Providing knowledgable and supportive nutritional and health advice to younger women could win you lifelong customers, says Kate Miller
For many young women, supplementation is something for older women to worry about. However, busier lives and the delay of motherhood mean that many younger women could benefit from taking supplements.
And more disposable income means that this is a customer base that health food retailers want to be sure to encourage.
Some of the statistics around young women’s health make for uncomfortable reading. Young women are now the key at-risk group for mental health issues, says a 2016 NHS study, and are increasing their rate of smoking, according to the 2016 Office of National Statistics (ONS) Survey. In addition, the 2014 Young People’s Well-Being ONS survey found that the amount of young women reporting that they were ‘relatively satisfied’ with their health is declining.
A changing picture
This worrying picture is leading to a change in the type of problems facing women today. Manal Chouchane, clinical nutrition advisor at BioCare, says that more women are being diagnosed with conditions such as menorrhagia, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, endometriosis and premenstrual syndrome.
“Female health is interesting, as the female body undergoes various major physiological changes through its lifetime, starting with puberty and the onset of menstruation, often followed by pregnancy
and breastfeeding or trying to become pregnant, and then the menopause. Food supplementations for fertility and menopause support are common, yet anything beyond these milestones is often overlooked.”
Hormone imbalance underlies all of the above conditions, “therefore, hormone nutritional support is vital for the management of these conditions,” says Chouchane.
Emma Ross, women’s health advisor at A Vogel, says that this change is a reflection of a change in lifestyle: “It is highly likely that changing diet and lifestyle habits have had an impact on symptoms women experience nowadays, although it is also the case that we talk about female health more, which may also be a factor – but this can only be a good thing!”
Ross says that how we live our lives has an important impact on our health, and obesity is a growing concern. “Even our children are heavier, which is likely to be contributing to earlier menarche and subsequent problems later in life. Adipose cells are a reservoir for sex hormones, particularly oestrogen, so too little fat, and your menstrual cycle can become affected, but also too much, and it can throw our key hormones off. So, body weight is key to help keep those hormones in balance.”
According to Chouchane, prolonged periods of stress, prevalent among young women, causes the over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which results in negative health effects including the production of the stress hormone cortisol via the adrenal glands. “Chronic high cortisol levels impact on the function of many body systems, including those which control the homeostasis of our sex hormones. Overworking the adrenal glands also hinders the production and synthesis of sex hormones, causing hormone imbalance in females and the onset of symptoms such as those associated with PMS. Therefore, nervous system and adrenal support are vital in these scenarios. Effective nutrients which may support calming the nervous system during stress include B vitamins, l-theanine, lemon balm, magnesium, taurine, chamomile and lavender. For adrenal support, consider nutrients like B vitamins, licorice root, ginseng, chromium, magnesium and the amino acids l-citrulline and l-alanine.”
Nutritionist and women’s health specialist Dr Marilyn Glenville says that PMS is now very common for younger women and can produce symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, anxiety, tension, breast tenderness and food cravings.
“Extra nutrients such as B vitamins – particularly B6 – and magnesium have been shown to be particularly helpful. Also evening primrose oil for breast tenderness, but I would still suggest supplementing with omega-3 at the same time, because of the higher incidence nowadays of an imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6.”
Ross agrees, and adds that levels of magnesium, zinc and chromium are thought to fall at this time too, which is one of the reasons why women can become tense (lack of magnesium), irrational (lack of zinc), and sugar-holics (lack of chromium).
“Supplementing these minerals is often helpful for averting the symptoms, as are the remedies Passiflora Complex (calming) and Molkosan (supports metabolism of sugars and starches). Agnus castus is also an option for women with suspected oestrogen dominance and who suffer from a barrage of PMS symptoms each month.”
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
For women who have PCOS, Glenville says extra nutrients may be particularly helpful as these women are insulin-resistant. “Certain nutrients can help to regulate insulin levels and balance blood sugar. Deficiencies in B vitamins can make symptoms of PCOS worse. One study found that B vitamin supplementation boosted weight loss and improved ovulation in PCOS sufferers by 23%. Low levels of chromium can trigger insulin resistance, and chromium has been shown
to stem hunger and reduce food cravings. Magnesium and zinc are also important for controlling blood sugar and insulin levels. Alpha lipoic acid releases energy by burning glucose so that your body stores less fat, and co-enzyme Q10 can also help by lowering levels of glucose and insulin.”
