Do Women Have Special Nutritional Needs?
Definitely! Women’s bodies are vulnerable to several very real health challenges throughout their lifetime. A loss of bone strength and density, slow but steady weight gain from changing blood sugar levels and a vulnerability to urinary tract infections, just to name a few. So what’s going on here and what can be done nutritionally to prevent these three major issues?
Bone density or the strength of our bones is affected by a number of lifestyle factors and inherited tendencies. Osteoporosis is a disease which develops when the internal matrix of the bones starts to dissolve or break down. Osteoporosis is believed to be caused by many things such as genetics or a family history of osteoporosis, Asian or Caucasian descent, the number of pregnancies and children breast-fed, a low body-weight for height and/or a history of extreme dieting, thyroid disease, excessive use of coffee, alcohol or soft drinks, smoking or drug use, a low activity level or lack of exercise, a poor diet, a lack of calcium intake and other vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Hormones can also affect bone density. As estrogen decreases in a woman’s body after menopause the activity of hormones that naturally break down bones increases and the levels of active vitamin D which help build up bones decrease.
Supplementation with Calcium, Vitamin D, and other minerals has been shown to be effective at reducing bone loss in women. Combined with moderate amounts of a good quality protein, adequate exercise and a healthy lifestyle, bone loss can be slowed significantly.
Balancing Blood Sugar Is The Key to Staying Trim
Skipping meals or eating excessive amounts of carbohydrates is a guaranteed way to throw off your blood sugar levels and pack on the weight around your waist. Carbohydrates, even ‘healthy carbs’ like whole grains will turn into sugar in the body once they are consumed. Insulin is a blood sugar hormone and it is secreted by the body in proportion to the amount of carbohydrates consumed. Continually eating carbohydrates throughout the day – cereal for breakfast, a muffin for a snack, a sandwich at lunch, cookies for a snack and pasta for dinner – can lead to chronically elevated insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone that tells our body to store energy as fat, if it is not to be immediately used by the cells for energy. Lots of insulin circulating in the body means lots of fat storage.
Cinnamon, a popular spice for cookies and mulled wine has been shown by research to be very effective at reducing excess blood sugar levels. Reducing the amounts of carbohydrates consumed in a day, eating moderate amounts of good quality protein and taking adequate amounts of vitamin and minerals through food or supplementation along with cinnamon can ensure that insulin levels remain at normal levels – and your body-weight too!
Women Are Vulnerable to Bladder Infections or Cystitis
Bladder infections or cystitis are common in women and are responsible for nearly 10 million doctor visits in North America per year! Infections of this nature occur more frequently in women than men due to the close proximity of the rectum to the vagina in women and the short length of the female urethra. The risk of getting a bladder infection is affected by a number of factors such pregnancy, sexual intercourse, the use of a diaphragm, a latex allergy, high levels of insulin, low levels of water intake and yeast infections.
Cranberry is one of the best known herbal remedies for bladder infections. Cranberries acidify the urine which inhibits bacterial growth. Other components in cranberries are believed to discourage bacteria from clinging to the bladder walls. Cinnamon has also been shown in some Japanese studies to help kill bacteria and contribute to bladder health. Drinking plenty of water, taking a good quality probiotic and emptying the bladder after intercourse are some good basic steps for keeping the bladder healthy.