A holistic approach to women's health could solve everything from acne to mood swings.
Female hormones can rock a woman's body. Their effects range from causing acne and bad moods in the younger years, to anxiety, ovulation irregularities, hot flushes and even reduced sleep as a woman ages. Natural nutrients are worth trying to bring your system back into "balance", according to Dr Helen Smith from the Auckland Holistic Centre in Freemans Bay.
She'll be talking about holistic approaches to women's health issues as one of a line-up of speakers at the Healthy Living Show from November 2-4 at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland. She'll tackle topics including energy problems, hormonal problems, mood swings, dietary therapy and nutritional medicine. The event boasts other top speakers including Bob Proctor, Dr Libby Weaver and Professor Lloyd Geering, as well as more than 100 exhibitors.
Smith is a trained GP and describes herself as having an interest in female hormones and nutrition. She says in the 1950s housewives going through menopause were dosed up on powerful drugs such as valium. Since then, options for relief have improved.
She believes in a medical approach when needed, but also in natural remedies, many of which are backed by international research. She has checked the "biochemistry details" of the things she recommends. "There are some natural nutrients you can take and they can make nice improvements on things like mood and energy. They're worth giving a go," says Dr Smith.
She shares some of her remedies here:
* 12-14-years: This is generally when puberty strikes, the ovaries start to ovulate and menstruation begins. This in turn can bring on mood swings and acne. Smith says diet can make a difference and encouraging girls in this age bracket to eat plenty of fish, protein, vegetables and to cut back on preservatives, bad fats and too much sugar. Girls can also eat oysters which are high in zinc, or take a zinc tablet recommended by a professional. Other sources of zinc include pumpkin and sunflower seeds, which are readily available in the supermarket. Selenium, found in the likes of brazil nuts and in oily fish such as salmon, could also help those tortured by acne.
* 30s to early 40s: Women can have problems with premenstrual irritability and anxiety. "They can turn into another personality the week before their period," says the GP, who recommends cutting back on coffee and alcohol during this week and perhaps taking B6 vitamins, evening primrose oil and zinc. For those suffering badly from the symptoms, sometimes a professional can recommend a progesterone cream. This will particularly help with sleep and to induce "calm". Those trying for a baby can try herbs such as chaste tree, a purple herb that originates from the Mediterranean, which can help ovulation and with premenstrual symptoms.
* Late 40s and 50s: This is when the big M can hit, menopause, when the ovaries "are shutting off". Smith says progesterone capsules or cream can help with the many side effects of menopause. Testosterone cream can assist if you have a low libido. Magnesium can aid sleep "and is a natural tranquilliser" and herbs such as black cohosh or natural hormonal cream can tackle hot flushes. You can target "that wired feeling" with progesterone cream or magnesium. Smith says drinking fenugreek and sage teas can sometimes help with those hot flushes. Some hormone creams can be an option if a doctor thinks they're safe and there's no history of breast cancer in the family.
* Older age: Helen says Vitamin D can help some women with fragile bones and melatonin can aid sleep.