Five Women’s Health Myths

by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP

These days we are so inundated with media messages – fat is good, fat is bad – eat more, more – exercise more, exercise less – eat grapefruit – eat all you want! No wonder women everywhere are confused!

In order to make good health choices, we need good information – not the flood of information that comes in piecemeal to use over the internet, on a magazine cover or in an infomercial.

Below I’ve chosen the top five myths I hear from my patients –

1. Women don’t need multivitamins if they eat well

Ideally we would get all the nutrients we need from the foods we choose – but unfortunately that just isn’t the case in today’s world. Current farming practices and packaging methods offer deplete nutrients from our foods. When you couple that with the choices some women have to make given location, convenience, knowledge base and finance, it’s no wonder that women aren’t able to take in the nutrients we need. What’s more, our bodies are constantly being inundated with toxins and free radicals – in ways in which we are sometimes unaware or helpless to control. Additional support is needed to help our bodies detoxify heavier and heavier toxic burdens. The better you can support your body’s nutritional needs, the better chance you have of keeping your body in balance!

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2. As you age, sex drive decreases

Its very true that as women approach menopause, all three of the major sex hormones – progesterone, estrogen and testosterone may shift out of balance. Testosterone is the hormone primarily related to libido – so if you are experiencing those hormonal shifts your sex drive may be impacted. The great news is that there are simple and easy ways to bring your hormones back into balance and regain your sex drive!

In talking with my patients, I’ve discovered that many women experience physical problems related to sex such a vaginal dryness or pain. These, too can be addressed with a health care practitioner. The more difficult issues to address are those around our emotions about sex. Some women may feel unattractive due to mood swings or hot flashes, others may feel distanced from their partners and for some, sex has grown to feel like more of a an obligation than a time of sharing and pleasure.

The issue of sex drive can be a complicated one – for women, sex is much more than a physical connection – it’s more of an emotional connection. It’s well known that a woman’s sexual desire is connected to her own sensuality.

There are several factors which can affect sex drive – the great news is not of these situations is permanent! Sexual desire can be rekindled – it may take some time and some investigation – but the end results can be so rewarding.

3. All women gain weight during menopause – and few every lose it. 

It’s not uncommon for women to gain weight during the perimenopausal years – but this weight certainly doesn’t have to be a permanent weight gain – pounds which you will never be able to shed.

It’s important to remember that our bodies are biologically programmed to protect fertility. In the perimenopausal years as the ovaries decrease estrogen production, the body works to store more fat – fat cells can provide another source of estrogen. As ovarian function winds down, our adrenal glands start to produce small amounts of estrogen and other sex hormones. If our adrenals are compromised by chronic stress, more cortisol than we need may be produced affecting our delicate hormonal balance even more. It’s important to remember that our hormones are all interconnected –and explains why weight gain can be caused by imbalances in estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, insulin, cortisol, DHEA and hGH. All of these hormones work in symphony to regulate metabolism and weight.

4. To lose weight you should eat a low fat, low calorie diet.

Weight, and weight loss in particular, is a common, ongoing concern for many women. For some women, calorie reduction may definitely be the answer for weight loss, but in my years of experience, I’ve found it’s not what we eat, it’s how we metabolize our food.

Our bodies have evolved to metabolize food slowly, conserving fat to protect us against periods of starvation. In modern times, it would be unusual for women to suffer long bouts of starvation – but when we cut calories, our bodies are conditioned to slow our metabolism which makes it more difficult to lose weight.

I help women everyday understand how complex our bodies really are – that undiscovered unbalances can also affect metabolism. The most common imbalances are:

  • Insulin resistance
  • Thyroid imbalance
  • Toxic overload
  • Adrenal imbalances
  • Food sensitivities

All of these imbalances affect the way we metabolize food and store fat. Almost all the women I see as patients realize the best results when they take the time to investigate the underlying cause of weight gain.

Our bodies are designed to eat! Most of the women I see are not overeaters! They have underlying imbalances which need to be addressed.

5. Your body requires more sleep as you age.

Our sleep does seem to change as we age – but we don’t require less of it!  Women need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night – sleep is critical to help rebuild and restore. While we may not sleep as deeply or uninterrupted as we did in our 20’s and 30’s…our body’s need for sleep doesn’t change.

Many of my patients report disrupted sleep patterns. Cortisol can be a primary factor in keeping you awake when you want to fall asleep or waking you before you’d like! Evaluating and managing your stress levels are so important to your sleep cycle!

I encourage my patients to practice good sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene practices include:

  • Keep your room dark. Light blocking shades are helpful. Cover alarm clocks or electronics with LED lights.
  • Exercise early in the day.
  • Turn off all electronics one hour before bed.
  • Keep reading material light – disturbing books can affect your sleep!
  • Eat your last meal of the day several hours before bed.
  • Insure you bedroom is a comfortable temperature.

There’s certainly a lot of information coming to use about our health – I urge you to listen to your inner self. Listen to what feels right to you – investigate if you are interested – or disregard messages which don’t resonate with you. Use your inner wisdom to decide what is good for you.