Smorgasbord Health Column – The Female Reproductive System – an overview of health issues – Sally Cronin


Last week  Last week I looked at the function of the endocrine system and hormones for both the female and male reproductive systems and this week an overview of some of the health issues that women can face during their lifetime.

I will be posting on Ovarian Cancer next time.

The fertile years 10 – 50 years old.

In this third part of the series on the female reproductive system a look at some of the health issues that might occur in the 40 years that it is active.  Every woman is unique and I can only give you averages when talking about events during a monthly cycle.

From the age of ten a girl is maturing towards becoming fertile. Puberty marks the start of an average of 40 years of one of the most miraculous, but also often inconvenient monthly cycles. Beneath our skin a complex series of actions are taking place to ensure the smooth running of this female process. Although the actual period only lasts an average of 7 to 10 days but can be shorter or longer, the process is ongoing for the full 28 to 32 days. The cycle can be different depending on a number of factors and will change as a woman matures.

The-Menstrual-Cycle-WThe menstrual cycle

There are a number of hormones, other than oestrogen and progesterone, involved in the menstrual cycle and the process is normally very precise and runs like clockwork to afford the very best chance of fertilisation of the egg.

There are three distinct stages that are orchestrated by the hormones, in sequence, and the whole cycle will take between 28 and 32 days to complete.

Stage one – Follicular phase day 1 – 13

During this phase the pituitary gland releases a hormone called FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) which will stimulate the egg containing follicles in the ovaries. In turn the follicles will release oestrogen which produces changes in the consistency of the mucus in the cervix resulting in a clear discharge mid cycle. This change help prepare the mucus to receive and nourish the sperm from the man.

Stage two – Ovulatory phase – approximately day 14

At this stage the level of luteinising hormone (LH) released from the anterior pituitary gland, dramatically increases or surges. LH forces the follicles to break open and release its egg into the fallopian tube. This is ovulation and takes approximately 24 hours.

Stage three – Luteal phase – day 15 to 28

After the follicle has released its egg it changes function and becomes a gland called the corpus luteum. This gland now releases the progesterone that will stimulate the growth of the thick and blood rich lining of the womb that might be needed if the egg is fertilised.

If the egg is not fertilised it dries up and dies and the lining of the womb is expelled through the cervix and out of the body as a period.

The health of the reproductive system.

Forty years is a very long time in body terms and it is hardly surprising that a system as complex as the reproductive function is not going to suffer from problems. These are either due to disruptions to the hormones in charge, or the organs themselves.

I know that you expect long posts from me but even I draw the line in covering all the health issues we might face over the years. Here are the headlines!

Conditions associated with the reproductive system

Many young girls and women suffer from PMS (Pre-menstrual syndrome) and in some cases this continues right up to menopause. This can be helped by changes in diet and exercise levels as well as some supplementation of specific nutrients and herbs.

Infertility is a problem that may not be discovered until a woman is in her late 20’s and 30’s and is actively trying to get pregnant but there are certain lifestyle and dietary issues as well as possible physical or hormonal reasons for difficulties in becoming pregnant. I will cover the basics under that heading.

Premenstrual Syndrome

PMS symptoms tend to occur at specific phases of the menstrual cycle, which are modulated by the changing levels in the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. It is logical then to assume that any adverse symptoms are caused by some disruption to the balance between these two hormones.

PMS always occurs during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle when the luteinising hormone (LH) increases the production of progesterone and oestrogen in the ovaries. This phase in the cycle is specifically to encourage secretions in the fallopian tubes and womb to ensure the proper nourishment and implantation of a fertilised egg.

There are a number of theories that have been put forward to try and explain the various reasons why individual women suffer differing symptoms at this time from water retention to depression. Some studies suggest that it is a lack of progesterone that causes the problems with some women responding favourably to progesterone therapy and other studies finding that it makes matters worse. The common factor appears to be an imbalance of one or other of the two female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. I think the key lies in a number of factors one of which is that we are all individual and this includes our hormonal makeup.

I have worked with many teenagers and older women who were suffering from PMS and I found the best way to start was with diet and exercise with particular attention to any other influences such as Candida Albicans or stress. Many women respond very favourably to being treated for Candida Albicans, as some of the symptoms for this are lower back pain, depression and water retention. Candida takes over the intestines and healthy and friendly bacteria are in short supply. Bacteria in our gut is responsible for the manufacture of certain nutrients such as Vitamin K that plays a role in regulating our menstrual flow so it is logical that Candida could also contribute to PMS problems.

There are a number of nutrients that are also implicated in PMS and in my experience usually the cause is a lack of variety in the diet, particularly vitamin B6. This tends to be the result of dropping a major food group such as wholegrains and animal protein from the diet..

Foods that contain B6 –  wholegrain carbohydrates like brown rice, porridge oats, walnuts and sunflower seeds, bananas, avocados, salmon and tuna, dried fruit such as prunes and raisins, eggs, wheatgerm, poultry and meats such as lamb.

You can find more information on Candida here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

Some doctors prefer to put women on the contraceptive pill to help regulate periods and minimise PMS but I am still not happy about taking additional hormones without first trying the natural approach for at least two cycles. Talk to your doctor about making lifestyle changes first including reducing the amount of sugar in your diet. The recommended amount of sugar is 7 teaspoons per day.. It is easy with breakfast cereals, flavoured yoghurt etc to consume 14 teaspoons for breakfast.  Blood sugar levels are erratic and hormones are affected.

Infertility

Infertility can be devastating to a young couple who have dreamt of having a large family and assumed that it was going to be as simple as stopping taking the pill or any other form of contraceptive. Unfortunately, for some women, there are physical reasons why they are unable to either produce an egg in the first place or carry the fertilised embryo to full term.

Usually there are a number of factors involved that cause or add to the reasons behind a woman’s infertility.  Since these are also the more common health issues with the reproductive system in general it is worth focusing on them in this post.

  1. Hormone levels are not sufficient to stimulate the release of an egg from the ovary or for it to successfully implant into the lining of the womb.
  2. A woman is more than 30% over her ideal weight or severely underweight and this effects ovulation. There is a link between eating disorders such as anorexia where body weight is reduced for extended periods of time. The body switches off non-life sustaining body functions. If you cannot nourish yourself then you would not be able to nourish a foetus.
  3. Fibroids of the womb.
  4. Endometriosis where the normal tissue that lines the womb is found outside in other areas of the pelvis.
  5. Production of antibodies that attack a partner’s sperm and kills them before they can fertilise her eggs.
  6. Infections throughout the pelvis caused by Chlamydia or by appendicitis leading to damage and scarring of the reproductive organs.
  7. Age.