A growing market
One of the most common mistakes health food shops make in this area, says Chouchane, is giving advice based on current symptoms. “Although this is important, it is also very important to understand and tackle the underlying causes of such symptoms. As mentioned earlier, these can include stress and poor diet, whereby often once these are addressed, everything else tends to fall back into place, including hormone balance.”
“Another mistake can be the recommendation of single nutrients such as recommending vitamin B6 on its own for PMS support. Again, although this may help in some cases, it is much more effective to recommend complexes which contain different nutrients that support multiple pathways for optimum results. Therefore, it is important for health food retailers to question their customers as much as possible and consider the underlying causes so that they can obtain a sufficient amount of detail to be able to recommend the appropriate supplement.
Furthermore, health food retailers must be provided with the right training from the supplement companies about their products so they can make appropriate recommendations.”
There isn’t enough understanding for younger women as most of the advice is focused on fertility, peri-menopause or the menopause, says Glenville. “Many of the women may be suffering from hormonal issues and not know that extra nutrients could be helpful. They usually don’t know that being on the contraceptive pill can cause the deficiencies or imbalances mentioned above.”
She says that retailers can help by having a section in the store for younger women and good training for the staff to answers questions from these younger customers.”
Ross says that retailers can play a key role in navi-gating this complex field: “I think helping women to understand how their monthly cycle works and what common hormonal symptoms look like is important. Knowing the difference between high- and low-oestrogen symptoms, for example, and also knowing where soy isoflavones versus agnus castus may come in handy, are key principles.”
For women going through the menopause, one of the most confusing things can be the myriad of symptoms occuring with oestrogen fluctuation. According to A Vogel’s Emma Ross: “As women have oestrogen receptors located all around their bodies, it makes sense that symptoms such as memory loss, low libido, vaginal dryness, heart palpitations, risk of osteoporosis and UTIs can crop up as hormone levels change and oestrogen levels drop. But many of these symptoms haven’t been so readily associated with the menopause until now.”
Fluctuations in hormones also cause fatigue, which many women complain of during menopause. “Oestrogen promotes REM during sleep, which is a vital process for heal and repair,” says Manal Chouchane from BioCare. “When oestrogen levels drop so does time spent in REM cycles which leads to less refreshing and restorative sleep. This lack of quality sleep contributes to perpetuating the cycle and exacerbating the symptoms of menopause such as loss of skin elasticity, mood changes, headaches, hot flashes and palpitations.
“As menopause symptoms are side-effects of low oestrogen levels, providing phytoestrogen support in moderate amounts via botanical extracts like sage, red clover, celery seed and alfalfa can help reduce hot flashes and vaginal atrophy.”
Chouchane says magnesium can be used to reduce tiredness, fatigue and hot flushes, and promote relaxation. B vitamins and Indole-3-carbinol can support the breakdown and detoxification of excess damaging oestrogen. Omega-3 is effective in the management of inflammation, improving anxiety and lowering cortisol levels, enhancing neural func-tioning and reversing oxidative stress, which
is associated with premature aging, poor cognition and decreased cardiovascular function.
One of the most common symptoms that is not on the recognized list is joint pain that comes on suddenly at the menopause, according to nutritionist Marilyn Glenville. “Oestrogen acts as an anti-inflammatory, and the drop in oestrogen through the menopause causes pain in the joints. Other less common changes are depression, loss of confidence, anxiety and, for some women, panic attacks. In addition some women can get a sensation of insects crawling on their skin (formication) which can be uncomfortable.”
Woman’s health listings
Organic Maca Powder
Combine with Cacao in a smoothie for a sublime nutty salted-caramel taste whilst keeping your hormones regulated! Our Maca is not only delicious but also Organic and sourced directly from farmers in Peru. Grown on the high slopes of the Andes, this versatile superfood is known as the “fountain of youth” in its indigenous Peru. Incans first used it 3000 years ago for its energy and endurance enhancing qualities. An adaptogen, maca works to balance out any bodily stressors or irregularities, whether they be hormonal, mood or energy related. At Of The Earth Superfoods our whole range is designed to give that nutrient-boost and keep you feeling tip-top. Now with a new lower price:
70g RRP £2.99 and 220g RRP £5.99
AQUA Carpatica Natural Mineral Water
Striving together for the natural way of healthy living. Nature’s most perfect mineral water dedicated to the most demanding health conscious people, babies and pregnant women organic food lovers and those with active lifestyles. The first of its kind in the UK, it is naturally Nitrate-free and has the lowest Sodium level of any bottled natural mineral water on Earth, to meet UK demand for bottled water with both strong health benefits and an exquisite crisp, refreshing taste. A premium quality natural mineral water, sourced from the earth. Not man-made, purified, or enhanced, just as nature intended.
