WOMEN’S REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH

by Dr. Mecherl Lim

MD (MA) Naturopath (ND), Holistic Kinesiology


I would like to overview 5 common women’s reproductive health problems and aim to assist you in making informed decisions about treatment options and to suggest ways you can incorporate practical preventive strategies into your lifestyle.

Fortunately, we live in a time when women’s  health issues are more openly discussed and it’s our hope you’ll perpetuate the wisdom gleaned from the following pages by sharing this with the women-men-in your life.

PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME (PMS) – A disorder associated with a cluster of symptoms is classed as a syndrome. About 90 percent of menstruating women experience mood changes, fluid buildup and various other problems two to 14 days before menstruating. These symptoms may disrupt everyday life in about 10 to 20 percent of women.

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS?

More than 100 different symptoms of PMS have been reported.

The most common:

  • Irritability or aggression,
  • Depression and low self-esteem,
  • Insomnia,
  • Sore breasts,
  • Abdominal bloating/constipation,
  • Headaches.
  • Food cravings and binge eating,
  • Back and muscle pain,
  • Pelvic discomfort &
  • Reduced concentration, “fuzzy” brain.

HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?

A diagnosis is based on the pattern of symptoms experienced by women.  Sometimes medical hormone test is used.

WHAT CAUSES IT?

Australian medical experts say the cause of PMS is unknown but there is some link to emotional, physical and hormonal factors.

POSSIBLE CAUSES INCLUDE :

  • Reproductive hormone imbalances may relate to relative levels of estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, and testosterone – or their breakdown products (metabolites). It is possible to have a normal level of a particular hormone but it may be blocked because it interacts with something else.
  • Cortisol, the stress hormone, increase blood sugar levels, which gives you a boost. However, when the levels decrease, you may feel tired and crave sugary foods.
  • Aldosterone, another adrenal hormone, affects the minerals  (electrolytes) and fluid balance.
  • Stress affects reproductive hormones, and your hormones may fluctuate more than “normal”. All changes are somewhat stressful and one theory is that when the levels of any hormone drop, you may experience “withdrawal”.
  • Other causes may be nutrient deficiencies or excesses, prostaglandin deficiencies or excesses, lowered natural opiates or neurotransmitters and live /intestinal malfunctions.

HOW THE DOCTORS TREAT IT :

Current medical options include hormone therapy, oral contraceptives, antiprostaglandins (for pain), antidepressants, diuretics, and bromocriptine. Natural progesterone is probably the safest medical option, but scientific trials show it’s no better than placebo (Wyatt K, Dimmock P, Jones, et al, “Efficacy of progesterone and progestogens in management of premenstrual syndrome: a systematic review” British Medical Journal 323 (2001) : 776-80.

In a scientific study of isoflavones (which are commonly isolated from red clover or soy) for periodic breast pain (cyclical mastalgia), after three months of treatment nine out of 12 women had less pain compared with two of six on placebo. The researchers stated the isoflavones act as weak anti-estrogen and have no side effects. I suggest a more economical way of getting a good dose of isoflavones is to have a quarter of a cup of (phyto Nutri) alfalfa, mung beans or other sprouts daily

THE HOLISTIC APPROACH HERBS :

  • Chast tree produces a significant decrease in PMS symptoms compared with placebo and this has been verified in the least 15 scientific trials. Most trials lasted about three months and used low dose, guaranteed potency or standard products. example Dr Mecherl SHE 18.
  • St John wort, if the main symptoms are depression.
  • Ginkgo, for reduced concentration and breast tenderness.
  • Feverfew, to help prevent headaches.

SUPPLEMENT :

  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and magnesium have helped women more than placebo, although vitamin B6 alone is not as successful as a chaste tree (She18). (Common doses are 50mg of pyridoxine and 20mg of magnesium.) *Evening primrose oil is helpful when women are deficient in essential fatty acids or have problems with oil metabolism.
  • Calcium maybe helpful but depends on diet and absorption. Some women consume six serves of dairy foods daily (equivalent to about 3000mg of calcium), which is excessive and likely to interfere with other nutrients as well as being too alkaline.
  • Taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement improves symptoms in 17 out of 23 women. This is not surprising because when women with PMS are tested, they invariably have low levels of a number of vitamins and minerals compared with women who have minimal or no PMS.

DIET

In a dietary trial for premenstrual symptoms (PMS) and period pain, 33 women followed a low-fat vegetarian diet for two menstrual cycles. The diet consisted of grains, vegetables, legumes and fruit with no restrictions on quantity. (Animal products, added oils, fried foods, avocados, olives, nuts, nut butter and seeds were eliminated.) The symptoms and pain fell significantly.

This diet would provide a high level of phytoestrogens and fiber and consequently, the body’s own estrogen uptake would be lowered and constipation/ bloating would be reduced. However, in the long term, it would cause vitamin B12 deficiency unless a supplement was taken. Eggs, lean meat, yogurt, olives, avocados, nuts, and seeds are health-enhancing foods that should be eaten regularly in moderate quantities (besides, they re enjoyable to eat and also allow you to socialize normally!).

Dietary surveys indicate women with PMS tend to eat significantly more junk food, notably sugary, fatty and salty foods. Perhaps this indicates a need for energy or consolation? On the other hand, dieting makes you hungry, lowers your blood sugar, your brain doesn’t work properly, you feel tired and you grab foods to give you quick relief. You need energy before you can achieve anything. Have a large mixed vegetable salad or soup with lunch and plenty of cooked vegetables at night to help fill you up and to avoid weight gain.

HOW CAN YOU PREVENT IT?

  • Have varied, non-restrictive diet using foods in a natural a state as possible.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates (sugars, white flour and so on) and fad diets.
  • Lack of essential fatty acids is linked to PMS, weight gain, excessive mood changes, lowered concentration, joint and muscle pain, food cravings, fatigue and breast tenderness. The best way to get essential fatty acids is from foods such as fish (especially herring, sardine, and salmon), nuts and seeds, virgin olive oil and avocado.
  • Don’t use foods for reward or consolation.  Find other strategies such as outings, music, aromatherapy, massage or books.
  • A study showed that jogging or walking about 2.5 kilometers daily for six months give significant reductions in fluid retention, breast tenderness, and the overall symptoms picture. If you are jogging or doing aerobic exercises, make sure you wear a firm support bra or you may aggravate breast soreness.

GOOD ADVICE :

A whole food diet (with occasional treats), regular exercise and enjoying your life are basic PMS treatments.

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