Hormone Imbalance

Abnormal ovulation results in irregular or absent periods. This is usually caused by a lack of co-ordination between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, as these regulate the release of the hormones into the bloodstream.

If insufficient LH (luteinising hormone) or FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) is secreted then the levels of oestrogen and progesterone will not be high enough to begin the process of ovulation. This may require hormonal treatment but the first step is to ensure that diet and lifestyle factors are not playing a role in the imbalance.

Weight Issues

Extreme weight fluctuation can also cause periods to cease as this is linked to hormonal imbalances associated with diet. Being overweight puts incredible stress on all the operating systems in the body including the reproductive system. Most women who have been overweight since childhood are likely to suffer from irregular or no menstrual cycle at all. Even being slightly overweight can affect hormone levels and it is recommended that a women get down as close to her ideal weight as possible before trying to conceive. There is additional wisdom in this as a woman who is already over three stone overweight is going to add another three at least during her pregnancy which can add significantly to risks of complications such as Gestational diabetes, very high blood pressure and the need for a Caesarean delivery.

In nature, in times of drought or famine, certain animals will not only cease to ovulate but they will also stop the gestation of their young until such time as conditions improve. One of the long-term issues with eating disorders such as Anorexia is infertility, as there is insufficient nutrients being made available to manufacture the necessary hormones. Before trying to conceive anyone who is dramatically underweight should take a close look at their diet and seek professional help in building up nutrition, calories and body mass.

Fibroids

One of the staggering statistics is that one in four women will enter the menopause because of medical treatment, the leading one being a hysterectomy (removal of the womb and ovaries). The biggest single reason is fibroids, which are benign tumours inside and outside the womb. There are three general locations for fibroids.

  1. Subserosal –on the outside surface of the uterus
  2. Intramural – within the muscular wall of the uterus
  3. Submucous – bulging in to the uterine cavity.

The submucous location is rarer than the other two but is the one associated with failure to conceive and early miscarriage. If the other two types of fibroid grow too large however they too can have an effect on the reproductive system.

Fibroids-WNo one is entirely sure what causes fibroids to form. There are a number of factors and hormone imbalance is probably involved. However, our diet may also be partly to blame as many foods that we consume contain substances that mimic the way oestrogen affects the body – and these include growth hormones in milk, beef and chicken, pesticides on our food and even the plastics we use in our kitchens for storage. This leads to oestrogen dominance in a woman, which can then lead to a number of reproductive problems including the growth of these benign tumours.

There is also a genetic link and if your female relatives have tended to get fibroids then you are at risk of developing them too. The light at the end of the tunnel is that they nearly always shrink when you reach menopause but if they cause heavy and painful bleeding and are making your life a misery you should deal with them as soon as possible.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis develops when tissue resembling the endometrium inside the womb begins growing out in the pelvic cavity. The most common symptoms of this are painful sexual intercourse, period pains and infertility.

The endometrium is made up of blood, endometrial skin cells, glands and pieces of blood vessels and connective tissues. Although the endometrium is usually discarded and broken into pieces to be excreted in menstrual blood through the vagina, it can sometimes find its way through the upper openings of the womb that lead to the fallopian tubes. The ends of the fallopian tubes are open to the pelvic cavity and the pieces of endometrium can then attach themselves to any surface within the cavity and reform using all the components to grow and develop.

If the fallopian tubes are blocked and the ovaries are now coated with growing endometriosis there is little chance of an egg being produced and fertilised by a sperm – leading to infertility.

The usual treatment is to remove the lesions surgically or prescribe drugs that suppress the endometrium in the womb to keep it thin. This, in effect, creates a false menopause as it also suppresses the ovaries and the production of oestrogen. If you are hoping to have children it might have a long term effect on your ability to conceive.

Killer Mucous

When the body is not ovulating, cervical mucous has a role in killing any harmful bacteria trying to get into the body via the vagina. However, during ovulation a chemical change occurs which is designed to ensure the survival of the sperm on its way into the system. Some women react to their partner’s sperm, by developing antibodies instead, and killing the sperm as it fights its way towards the cervix.

Chlamydia

One of the more common causes of infertility today is an infection that has damaged part of the reproduction system. For example, Chlamydia is a bacterial infection transmitted sexually and is the most common of the STDs contracted by adolescents and young adults today. The biggest problem is that you may not discover that you have been infected until you are trying to have a baby because 75% of women and 50% of men have no overt symptoms and it is therefore known as a silent disease.

Left untreated, Chlamydia can spread and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which rises through the vagina and the cervix before infecting the womb, fallopian tubes and the ovaries. The resulting scarring to the fallopian tubes can cause infertility and increase the risk of ectopic pregnancies (inside the fallopian tube).

In the rare cases where symptoms are present they can mimic other pre-menstrual symptoms and be ignored such as lower back pain, bleeding between periods, nausea and fever. However, if these are also accompanied by frequent urinary tract infections, chronic pelvic pain and vomiting it is necessary to consider that it is Chlamydia and seek medical attention.

Age

Fertility levels decrease with age in women. Although there have been some reports of women becoming pregnant during the change of life it is rare. Women are at their most fertile up to 24 years old but today many women are putting off having children, preferring to wait for career or economic reasons. It is estimated that one third of women over 35 will experience some problems getting pregnant and at least half will have severe difficulties.

Declining hormone production, lack of viable eggs and an accumulation of the other factors I have covered in this article will combine to cause fertility problems. If a woman has also smoked, drunk too much alcohol and not eaten a healthy diet she will add to the difficulties.

Dietary influences.

Our body has very specific needs and this includes essential nutrients that can be processed and distributed around the body to where they are needed. As always a varied diet with lots of fresh vegetables, lean protein, fruits and wholegrains is a great place to start… And need I say.. Cooked from Scratch without any industrialised sugary additives.

For those of you who would like to know more about the nutrients we need here is a directory where you will find the nutrient, what it is needed for and the foods that supply it.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

©Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction in ebooks you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thanks so much for dropping by and if you have a private question that you would rather not put in the comments section you can contact me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

 

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Smorgasbord Health Column – What causes your cravings – Part Two – Need Chocolate? by Sally Cronin


Welcome to a new series on a sensation that has been blamed for our consumption or over consumption of certain foods since we were old enough to make excuses! How often do we tell ourselves or others that ‘we crave’ chocolate, crisps, cheese, soda, fried food or even something non-food related… such as dirt or coal?

We tend to assume that our craving is a form of addiction that only one food or drink can satisfy, but in fact it is more likely that it is our body reacting to a lack of an essential nutrient absent from our regular diet. Or that we are under stress and that has resulted in a imbalance in our hormone production.

