In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, I would like to impart some tips on how women can support their health. Women often wear many hats including taking care of the health of everyone who lives under their roof. In this feat of daily multitasking, sometimes women prioritize their loved ones’ health over their own. On this day, let us remind women that they deserve to dedicate time and effort to their own health.
One way to show yourself self-love and respect is to make the effort to prepare healthy meals. If you follow Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, you will notice that in addition to a diet that includes daily vegetables, fruits, legumes, unprocessed grains, and healthy fats, it also includes supplements. Many women ask which supplements they should be taking, and the answer is individualized for each separate person based on their medical history, family medical history, blood work, and dietary intake.
The single most common supplement that I see women taking is Vitamin D3. Research has shown that the majority of adults are deficient in Vitamin D3. We are not getting adequate Vitamin D from sun exposure especially given our appropriate use of sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. Vitamin D helps the immune, bone, muscle, and nervous systems function properly, and research suggests that women with low levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of breast cancer.
The healthy Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, usually in a fish oil supplement, are also part of most women’s wellness programs. Fish oil has been shown to reduce inflammation and is healthy for the heart, blood vessels, and joints. On days that I have a full meal of fatty fish like wild salmon, I let myself skip my supplement.
Another heart-healthy supplement is CoQ10 which is especially important for women whose cholesterol is elevated. I have borderline cholesterol and a family history of hypercholesterolemia, so I make sure I take CoQ10. CoQ10 is an antioxidant that is also useful in supporting fertility and supporting cellular health.
In addition to eating plant sources of antioxidants in a rainbow of vegetables and fruits, I also take Antiox Restore several times a week to boost my immune system. Antiox Restore is a supplement that supports the production of glutathione, which is a master antioxidant important in immune health, detoxification, and cancer prevention. When I am under the weather, traveling, or have sick contacts, I take this supplement every day.
Probiotics are useful for supporting gut health and immune health. If you struggle to have a regular bowel movement, have frequent gut symptoms, or tend to get frequent urinary tract infections, then the use of probiotics can help to optimize the good bacteria in your microbiome. A healthy microbiome is involved in optimal blood sugar and fat metabolism in addition to helping to keep us healthy.
As women approach the transitional time of perimenopause, their hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone fluctuate which can lead to symptoms as varied as changes in mood, energy, sleep disturbance, and hot flashes. An adaptogenic plant called Maca has been used for centuries to help women with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. Fem Balance is an herbal blend that is a useful botanical approach for addressing symptoms of hormone imbalance.
For women with a predisposition to arthritis or joint pain, I recommend the use of curcumin, a substance in the spice turmeric. Curcumin blended with other anti-inflammatory plants like ginger, boswellia, and green tea is a useful botanical approach for reducing inflammation. I use this blend (Infla-Regulator) when I am sore after exercise or when my hand arthritis flares up.
Diet and supplements are only one piece of the wellness puzzle. Women also need to carve out time to exercise, at least 150 minutes per week per the American College of Sports Medicine to include aerobic conditioning, resistance exercises, balance training, and stretching. Resistance exercises are especially important for osteoporosis prevention, since bone mineral density peaks at age 30. Getting adequate sleep is important for the immune system and brain function. Seeking out joy is equally important for women who are so good at making sure those around them are happy that sometimes they forget to seek joy for themselves.
by: Bren Boston, MD
Bren Boston MD is an Integrative Physician at Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine. You can make an appointment with her by calling 310-451-8880 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.