroid function.
  2. B-Vitamins, especially B5 & B6 help regulate cortisol, increase GABA, serotonin and dopamine, improving sleep and mood.
  3. Vitamin C is required for the formation of adrenal hormones including cortisol.
  4. Magnesium helps relax our muscles, is important for energy production and for healthy adrenal function.

How’s your diet?

  1. Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium and zinc, both of which are important for healthy immune function during periods of stress.
  2. Avocados are high in potassium, an extremely important mineral that is quickly depleted during times of stress.
  3. Green tea, especially matcha green tea, contains L-Theanine, a compound shown to increase relaxation while still keeping us alert.

How do you relax?

Investing in yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises is a great way to decrease stress and promote relaxation, both mentally and physically.

PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder that affects approximately 6-10% of Canadian women.

It causes the ovaries to produce excess male hormones (androgens), which commonly results in obesity, excess hair growth on face and body, acne, and problems with ovulation and menstrual cycles often leading to infertility.

PCOS is also associated with insulin-resistance and Type-2 Diabetes. High insulin levels and excess androgens are usually the key instigators of this condition. Signs and symptoms of PCOS can vary from woman to woman, and can also overlap with symptoms of other hormonal conditions such as thyroid dysfunction.

Stress, diet and lifestyle play a major part in developing Polycystic ovarian syndrome, and PCOS can be improved by taking charge of these areas of your life.

Are you taking these supplements?

  1. Chromium improves insulin sensitivity and helps to improve blood-sugar control.
  2. Vitamin D helps improve blood sugar control, and is often seen to be deficient in women with PCOS.
  3. Chaste Berry helps to establish a normal menstrual cycle and improve fertility in women with PCOS

How’s your diet?

  1. Eat a low carbohydrate diet focusing on complex carbohydrates such as quinoa, legumes, and oats (slow-cooked) can help keep your blood sugar stable and avoid insulin spikes
  2. Avoid refined carbohydrates & sugars as they are high on the glycemic index and cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin, leading to insulin resistance. Examples of these foods include all white flour products such as breads & pastas, white rice, and all foods containing white sugar.

Not all women present with all the classic symptoms of Polycystic ovarian syndrome. If you suspect you may have PCOS, it is very important to get the right testing done. Talk to your endocrinologist and your naturopathic doctor to see how you can be evaluated and treated for Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Fertility

Alarmingly, rates of infertility for both men and women are on the rise.

On one hand, our hormones are challenged every day with toxins in our food, environments and lifestyles choices. On the other hand, many women today are also staring families later in life, which can affect the ability to conceive.

Both of these factors together are contributing to more and more women having difficulty with conception. These factors not only affect our sex hormones, but other hormone systems in our body which our tightly linked to reproductive success, such as thyroid, insulin and cortisol.

Are you taking these supplements?

  1. Folic acid (Folate) is important for the prevention of neural tube defects and has been shown to be deficient in women experiencing infertility.
  2. Prenatal Multivitamin provides the minimum required vitamins and minerals essential for good health for mom and future baby. It also contains folic acid, iron, zinc and selenium, all important nutrients for good fertility health.
  3. Chaste Berry normalizes progesterone levels, improving fertility and reducing miscarriages.

How’s your diet?

  1. Fats in the form of wild fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil are great to decrease inflammation and improve hormonal function throughout the cycle. Avoid saturated fats as they will increase inflammation and disrupt hormones.
  2. Whole grains such as quinoa, brown and wild rice instead of refined wheat products help to stabilize blood sugar, and improve hormonal balance.
  3. Avoid Caffeine. Drinking coffee has been linked to decreased fertility, and should be avoided as much as possible. Reach for green teas and herbal teas instead.

Infertility is often associated with other endocrine disorders. If you are experiencing issues with fertility, or want to optimize your fertility, talk your naturopathic doctor today to see how we can help you achieve optimal fertility.

Menopause

Menopause, the cessation of menstruation for at least 1 year, usually occurs when a women enters her 50’s. The years leading up to menopause (the perimenopausal years) are often accompanied by:

  • hot flashes
  • sleep issues
  • memory loss
  • night sweats
  • vaginal dryness
  • mood swings
  • depression

These are common reasons women seek our help during this time. The symptoms arise from the natural decline and fluctuations in female hormones (estrogen & progesterone).

The conventional treatment is generally short-term hormone replacement therapy, which is not without its side effects. We are also now seeing women enter their menopausal years earlier, largely due to disruptions in natural hormonal balance from toxins in our food and environment.

It is entirely possible to improve hormonal balance and minimize these symptoms naturally without the use of hormone replacement therapy and make this transition in your life much more comfortable.

Are you taking these supplements?

  1. Vitamin E, in the form of mixed tocopherols can help with reduction of hot flashes, mood swings, anxiety, and vaginal dryness.
  2. Vitamin C, an important antioxidant, can help decrease inflammation and hot flashes in women.
  3. Gelatinized Maca can help boost energy, balance hormones, improve libido and provide relief of menopausal symptoms.

How’s your diet?

  1. Avoid non-organic dairy, meat & poultry as they contain hormones that wreak havoc on our natural hormonal systems.
  2. Fiber, in the form of fresh fruits, vegetables & whole grains helps to stabilize blood sugar, detoxify harmful hormones through the bowels and helps maintain a healthy weight.
  3. Healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, and wild fish contain Omega fatty acids, helping reduce inflammation, improve mood and overall hormonal balance.
  4. Phytoestrogenic foods such as ground flaxseed, lentils, oats, sesame, fennel, & organic fermented soy can help decrease inflammation, reduce hot flashes, and improve sleep.

Are you moving?

Exercise regularly, 30 minutes a day 3-4 times a week, with an emphasis on resistance training to prevent bone loss and decrease osteoporosis risk associated with menopause.

About the Author
Dr. Nadia Saleem ND

Dr. Nadia Saleem, ND graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and holds an Honours degree in Biological Sciences from York University. Nadia uses a strong evidence-based functional approach to medicine, helping her patients create long-lasting changes for optimal health. She sees a variety of conditions including hormonal health and chronic disease. She is active in her community as a writer, speaker, corporate wellness provider, and health advocate. She believes strongly in educating people, empowering them to achieve their best health and wellness. Dr. Nadia Saleem, ND is currently practicing in Mississauga and Richmond Hill area. Learn more about her at www.drnadiasaleem.com.