According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2012 summary, 13.7% of women 18 years and older are in fair or poor health. Women’s health is a separate field in medicine that focuses on the unique environment of the female body. While both men and women suffer from chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, women experience an array of conditions that involve the delicate biological balance of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Women face many unique health issues including:
While there are many factors that affect each of these conditions, nutrition and lifestyle changes play a major role in improvement of symptoms, reversal of disease, and increasing quality of life for women.
Conventional medicine tends to focus on “preventive measures” such mammograms and pap smears when educating women on health. These screening tests are for early detection and not prevention. A diet rich in immune-boosting vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals is necessary to prevent the medical conditions that plague many women. Maintaining an active lifestyle and lean body mass help regulate hormones. This results in fewer cancers, improved menstrual health, increased fertility, and improved quality of life. With a Nutritarian diet, most women’s health problems can be avoided.
The following are sample questions from the Ask the Doctor Community Platinum and higher members can post their health questions directly to Dr. Fuhrman. (All members can browse questions and answers.)
I was just diagnosed with breast cancer. I follow a vegan diet and I have been using soy milk in place of dairy milk, 1 to 2 cups per day, and use other soy products. Should I avoid soy which increases the estrogen in your body?
The potential problem here stems from your use of the word "vegan" diet and not "vegan-Nutritarian" diet because the anti-cancer power comes from the careful inclusion of the plant foods with the most documented benefits against cancer–G-BOMBS. For example, a very low fat, high carb vegan diet will not expose you to enough phytochemical benefits and will decrease their absorption. So the question is, where do the two cups of soy milk come into play in your diet? It is a processed food with limited antioxidants and phytochemicals, so if you are using it as a drink, it would make more sense to drink a glass of carrot, kale, lemon, tomato, and ginger juice. It is not that unsweetened soy milk is bad, but that it may reflect an overall lack of attention to the optimal choice of foods.
Avoiding all soy has no benefit for breast cancer patients and does not increase estrogen in the body. Unprocessed soy beans and tempeh are excellent foods. You should not eat isolated soy protein or overly processed soy products. Use miso sparingly and only low salt varieties. Tofu and tempeh are fine, and use unsweetened soy milk in limited quantities.
I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I have started to follow a Nutritarian diet in hopes of reversing it. A local physician told me that more than 1/3 cup of fresh or frozen fruit per day is not good for cancer patients because cancer cells feed on sugar. I’ve been eating much more than 1/3 cup per day. Should I cut back on fruits?
No, you should not. Eating one serving of fruit (whole cup) with each meal is fine. There are lots of false myths that circulate in the anti-cancer community. Even though foods with a high glycemic load are cancer-promoters, fresh fruit has a low glycemic load, especially when compared to white flour, sugar, white rice, and even white potato. Eating a reasonable amount of fruit, especially berries, has been demonstrated in scientific studies to protect and even reverse cancer.
I am breastfeeding my four-week-old baby. The pediatrician said to give him 400IU of Vitamin D daily because breast fed babies are usually found to be deficient in Vitamin D. Is this because the mom is usually deficient? I have had my vitamin D levels checked and am in the normal range. Will I pass this on sufficiently to my baby, or should I indeed be supplementing him with 400 IU daily?
I do recommend baby vitamin D drops too. You don’t want to take the chance because the vitamin D level is so important for their normal development, and it is not adequately passed in the breast milk if the mother is low or borderline. If the mother’s Vitamin D level is normal (I would suggest above 40 in this instance), then studies do show that the child gets enough without supplementing. So, I guess if you are really certain your blood levels are excellent, you can forgo the baby drops.
I am breastfeeding but do not think I am producing an adequate amount of breast milk for my two week old baby. The doctor wants me to supplement but I don’t want to use baby formula. What would be an alternative? I am taking Dr. Fuhrman’s Prenatal vitamin.
La Leche league can be very helpful. Sometimes it is just a matter of repositioning the baby or other things to help. In the meantime, a Nutritarian diet with about 4 oz. of seeds and nuts a day plus the DHA-EPA supplement works great to produce plenty of great tasting milk.
I have an 11-month-old who is currently breastfeeding. He was exclusively breastfed for the first six months before being introduced to foods. He is breastfeeding less often and also breastfeeds for shorter amounts of time. One reason is obviously because he is eating foods, but the other reason is that he’s NOSEY! He doesn’t want to nurse for very long because he must think he’s missing out on other important things. So, I am producing much less milk, almost to the point of not having enough for him on a daily basis, and he won’t drink formula. What can I do if I’m not producing enough milk and he won’t drink formula?
I would not worry about it because even the little bit of breast milk he is getting will be supplying valuable immunoglobulins and other beneficial factors. So, just keep encouraging him to nurse by nursing him when he is hungry instead of giving him food first. Use a breast pump once a day if you have to in order to stimulate milk production.
My seven-month-old is breastfed and now eating pureed vegetables and fruits all made fresh. I hope to nurse until he is one. Can I introduce foods like nuts pureed with veggies to make a creamed soup or berries or potatoes other than sweet potatoes?
