It is not said without reason that food is a cure for many diseases. A healthy and balanced diet is often a key ally in preventing and combating many disease states that can occur in the body. The female body is especially in need of various nutrients that contribute to the hormonal and general balance of the body, which is often disturbed in various diseases that can occur over time.
In this blog, we bring you the first part of the advice on a diet specific to certain conditions and diseases that occur in women. We explain the basic facts needed to understand a particular disease, and then we bring you recommendations on the diet best for that type of disease. We hope it will help you fight symptoms and improve your healthy lifestyle.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN NUTRITION AND DISEASE IN WOMEN
A healthy and balanced diet is crucial for the general health of the individual, as well as for the prevention of many diseases and pathological conditions in the body. It can be said that this is especially true for women, whose body goes through various hormonal and physiological changes during different life stages, and thus requires a larger amount of certain nutrients in order to function in the best possible way.
The importance of proper nutrition is especially evident in the occurrence of some of the diseases that a woman may encounter in her life. Some of them are characteristic only of females, while others can also be found in males. In any case, a healthy diet is often a necessary and key foundation in the body’s fight against various inflammatory processes, autoimmune diseases and chronic conditions. Everything we take in has some impact on our body and therefore it is important to choose well.
Given that in diseases that occur only in women, among other things, often in the background some hormonal imbalance, foods that contribute to hormonal balance and reduce inflammatory processes can significantly contribute to improving the symptoms and signs of the disease.
POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME
WHAT IS THAT? Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder that most commonly affects women of childbearing potential (between the ages of 15 and 45). It occurs as a result of a hormonal imbalance that ultimately causes significant dysfunction of many organ systems of the female body. It especially affects the reproductive system and various metabolic processes in the body.
As a result, there are irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, acne, increased hair growth (hirsutism), infertility problems, hair loss, etc. In addition, polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with many other diseases that often occur with it – diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol and various psychiatric disorders, the most common of which is depression.
Also, women with PCOS have an increased risk of developing diabetes in pregnancy (gestational diabetes), but also of developing endometrial cancer. All this indicates the great importance of this disease and the importance of prevention and its early detection.
HOW DOES DIET AFFECT THIS DISEASE?
Numerous studies have shown that proper nutrition has a positive impact on the development and progression of this disease, but also that it can alleviate symptoms. Given that polycystic ovary syndrome, among other things, significantly impairs insulin metabolism, which significantly contributes to the development of obesity, controlling insulin levels in patients with PCOS can improve the symptoms and signs of this disease. Studies have shown that losing even just 5-10% of body weight can significantly improve the symptoms of PCOS and reduce the risk of developing long-term consequences.
1.Primarily, it is recommended to eat regular, more frequent and smaller meals in order to keep blood glucose levels at a stable level and thus insulin secretion. Reduce your intake of bad carbs by avoiding processed sugars, refined grains and other artificially processed foods. Instead, increase your intake of whole grains and replace white pasta and rice with wholemeal.
2.Include protein-rich foods in your menu – fish, chicken, eggs, fresh cheese, etc. They help regulate insulin secretion by slowing down and preventing its sudden oscillations that occur after a meal rich in carbohydrates only. Although animal protein in moderation is good and healthy, women with PCOS should consume more plant protein (beans, lentils, seeds, nuts). Some research has shown that such a diet improves fertility even in women who do not have this disease.
3.Do not forget about foods rich in healthy fats, such as various oils (olive, flaxseed), nuts, some types of fish (tuna, salmon), etc. They are an extremely important part of a healthy and balanced diet.
4.Fruits and vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables) are also your allies in the fight against this disease. They are rich in antioxidants and the necessary vitamins and minerals that support the good function of your body.
5.It is important to emphasize that we do not recommend following a rigorous diet because they can do much more harm than good to your body. A moderate and varied diet combined with regular physical activity is the best way to help your body fight this disease. The consequent weight loss in most cases significantly contributes to the establishment of hormonal balance, improving fertility and reducing the risk of numerous complications.
WHAT IS THAT? Endometriosis is a chronic disease characterized by the appearance of tissue lining the uterus (endometrium) in various places in the body where it should not otherwise be located, or anywhere outside the uterus. The ectopic endometrium is most often found on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, ligaments that stabilize the uterus, bladder, intestines, etc.
