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The Best Nourished Ingredients For Women Through The Life Stages


Life is a magical process. From the rapid development of baby’s first year and progress into childhood time and eventually reach stages where we started to observe gradual changes in our body both physically and psychologically.

Grasping the concept of life stages is helpful as it gives a better understanding of our strengths and vulnerabilities along the way as well as our different goals in achieving health needs.

Here, we look into the major health concerns in three main stages of a woman’s life – adolescence, adulthood and senescence as well as which supplements or herbs can help encounter common health conditions arise in each stage.

 

ADOLESCENCE

Teenage girl experiences tremendous changes in both physical and psychological during puberty. Most girls experience their first menstruation at the age between 10 and 15 years old. During this stage, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is one of the most commonly seen conditions and it is often continued till the age of 30 to 40 years old or even before menopause. Some of the symptoms of PMS including abdominal pain and bloating, headache, diarrhoea, acne, swollen breasts, mood swings and tiredness. Although some only developed mild symptoms on several days before the start of menstruation and it gradually subsides once begin menstruation, some experienced severe PMS symptoms which affected their daily life. The actual cause of PMS is unknown. However, many researchers linked PMS symptoms to the changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle.1

Herbs that help in alleviating PMS symptoms:

  1. Fennel Seed

With its soft and feathery leaves, the fennel plant looks similar to dill. The plant and its seed have been widely used as a seasonal herb and medicinal ingredient. Fennel is exceptionally rich in dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals such as potassium, sodium, phosphorus and calcium.2 Apart from its high nutritional value, fennel has been suggested as an effective natural ingredient for relieving menstrual pain mainly through inhibition of uterus contraction.3,4

  1. Turmeric

Curcumin, the active compound in turmeric is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammation effects. A study involved 70 participants suffering from PMS concluded that supplementation of curcumin helps to weaken the severity of PMS symptoms possible through its anti-inflammatory effects.5

  1. Dong Quai

Dong Quai (angelica sinensis) has been a popular herb for female, especially among the Chinese population. It has long been used as a ‘blood-nourishing’ herb for gynaecological conditions such as PMS and perimenopausal syndrome.6 A study conducted in 2004 showed that patients treated with a concentrated dose of Dong Quai reported improvement in abdominal pain and normalized menstrual cycle.7

 

ADULTHOOD

Stepping into adulthood, women are going through important life changes in this stage. One may be working hard to build their career path, relationship or even planning on to start a family. Some may focus on self-improvement and self-care. Although the body is thought to be performing at its peak during this phase, the health concerns such as stressfulness, diminished energy levels, hormonal imbalance or worst, infertility are not uncommon.

The healing natural ingredients best suit for women in this stage:

  1. Ginseng

Many have opted for ginseng when comes to boosting energy levels and fight tiredness. Studies revealed ginseng ability to increase physical work capacity and reduce fatigue which related to its antioxidant properties.8-10

Ginseng has also presented as an ideal supplement for combating stress. Several studies proved that ginseng exerts potential benefits in stress-related depression and anxiety through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.11,12 A comparative study highlighted ginseng as a better option for the treatment of chronic stress when compared with ginkgo biloba.13

  1. Cranberry

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common issue faced by adult females due to women have shorter urethras that allow bacteria to ascend into the bladder. Apart from that, risk factors such as sexual intercourse, the use of contraception and antimicrobial resistance are some leading causes of UTI.14 Fortunately, the potentiality of cranberry, either in juice, tablet, capsule or powder form has been supported by numerous studies as a preventive approach against uncomplicated recurrent UTI among generally healthy women.15

  1. Royal Jelly

Hormonal imbalance may be one of the major causes lead to PMS and infertility among women. Active compounds found in royal jelly possess estrogenic effects that are beneficial in regulating hormone-related issues. A human study supported royal jelly improved PMS symptoms after 2 months of consumption.16 Also, an animal study proved royal jelly’s potential use in supporting fertility as it promoted follicular growth and development in ovaries through its antioxidant and estrogenic effects on the reproductive system to ameliorate the fertility parameters.17

  1. Dates

Pregnant and breastfeeding mother required delicate care when comes to nutrients intake and supplementation. The fruit of date palm trees, dates are one of the fruits that are safe to be consumed during pregnancy. Dates are loaded with minerals such as iron, selenium, magnesium, manganese and copper which are essential for healthy fetus development as well as to fulfil the nutrient requirement of mothers.18 With its rich source of fibre, dates are suitable to be consumed by pregnant women to prevent pregnancy-related constipation. There is also a study shown that consumption of date fruit in the last 4 weeks before labour significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labour which resulted in a more favourable delivery outcome.19

  1. Fenugreek

Insufficient milk supply is the most commonly reported reason for new mothers to cease breastfeeding early. Nowadays, awareness of the importance to exclusively breastfeed babies until the age of six months is strong. Hence, fenugreek has been the answer to many breastfeeding mothers to overcome the issue. Numbers of clinical reviews confirmed fenugreek to be effective in enhancing breast milk production during the early postpartum period. Many reported that the effects were seen as early in few hours to 1 or 2 days after consumption of fenugreek products with signs such as breast engorgement, increased volume of milk and infants’ perceived satisfaction.20-23

  1. Fennel Seed

Apart from fenugreek, fennel seeds are also one of the widely used herbal ingredients for improving breast milk production. Anethole, an active constituent found in fennel is likely to be responsible for the stimulation of milk flow. With the similar structure as dopamine (a chemical acts to inhibit secretion of the milk-producing hormone, prolactin), anethole might compete with dopamine at the receptor sites, thereby influencing the action of dopamine on prolactin.2

 

SENESCENCE

In this stage, women experience significant changes in between 5 years before and after menopause. The decreased female hormone, estrogen results in symptoms such as hot flashes, abnormal sweating, mood swings, difficulty in sleeping and physical fatigue. Dropped estrogen levels also linked with more severe underlying conditions which required medical care. Meaning to say that, women in this period are in higher risks of health issues including osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, sexual dysfunction, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and many others. Thus, healthy ageing by incorporating proper nutrition intake, supplementation and exercises are the keys to improve quality of life.

