The Benefits Of Micronutrients In Women’s Health - Part 1
The nutritional requirements of men and women are very different. A woman’s body needs extra nutritional support during various physiological transitions such as puberty, monthly menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, and menopause. Women are affected by different health problems than men. Autoimmune diseases, arthritis, osteoporosis, and depression are diagnosed more frequently in women. Despite popular belief that heart disease develops mainly in men, 1 in 4 menopausal women dies from heart disease making it the major cause of death in American women. In order to function optimally the female body needs specific nutrients to provide bio-energy to the cells of the nervous, immune, cardiovascular, and endocrine systems.
The nervous system is the body’s primary communication system that monitors and controls almost every organ system. The cells of the nervous system have extremely high requirements for nutrients and support critical functions such as production and metabolism of neurotransmitters (chemicals that convey information throughout the body), and optimizing the structure and composition of cellular membranes of nerve cells. The cells of the nervous system consume more energy than cells in any other organ, and once damaged, they have a very limited means of reproduction. In order to protect brain cells, we need selected teams of nutrients. Vitamin C, vitamin B6, inositol, and choline are some of the most important supplements for a healthy nervous system. The amount of vitamin C in the brain is one of the highest compared to other organs.
The female immune system is repeatedly challenged during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause making women susceptible to autoimmune diseases and other health problems. Autoimmune diseases such as thyroid disorders, celiac and Cohn’s disease, arthritis, psoriasis, and skin disorders, among many others, are the leading causes of disability in women younger than 65. Vitamin C, and the B group of vitamins, selenium, folic acid, and soy isoflavones are important to support the immune system.
The endocrine system secretes hormones that regulate various phases of growth and metabolism. Although secreted in small quantities, hormones affect a woman’s metabolism during puberty, the reproductive years, pregnancy, and menopause. Many symptoms such as PMS, menopausal symptoms, and migraines relate to hormonal imbalances. Vitamins C, B5, and B6, iodine, soy isoflavones, and selenium are particularly important in all aspects of hormonal functions and metabolism. Vitamins B5 and B6 affect levels of cortisol, progesterone, and estrogen influencing a woman’s growth, development, metabolism, and stress response. Pregnancy, lactation, and oral contraceptive use creates deficiency of B vitamins. Iodine is an essential trace mineral for the production of thyroid hormone, which in turn has a wide variety of effects on the body. High soy consumption has been correlated positively with bone health and lowering the risk of osteoporosis.
The cardiovascular system function and the symptoms of heart disease in women are quite different from men. Therefore, the diagnosis is often missed. Several nutrients work in synergy to enhance and optimize the functions of a healthy cardiovascular system. These include vitamins C, E, B6, and B12, the amino acids lysine and proline, folic acid, soy isoflavones, and others. Vitamin C is the nutrient critical for every human cell. It is essential for the synthesis and proper structure of collagen which gives strength and flexibility to the heart and blood vessels. Vitamin C is also involved in cholesterol metabolism.
Menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause are natural processes in a woman’s lifecycle, they are not diseases. They require specific nutritional support. A woman’s nutritional requirements also increase during illness and stress, in smokers, and with the use oral contraceptives and other pharmaceutical drugs. Any imbalance between these demands and supply contributes to various health problems. Appropriate synergistic nutrient supplementation provides a foundation for a healthy life.