Women's Health: The Balancing Act
By Dr. Holly Lucille
Wise dietary choices, exercise, stress...in today's world who has time? I'm just trying to get by and that will have to do for now. Is it really that important?
It is VERY important!
As women, we tend to look at our bodies as something to push into a dress for a class reunion or a bikini for an upcoming vacation instead of vessels we need as a foundation for our quality of life for the long run. Every biochemical action that happens in our body on a cellular level is fueled by a cofactor that is a vitamin, minerals, enzymes, and amino acids to keep us healthy and active. Even marginal nutritional deficiencies can limit our vitality, compromise our immunity, and damage our health. We must get almost all the vital nutrients we need from food and dietary supplements because we don't make them. Three health issues concerning women today include bone health, urinary tract health, and hormone balance.
Approximately 44 million Americans aged 50 and older have osteopenia (mild bone loss) or osteoporosis (severe bone loss), with women being affected about twice as often as men. Osteoporosis is the result of a lifetime of diet and lifestyle choices. With peak bone mass being determined around the age of 30 on average, it makes it even more important to begin a bone-building program as early as possible. Calcium, however, is only one of several nutrients critical to preserving adequate mineral mass, maintaining strong supporting structures, and promoting repair functions.
When choosing a dietary supplement, you need a calcium-based formula enriched with vitamins and minerals like vitamin K, boron, and vanadium that supplies at least 600 mg of calcium per day. For optimal absorption, pick a dietary supplement that provides a combination of calcium sources and also supplies at least 300 IU of vitamin D3 (150% RDA). Results of research indicate taking vitamin D with calcium results in better bone health than if either were taken alone. It's also a great idea to choose calcium-rich foods including dark green vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish canned with their bones (like sardines), and fortified products.
URINARY TRACT HEALTH
Women are especially prone to urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to their anatomy. One in five women develops a UTI during her lifetime. Specialized cells called uroepithelial cells are vital to the health of the urinary system, as they line the surface of the urinary tract and are able to stretch to accommodate changes in bladder size as it fills and releases urine.
Exactly how cranberry promotes urinary tract health is not completely understood. It was once believed that the beneficial effects were due to its ability to promote a more acidic pH in the urinary tract. More recent research suggests that compounds in cranberries may actually prevent bacteria from adhering to healthy uroepithelial cells in the bladder. Cranberries also contain antioxidants which may play a role in helping to prevent heart disease and certain cancers.
One study compared a placebo against both cranberry juice and cranberry tablets. The results showed that although both forms of cranberry significantly reduced the number of bladder infections, the tablets were more cost effective and also allowed you to avoid the high sugar content found in juice. You want to look for a dietary supplement with at least 600 mg of cranberry extract.
A woman's health is profoundly affected by her body's ability to maintain hormonal balance. The reason for a disruption in hormonal balance is often a result of estrogen dominance, an imbalance involving too much estrogen with corresponding lower levels of progesterone. Not only does this imbalance lead to stubborn weight gain and obesity, it is related to breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers and cervical dysplasia — a precancerous condition marked by changes in the cells of the cervix.
For too long, women have been told the only treatment for hormone-related health problems was additional hormones. PMS? Take the birth control pill. Hot flashes? Take hormone replacement therapy. No sex drive? Use progesterone cream. The answer isn't more hormones. The answer to correcting the balance and metabolism of hormones is a compound called diindolylmethane (DIM).
DIM is found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, etc.). These vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins and fiber, and play a significant role in cancer prevention. Scientists have only recently discovered that DIM provides other significant health benefits. DIM improves hormonal balance by shifting the way that estrogen is metabolized in your body. Taking supplements with DIM can result in increased amounts of estrogen being broken down into the "good" estrogen metabolites along with a simultaneous reduction in the "bad" estrogen metabolites. DIM is like the traffic police, re-routing traffic to the safer pathway, it neither increases or decreases estrogen—it merely directs how it is metabolized. This safer pathway can also help promote more efficient fat metabolism, antioxidant activity, and cancer prevention.
Most women need to take 120 mg of DIM complex, standardized to 25% DIM per dose, which equals the amount found in two pounds of raw broccoli. DIM is very hard to absorb so it needs to be in a specialized complex to improve bioavailability.
Following the basics of health and building a strong foundation can help you find balance in your health so you are not just getting through life, but living it to the fullest.