During this series every fortnight, I am going to be looking at some of the causes of a craving, whether it is a need for an essential nutrient or is down to a habit that has formed or because we are stressed. I will also give you the food fix that will supply that nutrient or suggest some strategies to cope with an unreasonable expectation for a food by your body and your mind.

Last Week: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/smorgasbord-health-column-new-series-what-causes-your-cravings-part-one-dehydration/

Part Two – Need Chocolate?

Chocolate is delicious, and I am partial to a good Swiss milk chocolate bar, with a large glass of milk in front of a good movie… or to be honest anywhere. There was a time when I would eat not just one bar, but several during the day, and would always have a stash in my office drawer. The taste of the chocolate and its sweetness were not the only reason that I craved it. At that time my job was extremely stressful, I was working 14 hour days, getting hassle from above and below with zero exercise, and little sleep. I was also drinking seven or eight coffees during the day, a couple of glasses of wine in the evening, and meals were definitely more take away than cooked from scratch. I also weighed 330lbs (150kilos, 24stone) which was not doing my general health any good at all.

Something had to give, and in 1995 at age 42, I was told that I was a heart attack waiting to happen and getting to 45 years old was unlikely. Everything that could be elevated was; dangerously so.

It was then that I decided that being good at your job was not worth damaging your health, and when my husband was offered a job in Belgium, I took the opportunity to put my future first. I studied nutrition and the human body to find out what had driven me to such lengths to self-destruct, and you might be surprised by the answer.

As were most of my clients who were very overweight when I told them they were suffering from it too.

Starvation and nutritional deficiency syndrome (my term for long standing voluntary food deprivation)

The body is a complex and highly sophisticated piece of machinery, with many moving parts and chemical reactions that are off the charts. As an entity it requires a constant daily intake of fuel in a form that it recognises, and can process to extract the nutrients it requires. Each major organ and operational system requires its own cocktail of vitamins and minerals to function at optimum capacity, and if they don’t receive what they regard as essential, they will begin to fail.

Think of your body as a formula one race car, with a very finely balanced chemical formula to extract every last inch of performance from the engine. If you put fuel in that has been contaminated with sugar, bad oil, additives that clog the engine and chemicals, the engine will seize up.

That is essentially what millions of people are doing to their bodies each day, as they eat a manufactured industrial diet, that is far removed from the initial food ingredients that you can get.

The body is being starved. And it reacts by urging you to eat and drink to obtain what it needs. But if you are only feeding it rubbish with minimal nutritional content, it will urge you to eat more of it,so it can extract even a small amount of what it needs, and it craves.

It needs fuel and the fastest way to get that is by eating sugars, it is absorbed quickly and burns fast, so you need more and more to satisfy the craving.

Add in a few more elements to your body’s state of health:

  1. Chronic stress, which is relentless day after day. Work, commuting, money, relationships, lack of sleep, poor eating habits, too much of the wrong foods and fluids, ill health.
  2. A decrease in organ and system efficiency. Your digestive system does not know if it is up or down. It is trying to extract gold from a landslide of mud and certain components are running out, such as stomach acid needed to digest the food in the stomach before it is passed to the gut to extract nutrients. You start to suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), hormonal fluctuations, bone and joint problems, allergies, frequent infections. You become host to pathogens as your immune system fails to kill invaders, and your skin, hair and eyesight begin to age rapidly.
  3. Your brain like any computer is working overtime to find a solution to the problem and other functions begin to suffer such as healthy hormone production, already compromised by low nutrient intake. For a woman, this might mean a complete cessation of her menstrual cycle, for a man it might mean a loss of sex drive.
  4. You begin to take supplements and over the counter medications such as pain killers and multivitamins to counteract you lousy diet. Combined with a few too many glasses of wine or spirits, this further impairs your liver function, which is struggling to fill your blood stream with healthy cholesterol which is necessary for hormone production.

But, for a short time at least you and your body are satisfied because you just had a bar of chocolate, filling your blood stream with sugars and calming that craving. Until an hour later when you need another hit.

Calories are not all created equal.

A bar of milk chocolate (100gm) is 540 calories and high in sugar fats, over 50%, dark chocolate does too! Admittedly that with both milk and dark you are going to get some antioxidants, some calcium, magnesium, potassium, some vitamins A, D, E, B6, B12 E, and some zinc, iron and sodium. But just a couple of squares will be sufficient, you don’t need a whole bar.

I have covered the amount of calories the body needs each day and you can find more posts on this in the Health directory

N. B.. the body has an average daily requirement of nutrient dense calories of 1500 for women and 1800 for men. That is to run all the operating systems including the brain and immune system 24 hours a day. This will vary according to age and activity levels.. This also applies to moderately active children…

Girls -1000 calories age 2 years old, 2 – 4 years 1200 – 4 – 7 1400, 7 to age 10 – 1600, 10 – 12 1800 and 12- 18 years 2000 calories.

Boys – 1000 calories age 2 years old, 1200 at 3, 1400 4-7 1600 7- 10, 1800 10 – 12, 2000 12 – 18 years old.

For the purpose for comparing the difference in quality of calories ingested, I am going to use three chocolate bars, vs. a day of nutritionally dense foods. (about the amount of calories that a moderately active person would lose weight healthily eating.

That is 1620 calories for three 100gm chocolate bars, milk or dark with more antioxidants contained in chocolate over 70%.

Approximately 54.21 saturated fats (unhealthy fat) and 12 grms of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated (healthy fat)

Here are the same calories but in a high density nutritional daily menu.

Breakfast – A poached or lightly scrambled egg on wholegrain toast, with tomato or spinach with a scrape of butter, small glass of orange juice, cup of green tea.

370 Calories

Lunch – Roasted chicken breast skin off, 100 gm cooked wholegrain rice, Carrots or sweet potato, plenty of broccoli or other green vegetables, and a small amount of gravy.

450 Calories

Dinner – grilled 150gm Salmon, large mixed salad, medium jacket potato or mashed potato and herb oil dressing drizzle.

500 calories

This leaves 300 calories for healthy snacks – half an avocado, plain natural yogurt, an apple, a banana to make up the 1620 calories.

Approximately 10gm of saturated fat but 45gms of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated (healthy fats).

If you were to put yourself in the skin of your body for a few minutes, what do you think the body would prefer you to eat each day.

Three bars of chocolate or the full menu I have shared, with all the nutrients that it requires to be replenished every day?

This is not to say that you should not eat chocolate.. I would be very grumpy if I couldn’t have the odd bar from time to time. But I no longer crave them because my body is getting what it needs from the wide variety of foods that I eat each day.

Apart from general nutritional deficit, there are some nutrients in chocolate that you body may need.

