Women’s Health

When striving for optimum health there are so many factors to consider for women. Lifestyle today is fast passed and action packed whether it’s working full time with a family, juggling multiple jobs or devoting time and energy to important projects. More and more is demanded of our time and it is so important to ensure we stay as healthy as possible.

When we talk of optimum health it encompasses all aspects of health; physical, emotional, hormonal and importantly our wellbeing, which is tied up with the environment we live in and how our spirit responds to it. “The state of women’s health is indeed completely tied up with the culture in which she lives and her position within it, as well as the way she lives her life as an individual”. (Dr Christiane Northrup)

Physical Health is a fine dance to maintain. Good diet, exercise and plenty of sleep is key in maintaining a healthy nervous system, endocrine system which regulates the hormones and the immune system. Emotional health has a direct impact on physical health; stress reduces the body’s ability to respond to illness. When we feel overwhelmed emotionally we are more likely to come down with bugs or find difficult situations more stressful than usual.

To complicate matters we have the ebb and flow of the menstrual cycle to negotiate with work and family life. For some this can be a very difficult time with PMS, pain, irregular cycles or more severe symptoms such as polycystic ovaries, fibroids or endometriosis. Working with our cyclical nature rather than against it can immediately reduce stress levels and improve mood, as well as support hormonal health. This means honouring our energy levels rather than having more caffeine to keep going, and planning as best as possible in advance to slow down and rest more when you have your period, even a simple early night, a long soak in the bath or some quite time with your feet up. Busy Mums can create time in their schedule too, even if it is just an hour of truly ‘You’ time!

Remedies to support the menstrual cycle are varied and plentiful, a few are listed below ~

Herbs and Supplements

Vitamin B Complex – Crucial for supporting the nervous system and the hormones whilst reducing stress and fatigue. B6 is especially helpful for women and is used to help with anxiety and depression. Importantly B6 is helpful for those taking the pill as they commonly suffer with B6 deficiencies. B12 also aids the absorption of iron.

Magnesium ~ Helpful for cramps and for a relaxing the muscular system. It helps reduce anxiety and is an important mineral for balance of the nervous system and the body as a whole.

Agnus Castus ~ Also known as Chaste Berry or Vitex, this is an efficient herb that balances the hormonal system by enhancing progesterone production. Studies in PMS sufferers using Agnus Castus have shown up to ninety percent having improvement or resolution of symptoms. (Viridian). Due to its ability to improve ovum (egg) maturation and enhance progesterone, it has been used to support women effectively with fertility issues. It is also beneficial for hormonal acne.

Motherwort ~ This herb can bring on delayed or suppressed menstrual flow, especially when someone is anxious and tense. It strengthens and relaxes the uterine muscles, eases uterine cramping. It is a good relaxant, it is considered a herb of the heart and it is soothing and cooling.

Skullcap ~ A nervine tonic which works well as a relaxant and antispasmodic, useful for menstrual cramps, stress and anxiety. It is often in sleep formulas for its soothing support with insomnia. It helps with delayed menstruation.

Castor Oil ~ Using this oil as a topical pack can be extremely beneficial in removing toxins from the system. It is anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant oil which has been used for centuries for its therapeutic and medicinal benefits. It is believed that most of castor oil’s benefits are derived from its high concentration of unsaturated fatty acids. It supports the lymphatic system and supports the immune system. It helps with excessive bleeding and many purport it effective in dissolving cysts, fibroids and for treating endometriosis. Must not be used if pregnant or after ovulation if trying to conceive.

Homoeopathics 6c or 30c

Mag Phos ~ As a homoeopathic remedy works well as an alternative to paracetamol. It is helpful with nerve pain and cramps, period pain as well as migraines. Pains are better for warmth or rubbing.

Sepia ~ A well-known women’s remedy that is helps with heavy flow, back pain or a sense of bearing down that extends into the legs. Symptoms are often accompanied with a sense of being over worked and overwhelmed by responsibility. Women may suffer with a low libido and symptoms overall are generally better for vigorous dance or movement.

Belladonna ~ Useful where there is hot red blood loss and painful cramps with lots of heat. Bearing down pains that are unbearable with violent throbbing. Useful for fever, dizziness and migraines.

Pulsatilla ~ Cutting pains, irregular periods, tearful; changeable and contradictory, can be quite shy and overly sensitive or easily hurt. Diarrhoea with menstruation. Symptoms are often better for fresh air.

