This is for all the women out there — all the mama’s, daughters, friends — us women are usually always ready and willing to offer a helping hand. Whether it’s our children, friends, parents, boss, co-workers, pets, or even strangers, we’re ready and willing to offer a helping hand. Someone or something needs our attention and energy? Say no more! We’re there. This instinctual desire to care for others truly is beautiful — until it’s at our own expense. At what point do we stop and acknowledge our own needs? Or more importantly, our own health? Why is it that we whole-heartedly recognize the importance of love and nourishment when it’s for others… but if it’s for ourselves? Oh, we don’t have time. We’re too busy. We might even feel guilty. Ironic, right? Let’s put an end to this — you can’t pour from an empty cup, no matter how hard you try.
Just look at the statistics. In the past year alone, 1 in 5 American women experienced a mental health condition such as stress or anxiety. And 53% of working women experienced burnout in the workplace. What does this tell you? There is a need for a paradigm shift in women’s health. Women need to put their health first, not last. And International Women’s Day is the perfect opportunity to address the many health needs of women across the globe.
For expert advice we spoke with Dr. Judy Rosas, Women’s Health Specialist and Naturopathic Doctor at LIVV Natural, an Integrative Wellness Center in San Diego utilizing functional medicine to optimize overall health and well-being. From stress relief and diet to sleep-care and self-care, we’re sharing the ten best ways women can support their health.
10 Women’s Health Tips According to a Naturopathic Doctor
Tip #1: Stop Stressing
“Figuring out what is triggering you is an important first step to reducing any stress or anxiety you may be experiencing,” says Rosas. “Acute and chronic stress plays a huge role in disrupting our immune system and increasing overall inflammation in the body. Stress can also lead to imbalances in cortisol production, which is a hormone that is released during times of stress. Cortisol helps to regulate inflammation, blood pressure, and metabolism. But if chronically elevated, it can lead to hormone imbalances, gut inflammation, fatigue, brain fog, irritability, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression”.
Rosas offers some tips on how to promote a feeling of calm:
Journaling or Meditation: Journaling or meditating are great ways to find inner peace. If that’s not your thing — that’s ok! Figuring out what resonates with you the most will be the key to sticking to a good self-care and stress-free coping regimen.
Grounding Practices: Yoga, grounding, hiking, listening to music, or dancing are great ways to support mental and emotional health. A great and simple way to reset the body and mind is to walk barefoot on the beach or on the grass at your favorite park for 15-20 minutes.
Check-in With Your Support Network: Finding a therapist or reaching out to your support network is also a great way to relieve stress. It’s healthy to want to feel heard or understood, and having a therapist, a close friend, or family member may be able to provide you with the support you need.
Tip #2: Make Sleep a Priority
“Assessing sleep hygiene is an important first step to identify what may be impacting your ability to fall or stay asleep,” says Rosas. “Factors that can disrupt sleep include blue light from your phone or TV, eating sugary foods 1-2 hours before bed, stress, a cluttered room, consuming caffeine late in the day, or having an irregular sleep routine.”
“Sleep is necessary for optimizing brain function and boosting our immune system. Sleep is also important for regulating hormones, improving metabolism, promoting tissue healing, and improving liver detoxification.” If you’re sleeping less than the 7-8 recommended hours per night or tossing and turning resulting in a less than rested snooze, it’s time to get your sleep hygiene in check!
Here are some tips:
Journaling or Meditating: “Journaling or meditating for 10-15 minutes before bed is a great way to calm the nervous system and put the mind at ease,” says Rosas.
Essential Oil: Diffuse a sleep-supporting essential oil during sleep, such as lavender, sage, bergamot, or cedarwood.
Herbal Tea: Drink a warm cup of herbal tea before bed. Rosas recommends chamomile, magnolia, lemon balm, lavender, passionflower, or valerian root tea.
RELATED: Ultimate Guide to Sleep
Tip #3: Move Every Day (Even Just a Little!)
