Women’s Wellness is an everyday topic amongst our Livewell practitioners, who all agree that preventative strategies and holistic healthcare are major contributors to Women’s wellness and wellbeing. September 6-10 is Women’s Health Week, which highlights improving women’s health and making healthier choices for Australian females. Since wellness is defined as an individual’s experience of overall life satisfaction, it takes into consideration physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, economic, occupational, and environmental dimensions. (1) Clearly that counts for many ways that wellbeing can be influenced. For women specifically, disruptions that might also alter the quality of life include female reproductive and hormonal issues,(1) which can be affected by all of these dimensions.
What makes Women Unique
Since exclusively female health concerns are predominantly hormone-driven disorders, menstrual health is an integral part of overall health. Between menarche and menopause, most women in modern times menstruate more than 400 times. (2) The menstrual cycle creates the potential to disrupt women’s physical, mental, and social wellbeing on a regular basis due to experiences of pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue. Reproductive health is a hot topic when it comes to improving women’s health and is an area where many women seek natural and holistic treatment options.
When Hormones Go Haywire
Diagnosis of issues like endometriosis, uterine fibroids, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) can impact optimal health greatly. (2) Add to the list cancers impacting breast, ovarian, cervical and uterine tissues, as well as infertility and perimenopause, there is the potential for hormonal driven problems to appear at many different stages of life. Attention and prevention are two key aspects to help manage and mitigate these kinds of issues.
Prevention is Best Cure
Prevention of serious diseases like breast cancer is good motivation for women to make healthier choices like reducing alcohol intake and increasing exercise. Excessive alcohol consumption is a modifiable risk factor and is detrimental because it elevates the level of oestrogen-related hormones in the blood and triggers the oestrogen receptor pathways. (3) Replacing the time spent consuming those extra drinks with exercise counts for something, since physically active women have an average 25% lower risk of breast cancer. (3) Women often change their health behaviours in their 40’s – for the better – in the years leading up to menopause (known as perimenopause) and it’s a great time to do so.
Presiding over Perimenopause
Women who choose to take charge and make healthier choices at this time may actually find the transition into menopause a little smoother for a number of reasons. Fascinating research shows that beyond the hormonal shift, perimenopause is also a neurological transition state with the symptoms being largely neurological in nature, including thermoregulation, sleep, circadian rhythms and aspects of cognitive function. (4) While there may be no avoiding some symptoms at this life-changing phase, with the range of potential symptoms to combat, feeling empowered by better health choices can make a difference.
Prioritising your Wellbeing
Knowing when and why to approach healthcare providers at every age and stage for women is important. Conversations will differ in the teen years, 20’s and 30’s compared to over the age of 40. In any case, discussing reproductive and hormone health with a practitioner may reveal clues about ways to improve health and wellbeing. Things to discuss may include:
- STD check
- Breast examinations (including self-examination)
- Timing of pap smears (2 years or 5 years)
- Family planning and contraception choices
- Specialised testing of hormones
- Other types of screening including pelvic ultrasound and mammogram
- Preconception care
- Period health including pain, irregular cycles and abnormal bleeding
- Perimenopause and Menopause
Beyond a visit to your GP, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners are naturally women’s health advocates. Interestingly, a survey of Australian women who consulted with a naturopath or herbalist to improve their wellbeing reported positive health behaviours, protective of their health, including being less likely to smoke, more likely to report at least moderate levels of physical activity and use of a vegetarian diet. (5)
As always, your wellness is our priority, and we celebrate Women’s Health Week and our role to play in Women’s Wellness