Nutrition and women’s health: How a dietitian can help you

The link between diet and women’s health issues is well documented, but seeing a dietitian might not be your first instinct when getting a diagnosis.

From painful conditions like endometriosis to hormonal changes that impact your day-to-day life, the foods you eat can help better manage your symptoms – particularly in combination with other treatments and lifestyle changes.

Here are some of the most common women’s health challenges and how we can support you from a dietary and nutritional perspective.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS is a common condition that affects women of childbearing age, caused by imbalances in reproductive hormones. The word ‘polycystic’ means ‘many cysts’, which refers to how PCOS can cause many small cysts to form on the ovaries.

The symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Heavy, painful periods
  • Irregular or missed periods
  • Excess hair growth
  • Male pattern baldness 
  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Acne
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain

The key causes of PCOS are abnormally-high levels of androgens and insulin, which can contribute to more long-term conditions such as obesity and heart disease.

This is where diet can play a huge role in alleviating symptoms and improving your overall health and wellbeing: a dietitian can help you follow a balanced diet and healthy eating habits to manage your blood sugar and weight, which in turn can improve other symptoms such as breakouts or your chances of getting pregnant.

Pregnancy and fertility issues

Getting pregnant can be a long and stressful journey for some women, but healthy eating impacts more than just the moment of conception: it can influence your baby’s health for life, and reduce the risk of any complications during delivery.

A dietitian can recommend a diet full of foods that support sperm, egg, and uterus health. During pregnancy, your body will be under more pressure than usual to support both you and baby, and a dietitian can also prescribe you with supplements to maintain healthy levels of folate, iron, iodine, and other essential nutrients.

In addition, sometimes losing weight can help fertility. Studies show that for every body mass index (BMI) point above 29, fertility drops by 4%. The good news is that losing as little as 5% of body weight can improve your fertility.

At Brecken Health we will help you to come up with a diet and fertility plan that is addressed using a holistic approach with aspects of nutrition, stress, sleep management, emotional eating and weight management.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis (or ‘endo’, as it is commonly called) is a disorder where the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium) begins to grow outside of the uterus, usually onto other pelvic organs areas such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix, vagina, and bowel. 

While these are benign growths, the cells contained in endometriosis still ‘act’ as they would during a woman’s period – when the tissue swells and starts to bleed, this causes immense pain and leads to further issues such as inflammation, scarring, cysts, and blockages from trapped blood.

The symptoms of endo can include:

  • Painful, heavy periods
  • Fatigue
  • Pain during sex or bowel movements
  • Intense cramps
  • Fertility issues
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

While endometriosis is a chronic condition with no cure, it can be treated with pain relief medication and other measures to improve your quality of life. Endometriosis is an inflammatory condition. Consuming foods that reduce inflammation, coupled with reducing specific carbs that trigger abdominal pain, gas and/or bloating can have a significant impact.

To help ease the pain and better manage your symptoms, a dietitian can create a diet plan that cuts out anti-inflammatory foods, helps to regulate hormones, and lifts your mood and energy levels.

Menopause

Menopause is a natural stage of life where a woman stops ovulating and is no longer able to get pregnant. It typically occurs from 45 years of age, however it is possible for women as young as 40 and much later on in life to experience menopause.

While some women may not experience any negative symptoms from menopause, it can be an uncomfortable and disruptive process for others. These symptoms can include:

  • Hot flushes
  • Night sweats
  • Headaches
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Tiredness and irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Discomfort during sex
  • Urinary frequency

Many of these symptoms can be easily treated with over-the-counter medications and products, and incorporating a more balanced diet can help manage your weight, hormone levels, mood, and more to support these, too.

Whether you’re looking for a good night’s sleep or relief from headaches and incontinence, a dietitian can advise you on what food and drink should be included or avoided in your diet.

Healthy eating habits may be hard to stick to and take a while to show results, but they are a worthy commitment to improving your overall nutrition and wellbeing and can help support the effectiveness of other treatments you may be undergoing.

Diet is a key part of improving your overall health. Whether you’re dealing with a women’s health issue such as endometriosis or you intend to conceive, we can help you at Brecken Health. Call us on (08) 9791 8133.