We get it — you’re super busy and sometimes working out feels like a luxury that you just don’t have time for. But, there’s always room to move more — even on the busiest of days! It doesn’t have to be a full-blown workout for you to get the benefits of moving your body. Living an active lifestyle counts — in fact, every bit of movement counts!
“It is so important to move on a daily basis even if it is just for 10 minutes,” says Rosas. “Moving is important for improving blood circulation and oxygenation, increasing lymphatic drainage, and improving overall vitality.”
Try adding these sneaky forms of movements into your day
- Set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to do a couple of jumping jacks, squats, or lunges
- Dance or jump in place — it’s an easy way to get the heart pumping!
- Rosas recommends daily stretches to help reduce any muscle tightness or tension you may be experiencing throughout the day. Daily neck stretches and facial stretches are helpful to reduce headaches, neck and jaw tightness. You can browse the stretch category in the FitOn app for some guided stretch classes that you can incorporate into your busy day!
Tip #4: Get Regular Blood Work
“It is so important for women to get regular blood work done to check their hormone levels,” says Rosas. “Women should be mindful to check their all sex hormones, thyroid hormones, and cortisol levels. Imbalances in these hormones can lead to nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, fatigue, irritability, lack of motivation, difficulty losing weight, skin issues, sleep irregularities, microbiome imbalances, anxiety, depression, and so much more.”
And this isn’t just for women nearing menopause — women as young as their twenties should be checking in on the state of their body and health with hormone panels, too. The excess stress, increased risk for illness, environmental toxins, and unhealthy diets can be taxing on the body — it puts your hormones at an increased risk of imbalance. But, it’s nothing to be overly nervous about! Think about it this way: the more you know, the easier it will be to tackle the root problem.
“Finding the root cause of your hormone imbalances is the key to finding physical and mental relief,” says Rosas. “Most women who come to my office have been prescribed medications, referred to psychiatrists, referred for surgery, and have never had a complete hormone panel ordered for them. Be sure to find a doctor who will listen to your concerns, gather a thorough history, and investigate why you are experiencing discomfort. Have blood work run at least once a year.”
Tip #5: Ditch the Diet Mentality
It’s easy to get caught up in the many fad diets and wellness trends — especially when sneaky marketing tactics target women with false claims of foods or diets that result in fast weight loss. “It’s best to follow a meal plan that is individualized to you,” says Rosas. “Not one person is the same, thus if you follow a meal plan that you simply read online or learned about from a friend, this does not mean that you will see the same results as he/she did. Following a fad diet or a trend you saw on social media will only lead to stress, worry, and disappointment. This vicious cycle can further lead to anxiety, depression, weight gain, and an unhealthy relationship with food.”
Instead of using the term “diet”, I like to use the term “habitual nourishment”, says Rosas. It is important to nourish your body with foods that make you feel good on the inside and out. Being more aware of how you feel physically and mentally, rather than thinking about what particular foods you are putting into your body, will best guide you during your food exploration journey. Always be kind and gentle with yourself, and of course, have fun exploring new foods and trying new recipes!
We know the diet industry can be overwhelming. Try to remember: there’s no one-size-fits-all diet. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is! The healthiest thing you can do (both physically and mentally)? Find a diet that makes you feel good rather than focusing on a diet that makes you look good. You might not see the changes you want overnight, but stay consistent and they will come! Those small simple changes are the ones that lead to lasting results.
Tip #6: Focus on Whole Foods
Instead of thinking of food as good or bad, try thinking of food in terms of nourishment. Will this food nourish me? Energize me? Fill me up? No calorie counting. No food shaming. Simply tuning in to your body and your needs. This will help you make healthier choices without sacrificing your mental health!
Take it from a Naturopathic Doctor: “the best approach is to choose foods that reduce inflammation, promote healing, support a healthy metabolism, improve energy, mood, and overall well-being. These foods typically consist of bright, colorful rich foods like vegetables and fresh fruit. Try to choose foods that are in season since they are fresher, healthier, and taste better,” says Rosas.