Because this tissue is as sensitive to sex hormones as the normal lining of the uterus, it peels off during menstruation, causing irritation and painful cramps. After some time, scar growths also appear which become the cause of chronic pain in women with endometriosis.
In addition to extremely painful and heavy menstruation, there is often pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia), pain when urinating, digestive problems, but also problems with infertility.
However, endometriosis can also occur without any obvious symptoms, especially at the beginning of the disease development. This complicates the diagnosis itself, so this disease often remains unrecognized for a long time, and thus untreated. As mentioned earlier, over time, connective growths form that interfere with the function of the organs on which they form. They are most often found on the fallopian tubes, which reduces their patency, which leads to problems with conception.
HOW DOES DIET AFFECT THIS DISEASE? Since endometriosis is a disease whose course is affected by the level of hormones in the body, especially estrogen, a diet that alters hormonal balance can significantly contribute to the progression or improvement of symptoms. It is believed that foods that lower estrogen levels in the body and those that reduce inflammatory processes can significantly contribute to improving symptoms and slowing the development of the disease.
WHICH FOODS IS RECOMMENDED TO CONSUME? More and more research is proving the connection between the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and the improvement of the symptoms of endometriosis. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and can be found in fish and seafood, flaxseed and oil, nuts, soybean oil, etc.
Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber and it is recommended to include them in the daily menu. A high-fiber diet can lower estrogen levels in the body, which is especially beneficial for women with this disease. Also, antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables reduce inflammatory processes in the body and can alleviate symptoms such as severe menstrual pain. Foods rich in iron such as broccoli, leafy vegetables and others are also recommended to be consumed in as large quantities as possible.
WHICH FOODS TO AVOID? It is definitely recommended to avoid alcohol and reduce caffeine intake. Some research has shown that high caffeine intake can increase estrogen levels in the body and thus worsen the symptoms and signs of endometriosis. It is recommended to reduce the intake of refined sugar and artificially processed foods. Unhealthy fats and added sugars found in these foods encourage the development of inflammation. Also, red meat, and especially processed meat, can increase the level of estrogen in the body and should be avoided.
WHAT IS THAT? Hashimoto’s disease is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the thyroid gland and ultimately leads to its dysfunction. As a result, there is a reduced level of thyroid hormones in the body – hypothyroidism. In this disease, the body’s own immune system attacks the thyroid gland, and over time it can no longer produce enough of the hormones the body needs. This causes a slowdown in metabolism and the appearance of symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy, exhaustion, dry and pale skin, increased hair loss, constipation, menstrual disorders, problems with conception, etc.
Hashimoto’s disease is primarily a disease of women – it affects women 10 to 15 times more often than men. Although not every woman with this disease needs to develop hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the number one cause of hypothyroidism in the world. The disease often goes unrecognized due to nonspecific symptoms, and can cause serious consequences if not treated in time.
HOW DOES DIET AFFECT THIS DISEASE? The first line of treatment is the drug levothyroxine, which is actually a synthetic version of thyroid hormone that women with this disease lack, ie have it in insufficient quantities for optimal functioning of the body. The right dose of levothyroxine can completely bring this disease under control, as well as all its symptoms. However, proper nutrition can also significantly contribute to disease control.
THE BEST NUTRITION FOR THIS DISEASE: Of course, it is necessary to adhere to all the rules of a healthy and varied diet, preferably with moderate physical activity. However, three minerals are particularly important in normal thyroid function, namely iodine, selenium, and zinc. They can be ingested in sufficient daily amounts through a proper diet, but, if there is a deficiency, they are also available in the form of supplements.
Iodine is a mineral that is crucial in the production of thyroid hormones. However, it should not be taken in too little, but not too much. Foods rich in iodine are table salt, dairy products, eggs, prunes, etc. Be careful when taking iodine supplements and be sure to consult your doctor.
Some research has shown that selenium is particularly beneficial in patients with autoimmune thyroid disease because it reduces the production of antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. It is best to get it through food, and foods rich in selenium are meat and meat products, fish and seafood, eggs, cereals, and Brazil nuts have the highest selenium content.
Zinc is a mineral that is also important for the production of thyroid hormones, and is of great importance in the normal functioning of the immune system. Foods rich in zinc are oysters and other seafood, red meat, poultry, but also foods of plant origin such as whole grains, seeds and legumes.