This includes magnesium which is high in chocolate and is a common deficiency particularly as we get older. Also Chromium, B-Vitamins and essential fatty acids.

There is a clue to be found in these particular nutrients that identifies why it is women who seem to crave chocolate more than men!

During ovulation, menstruation and the menopause, our hormones have their own agenda leading to a more intense range of PMS or menopausal symptoms.

If our diets are deficient of the above nutrients, possibly because of repeated dieting, narrow range of foods daily, or stress then these vitamins and minerals are mainly to blame. At these times in particular, our craving for chocolate increases, and coming in handy sweet packets, make a bar or two easily accessible and comforting too.

What you need to include in your diet are these foods rather than increased amounts of chocolate.

These are the foods that have the best sources of Magnesium.

The best food sources for magnesium are to be found in dark green vegetables such as spinach also in fish, meat, seafood, apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, whole grain cereals such as brown rice, beans and nuts.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/07/04/smorgasbord-health-column-nutrients-the-body-needs-magnesium-deficiency-alert/

Foods rich in dietary chromium.

vegetablesBroccoli has the highest levels of chromium followed by other dark green leafy vegetables, romaine lettuce, onions and tomatoes. Wholegrains, potatoes, oysters and other seafood, liver, cheese, chicken, turkey, beef and lamb also contain good amounts. As you can see even in the sample menu you would be getting the chromium you need without reaching for the chocolate.

B12 is present in beef, offal like liver, eggs and dairy.. also mackerel, shellfish such as clams and crabs, fortified cereals and tofu, Marmite and cottage, feta and mozzarella cheese.

It is better to drink a cold glass of milk than to eat yoghurt as the fermentation process destroys most of the B12 as does boiling milk.

There are very few sources, if any of B12 in plants, although some people do believe that eating fermented Soya products, sea weeds and algae will provide the vitamin. However analysis of these products shows that whilst some of them do contain B12 it is in the form of B12 analogues which are unable to be absorbed by the human body.

Essential fatty acids

Omega 3– flaxseed, walnuts, pumpkinseeds, avocados, dark green vegetables, poultry and seafood such as salmon.
Omega 6olive oil, eggs, dairy and some of the above.
Omega 9
avocado, olives, almonds.
Amino Acids
dairy products, fish, meat, poultry, soybeans, nuts and seeds.

I know that this has been a long post, but I hope that if you have been drawn to the sweetness of chocolate on more than an occasional snack, you may be deficient in one or more of the nutrients I have mentioned or generally.

Keep a food diary for a week and circle the foods that you were drawn to in particular.. a sudden urge for eggs, onions, potatoes… and also the times that you wanted a bar of chocolate!

If you have any questions please leave them in the comments or if you wish email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thanks for dropping in and I hope you find useful.. Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Health Column – Female Reproductive System – Some of the more common health issues by Sally Cronin


This is not the first time I have posted this series and I intend to repeat every year. In this post I look at some of the health issues that women could experience in their lifetime but you will find separate posts on two key health issues later in the series.

Ovarian and breast cancer.

Research has made great inroads into finding viable treatments and a cure for both these cancers. They deserve to have their own posts.. on Thursday a guest post by ovarian Cancer survivor Karen Ingalls and next Monday a guest post by Judith Barrow who is a breast cancer survivor.

The message from both of these authors is that you need to get checked regularly and to be aware of symptoms is one that I am happy to keep repeating for new readers of the blog and also for those of you who have been with me for four years.

The fertile years 10 – 50 years old.

In this third part of the series on the female reproductive system a look at some of the health issues that might occur in the 40 years that it is active.  Every woman is unique and I can only give you averages when talking about events during a monthly cycle.

From the age of ten a girl is maturing towards becoming fertile. Puberty marks the start of an average of 40 years of one of the most miraculous, but also often inconvenient monthly cycles. Beneath our skin a complex series of actions are taking place to ensure the smooth running of this female process. Although the actual period only lasts an average of 7 to 10 days but can be shorter or longer, the process is ongoing for the full 28 to 32 days. The cycle can be different depending on a number of factors and will change as a woman matures.

The-Menstrual-Cycle-WThe menstrual cycle

There are a number of hormones, other than oestrogen and progesterone, involved in the menstrual cycle and the process is normally very precise and runs like clockwork to afford the very best chance of fertilisation of the egg.

There are three distinct stages that are orchestrated by the hormones, in sequence, and the whole cycle will take between 28 and 32 days to complete.

Stage one – Follicular phase day 1 – 13

During this phase the pituitary gland releases a hormone called FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) which will stimulate the egg containing follicles in the ovaries. In turn the follicles will release oestrogen which produces changes in the consistency of the mucus in the cervix resulting in a clear discharge mid cycle. This change help prepare the mucus to receive and nourish the sperm from the man.

Stage two – Ovulatory phase – approximately day 14

At this stage the level of luteinising hormone (LH) released from the anterior pituitary gland, dramatically increases or surges. LH forces the follicles to break open and release its egg into the fallopian tube. This is ovulation and takes approximately 24 hours.

Stage three – Luteal phase – day 15 to 28

After the follicle has released its egg it changes function and becomes a gland called the corpus luteum. This gland now releases the progesterone that will stimulate the growth of the thick and blood rich lining of the womb that might be needed if the egg is fertilised.

If the egg is not fertilised it dries up and dies and the lining of the womb is expelled through the cervix and out of the body as a period.

The health of the reproductive system.

Forty years is a very long time in body terms and it is hardly surprising that a system as complex as the reproductive function is not going to suffer from problems. These are either due to disruptions to the hormones in charge, or the organs themselves.

I know that you expect long posts from me but even I draw the line in covering all the health issues we might face over the years. Here are the headlines!

Conditions associated with the reproductive system

Many young girls and women suffer from PMS (Pre-menstrual syndrome) and in some cases this continues right up to menopause. This can be helped by changes in diet and exercise levels as well as some supplementation of specific nutrients and herbs.

Infertility is a problem that may not be discovered until a woman is in her late 20’s and 30’s and is actively trying to get pregnant but there are certain lifestyle and dietary issues as well as possible physical or hormonal reasons for difficulties in becoming pregnant. I will cover the basics under that heading.

Premenstrual Syndrome

PMS symptoms tend to occur at specific phases of the menstrual cycle, which are modulated by the changing levels in the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. It is logical then to assume that any adverse symptoms are caused by some disruption to the balance between these two hormones.

PMS always occurs during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle when the luteinising hormone (LH) increases the production of progesterone and oestrogen in the ovaries. This phase in the cycle is specifically to encourage secretions in the fallopian tubes and womb to ensure the proper nourishment and implantation of a fertilised egg.