Here are some N.D.-approved tips to consider
Avoid Inflammatory Foods: like alcohol, dairy, fatty or fried foods, processed sugars, prepackaged meals, and refined carbohydrates. These types of foods cause chronic gut inflammation which can lead to leaky gut and autoimmune disease.
Enjoy Healthy Fats: Incorporate healthy fats to support a healthy blood-brain barrier such as avocados, wild-caught fatty fish, olive oils, nuts, and seeds.
Supplement Where Needed: If your diet feels incomplete, supplement with a good, high-quality multivitamin to optimize your nutrition.
Tip #7: Remember to Breathe
The average woman leads a busy life with little time to herself. Add stress, anxiety, and the demands of others into the mix — it can feel overwhelming, even debilitating, at times. Our advice? Remember to breathe! “Daily breath-work or diaphragmatic breathing can also calm the nervous system and promote relaxation,” says Rosas. “This stimulates the vagus nerve, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system to promote calmness and stillness.”
Tip #8: Keep Your Water Near at All Times
Sounds simple, right? It should be one of the easiest women’s health tips! Yet, an estimated 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. This can lead to fluctuations in mood, low energy, poor memory, irritability, and more.
[Try hydrating] your cells by drinking half your body weight in ounces of water. This will also improve energy, says Rosas. And because thirst is often confused for hunger pains, supplying your body with water will reduce food cravings and snacking!
Need some inspiration to spice up your plain old water? Try these tips.
Tip #9: Skip the Coffee for An All-Natural Boost
If you’re juggling a full schedule and under pressure to get your to-do list done, an afternoon cup of joe can sound pretty tempting. But, your sleep (or lack thereof) and (increased) anxiety would disagree! The good news is that there are simple ways to support women’s health and naturally boost your energy (without touching a single drop of caffeine!)
“Start by finding the cause of low energy or fatigue as this is the best approach to formulating an individualized therapy,” says Rosas. “Depending on if you are someone who feels exhausted all day or feels a dip in energy in the middle of the day, some helpful things to try may include adaptogenic herbs.” Adaptogenic herbs are herbs that (when taken consistently) regulate stress and energy levels in the body. But, not all herbs are the same so it is best to seek guidance or work with a functional medicine doctor to find the right herb for you, says Rosas.
Some great adaptogenic herbs include: Ashwagandha, Ginseng, Schisandra, Eleuthrococcus, or Licorice.
Other ways to boost energy include addressing any nutrient deficiencies, says Rosas. “B-vitamins and IV nutrient therapy are essential for cellular energy so [checking in on your levels and supplementing with this vitamin] can be a great way to get a quick boost in energy and provide proper cellular hydration. There are different kinds of formulations that typically include B vitamins, amino acids, and minerals.”
And finally, eating regularly spaced meals that are high in healthy fats, fiber, and protein, and low in sugar and refined carbohydrates will also improve energy, says Rosas. These types of foods tend to disrupt insulin and blood sugar metabolism, which can leave you feeling sluggish and run down.
Tip #10: Schedule a Routine Check-In With Your Doctor
If something feels off, don’t be afraid to contact your Doctor and ask questions. Pay attention to your body and look for signs and symptoms — be your own health advocate! Are you experiencing irregularities in your menstrual cycle? Are you having difficulty falling asleep? Do you feel more fatigued than normal? There’s no problem too small or too silly.
“At LIVV Natural, the doctors here will work alongside you to create an individualized treatment plan tailored to your needs,” says Rosas. “Treatment may include botanicals, IV therapy, bioidentical hormones, peptides, supplements, and so much more.” If you don’t know where to start, try finding a Doctor that specializes in women’s health so you feel like your needs are being met and addressed!
Celebrate Women’s Wellness This International Women’s Day
Let’s shine a global spotlight on the many important aspects of women’s health and wellness. Use these expert tips to guide and inspire your wellness journey. From busting stress and boosting energy to advocating for your health with proactive measures to shifting your mindset around diet and blood work, there are many ways to prioritize your health!
Remember: self-care and nourishment aren’t selfish — they are essential!