In regards to such basics as serving sizes and supplementation levels, there are likely to be significant differences since, for example, generally, men are larger than women (and thus may require greater amounts of a particular nutrient), and since men and women have differences in metabolism, and other functional areas.
First, let’s consider some common female health problems and the natural approaches to treatment.
Female health concerns
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS is one of numerous challenges which natural supplementation and therapies can address in order to reduce discomfort and improve indicators of overall health and quality of life. Unwillingness of the male-dominated medical profession to accept the reality of PMS, for example, caused generations of pre-menopausal women to go through untold discomfort and suffering.
Relative to PMS, many women endure one or more of these symptoms: anziety, bloating, breast-swelling, cramps, food cravings (for chocolate, sweets, or salty foods), crying spells, depression, fluid retention, headaches, irritability, and, among others, inability to sleep properly.
A nationally-recognized authority on PMS, Vicki Georges Hufnagel, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist, warns: against strict dieting, which steals essential nutrients, or eating junk foods, a stressor of body and mind which increases the need for B-vitamins.
Hufnagel urges women to eat a minimum 50 g of protein daily — a couple of ounces — and increase their intake complex carbohydrates: cereals, fruits, legumes, vegetables, and whole grains. Her secret weapon against PMS is a cup of unsweetened yogurt with a small amount of brewer’s yeast, which contains glutamic acid, a brain fool which raises depressed spirits.
She also recommends a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack to keep blood sugar levels stable and advises against alcohol, caffeine, and chocolate. Various PMS experts suggest nutritional supplements, regular exercise, and improved stress management as a multi-faceted approach to managing this condition.
Andrew Weil, M.D., best-selling health writer and a believer in integrated medicine, recommends the herb dong quad for PMS and other female disorders: “Dong quad is commonly available in this country in the form of encapsulated extracts. I prescribe it frequently for such problems as irregular or difficult menstruation, PMS, menopausal symptoms, and weakness in childbirth.”
Another promising supplement that helps prevent or ease PMS is evening primrose oil. At St. Thomas Hospital in London, one of the world’s largest clinics for PMS, M.G. Brush, M.D., administered two capsules of evening primrose oil three times daily to 70 women who could gain no relief from one to two other kinds of treatment. Sixty-seven percent of the participants gained full relief, while twenty-two percent derived partial relief.
Two homeopathic remedies have a good track record for helping women cope with PMS: belladonna and magnesia phosphorica.
Another treatment that specifically helps to lessen cramps is a combination of zinc and vitamin E. Several studies show that magnesium with 50 mg of vitamin B-6 serves as a diuretic to relieve bloating and kills a craving for chocolate.
Oral contraceptives. Many individuals who take contraceptive pills are unaware of the possible negative complications.
Noted for depleting B-complex vitamins — particularly B-6 and folic acid — “the pill” may cause an elevation of low-density lipoproteins (the harmful cholesterol) and triglycerides.
Menopause. Furthermore, in oral contraceptives, or taken on its own, the extra estrogen to relieve symptoms of menopause presents the dangers of breast or cervical cancer. There appears to be a divided vote in favor of and against estrogen replacement therapy.
In Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis, Alan R. Gaby, M.D., writes, in regards to minimizing common symptoms of menopause — hot flashes, vaginal inflammation or itching, and depression: “Soybeans contain certain natural substances, phytoestrogens, that have estrogen-like activity; they may account for the rarity of menopausal symptoms in countries such as Japan, where large amounts of soy products are consumed.
“Calcium, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin E, and bioflavonoids, have also been recommended to prevent or treat menopausal symptoms….”
To alleviate hot flashes, Weil recommends two herbs to his patients: dong quad and damiana.
Osteoporosis. A sad physical occurrence during menopause is osteoporosis, honeycombing and weakening of bones, often accompanied by hip, ankle, or spinal fractures. Hormone replacement therapy, once thought to be the best way to stop bone deterioration, has lost some support.
Although the accent is put on increasing the intake of calcium to stop or reverse osteoporosis, this is just part of the story.
