From curing dry vaginas to drinking wine — here's some health advice we can totally embrace
Brought to you by Linwoods Healthfoods
Whose body is it anyway?
It's clearly ours ladies! Hence why we and the folks at Linwoods Healthfoods thought it super important that there be an honest, forthright and confident discussion around female health.
So, recently at Smock Alley, Temple Bar, Dublin — author and ITV presenter Andrea McLean spoke to journalist and podcaster Roisin Ingle, Belfast based nutritional therapist Jane McClenaghan, and Dr Cliona Murphy (GP) to talk all things women's health. From their panel discussion that invited a large audience of both women and men to attend, here are a few standout snippets we loved.
Hormone Balancing Foods
Nutritionist Jane McClenaghan, who began her clinical practise in Belfast 2001 said:
"Healthy food isn't expensive — beans, lentils — they're phytoestrogen-rich, especially chickpeas."
Foods like these have hormone balancing properties and ladies, it's a great idea to do what we can to keep that balance happy. There are different life stages that will throw them off and life choices where we might have to reevaluate and learn how to keep that balance.
A question from a female audience member brought about a discussion on going vegan and osteoporosis — flaxseeds being an amazing choice of food to add to your diet. Jane said:
"A reason we're more prone to osteoporosis from perimenopause (begins before menopause, when the ovaries gradually start to produce less oestrogen) onwards is because when we have declining oestrogen, it affects our osteoclasts and osteoblasts.
Sarah Jane Corbett and Grainne O'Loughlin
"Osteoclasts are like the 'pac-men' that get rid of old bone and osteoblasts are bone-building. Anything we can do to help minimise a huge drop in oestrogen is going to benefit us."
The likes of flaxseed (among other plants and seeds) contain what are called phytoestrogens (plant oestrogen). These have a similar chemical structure to our own body's oestrogen and can bind to the same receptors that our own oestrogen does.
"When we're coming up to menopause, our oestrogen levels are starting to decline, so those little receptors are sitting empty and we can bring in some hormone mimics in the form of phytoestrogens. They very gently increase our oestrogen — it's a really nice, gentle balance."
And this is why we love adding a couple of tablespoons of flaxseed to our porridge in the morning!
Another question posed was 'How do I know if I'm perimenopausal and don't have anything seriously wrong?'
Dr Cliona Murphy says:
"Red flags we would look out for would be things like intermenstrual bleeding (bleeding in between your periods). After age 45, once you haven't had a period for a year, that's kind of the menopause then. If you bleed then after that, that's obviously a red flag."
So importantly, Dr Murphy also said that we shouldn't be afraid of bringing up what's really bothering us.
"If it's the dryness, the lack of desire to have sex — talk about that. Bring it to your GP's attention."
The ladies among us who love a glass of wine at dinner or while sitting back to relax with a little Netflix too will be glad to know — it's all good! (In moderate amounts, of course.) Wine contains the active ingredient vitriol, and studies have shown that it prolongs age and helps (mice, at least) live longer.
Lorraine Worth and Liz Doyle
So what about eating for fertility?
We're back to a bit of hormone balancing, friends. Dr Cliona Murphy says:
"The first thing is to get the blood sugar levels nice and balanced, so that means low GI carbohydrates, protein each time you eat, and then think about specific nutrients — lots of zinc-rich foods which would be nuts and seeds, seafood, while also looking at iron in our diet.
"Here in Ireland we're usually not good with our vitamin D. There's a link between low vitamin D and fertility, so that would be the starting point."
To help boost fertility, Dr Murphy recommends omega 3 as fish oil or milled flaxseed and a really good multivitamin too, made specifically for male fertility and then female fertility.
She also recommends we bring our partner! It might seem obvious, but isn't it true that all we ever hear about is women going to get their fertility checked? What about the men we've partnered up with?
"Talk to your GP about tests for both male and female. What I find most in my own practice is the person that comes and sits is the female partner — you never see the man. So I often ask, how are you getting pregnant? Is it a sperm donor or… because you have to know that as well, so as you [a doctor] can support both."
And then, there was wine. Mmhmm...
She says there is so much stress, our body is prioritising cortisol over the production of sex hormones. She meets people who have tried everything. The solution (at least short term) — is a holiday, some wine, and the chance to unwind.
Emily Elphinstone and Rebecca Grimes
AKA postmenopausal atrophic vaginitis. It's the thinning of the walls of the vagina caused by decreased estrogen levels. Women with vaginal atrophy have a greater chance of chronic vaginal infections and urinary function problems. It can also make sexual intercourse painful where host Andrea points out that even marriages break down because women might not be confident enough to communicate what's wrong.
Dr Cliona says "it’s unpleasant for a variety of reasons" that include excessive dryness, the vagina becoming smaller and/or tighter.
The main message though is to speak about it and don't feel odd because of it. She notices that many people wait and then it's all of a sudden two or three years down the line and it has become mentally scarring.
This confidence and positivity are what we just can't get enough of — especially when it comes to women's health and wellbeing. Shout about it ladies!
"When I was younger I had comments said to me that really weren't good for my mental or emotional health and I think if people cared about people's health then they wouldn't shame people in that way.
"I love how we can talk about nutrition and flax and healthy eating but not bring in ‘because you look like this.'"
It's whatever has us feeling fabulous!
Brought to you by Linwoods Healthfoods