Good health is gifted upon some of us. However, we can all benefit from extra support and preventive steps. These are these essentials for taking care of general women’s health—specifics vary by the individual and stage of life you are in…more on that next winter!
Good nutrition, as always is essential.
Leafy greens and vegetables! I live by the thought that is almost impossible to eat too many leafy greens. Eat vegetables with every meal, and brassica family vegetables (kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, daikon, turnip) offer incredible nutrients that have been shown to prevent cancers of all kinds and particularly hormonal cancers. Garlic & Onions are also powerhouse veggies to indulge in for a myriad of health reasons!
A plant based, whole foods diet with high quality fats is the best rule of thumb. We all know plant based foods contain essential nutrients and fiber. Fats are not all bad, we need cholesterol for hormone production and brain function!
High quality fats mean cold water fish (for salmon eat the skin, make broth of heads, can the backbones) and fish oils, flax or hemp oils, borage or evening primrose oils. These high quality oils are one that you do NOT cook but sprinkle over your food or use as a dressing. For cooking I use lard that I have rendered from wild game. Don’t cut the fat off your game and leave it in the field only to buy butter or margarine—that is absolute foolishness! Wild game fat has great nutrients and think about the pure foods that game has eaten compared to its stockyard counterparts, as with all fats just limit your intake-- as unless you are Inuit, your body has not evolved for high fat consumption! If you don’t have access to wild game fat, coconut oil is great for cooking. Olive oil is also good, generally if I am going to cook with olive oil I add water (for example if sauteeing vegetables so that the olive oil does not get super high heated which ruins the beneficial aspects of the oil). Never trust an oil that says it is safe at high temperatures, all supermarket oils have been processed at high temperatures and should be considered more in the realm of toxic than nourishing.
Berries provide superb nourishment, ¼ cup or more a day for general health.
Flax seeds provide essential fatty acids and help bind toxins including estrogens that your body has finished using and needs to eliminate. This is vital as recirculating estrogens can be harmful. It is common today for women to be “estrogen dominant” and have excess estrogen relative to progesterone. Supporting estrogen detoxification is helpful for preventing many women’s health issues and diseases. Freeze then fresh grind your flax seeds and again sprinkle on top of your foods. Flax seeds when baked likely lose the beneficial qualities of the essential fatty acids but will retain their binding properties, thus using flax seeds in baked goods can help bind sugar reducing blood sugar spiking when these foods are consumed.
Mushrooms are the new frontier or medicinal foods. We are still learning about the many health benefits, from immune enhancement, cancer protective qualities, to even a source of vitamin D3 (if your mushroom was dried in the sun!). Any non-button type mushroom has healthy benefits: shitake, maitake, oysters, chanterelles, portabellos…yum!
If your body can tolerate them, fermented foods generally promote gut health and wonderful nutrients.
Exercise for at least 4 hours every week!
Moving your body helps keep muscles toned, joints lubricated, your brain nourished by healthy neurotransmitters, and your lymphatic system pumping. The lymphatic system helps move cellular toxins out which is key to overall good health and cancer prevention.
No one can avoid stress in today’s world so we must each learn stress management techniques. Mindfulness, meditation, guided visualization, conscious breathwork, consciously slowing down and just being… It’s not just about quieting the mind.
Can you access centeredness? A place where you are relaxed with head and heart connected. Can you do this even when confronted by challenges? Practice, practice, practice! I feel like this is my life’s work, every day and I try and every day I still have more work to do!
Most of us are most accustomed to acting out of fear and negativity which causes cycles of harm to ourselves and others.
Avoid or limit exposure to environmental toxins.
Plastics, heavy metals, EMFs, smoke, chemicals of all kinds (including those found in food, house furnishings, and body care products), pesticides, GMOs, molds, bacteria, yeast and fungi all stress our bodies on a cellular level and if not cleared from the body stress the body on a systemic level. Be as educated as possible so you can limit your exposure. Wearing or using protective gear, from water and air filters to simple masks when deep cleaning musty places or turning compost (I know they suck to wear and I am resistant too, but if you are going to put in the hard work to take care of your body then you might as well protect that investment). None of us can completely avoid exposure so eating leafy greens that help promote our body’s natural detoxification processes is important, as well as incorporating herbs like dandelion, turmeric, milk thistle, burdock root as foods or teas to provide ongoing detoxification support.
Herbal Support Basics:
the best herbs for you will depend on your particular health history and symptoms, these are just general thoughts:
- Liver function: dandelion, turmeric, milk thistle, burdock root
- Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis function: vitex, ashwagandha, eleutheroccoccus, devils club.
- Hormone Balance: raspberry leaves, stinging nettle leaves AND roots, yarrow, dong quai root, black cohosh. Fermented soy (as food or herb)
- Lymphatic function: cleavers, chickweed, red root
- Mineral Support: seaweeds, stinging nettles
the best supplements for you will depend on your particular health history and symptoms, these are just general thoughts:
- Many vegetables and herbs are great sources of antioxidants: berries and foods with red, purple or black pigments are primo!
- Vitamins A, C, E (mixed sources) and D are important antioxidants helping to protect the body from toxins and support liver function, along with other super important roles in health! Good quality multis always include these basics but you might want to consider an antioxidant specific supplement for extra support.
- B complex, folate and Magnesium: these nutrients work together to support HPAA function and hormone balance. You may want to work with a natural health practitioner to ensure you are getting adequate amounts of these nutrients and that your body is absorbing them.
- Calcium D glucarate is a wonderful supplement for any woman concerned about breast health or estrogen dominance [see flax above]. Calcium d glucarate should be taken with meals and it helps bind and facilitate removal of toxins, such as used up estrogens that the body needs to excrete and not recirculate.
Rubbing castor oil, poke root oil, or chickweed oil into your breast or lower pelvic tissue. Fo your breasts use circular motions with sweeping movements up toward your armpit will not only allow you to do frequent breast exams, but will promote healthy tissue, and detoxification of cellular debris from the breast tissue into lymph nodes around the armpit. On your lower pelvis use clockwise circles and a heat pack can be applied for 20-60 minutes to allow the oil to penetrate further. Do not ingest castor oil or poke root oil, they are toxic.
Eliminate Irritants & Triggers
Various studies and clinical protocols recommend eliminating or limiting caffeine, chocolate, dairy and wheat as these are all potential irritants to breast and reproductive tissues and/or common triggers of unhealthy inflammatory processes in the body. A minimum 3 month wash out without these foods in your diet can be amazing!
Consider lab testing:
Work with a natural health practitioner that can help recommend tests (such as the following) and interpret the results, that give more precise information about your body!
Organic Acids testing: gives in depth insights into the integrity of the body’s detoxification system as well as a glimpse into nutrient statue, neurotransmitter balance, and adrenal balance.
A complete hormone profile which analyzes your cortisol rhythm throughout an entire day, as well as your levels of estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, and melatonin. This gives a great foundational sense of hormone balance and the basic function of your Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis (HPAA) which orchestrates hormone and thyroid function.
Other tests may also be appropriate, such as a Metabolic Assessment (liver function) or more specific hormone tests, or GI testing to identify any gut pathogens creating metabolic stress or toxins.
At the very least it is good to monitor Blood Chemistry panels for basic body functions like liver function and lipid levels. Always bring these lab results to your natural health practitioner to review.