FemProbioTM Optimum Vaginal Support. FemProbio contains a superior blend of 50 billion viable bacterial strains; fortified with a prebiotic (FOS), to aid vaginal health, restore yeast balance and maintain urinary health. This high strength dose of probiotic cultures provides a natural defense against unwanted harmful yeast and bacteria that cause infections such as thrush) or cystitis. HeathAid FemProbio uses special acid & bile resistant strains, which prevent the stomach juices destroying the ingredients before they reach the intestines, ensuring their purity and potency. Retails at £24.99 for 30 vegetarian capsules. Contact HealthAid Ltd on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit
Bio-Kult Candéa and Bio-Kult Pro-Cyan
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are infections of any part of the urinary tract. Lower UTIs in the bladder are commonly known as ‘cystitis’ and often cause a painful and frequent urge to urinate. In more than 80% of cases they are caused by the overgrowth of bacteria E. coli originating from the digestive system or vagina. UTIs are more frequent in women than men, with an estimated half of all women in the UK having at least one UTI in their life-time, with 25% having recurrent episodes.
Probiotics have been shown to be beneficial to restore the gut and vaginal microflora and particularly for their antimicrobial activity against E. coli. Cranberries contain specific antioxidant compounds called proanthocyanidins (PACS specifically A type) which prevent E. coli from adhering to cells so are subsequently flushed from the urinary tract with the urine. Bio-Kult Pro-Cyan contains cranberry, two specifically selected probiotic strains and vitamin A which contributes to the normal function of the immune system and the maintenance of mucous membranes.
It is known that at least one third of healthy people carry the Candida fungus in the skin, digestive tract or vagina in its harmless yeast-like form. It is only when it changes to its invasive fungus form that its filaments can attach to the intestinal wall allowing overgrowth and symptoms such as genital or oral thrush, skin rashes or nail infections. Some people can be more prone to Candida overgrowth due to prolonged use of antibiotics, steroids or oral contraceptives, a high sugar diet or a stressful lifestyle. Candida albicans is particularly susceptible to garlic’s active ingredient allicin, which inhibits its growth and transition into its invasive fungus form. Bio-Kult Candéa is a multi-strain probiotic supplement with added garlic and grapefruit extract.
Nature’s Answer Dong Quai Root
Nature’s Answer Alcohol Free Dong Quai (angelica sinensis) root extract offers a super-concentrated dose of 1,000mg per serving. Nature’s Answer’s bio-chelated cold extraction process means that the end extracts that end up in every formula are holistically balanced in the same ratio as in the plant. Liquid extracts are absorbed at a faster rate than capsules or tablets but are also more potent than tinctures. Nature’s Answer are the pioneers of alcohol free and low alcohol extracts, since 1972. Vegan, Organic and Kosher.
Barlean’s Essential Woman Oil
Barlean’s Essential Woman Oil supplies essential fatty acids of Omega 3, 6 and 9, and Gamma Linolenic Acid. A precise blend of Flaxseed Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Lignans and special plant phytonutrients delivers the omegas in the right balance for women’s health needs. Many of the obstacles to women’s beauty and well-being have a common link: hormonal imbalance. Designed to balance beauty and health from within. Vegan, Non-GMO, Gluten Free and Kosher. Barlean’s are a family owned and operated company who specialise in producing the highest quality fish and flax oils and create innovative products that you won’t find anything else like in the market place.
PM Support – maintains healthy hormone balance
A unique formulation – PM Support is a very special formulation of three organic herbs designed to help balance female hormones. Effective for menstruating women between 18 and 50.
• Formulated especially to support women through the month • PM Support contains a combination of carefully chosen nutrients • Take PM Support and take back control of your life and cycle
• Contains all the B vitamins and magnesium (for nervous system), chromium (for normal blood levels), Siberian ginseng (for adrenals), chamomile (for nervous system) and dandelion (for liver support) – Vegan Society registered, Kosher and Vegetarian Society approved and Halal compliant.
60 veg caps – Suggested intake: For best results take 1 capsule a day with food.
