Clinicians

Preparing for Pregnancy – The Importance of Healthy Vaginal Flora

Preparing for Pregnancy – The Importance of Healthy Vaginal Flora

Healthy Vaginal Flora is important for all women.  We have a diverse ecosystem filled with a variety of bacteria and yeasts, which when in balance works well for us.  However when flora becomes imbalanced it can get pretty uncomfortable down there.

When looking at getting pregnant and throughout pregnancy vaginal flora plays an important role.  The bacteria in vagina play an important part in immunity and conception.  Let’s have a look at the ways in which they work.pregnancy clinicians 1

  • Bacteria in the vagina produce hydrogen peroxide and lactic acid, which create an acidic environment (around pH 4) which supports a healthy vaginal bacterial and yeast balance.  There are some things like, for example, perfumed toiletries or the oral contraceptive that can affect this delicate balance.  Also declining numbers of good bacteria can affect the amount of acidity produced, so it is beneficial to maintain the numbers of good vaginal bacteria.
  • Bacterial levels vary in the presence of different levels of hormones. Oestrogen increases the production of glycogen, which is the food source of the Lactobacillus As previously stated bacteria help manage the pH, but also supporting healthy numbers helps keep the balance with less beneficial bacteria and yeasts.  This healthy balance supports normal conception and a healthy pregnancy
  • Finally let’s remember that when the baby is born the vaginal mucus and all the bacteria contained in it are the first bacteria to colonise the baby’s sterile digestive system. Up until this time there are no bacteria in the mucosa or digestive tract and this first exposure is the start of building the baby’s immune system. So a colony of good bacteria will give your baby the best start.

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6 Key Nutrients for Women to Support Healthy Hair

6 Key Nutrients for Women to Support Healthy Hair

hair clinicians 1Women are brought up to believe that hair is their crowning glory, so if it starts to thin we can often become concerned.  There are many reasons for why hair thins at certain times in our lives, but nutrition often plays a part in supporting healthy hair.  In fact there are some key nutrients that are essential for the maintenance of hair, skin and nails. 

It is quite normal to lose hair every day; in fact the average woman loses between 50 and 100 strands per day!  We can also lose more at certain times of the year.  For instance late summer is a common time to shed a little extra hair. However, if you feel hair thickness needs support you may want to explore the specific nutrients below that support healthy hair growth.

Iron

It is not uncommon for menstruating women to become depleted in iron at some point in their lives. Low iron can also occur in pregnancy, in women who are training hard and those who eat little or no animal products.   When you don’t have enough iron, your body can’t produce the haemoglobin in your blood.  Haemoglobin, in the red blood cells, carries oxygen for the growth and repair of all body cells including the cells that make up hair follicles.  This carrying of oxygen is also important for mental and physical energy and healthy skin and nails.  If you are wondering how your iron levels are you should go visit your GP and get your ferritin (stored iron) tested.

Vitamin B12

This vitamin is key for DNA replication, creating red blood cells and building new structures.  Signs of low B12 are very similar to those of iron, so if you are testing your ferritin levels you might also like to check your B12 at the same time.  Vegans and vegetarians are one group at risk of low B12, but also our B12 levels decrease with age due to poor digestion.  Women with digestive disorders and those who have been on stomach acid reducing medications long term may also be more likely to have low B12.

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Vitamin D

This is a nutrient where deficiency is on the increase.  Vitamin D levels are diminishing in New Zealand in women who are protecting their skin with sun cream.  This is because one of the key sources of Vitamin D is absorption via sunlight on the skin, so by protecting our skin from harmful UV rays we are absorbing less of this nutrient.  Vitamin D supports normal hair growth via the follicles for growing strong hair.  Vitamin D deficiency signs are quite subtle, so you may just need to assess how much time you are spending in the sun without sun cream and increase your vitamin D foods through sources like oily fish. 

Zinc

This mineral is important for hair in a number of different ways.  Zinc is needed to utilize proteins to build hair and support its healthy growth. Zinc is also essential for supporting the body’s normal hormone levels as imbalances may affect hair thickness.  If you are wondering if you are low in zinc other deficiency signs include stretch marks, white spots on the nails, mouth ulcers, poor wound healing, immunity, appetite, sense of taste and smell. 

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Iodine and Selenium

Iodine and selenium are nutrients which are low in NZ soil and low levels in the body can result in poor thyroid function.  This is because they are essential to support the production of thyroid hormones and women are at greater risk of low thyroid function.  Thinning hair may suggest low thyroid hormones.  If you are wondering if you have low thyroid function other signs include weight gain or the inability to lose weight, feeling the cold more than others, constant fatigue, low mood and sluggish bowels.  If these signs and symptoms sound like you then go to see you GP and ask to have your thyroid hormones tested.

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Is your skin dehydrated or dry?

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Is your skin dehydrated or dry?

skin health clinicians 1I had always assumed that dry skin or dehydrated skin were synonyms for the same thing, but no they are two quite different issues.  It turns out that dry skin is actually a type of skin you can have like oily or combination. This is likely to be the type of skin you will have all your life; although as we age skin generally tends to become dryer.  Dry skin is due to a lack of lipids or oils in the skin.  Dehydrated skin on the other hand is a state that the skin can be in and this can change from time to time.  It describes a lack of water in the skin; less that 10% in the epidermis.

So how can you tell whether your complexion is dehydrated or dry?

There is a simple test that you can do, by pulling the skin round the eye gently back.  As you can see from the picture small lines will appear if the skin is dehydrated. 

Other signs you may notice is that skin may look rough, dull, tight and may feel unsupple and uncomfortable.

Dry skin may also appear tight or there may also be dry patches, redness or   flaking rough skin.  Another thing that you may have noticed is dry rough spots of the backs of your arms or legs, like in the picture; a bit like chicken skin.  This can be another sign of dry skin or skin lacking in oils.

What causes dehydrated or dry skin?

As we have said previously dry skin is just your type of skin, so there may be no real cause.  Obviously more severe dry skin conditions can be influenced by allergies to foods, environmental allergens such as pets or dust.

Dehydrated skin can be avoided, the obvious cause being lack of water consumption.  We can also become dehydrated from alcohol, medications and coffee.  Externally there can be excess moisture evaporation from the skin due to sun exposure, pollution and cigarette smoke, air conditioning and the cold.  Moisture can also be lost by shaving and using soap based products.

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What can we do about it?

When looking at dry skin from a naturopathic point of view we would suggest increasing the consumption of good fats in the diet. Eating foods like avocado, coconut products, flax seeds and other seeds can help.  Also include nuts and omega oils from plants, fish and seafood.  For those with extra dry skin supplementing with Omega 3 oils or evening primrose oil can be supportive.

Dry skin brushing can also be helpful for people with dry skin.  This is done with a soft brush on dry skin, rather than using an exfoliating brush or mitt with soapy products that might dry out the skin.  Using gentle upward strokes skin brushing removes dead skin cells so skin can breathe and stimulate new growth via improved circulation.  It is also helpful for the lymphatic system to remove toxins in the body.

Drinking water is the key to avoiding dehydration for any type of skin; even oily skin can be dehydrated.  Hyaluronic acid is a substance found in our skin

that supports drawing in moisture and retaining it.  The water then makes our skin appear more plump and unlined.  It is possible to supplement with hyaluronic acid and it can also be found in some topical creams.

So, to keep your skin looking at its beautiful best, drink your water, eat your good fats and take care in the sun.

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