Let’s Talk about Women’s Health
What are we talking about when we say things like women’s health? More often than not it seems to be cloaked in mystery but in recent years, the conversation about women’s health and healthy periods has opened up. Healthy periods are achievable when there is openness and sharing of information for all involved starting as early as puberty and pre-menstruation age so that young girls are ready for the journey they are about to embark on.
Menstruation is a natural detox process that happens every month and its a wonderful opportunity to take it easy and pamper yourself. If some symptoms are uncomfortable or negative it may actually be a sign that something is out of balance.
Menstruation & its challenges
For some people its plain sailing when it comes to their experience of menstruation but for others it may not be so easy. Individual biochemistry is playing its part of course but some of the more challenging aspects to a person’s individual experience of their monthly menstrual cycle include PMS, painful or heavy periods, endometriosis, fibroids and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
Endometriosis is a chronic and painful disease that affects millions of women of reproductive age. It occurs when the endometrium, the lining of the uterus, starts to grow outside it. The tissue continues to behave the same way as uterine tissue, it will break apart and bleed at the end of a cycle, but the blood has nowhere to go. Surrounding areas may become inflamed creating scar tissues or lesions and this mostly affects the ovaries.
Fibroids are growths that are made up of muscle and connective tissue from the wall of the uterus. They can be single or in a cluster and vary in size from 1mm to 20 cm or even bigger in some cases. Each fibroid is unique – they grow inside and outside the uterus, some are asymptomatic but with others the symptoms include excessive or painful bleeding during your period, frequent urination, increased abdominal distention, sharp stabbing pains in the abdomen.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) occurs when the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of androgens. When a woman doesn’t make enough hormones necessary for ovulation the ovaries can develop many small cysts. These cysts make hormones called androgens and this can start the problem with a woman’s menstrual cycle.
Symptoms include irregular periods, ovaries that are large or have many cysts, excess body hair, weight gain especially around the abdomen, acne or skin tags, fertility issues.
Supplements & products that may help maintain a healthy reproductive system
BioCare Evening Primrose Oil is a natural source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA) an omega-6 fatty acid. Each capsule contains over 1000mg of pure evening primrose oil with 10mg of antioxidant vitamin E and can be used to support hormonal balance and skin health.
Cleanmarine for Women capsules are a strong Omega 3, Phytonutrient and Vitamin blend (with no fishy repeat) designed specifically for women 15-40 years to give nutritional support especially around the time of your period. The combination of Omega 3, Rosemary Oil and Soy Isoflavones along with a range of vitamins provide extra nutritional support for menstruating women. It also aids with the regulation of hormonal activity which in turn helps with normal psychological function.
A Vogel Agnus Castus is used for hormonal balance in women. This product may be useful for PMS and period pain relief. It is sometimes used by menopausal women and may help with heavy, frequent periods, heavy flow, tender breasts, fluid retention and nervous tension or irritability.
Solgar Female Multiple tablets have been formulated to support women’s daily wellbeing with 27 nutrients that promote hormonal balance and boost the immune system.
Pukka Wholistic Shatavari is an organic herbal blend to support women’s health, balance hormones and ease cramping. It may help with gut health by improving enzyme activity and preventing stomach discomfort and unnecessary bloating. And it’s a great Immune booster too.
The leading manufacturer of menstrual cups since 1987, the Moon Cup is made from the highest quality medical-grade silicone and is completely safe to use. It is FDA-certified, hypoallergenic, dye-free, BPA-free, Phthalate-free, latex-free, non-porous and is very easy to clean.
It lasts for years and years, the Moon Cup is the most environmentally friendly and the most economical sanitary product around.
Natracare products are certified organic cotton sanitary pads and tampons and they are free from rayon, plastics, perfumes or dyes and chlorine. These products are recommended by gynaecologists and are suitable for those with sensitive skin or allergies. Natracare helps reduce your exposure to synthetic materials and ingredients often found in conventional period products and also helps reduce your dependency on plastics to solve your period problems.
Books, blogs and bits & bobs
Fix Your Period: Six Weeks to Life Long Hormone Balance by Nicole Jardim also known as The Period Girl on social media and co-host of the podcast The Period Party. This book just came out in 2020 and it claims that within 6 weeks you can banish bloating, conquer cramps, manage moodiness and ignite lasting hormonal balance.
Jardim is a certified women’s health coach and has combined her years of research and coaching to write a book which explains that periods aren’t a nuisance or a ‘curse’. Periods are an opportunity for a woman to listen to her body and de-code what it is trying to tell her.
It has been lauded as the one of the best books ever written about the complexities of the female body. The book is like an older sister with a medical degree who is there for you in an accessible and relevant way whenever you want some clarity on an issue.
Presented in three sections, the book covers anatomy and physiology, a 6-week programme on how to cope with a challenging period and a final section on living with your period long term. It’s one of the few books that explores the relationship between the endocrine system and the reproductive system in regulating menstruation.
The book contains lots of simple, natural and easy to follow solutions including DIY Castor Oil packs, vaginal steaming and seed cycling. One criticism of the book is that the meal section of the book has very few vegetarian options and is a little meat heavy.
This book is an ideal resource particularly for young adult women between 15 – 25 years of age.
Click here to find out more about Nicole Jardim
Ex-pro surfer and open water swimmer (and former North Clare resident) Sophie Hellyer has been involved with City to Sea in the UK, the environmental campaign that is trying to promote plastic free periods. Period products are the fifth most common item found on Europe’s beaches and in some cases more widespread than single use coffee cups, cutlery or straws.
The 2019 Oscar winning documentary short called Period. End of Sentence had producers Melissa Berton and Rayka Zehtabchi in tears as they received their award with Zehtabchi remarking at the time “I’m not crying because I’m on my period or anything,” and then went on to say “I just can’t believe a film about menstruation won an Oscar!” The film is about the stigma attached to menstruation and is set in a rural village in India.
It follows the story of a group of women who lead a quiet revolution and make low cost sanitary pads on a new machine that was installed in the village striving towards better health and financial independence.
This 26 minute documentary is currently on Netflix and you can click here to watch the trailer.