Jonathan Wright and Gaby, leading researchers in this field, have found other nutrients of key importance in stopping or reversing osteoporosis: magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, boron, silica, zinc, and vitamins A, C, D, and K.
Supplements containing microcrystalline hydroxyapatite — minute crystals of bone — are easily absorbed and contain important nutrients needed for building and rebuilding bone.
Although many more women than men develop osteoporosis (since women establish less bone mass than men at peak maturity), men wanting to forestall its development or progression can also benefit from bone-building complexes.
Bladder infections. Another serious female-dominated health problem is bladder infection (cystitis), which gives the bladder a feeling of fullness even when it is almost empty and necessitates frequent urination. Because antibiotics kill friendly organisms as well as the unfriendly, many women have found relief from some products at the natural foods store, such as sugarfree cranberry juice (also in capsules), fresh cranberries, cherries, raw garlic, or odor-controlled garlic supplements.
Alternative physician, Gary Gordon, M.D., recommends a half cup of cranberry juice every two hours, day and night; this works for most women. Fresh garlic or garlic supplements can help, too.
Yeast infections. Another serious problem that women deal with is vaginal infection — yeast (Candida albicans) overgrowth, easy to come by and hard to dispel. However, Eileen Hilton, M.D., of Long Island Jewish Medical Center, found a treatment program to manage this condition: Every day, over a 12-month period, she had 11 patients eat a cup of Lactobacillus acidophilus-rich yogurt, which reduced the patients’ incidence of vaginitis by three times. Also crucial to this equation are supplements of active bacterial cultures and FOS (fructooligosaccharides).
Heart disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. And yes, that includes women, too. In fact, statistics from the Partnership for Women’s Health at Columbia University, New York, show that, each year, 478,000 women die of cardiovascular disease, compared with 453,000 men. And, after menopause, this risk rises.
In addition to following a low-fat diet. with appropriate exercise and stress control, there are certain nutrients which have shown to have a protective effect on the heart, in particular, the antioxidant nutrients beta carotene, vitamins C and E, and selenium.
Male health concerns
Now, let’s look at a few common male-dominated health problems, and review the natural treatment options available.
Male yeast problems. According to William G. Crook, M.D., in his book, The Yeast Connection Hand-book, “[Although] women develop yeast-related problems more often than men, and premenopausal women appear to be especially susceptible,” men are not immune to yeast-related health problems.
Crook goes on to say, in his book, The Yeast Connection and the Woman, that, “These problems are especially apt to occur in men who: 1) have taken repeated or prolonged courses of broad spectrum antibiotic drugs…; 2) are troubled by persistent `jock itch,’ athlete’s foot, or fungus infections of the nails; […] 3) are bothered by recurrent digestive problems, including constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.”
Unsweetened cranberry juice has been helpful for men coping with bladder infections, while yogurt is beneficial for C. albicans overgrowth.
Prostate health. A real misery of male aging is the possibility of prostate problems, accompanied by such symptoms as increased need to urinate; difficulty urinating; burning, painful voiding of the bladder; and inability to empty it completely, in addition to disturbed sleep due to the need to urinate many times nightly.
Orthodox doctors prescribe certain drugs to solve these problems, and to help prevent benign prostate hyperplasia from evolving into prostate cancer. The best natural treatments, which can be used safely in conjunction with conventional therapies, seem to be saw palmetto, zinc, pumpkin seeds, and essential fatty acids from fresh oils.
Heart disease. As noted earlier, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. In her book, Super Nutrition for Men, Ann Louise Gittleman, M.S., says that by age 60, one in every five men will have suffered a heart attack. She recommends a “heartsmart” nutrition plan that includes plenty of essential fatty acids, the B vitamin niacin, the B-like vitamin choline, and the minerals chromium and magnesium. A two-to-one ratio of calcium-to-magnesium is often recommended.
Another important risk factor for heart attacks in men is where they store their fat — in the mid-section. Excess fat in this area is associated with increased frequency of heart attacks. Fortunately, once this weight is lost — and kept off — the risk of heart attack decreases.