I am concerned because I know certain foods could cause allergic reactions, like those mentioned, and should not be introduced until a year old. What is your feeling on this? How about peanuts (peanut butter) and honey? At what age?
The key to preventing allergies is to introduce all the new foods that the mother is eating while nursing is continued. It is stopping nursing and then introducing new foods that increases the risk of allergies. That means, if you hold off until one year of age to introduce nuts after you have stopped nursing, you will be increasing the risk of nut allergy. The best thing to do is to introduce new foods early, not late, and make sure that you and the baby eat them together and the nursing continues well after all the new foods have been introduced. I strongly recommend that nursing be continued for 18 months.
It is best not to introduce honey to a young child at all. It is dangerous before a year but still an unhealthy substance that just fosters a desire for sweets. Peanut butter can be introduced at one year as long as you are eating it first and breast feeding is continued.
My 32-year-old daughter suddenly had extra bleeding during her most recent cycle. She’s also been having terrible back pain and great fatigue. Her gynecologist told her that her ovaries are full of cysts, including one complex cyst. She has both endometriosis and PCOS and was told that she has a high level of testosterone. Her doctor wants to do surgery to get at least the complex cyst out. My daughter is not ready to give up on the hope of having children, so she wants to save her ovaries and get healthier. She is very thin, about 5’8" and 110 pounds. She walks several miles a day and lifts weights. She does not follow a Nutritarian diet. If she changes her diet, would her body quit making cysts and the PCOS resolve?
PCOS is more common in obese women, but 5% of lean women have PCOS. Most women with PCOS have insulin resistance, where the cells become numb to insulin’s call to let glucose into the cell. High insulin levels drive the ovaries to make more testosterone. Genetics also plays a role in testosterone levels. Forty percent of women with PCOS have a sister with it as well. Also, chronic stress can increase testosterone and insulin resistance.
A Nutritarian diet will reduce insulin resistance, lower testosterone levels, and reduce low grade inflammation associated with it. Eating high fiber foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and beans, increases the excretion of testosterone in the stool. Your daughter should avoid dairy, all refined foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats. She should include chia, flax, and hemp seeds in her diet. Regarding exercise, yoga has recently been shown to be more effective than other exercise in improving insulin resistance in PCOS.
I have seen a Nutritarian diet fix the hormonal abnormalities and resolve PCOS, even in thin people again and again. Even my wife was one of these individuals when she was young.
Hopefully nutritional changes can make a big difference in how she feels, and she will feel empowered to go all the way to superior nutrition and get well.
I follow a Nutritarian diet and a very intense workout regimen, and thus have a pretty low, but healthy body fat. I haven’t had my period for about three months. Should I alter my exercise routine or be concerned?
Having less frequent periods is not a health risk, and may actually be a health asset. Having only a few periods a year is sufficient. Many women who follow a Nutritarian diet typically skip many months, especially when they are exercising a lot on top of their excellent diet. Likely your lower body fat and degree of physical fitness interferes with the hormonal surges necessary for periods. That does not mean you are not ovulating or can’t get pregnant. I don’t think you should be concerned about this, as long as you have a few periods each year. If you are not having any periods we could address that issue in the future by reducing exercise a bit and gaining a bit more body weight.
I am 51 years old and it seems like if I even look at food I gain 5 pounds! Why is this? Is it related to hormonal imbalances due to pre-menopause or actual menopause? How does one regulate hormones with a Nutritarian diet? I eat a Nutritarian diet, have a BMI of 20, and no body issues at all except belly fat! Is it stress related? I have been stressed for a few years. I exercise but still can’t seem to get rid of it. Is it an unavoidable part of life for aging females?
The metabolism slows with aging and you need more micronutrients, but fewer calories. So you have to eat less, but very healthfully, and avoid recreational eating. You keep your hormones safe and low by eating properly and keeping slim. During peri-menopause and the early years of menopause, many women struggle with unrelenting stress from trying to do too much. As a result, cortisol, a stress hormone, is continually elevated, which is associated with increased belly fat. Chronically elevated cortisol increases hunger, raises blood sugar, fosters fat deposition, increases insulin resistance, lowers thyroid hormones, estrogen, and progesterone, and essentially ages us prematurely. So, along with diet, other self-care strategies should help, such as good sleep, regular exercise, yoga, and other enjoyable activities. If you are insulin resistant, your diet will resolve this and reduce abdominal fat over time.
I am 49 and am starting to feel symptoms of pre-menopause. I have muscle pain, extremely tired, hair loss, depressed...to name a few. Any suggestions on how to prevent these symptoms? How to make them better? How to get through menopause with the least amount of changes? My mother went through menopause and didn’t even know she went through it, which is what I would like for me.
These perimenopausal symptoms can be diminished with attention to lifestyle; how you eat, move, sleep, and think. Avoid caffeine, processed foods, sugar, and alcohol. Eat raw greens and cooked mushrooms and have 2 tbsp of ground flax or chia seeds/day. Get exercise—at least 30 minutes/day. Hit the pause button and take a little time for yourself each day to reduce cortisol levels. Make sure you’re getting to bed at a regular time and getting 7-8 hours of sleep/night. This should help to re-balance your hormones and have fewer symptoms.
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