Natrum Mur ~ Bloated stomach and swollen tender breasts, low abdominal pain. Can be emotionally low, negative or ‘moody’. Can take it out on others and prefers own company. Nervous ‘uptight’ holds emotions in, causing depression. Irregular periods.

Essential oils to use topically diluted in a base oil, or to be use in an oil burner

Clarysage ~ Calming to the nervous system, particularly in cases of depression, stress, insomnia and deep seated tension. It is a good tonic for the womb reducing cramping pain and scanty periods. Not to be used in pregnancy as it is used to bring on labour and to strengthen contractions. Regulates the menstrual cycles, and has been used to alleviate symptoms of menopause in past studies.

Lavender ~ A well know calming soothing, anti-inflammatory oil that helps to relive stress, anxiety and promotes sleep.

Roman Chamomile ~ calming, soothing, antispasmodic, balances emotions and eases tensions.

Rose ~ Comforting, soothing, nurturing and cooling for heated symptoms. A true feminine scent that feels supportive.

Sweet Marjoram ~ Useful as an antispasmodic and works very quickly when applied topically.

Fertility and reproductive health

Preparing for pregnancy and birth is a concern for some women, as finding supplemental advice can be a mine field when ensuring you are doing the best possible you and your baby. For those wishing to reach optimum health in preparation for conception there are also a number of ways of supporting the process. Fertility and reproductive health is large area and evermore important is diet, sleep and emotional health. Understanding the fullness of the menstrual cycle gifts you the knowledge of when you ovulate. Usually around day 14 the body gives clear signs that it is fertile and making love at these times increases the possibility of conception. Charting your cycle can help you to find when you ovulate.

It is important to ensure you take a good multivitamin that is made specifically for women preparing to conceive. Blends that are rich in Folic acid, Vitamin D and amino acids will ensure the best possible soil for your child to grow within. Healthy fats are crucial in pregnancy as they are the building blocks of the foetal brain and retina. Adequate consumption of Omega 3 is difficult even for women who eat fish. Research shows high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids may also play a role in determining the length of gestation and in preventing perinatal depression. Sadly these days, many fish are full of toxic mercury so it is important to supplement with pure Omega 3 to ensure you are not consuming high levels of mercury.

Herbs and Supplements

Agnus Castus ~ As mentioned above is a great hormone regulator and promotes progesterone and can support fertility.

Shatavari ~ This is a great Ayurvedic herb used as a specific women’s tonic. Known as the ‘herb of a hundred husbands’ it helps with stamina, libido, hormone regulation and also great for promoting lactation when breast feeding. This herb has more of an oestrogenic quality to it and can be beneficial in menopause too.

Finding remedies that are suitable for pregnancy can be tricky. It is always advisable to seek a qualified therapist’s advice and consult your GP before starting any treatment. Homoeopathy can serve the pregnant mother well, the medicine is safe to use for all and can also be used alongside conventional medicine.

Remedies for morning sickness

Homoeopathic
Ipecac ~ A fantastic remedy for unremitting nausea and repeated vomiting. Usually disgusted by food, experiences copious amounts of bile and can feel quite peevish. Symptoms can often be aggravated by warmth.

Nux Vomica ~ Nausea and irritable with a bilious sensation. Often nausea is worse for eating and in the morning; usually just nausea and no vomiting.

Arsenicum ~ Nausea with heart burn, brought on by the smell or sight of food. May be anxious or apprehensive.

Pulsatilla ~ Usually nausea comes on after eating – especially fatty rich foods. Symptoms can be worse in the evening. May feel sad or weepy or desire attention.

Herbs
Ginger ~ This herb is a well-known digestive ally. It can be used effectively to settle the stomach. Better to have as a tea rather than as sweets, the sugar can encourage the acidic bile production and exacerbate the symptoms.

Peppermint ~ A cooling herb that also aids digestion and helps with trapped wind or discomfort.

Fennel ~ Another digestive herb that is calming and soothing. Tea can be made with the seeds or the seeds can be chewed directly. This is a great herb for promoting breast milk too.

The process of labour and birth require the support of a trained professional when considering which herbs or remedies will be beneficial for pre labour, during and post labour. Arnica is very safe to use for bruising and any shock. Hypercal tincture works brilliantly to disinfect heal tears and wounds quickly and effortlessly.

The importance of self-care during motherhood is paramount. Many mums sacrifice everything for their children at their own expense wishing to do the best for their little ones. This can lead them to finding themselves, tired, run down or resentful. Honouring your cycle and creating some boundaries with a little you time, will support you in enjoying the process of raising children.

