There are many areas of health that are important to women, including hormonal balance, skin health, breast health, libido and more. This newsletter is Part 1 of a two-part series covering specific nutrients that may be helpful for these critical areas of women’s wellness.
Antioxidants for Anti-Aging
While most women have heard of antioxidants, many are still unaware of how they work or how to take them. Basically, antioxidants work against the unwanted oxidation of body tissues. While oxygen can be the body’s best friend, it can occur in a reactive form that damages tissues through the process of oxidation. Reactive forms of oxygen are called free radicals.
I believe that antioxidant usage is a key anti-aging tactic. Oxidative damage to tissues has been associated with almost every known chronic disease. Moreover, oxidative damage to genetic material and other cell structures is believed to be a principal cause of abnormal tissue changes that may lead to poor health and premature aging.
There are two specific antioxidants that may be especially beneficial for women. The first is green tea, which is brimming with antioxidant polyphenols, and offers versatile, well-documented health benefits. Second, I am impressed with scientific data showing the powerful effects of ellagic acid, found in raspberries and pomegranates.
Many skin care products today contain antioxidants intended to produce anti-aging effects on the skin, yet the topical application of antioxidants may be only marginally effective at improving skin health and appearance. Instead, I recommend women take antioxidants orally.
L-Theanine: Relaxation from Green Tea
While many of green tea’s benefits have been attributed to its antioxidant polyphenol and related catechin (e.g., epigallocatechingallate, EGCG) content, the use of green tea and other herbal teas, such as German chamomile, can also cause feelings of relaxation.
The compound in green tea believed to be responsible for its soothing properties is the amino acid L-theanine. This amino acid has shown an ability to cause muscle relaxation and contribute to restful sleep, without a direct sedative or hypnotic effect. It’s believed that L-theanine may support the balance of various brain chemicals that serve as messenger molecules (neurotransmitters). Following the oral ingestion of L-theanine, brain activity shows measurable changes toward relaxation.
The frequent presence of anxiety or stress in PMS and perimenopause makes L-theanine an ideal addition to supplement formulas for women. In addition, L-theanine may help support healthy blood pressure.
Chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus) for PMS, Menopause & Libido
Vitex agnus castus (Chasteberry) is an herb that has been grossly underestimated as valuable for women’s health. Laboratory studies show that extracts of chasteberry can both bind to estrogen receptors in the body and may stimulate progesterone receptors. In other words, chasteberry is a hormonal biological response modifier with several potential actions (Table 1).
Multiple hormonal actions
May raise progesterone levels in blood
May increase levels of luteinizing hormone
May help correct consequences of progesterone deficiency
Inhibits the stress hormone prolactin
Has an antiandrogenic hormone effect
Approved by German E commission for management of menstrual irregularities and mastodynia (breast pain)
Table 1. Vitex (chasteberry): Characteristics and actions of an underestimated herb for menopause and PMS.
It has been argued that the major benefit of chasteberry is related to its ability to enhance the actions of progesterone. When taken in low doses, Chasteberry may decrease follicle-stimulating hormone and increase lutenizing hormone levels in the blood. These changes in the blood levels of pituitary hormones can result in increases in blood levels of progesterone. This helps to explain why chasteberry may reduce hot flashes, help with vaginal dryness and contribute to better mood.
Chasteberry has also been used to promote libido in women, and it seems to have a clear effect on inhibiting the actions of the stress hormone, prolactin. Prolactin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. These actions on prolactin make the use of chasteberry unwise in pregnancy and for people taking medications that promote dopamine responses (e.g. L-Dopa).
It could be noted that chasteberry is an herb that acts quite slowly in the body, and it may take as long as three months of continuous use before it exerts its beneficial effects for menopause and PMS.
Evening Primrose Oil for Breast Health, PMS & Menopause
It’s believed that evening primrose oil is beneficial for breast health, PMS, breast pain (mastalgia) and menopausal discomforts. Its beneficial effects may be due to its gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) content. This fatty acid is a precursor of a group of molecules called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are considered, in simple terms, to be friendly types of hormones or messengers that support the body’s inflammatory response. GLA is known to be a precursor of prostaglandin E1.
Some studies have indicated that women with PMS may be unable to readily convert precursor molecules into GLA. It’s proposed that a deficiency of GLA may aggravate PMS.
Some of the desirable effects of GLA can also be achieved by omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA (docosahexanoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentanoic acid). Omega-3 fatty acids offer benefits for breast health, cardiovascular health, brain function and immunity. Every woman should consider taking a fish oil or other omega-3 supplement containing DHA and EPA, in enteric coated or targeted delivery forms, for health.
Stephen Holt, MD
- New Natural Discovery: BeeFertile Harnesses The Fertility Power of Bees (prweb.com)
- Manage Menopause Naturally (drsundardas.wordpress.com)
- Hot Flashes Persist After Menopause (hotflashpj.wordpress.com)
- Perimenopause and Hormone Balance (drerichoning.com)
- Estrogen: Should Women Take Estrogen? (drjosephkaye.com)
- Antioxidant Supplement Maker To Focus On Dieters (prweb.com)
- Cellean: Green Tea Takes it to the Top of the Pack (prweb.com)
- Vitex Agnus-Castus and Cherries, Elia Charalambides (collaboratelaborate.wordpress.com)