There are a number of theories that have been put forward to try and explain the various reasons why individual women suffer differing symptoms at this time from water retention to depression. Some studies suggest that it is a lack of progesterone that causes the problems with some women responding favourably to progesterone therapy and other studies finding that it makes matters worse. The common factor appears to be an imbalance of one or other of the two female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. I think the key lies in a number of factors one of which is that we are all individual and this includes our hormonal makeup.

I have worked with many teenagers and older women who were suffering from PMS and I found the best way to start was with diet and exercise with particular attention to any other influences such as Candida Albicans or stress. Many women respond very favourably to being treated for Candida Albicans, as some of the symptoms for this are lower back pain, depression and water retention. Candida takes over the intestines and healthy and friendly bacteria are in short supply. Bacteria in our gut is responsible for the manufacture of certain nutrients such as Vitamin K that plays a role in regulating our menstrual flow so it is logical that Candida could also contribute to PMS problems. You can find more information on Candida here.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

Some doctors prefer to put women on the contraceptive pill to help regulate periods and minimise PMS but I am still not happy about taking additional hormones without first trying the natural approach for at least two cycles. Talk to your doctor about making lifestyle changes first including reducing the amount of sugar in your diet. The recommended amount of sugar is 7 teaspoons per day.. It is easy with breakfast cereals, flavoured yoghurt etc to consume 14 teaspoons for breakfast.  Blood sugar levels are erratic and hormones are affected.

Infertility

Infertility can be devastating to a young couple who have dreamt of having a large family and assumed that it was going to be as simple as stopping taking the pill or any other form of contraceptive. Unfortunately, for some women, there are physical reasons why they are unable to either produce an egg in the first place or carry the fertilised embryo to full term.

Usually there are a number of factors involved that cause or add to the reasons behind a woman’s infertility.  Since these are also the more common health issues with the reproductive system in general it is worth focusing on them in this post.

  1. Hormone levels are not sufficient to stimulate the release of an egg from the ovary or for it to successfully implant into the lining of the womb.
  2. A woman is more than 30% over her ideal weight or severely underweight and this effects ovulation. There is a link between eating disorders such as anorexia where body weight is reduced for extended periods of time. The body switches off non-life sustaining body functions. If you cannot nourish yourself then you would not be able to nourish a foetus.
  3. Fibroids of the womb.
  4. Endometriosis where the normal tissue that lines the womb is found outside in other areas of the pelvis.
  5. Production of antibodies that attack a partner’s sperm and kills them before they can fertilise her eggs.
  6. Infections throughout the pelvis caused by Chlamydia or by appendicitis leading to damage and scarring of the reproductive organs.
  7. Age.

Hormone Imbalance

Abnormal ovulation results in irregular or absent periods. This is usually caused by a lack of co-ordination between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, as these regulate the release of the hormones into the bloodstream.

If insufficient LH (luteinising hormone) or FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) is secreted then the levels of oestrogen and progesterone will not be high enough to begin the process of ovulation. This may require hormonal treatment but the first step is to ensure that diet and lifestyle factors are not playing a role in the imbalance.

Weight Issues

Extreme weight fluctuation can also cause periods to cease as this is linked to hormonal imbalances associated with diet. Being overweight puts incredible stress on all the operating systems in the body including the reproductive system. Most women who have been overweight since childhood are likely to suffer from irregular or no menstrual cycle at all. Even being slightly overweight can affect hormone levels and it is recommended that a women get down as close to her ideal weight as possible before trying to conceive. There is additional wisdom in this as a woman who is already over three stone overweight is going to add another three at least during her pregnancy which can add significantly to risks of complications such as Gestational diabetes, very high blood pressure and the need for a Caesarean delivery.

In nature, in times of drought or famine, certain animals will not only cease to ovulate but they will also stop the gestation of their young until such time as conditions improve. One of the long-term issues with eating disorders such as Anorexia is infertility, as there is insufficient nutrients being made available to manufacture the necessary hormones. Before trying to conceive anyone who is dramatically underweight should take a close look at their diet and seek professional help in building up nutrition, calories and body mass.

Fibroids

One of the staggering statistics is that one in four women will enter the menopause because of medical treatment, the leading one being a hysterectomy (removal of the womb and ovaries). The biggest single reason is fibroids, which are benign tumours inside and outside the womb. There are three general locations for fibroids.

  1. Subserosal –on the outside surface of the uterus
  2. Intramural – within the muscular wall of the uterus
  3. Submucous – bulging in to the uterine cavity.

The submucous location is rarer than the other two but is the one associated with failure to conceive and early miscarriage. If the other two types of fibroid grow too large however they too can have an effect on the reproductive system.

Fibroids-WNo one is entirely sure what causes fibroids to form. There are a number of factors and hormone imbalance is probably involved. However, our diet may also be partly to blame as many foods that we consume contain substances that mimic the way oestrogen affects the body – and these include growth hormones in milk, beef and chicken, pesticides on our food and even the plastics we use in our kitchens for storage. This leads to oestrogen dominance in a woman, which can then lead to a number of reproductive problems including the growth of these benign tumours.

There is also a genetic link and if your female relatives have tended to get fibroids then you are at risk of developing them too. The light at the end of the tunnel is that they nearly always shrink when you reach menopause but if they cause heavy and painful bleeding and are making your life a misery you should deal with them as soon as possible.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis develops when tissue resembling the endometrium inside the womb begins growing out in the pelvic cavity. The most common symptoms of this are painful sexual intercourse, period pains and infertility.

The endometrium is made up of blood, endometrial skin cells, glands and pieces of blood vessels and connective tissues. Although the endometrium is usually discarded and broken into pieces to be excreted in menstrual blood through the vagina, it can sometimes find its way through the upper openings of the womb that lead to the fallopian tubes. The ends of the fallopian tubes are open to the pelvic cavity and the pieces of endometrium can then attach themselves to any surface within the cavity and reform using all the components to grow and develop.

If the fallopian tubes are blocked and the ovaries are now coated with growing endometriosis there is little chance of an egg being produced and fertilised by a sperm – leading to infertility.

The usual treatment is to remove the lesions surgically or prescribe drugs that suppress the endometrium in the womb to keep it thin. This, in effect, creates a false menopause as it also suppresses the ovaries and the production of oestrogen. If you are hoping to have children it might have a long term effect on your ability to conceive.

Killer Mucous

When the body is not ovulating, cervical mucous has a role in killing any harmful bacteria trying to get into the body via the vagina. However, during ovulation a chemical change occurs which is designed to ensure the survival of the sperm on its way into the system. Some women react to their partner’s sperm, by developing antibodies instead, and killing the sperm as it fights its way towards the cervix.