Several natural ingredients have shown to be beneficial for women entering menopausal age in many ways:

  1. Pueraria Mirifica

A medicinal plant found mainly in Thailand, Pueraria Mirifica contains a high amount of phytoestrogens such as miroestrol, coumestrol, daidzein and genistein. These estrogen-mimicking plant compounds are shown to be effective in controlling the abnormal amounts of lipid in postmenopausal women, thereby reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease.24 Apart from that, both human and animal studies proved that Pueraria Mirifica helps to alleviate menopausal symptoms and promote vaginal health by relieving vaginal dryness, improving signs of vaginal atrophy and restoring atrophic vaginal epithelium.25-27

  1. Kacip Fatimah

Labisia pumila also known as Kacip Fatimah is a popular herb among woman folk in Malaysia. The herb has been traditionally consumed by women for generations to ease childbirth and postpartum rejuvenating properties. A study demonstrated a positive effect of 6 months supplementation of Kacip Fatimah in reducing triglyceride values among postmenopausal women and suggested it to be a useful alternative way for maintaining cardiovascular health.28 Besides, number of studies supported the use of Kacip Fatimah in the prevention of osteoporosis mainly due to its phytoestrogenic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties.29-31

  1. Cordyceps

Naturally occurring Cordyceps is a wild fungus that has been used for centuries by the Chinese as a tonic for health preservation. Several clinical reviews highlighted the health benefits of Cordyceps on improving health-related quality of life in asthma patients, immune function enhancement, prevent bone loss caused by estrogen deficiency, enhancing exercise capacity and resistance to fatigue among healthy elderly.32-35 These findings signify Cordyceps as a promising source of anti-ageing agents.

  1. Ginseng

Apart from boosting energy levels and overcome tiredness, the phytoestrogens found in ginseng possesses potential benefits in improving sexual function in menopausal women.36,37 One of the study explained that the phytoestrogens in ginseng, with similar structures and functions as estrogen, may stimulate the production of estrogen and increases amounts of cells that respond to estrogen at the reproductive target tissues.38  

  1. Dong Quai

A study investigated the anti-osteoporotic effect of Dong Quai on ovariectomized rats shown a favourable result and suggested Dong Quai as an effective natural alternative for the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis. The same study relating the outcome with high contents of ferulic acid, a potent antioxidant in Dong Quai which reduced free radicals that might lead to the breakdown of bone.39  

  1. Royal Jelly

The considerable amounts of proteins and unique fatty acids such as E-10-hydroxy-2-decenoic acid (10HDA) and 10-hydroxydecanoic acid (10HDAA) found in royal jelly are responsible for numbers of health claims. A study conducted in Japan shown that the oral supplementation of royal jelly among postmenopausal women was effective in alleviating menopausal symptoms such as anxiety, backache, and lower back pain.40 Besides, clinical review supported royal jelly as a potential anti-ageing ingredient, which may promote healthspan and longevity due to the presence of a range of pharmacological activities offered by the active constituents in royal jelly.41

  1. Turmeric

Countless studies demonstrated the benefits of turmeric or curcumin in promoting human health. Anti-cancer and bone-protective effects of turmeric are worth highlighted concerning women’s wellness. Studies found that curcumin may be a potential alternative treatment for breast cancer as it displayed the ability to influence human breast cancer cell growth and invasion.42-44 Moreover, the curcuminoid in turmeric was also shown to be an ideal agent for the prevention of postmenopausal osteoporosis as it showed an ability to prevent bone loss in a study involved ovariectomized rats.45

  1. Grape Seed

By understanding the natural oxidation process in the human body from the previous article, oxidative stress is likely to be the culprit for numbers of medical conditions affecting the elderly. Supplementation of the grape seed extract can help reduce risks of such conditions. As a potent antioxidant, proanthocyanidin found in grape seed extract is effective in improving physical and psychological symptoms, increasing muscle mass and reducing blood pressure in women showing menopausal symptoms.46 The same beneficial impact on blood pressure was also demonstrated in other studies.47,48 Besides, the high concentration of antioxidant polyphenols in grape seed extract exert a favourable influence on the vascular function which is beneficial for atherosclerosis.49

 

If you have been reading till the end of this article, it is easy to find out that as women progress through their life stages, numbers of health issues arise along the way and the lists of recommended nourishment grew longer and longer.
Ageing is inevitable, yet it isn’t a dreadful fact if we are being aware of the changes and pay attention to the body’s needs. Regardless of which stages you’re in, if you have been planning to add supplements into your health regimen, it is wise to keep several points in mind:
  • Supplementation is about prevention rather than a cure for certain illnesses.
  • If you have doubts, always check with your healthcare providers or seek professional advice.
  • Do not neglect the importance of consistent exercise regime, healthy food choices and positive thinking to get your body physically and mentally prepared to transition through life stages.

 

 

References:

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