Hormones have effects on multiple physiological systems in the body by controlling homeostasis and metabolic activity. The roles of hormones vary between men and women, resulting in different nutritional needs based on the impact of these hormones. A great example of this is iron, specifically with post-menopause aged women. The nutritional needs of women vary across the life course, so it is important that they are aware of how and why their needs change and how they need to adapt their diets to meet these needs.
How Registered Dietitians (RDs) Make An Impact In Women’s Health Care Outcomes?
The goal of nutrition counselling in hormonal and women’s health care is to educate women on the changes that occur to their body throughout their lifespan, prevent future conditions and to treat or manage current acute and chronic diseases of the hormone and reproductive systems, as well as improving overall quality of life for the patient.
Registered Dietitians work with clients, caregivers and other health care professionals in addressing health-related issues in a collaborative way. RD’s utilize many methods in order to help patients understand their diagnosis, make effective lifestyle and dietary changes and contribute to the management and treatment of various reproductive and hormonal conditions:
Menopause & Perimenopause
A woman’s transition into menopause is usually gradual and may last up to several years, but each woman is unique and some suffer from common symptoms such as hot flashes and weight gain. During such a transition, patients may feel overwhelmed with the changes occurring to their body and may not consider how their nutrition impacts this change. As their hormone production begins to fluctuate, they may become more at risk for certain nutrition-related conditions, such as obesity, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, if they are not cautious and aware of the foods that they are consuming. RD’s help the patient become aware of how their nutrition needs are changing and help them to make appropriate food choices and potentially help to control menopausal symptoms.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is caused by an imbalance in a woman’s sex hormones, which may lead to changes in the menstrual cycle, skin problems (acne, etc.), increased hair growth on the body, cysts on the ovaries and difficulty getting pregnant. There is no specific diet for treating PCOS, however dietitians help the patient make healthy lifestyle and dietary choices that will help to manage their weight and prevent the development of long-term complications of PCOS, such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as optimize fertility.
The thyroid gland has a profound impact on the metabolism of nutrients and produces hormones that affect the body in many ways, including digestion, respiration, body temperature regulation, cholesterol levels, cardiovascular system, menstrual cycles, weight gain and multiple others. Certain thyroid conditions impact nutrition needs differently and have different outcomes, and RD’s can help the patient understand how their diet should change to manage their condition and prevent worsening. For example, hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, commonly leads to weight gain and constipation while hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, usually leads to weight loss and diarrhea. RD’s help the patient make healthy and appropriate food choices for their specific case.
Adrenal dysregulation occurs as a long-term outcome of continuous stress and elevated cortisol levels and is related to the ineffective response of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. It is suggested that the optimization of nutritional status may improve the response of the HPA axis to stress. Registered Dietitians meet with patients and ensure that their diets are adequate with the nutrients suggested to show improvement, including magnesium, vitamin C and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats. They may also assess the patient to determine if a multivitamin or supplement would be beneficial.
Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory, a hormone-dependent condition in which clumps of tissue similar to the lining of the uterus grow outside of the uterus, usually on the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the outer wall of the uterus, the intestines, or other organs in the belly. Current scientific evidence suggests that the diet and lifestyle may impact the presence of inflammation in the body, estrogen activity, menstrual cycle and prostaglandin metabolism. Diets deficient in nutrients result in changes in lipid metabolism, oxidative stress and promote genetic abnormalities that may be involved in the progression of endometriosis. Registered Dietitians help women living with Endometriosis understand their diagnosis and how their dietary choices may impact their condition. They also teach women how to make healthy lifestyle and dietary choices to help lessen the side effects and potentially reduce pain and discomfort.
Nutrition plays a vital role in one’s ability to conceive, as well as the health of your baby after conception. Being both overweight and underweight can affect female fertility and Registered Dietitians can help to achieve optimal body weight and nutrient status for fertility. Having a diet with adequate folate and iron, as well as healthy fats can complement medical therapy for increasing fertility. Once pregnant, nutrition plays a vital role in the short term and long term health of both the mother and child. Learn more about fertility: https://nutriprocan.ca/fertility-and-nutrition-for-women/