Chlamydia

One of the more common causes of infertility today is an infection that has damaged part of the reproduction system. For example, Chlamydia is a bacterial infection transmitted sexually and is the most common of the STDs contracted by adolescents and young adults today. The biggest problem is that you may not discover that you have been infected until you are trying to have a baby because 75% of women and 50% of men have no overt symptoms and it is therefore known as a silent disease.

Left untreated, Chlamydia can spread and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which rises through the vagina and the cervix before infecting the womb, fallopian tubes and the ovaries. The resulting scarring to the fallopian tubes can cause infertility and increase the risk of ectopic pregnancies (inside the fallopian tube).

In the rare cases where symptoms are present they can mimic other pre-menstrual symptoms and be ignored such as lower back pain, bleeding between periods, nausea and fever. However, if these are also accompanied by frequent urinary tract infections, chronic pelvic pain and vomiting it is necessary to consider that it is Chlamydia and seek medical attention.

Age

Fertility levels decrease with age in women. Although there have been some reports of women becoming pregnant during the change of life it is rare. Women are at their most fertile up to 24 years old but today many women are putting off having children, preferring to wait for career or economic reasons. It is estimated that one third of women over 35 will experience some problems getting pregnant and at least half will have severe difficulties.

Declining hormone production, lack of viable eggs and an accumulation of the other factors I have covered in this article will combine to cause fertility problems. If a woman has also smoked, drunk too much alcohol and not eaten a healthy diet she will add to the difficulties.

Dietary influences.

Our body has very specific needs and this includes essential nutrients that can be processed and distributed around the body to where they are needed. As always a varied diet with lots of fresh vegetables, lean protein, fruits and wholegrains is a great place to start… And need I say.. Cooked from Scratch without any industrialised sugary additives.

For those of you who would like to know more about the nutrients we need here is a directory where you will find the nutrient, what it is needed for and the foods that supply it.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

Thanks so much for dropping by and if you have a private question that you would rather not put in the comments section you can contact me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Please feel free to comment, reblog or share on social media and help get the message out.

©Just Food for Health 1998 – 2018

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2018/

Smorgasbord Health Column – Nutrients we need – Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine – Blood Health and Depression.


B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that exists in three major chemical forms: Pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine.

Being water soluble it is necessary to replace this vitamin every day from your diet and B6 plays such a crucial role in so many functions of the body that a deficiency can have a huge impact on your health.

What is B6 necessary for?

It is required for over 100 enzymes that metabolise the protein that you eat. Along with the mineral Iron, it is essential for healthy blood. The nervous and immune systems also require vitamin B6 to function efficiently. It is also necessary for our overall feeling of wellbeing as it converts the amino acid tryptophan, which is essential for the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin in the brain.

Without B6 you would not be able to manufacture haemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. Once the haemoglobin is produced the vitamin also helps increase the amount of oxygen it can carry. A deficiency therefore is one of the leading causes of anaemia and I shall be covering the components that make up our blood and the most common forms of anaemia during the next few days.

Without a healthy immune system we are at the mercy of any bacteria or virus that takes a fancy to us. A complicated biochemical interaction is required to ensure we can fight off infections; the food that we eat plays a vital role in producing the white blood cells that form the defence system. B6 ensures that the food that eat is metabolised efficiently thus producing enough of these cells.

Additionally B6 helps keep your lymph system healthy by maintaining the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes. The lymph system runs parallel to your circulatory system and is the battleground for the white blood cells and the viruses.

Blood sugar levels can fluctuate depending on the types of food that we eat particularly carbohydrates. If you are not eating sufficient calories your body uses B6 to convert stored carbohydrate or other nutrients to glucose to maintain normal blood sugar levels. This is one of the reasons that people on crash diets can suffer dizziness and fatigue. Without sufficient intake of food they are not replenishing their B6 on a regular basis. Because they are taking in too little calories for their body to function and they do not have B6 to convert any stored energy, they become weakened.

The balance of chemicals in our brain affects our feeling of well-being. Neurotransmitters like serotonin, melatonin and dopamine are required for normal cell communication. In research lower levels of serotonin have been found in people suffering from varying degrees of depression and also migraine headaches. The research is not conclusive but at B6 is needed for the manufacture of these neurotransmitters it makes sense to ensure that there are adequate amounts being taken in through diet.

What are the signs of B6 deficiency?

With a balanced diet, which includes wholegrains and fruit and vegetables, it is unusual to find a B6 deficiency in a healthy adult.

  • The elderly are more at risk due to reduced intakes of food resulting from lack of appetite and a general wearing down of internal systems and functions such as food metabolism.
  • People who are perpetual dieters and in particular those who follow restricted food type diets are at risk as well, although unfortunately it is usually only when the deficiency has become critical that the symptoms might appear.
  • One of the early signs will be changes to the skin with inflammations such as dermatitis.
  • Another affected area is the mouth and Glossitis is a condition where the tongue becomes swollen and sore.
  • Because of the role of B6 in our chemical balance within the brain, depression is not unusual.
  • A lack of B6 may have an impact on PMS symptoms and also regularity of periods.
  • In severe cases a person might suffer convulsions and as you will see from the post later in the week on anaemia, the quality of our lifeblood is compromised.
  • Alcoholics tend to eat poorly which will restrict both their intake of B6 and its availability but alcohol also causes the destruction and loss of any B6 that is consumed.
  • If you have an asthmatic child and they are on the prescribed medication theophylline they may require supplementation with B6 as the drug destroys B6 in a similar way to alcohol. You must talk to your doctor first however before taking or giving anyone B6 if they are already taking a prescription drug.
  • Taking too much vitamin B6 in supplementation form can lead to some nerve damage particularly in the arms and legs. This might result in tingling sensations or numbness. Usually the symptoms disappear when the supplementation is stopped. Do talk to your doctor before stopping the supplement if you are taking it on his advice.

What are the areas where increasing intake of B6 in food or supplements might be helpful?

  • Certainly I have found that adjusting a woman’s diet and including B6 rich foods has helped with PMS and menopausal symptoms. Scientists are still debating the effects of B6 in supplement form on these two conditions and there is some evidence that suggests taking B6 in supplement form is less bio-available and therefore could lead to toxicity. I use a spray form of multi-vitamin that contains B-complex including B6 which is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.
  • There is some evidence a deficiency of some of the B vitamins including B6, Folic Acid and B12, may result in increased levels of homocysteine, which is an amino acid in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine are linked to heart attacks and strokes due to its ability to damage arteries or encourage platelets to clump together as a clot.

Best food sources of Vitamin B6

As always I prefer to include nutrients within our normal diet and as you will have seen from the previous posts on the other B vitamins, there are many foods that you can include daily that will ensure that you have sufficient B6 for normal function.