PremEeze® (Agnus Castus)
It is normal to experience mild premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms in the two weeks before menstruation starts. PMS most commonly affects women aged between 30 and 40 years, however it can affect women at any age, even those under 20. Natures Aid® award-winning PremEeze® is a traditional herbal medicinal product used to help relieve premenstrual symptoms such as: irritability; mood swings; breast tenderness; bloating and menstrual cramps. Exclusively based on long standing use as a traditional remedy. Each PremEeze® capsule provides 400mg of Agnus Castus Fruit. Suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Natures Aid® PremEeze® – 60 Vegetarian Capsules – £8.95
Menopause is a natural stage of life that every woman goes through. Meno Joy provides nutritional support during this period of change. The Meno Joy tablet is based on a combination extract of hops and red clover, which provides a variety of natural isoflavone types. Red clover helps coping with the typical signs associated with menopause, such as hot flushes, sweating, restlessness and irritability. Meno Joy also includes natural extract of damiana, magnesium, and B-vitamins. Magnesium and B-vitamins contributes to normal function of the nervous system and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. During menopause, a woman’s ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone. Vita¬min B6 further contributes to the regulation of hormonal activity. Available in a 30 tablet pack £24.95
Optima Silica Plus
Silica Plus tablets are a natural source of Silica with Zinc and Vitamin B6. The second most abundant element on earth, Silica is a component of all connective tissue and cartilage and is important for its strength and elasticity. Silica can also help promote healthy hair, skin and nails.
Pukka Organic Womankind Herbal Supplement
Pukka’s Womankind supplement has been expertly blended to help maintain feminine rhythm and provide strength, nourishment and support for the whole reproductive system. Blended with fourteen botanical extracts including shatavari, turmeric and pomegranate seeds, Womankind helps to strengthen the immune, circulatory and nervous systems. This targeted formula delivers potent phyto-oestrogens to balance and regulate the menstrual cycle and alleviates painful periods to leave you feeling nurtured and healthy.
Ultimate Flora Critical Care
Hormone fluctuations and stress can lead to an increase in digestive problems in many women. Ultimate Flora Critical Care contains everything needed to transform gut health in one potent capsule. Its 50 billion, 10 probiotic strain formula offers complete support to the entire gut. It uniquely contains 25 billion Bifidobacterium bifidum a key probiotic to therapeutically support large intestine health and destroy harmful bacteria – making it the ultimate probiotic formula to treat chronic digestive issues, constipation, IBS, diarrhoea and for after antibiotics. Our unique enteric coating delivery system ensures 100% probiotic delivery. Suitable while pregnant and breastfeeding.
Ultimate Flora Women’s Formula
Did you know that 75% of women will have a yeast infection and 50% will have a urinary tract infection at some point in their lives? Ultimate Flora Women’s Formula promotes vaginal and urinary tract health in women of all ages. It delivers 45 billion Lactobacilli, mirroring their dominance in healthy intimate areas. Because vaginal and urinary tract health is a direct reflection of gut health, it also delivers 5 billion Bifidobacteria beneficial bacteria to support bowel health. A unique enteric coating delivery system guarantees live bacteria delivery. Suitable while pregnant and breastfeeding.
Cleanmarine MenoMin is a unique combination of Omega 3 Phospholipids, Folate, Biotin, B Vitamins, Soy Isoflavones and 200% RDI Vitamin D3. This synergistic combination is ideal for menopausal women, helping to regulate hormonal activity, maintain normal mucous membranes and healthy skin, as well as reduce tiredness and fatigue. Also, Vitamin D contributes to normal absorption and utilisation of calcium and phosphorusin and maintenance of normal bones and muscle function. Also, Cleanmarine phospholipid Krill oil ingredient has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as being from a well managed, sustainable traceable fishery.
Magnesium, B6 and Saffron Veg Caps
Featuring clinically studied saffron (Crocus sativus) extract with high-potency magnesium and vitamin B6 which both contribute to normal functioning of the nervous system. Magnesium, B6 and Saffron Veg Caps is part of the 200+ range of nutritional supplements from the ethical vitamin company, Viridian Nutrition, founded on the principles of Purity, the Environment and Community. Non-GM, non-irradiated, allergen-free, against animal testing. Costs: Trade £9.34, Retail £22.70
Organic Maca Extract Veg Caps
Certified organic, high-potency, full-spectrum Maca (Lepidium meyenii), an Andean plant prized for centuries due to its unique nutritional properties. Organic Maca Extract Veg Caps is part of the 200+ range of nutritional supplements from the ethical vitamin company, Viridian Nutrition, founded on the principles of Purity, the Environment and Community. Non-GM, non-irradiated, allergen-free, against animal testing. Costs: Trade £8.51, Retail £20.75