The Menopause

This is another big challenge for women. It is wise to remember that the menopause is a natural process that is not an illness per se. However physical symptoms can be unbearable and exhausting. Symptoms can vary from woman to woman and can have great impact on health and lifestyle. Hot flushes and night sweats, irritability and low mood, lowered libido, weight gain, joint pain, headaches; all are symptoms of the fluctuating hormones that the menopause brings. If you consider the process of puberty and how long it takes to transition through, it is similar process of the menstrual cycle slowing down and eventually halting. It can cause upset with uncertainty of when the next period will come again or ‘will it ever stop’. Many women feel glad when the menstrual cycle has stopped, but may also feel in conflict too with the sense of losing youth and their fertility. Some women choose to use HRT as a means to stop the discomfort of symptoms. HRT however does not stop the menopause, it just puts women in a suspended animation, which means at some point when you discontinue the medication you will still experience the symptoms and go through the menopause

This fluctuation of hormones has a big effect on energy levels and many women find themselves shattered, especially if they are woken several times each night. This fatigue can sometimes be a chronic situation, and often women who have led very stressful lifestyles find their adrenal glands take the knock. When the adrenal function is lowered it can increase the uncomfortable symptoms. Women who are in the menopause or post menopause in some communities are highly valued for the life experience, wisdom and care for their community. Our western society today sadly idolises youthful beauty, however manufactured, over compassion and knowledge. Many women may feel lost at this time in life with the notion of aging and find it a huge challenge with the shifting symptoms to continue life as normal with family, work or in partnerships. Many women who find activities that bring joy and make their hearts sing experience renewed vigour and satisfaction, giving an increased sense of purpose.

Herbs and supplements to help with menopause

Sage ~ This is the most well-known herb for treating hot flushes and night sweats by boosting oestrogen. It may improve brain function similar to rosemary, reducing brain fog. It has antibiotic action and is useful for fevers and colds. This herb should not be used by pregnant women as it can stimulate the uterus and is often used to support weaning by reducing breast milk.

Red Clover ~ It is rich in isoflavones which enhance oestrogen production and promote good cholesterol which protects the brain and the cardiovascular system. This herb is supportive for anxiety or stress which helps to reduce depression.

Black Cohosh ~ One of the best-studied traditional herbs for menopause, black cohosh is used to help alleviate some symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes. Black cohosh seems to work by supporting and maintaining hormonal levels, which may lessen the severity of hot flashes.

Vitamin E ~ Antioxidant rich essential fatty acid that helps to alleviate menopausal symptoms especially hot flushes.

Vitamin C ~ Extensive research indicates that vitamin C strengthens blood vessel membranes and acts as a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants protect our tissues from deterioration and may help slow the aging process.

Hot flushes can create deficiencies with vitamins and minerals. It is important to supplement the diet with good levels of Vitamin D, magnesium, B Vitamins. Many women are often concerned about calcium levels with osteoarthritis when their hormone levels begin to drop. It is important to take any calcium supplements with magnesium, Vit D and for optimum absorption, Vitamin K.

Homoeopathic support for Menopause

Lachesis ~ This remedy is useful for hot flushes and heavy bleeding that have anger or irritability with a sense of jealousy or insecurity connected to picture. Symptoms are better for fresh air and worse for sleep, heat and alcohol. The character type is often very talkative.

Sepia ~ Great for hot flushes and low back pain. Mood can often be quite depressed or irritable with a low libido. Symptoms are often worse in the evening, extreme cold or humidity and symptoms often better for fresh air, sleep or vigorous exercise such as dancing.

Pulsatilla ~ Great for symptoms that are associated with sensitivity, changeable moods or someone who may feel they need reassurance. Hot flushes can be for fresh air and gentle exercise.

Sulphur ~ Brilliant for hot flushes especially when too hot in bed. Has to throw covers off and may feel itchy or inflamed during the flush.

The heat in the system is much greater for women moving through the menopause and sometimes increasing fluid intake and exercising more enables the body to release toxins effectively. If the body is overloaded with toxins in the system often excessive sweating can be experienced. Making sure you are well hydrated will help the body to excrete toxins out of the system, which may reduce hot flushes and excessive night sweats.

These are just a few remedies that can be used during the shifting phases of womanhood. Please speak to your GP or your Natural Medicine practioner to find the best remedy to suit your needs and to ensure there are no complications with medication you may already be taking.

——————————————————-

Download as a Word document here, Women’s health

By Clare Warren, Homeopath, Vibrational Essences Practitioner, Department Manager and Adviser at Wild Oats