These foods include wholegrain carbohydrates like brown rice, porridge oats, walnuts and sunflower seeds, bananas, avocados, salmon and tuna, dried fruit such as prunes and raisins, eggs, wheatgerm, poultry and meats such as lamb.

©sallygeorginacronin Just Food For Health 1999- 2018

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook fromhttp://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4: http://www.moyhill.com/html/just_food_for_health.html

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is sally.cronin@moyhill.com. I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Health 2017- Top to Toe -The Female Reproductive System updated – Some health issues to be aware of.


Smorgasbord Health 2017

This is not the first time I have posted this series and I intend to repeat every year. In this post I look at some of the health issues that women could experience in their lifetime but you will find separate posts on two key health issues later in the series.

Ovarian and breast cancer.

Research has made great inroads into finding viable treatments and a cure for both these cancers. They deserve to have their own posts.. on Thursday a guest post by ovarian Cancer survivor Karen Ingalls and next Monday a guest post by Judith Barrow who is a breast cancer survivor.

The message from both of these authors is that you need to get checked regularly and to be aware of symptoms is one that I am happy to keep repeating for new readers of the blog and also for those of you who have been with me for four years.

The fertile years 10 – 50 years old.

In this third part of the series on the female reproductive system a look at some of the health issues that might occur in the 40 years that it is active.  Every woman is unique and I can only give you averages when talking about events during a monthly cycle.

From the age of ten a girl is maturing towards becoming fertile. Puberty marks the start of an average of 40 years of one of the most miraculous, but also often inconvenient monthly cycles. Beneath our skin a complex series of actions are taking place to ensure the smooth running of this female process. Although the actual period only lasts an average of 7 to 10 days but can be shorter or longer, the process is ongoing for the full 28 to 32 days. The cycle can be different depending on a number of factors and will change as a woman matures.

The-Menstrual-Cycle-W

The menstrual cycle

There are a number of hormones, other than oestrogen and progesterone, involved in the menstrual cycle and the process is normally very precise and runs like clockwork to afford the very best chance of fertilisation of the egg.

There are three distinct stages that are orchestrated by the hormones, in sequence, and the whole cycle will take between 28 and 32 days to complete.

Stage one – Follicular phase day 1 – 13

During this phase the pituitary gland releases a hormone called FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) which will stimulate the egg containing follicles in the ovaries. In turn the follicles will release oestrogen which produces changes in the consistency of the mucus in the cervix resulting in a clear discharge mid cycle. This change help prepare the mucus to receive and nourish the sperm from the man.

Stage two – Ovulatory phase – approximately day 14

At this stage the level of luteinising hormone (LH) released from the anterior pituitary gland, dramatically increases or surges. LH forces the follicles to break open and release its egg into the fallopian tube. This is ovulation and takes approximately 24 hours.

Stage three – Luteal phase – day 15 to 28

After the follicle has released its egg it changes function and becomes a gland called the corpus luteum. This gland now releases the progesterone that will stimulate the growth of the thick and blood rich lining of the womb that might be needed if the egg is fertilised.

If the egg is not fertilised it dries up and dies and the lining of the womb is expelled through the cervix and out of the body as a period.

The health of the reproductive system.

Forty years is a very long time in body terms and it is hardly surprising that a system as complex as the reproductive function is not going to suffer from problems. These are either due to disruptions to the hormones in charge, or the organs themselves.

I know that you expect long posts from me but even I draw the line in covering all the health issues we might face over the years. Here are the headlines!

Conditions associated with the reproductive system

Many young girls and women suffer from PMS (Pre-menstrual syndrome) and in some cases this continues right up to menopause. This can be helped by changes in diet and exercise levels as well as some supplementation of specific nutrients and herbs.

Infertility is a problem that may not be discovered until a woman is in her late 20’s and 30’s and is actively trying to get pregnant but there are certain lifestyle and dietary issues as well as possible physical or hormonal reasons for difficulties in becoming pregnant. I will cover the basics under that heading.

Premenstrual Syndrome

PMS symptoms tend to occur at specific phases of the menstrual cycle, which are modulated by the changing levels in the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. It is logical then to assume that any adverse symptoms are caused by some disruption to the balance between these two hormones.

PMS always occurs during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle when the luteinising hormone (LH) increases the production of progesterone and oestrogen in the ovaries. This phase in the cycle is specifically to encourage secretions in the fallopian tubes and womb to ensure the proper nourishment and implantation of a fertilised egg.

There are a number of theories that have been put forward to try and explain the various reasons why individual women suffer differing symptoms at this time from water retention to depression. Some studies suggest that it is a lack of progesterone that causes the problems with some women responding favourably to progesterone therapy and other studies finding that it makes matters worse. The common factor appears to be an imbalance of one or other of the two female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. I think the key lies in a number of factors one of which is that we are all individual and this includes our hormonal makeup.

I have worked with many teenagers and older women who were suffering from PMS and I found the best way to start was with diet and exercise with particular attention to any other influences such as Candida Albicans or stress. Many women respond very favourably to being treated for Candida Albicans, as some of the symptoms for this are lower back pain, depression and water retention. Candida takes over the intestines and healthy and friendly bacteria are in short supply. Bacteria in our gut is responsible for the manufacture of certain nutrients such as Vitamin K that plays a role in regulating our menstrual flow so it is logical that Candida could also contribute to PMS problems. You can find more information on Candida here.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-directory/

Some doctors prefer to put women on the contraceptive pill to help regulate periods and minimise PMS but I am still not happy about taking additional hormones without first trying the natural approach for at least two cycles. Talk to your doctor about making lifestyle changes first including reducing the amount of sugar in your diet. The recommended amount of sugar is 7 teaspoons per day.. It is easy with breakfast cereals, flavoured yoghurt etc to consume 14 teaspoons for breakfast.  Blood sugar levels are erratic and hormones are affected.

Infertility

Infertility can be devastating to a young couple who have dreamt of having a large family and assumed that it was going to be as simple as stopping taking the pill or any other form of contraceptive. Unfortunately, for some women, there are physical reasons why they are unable to either produce an egg in the first place or carry the fertilised embryo to full term.

Usually there are a number of factors involved that cause or add to the reasons behind a woman’s infertility.  Since these are also the more common health issues with the reproductive system in general it is worth focusing on them in this post.

  1. Hormone levels are not sufficient to stimulate the release of an egg from the ovary or for it to successfully implant into the lining of the womb.
  2. A woman is more than 30% over her ideal weight or severely underweight and this effects ovulation. There is a link between eating disorders such as anorexia where body weight is reduced for extended periods of time. The body switches off non-life sustaining body functions. If you cannot nourish yourself then you would not be able to nourish a foetus.
  3. Fibroids of the womb.
  4. Endometriosis where the normal tissue that lines the womb is found outside in other areas of the pelvis.
  5. Production of antibodies that attack a partner’s sperm and kills them before they can fertilise her eggs.
  6. Infections throughout the pelvis caused by Chlamydia or by appendicitis leading to damage and scarring of the reproductive organs.
  7. Age.

Hormone Imbalance

Abnormal ovulation results in irregular or absent periods. This is usually caused by a lack of co-ordination between the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, as these regulate the release of the hormones into the bloodstream.

If insufficient LH (luteinising hormone) or FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) is secreted then the levels of oestrogen and progesterone will not be high enough to begin the process of ovulation. This may require hormonal treatment but the first step is to ensure that diet and lifestyle factors are not playing a role in the imbalance.

Weight Issues

Extreme weight fluctuation can also cause periods to cease as this is linked to hormonal imbalances associated with diet. Being overweight puts incredible stress on all the operating systems in the body including the reproductive system. Most women who have been overweight since childhood are likely to suffer from irregular or no menstrual cycle at all. Even being slightly overweight can affect hormone levels and it is recommended that a women get down as close to her ideal weight as possible before trying to conceive. There is additional wisdom in this as a woman who is already over three stone overweight is going to add another three at least during her pregnancy which can add significantly to risks of complications such as Gestational diabetes, very high blood pressure and the need for a Caesarean delivery.

In nature, in times of drought or famine, certain animals will not only cease to ovulate but they will also stop the gestation of their young until such time as conditions improve. One of the long-term issues with eating disorders such as Anorexia is infertility, as there is insufficient nutrients being made available to manufacture the necessary hormones. Before trying to conceive anyone who is dramatically underweight should take a close look at their diet and seek professional help in building up nutrition, calories and body mass.

Fibroids

One of the staggering statistics is that one in four women will enter the menopause because of medical treatment, the leading one being a hysterectomy (removal of the womb and ovaries). The biggest single reason is fibroids, which are benign tumours inside and outside the womb. There are three general locations for fibroids.

  1. Subserosal –on the outside surface of the uterus
  2. Intramural – within the muscular wall of the uterus
  3. Submucous – bulging in to the uterine cavity.

The submucous location is rarer than the other two but is the one associated with failure to conceive and early miscarriage. If the other two types of fibroid grow too large however they too can have an effect on the reproductive system.

Fibroids-W

No one is entirely sure what causes fibroids to form. There are a number of factors and hormone imbalance is probably involved. However, our diet may also be partly to blame as many foods that we consume contain substances that mimic the way oestrogen affects the body – and these include growth hormones in milk, beef and chicken, pesticides on our food and even the plastics we use in our kitchens for storage. This leads to oestrogen dominance in a woman, which can then lead to a number of reproductive problems including the growth of these benign tumours.

There is also a genetic link and if your female relatives have tended to get fibroids then you are at risk of developing them too. The light at the end of the tunnel is that they nearly always shrink when you reach menopause but if they cause heavy and painful bleeding and are making your life a misery you should deal with them as soon as possible.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis develops when tissue resembling the endometrium inside the womb begins growing out in the pelvic cavity. The most common symptoms of this are painful sexual intercourse, period pains and infertility.

The endometrium is made up of blood, endometrial skin cells, glands and pieces of blood vessels and connective tissues. Although the endometrium is usually discarded and broken into pieces to be excreted in menstrual blood through the vagina, it can sometimes find its way through the upper openings of the womb that lead to the fallopian tubes. The ends of the fallopian tubes are open to the pelvic cavity and the pieces of endometrium can then attach themselves to any surface within the cavity and reform using all the components to grow and develop.

If the fallopian tubes are blocked and the ovaries are now coated with growing endometriosis there is little chance of an egg being produced and fertilised by a sperm – leading to infertility.

The usual treatment is to remove the lesions surgically or prescribe drugs that suppress the endometrium in the womb to keep it thin. This, in effect, creates a false menopause as it also suppresses the ovaries and the production of oestrogen. If you are hoping to have children it might have a long term effect on your ability to conceive.

Killer Mucous

When the body is not ovulating, cervical mucous has a role in killing any harmful bacteria trying to get into the body via the vagina. However, during ovulation a chemical change occurs which is designed to ensure the survival of the sperm on its way into the system. Some women react to their partner’s sperm, by developing antibodies instead, and killing the sperm as it fights its way towards the cervix.

Chlamydia

One of the more common causes of infertility today is an infection that has damaged part of the reproduction system. For example, Chlamydia is a bacterial infection transmitted sexually and is the most common of the STDs contracted by adolescents and young adults today. The biggest problem is that you may not discover that you have been infected until you are trying to have a baby because 75% of women and 50% of men have no overt symptoms and it is therefore known as a silent disease.

Left untreated, Chlamydia can spread and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which rises through the vagina and the cervix before infecting the womb, fallopian tubes and the ovaries. The resulting scarring to the fallopian tubes can cause infertility and increase the risk of ectopic pregnancies (inside the fallopian tube).

In the rare cases where symptoms are present they can mimic other pre-menstrual symptoms and be ignored such as lower back pain, bleeding between periods, nausea and fever. However, if these are also accompanied by frequent urinary tract infections, chronic pelvic pain and vomiting it is necessary to consider that it is Chlamydia and seek medical attention.

Age

Fertility levels decrease with age in women. Although there have been some reports of women becoming pregnant during the change of life it is rare. Women are at their most fertile up to 24 years old but today many women are putting off having children, preferring to wait for career or economic reasons. It is estimated that one third of women over 35 will experience some problems getting pregnant and at least half will have severe difficulties.

Declining hormone production, lack of viable eggs and an accumulation of the other factors I have covered in this article will combine to cause fertility problems. If a woman has also smoked, drunk too much alcohol and not eaten a healthy diet she will add to the difficulties.

Dietary influences.

Our body has very specific needs and this includes essential nutrients that can be processed and distributed around the body to where they are needed. As always a varied diet with lots of fresh vegetables, lean protein, fruits and wholegrains is a great place to start… And need I say.. Cooked from Scratch without any industrialised sugary additives.

For those of you who would like to know more about the nutrients we need here is a directory where you will find the nutrient, what it is needed for and the foods that supply it.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-nutrition-directory/

Thanks so much for dropping by and if you have a private question that you would rather not put in the comments section you can contact me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Please feel free to comment, reblog or share on social media and help get the message out.

The other posts in the Female Reproductive System can be found in this directory.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe/

©sallygeorginacronin Just Food For Health 2009