Rosie Greenaway discovers that whether it’s post-divorce stress, reproductive problems or a mild case of bloating, modern women in the UK are well catered for by a natural products industry which is more equipped than ever to understand, nurture and ease a complex range of female health issues
It’s not uncommon for a brand to be born out of the personal needs or experiences of its founders, who having identified a gap in the market set about designing a product to fill it. This has been the back-story of many a natural brand, and the basis upon which they build a trusting client base, standing as the living proof of the efficacy of their own products and approach.
For Henrietta Norton, founder and formulator of Wild Nutrition, it’s not a dissimilar tale. Having suffered from chronic endometriosis during her twenties, Norton respectfully rejected her doctor’s diagnosis of infertility and instead set about working with a nutritional therapist specializing in female health.
Norton says she saw ‘the profound benefits’ that dietary changes and supplements had on her, and is now a mother of three. This personal journey led her onto a professional path which would see her not only use her nutritional knowledge to develop a range of products aimed at helping women tackle symptoms associated with fertility, stress and menopause, but write two editions of her book: Take Control of Your Endometriosis.
“I was also working as a nutritional therapist in clinic at that time … with a number of women who were experiencing endometriosis. I’ve found when you’ve got something going on with you, sometimes you’re attracted to clients who have the same conditions; it’s like a magnet.”
Norton treated women who had ‘gone through absolutely everything else in the orthodox or allopathic medicine route’, and were seeking an integrated approach to symptom management. “One of the overriding frustrations I felt as a professional supporting them was that many of them were offered very little information about how they could look after themselves, or indeed about what the condition actually was.”
Leaps and bounds
Sold in Planet Organic and Whole Foods Market, and available to independents, the literature ‘focuses very much on nutrition’ and aims to provide information that women can ‘apply to their everyday lives; small things that can make a profound difference’.
The book can be teamed with the brand’s Food Grown Endo Complex from its Bespoke Woman range which is nutrient-packed and includes: vitamins B6, ‘known to support normal hormone levels’; vitamin E to help menstrual cramping and clotting; and magnesium ‘for smooth muscle contractions, which is a significant issue for women with endometriosis’. Also on the ingredient list is Indole-3-carbinol – a phytochemical found in brassica root vegetables – to regulate oestrogen, as well as iron to combat significant blood loss.
Norton says the ‘absolute point of the product’ was to be rounded, looking at the whole system. In cases of endo, believes Norton, much focus is placed upon the uterus, when in fact a woman’s entire body is impacted – the digestive and immune systems in particular. “Endometriosis is not just something that affects the endometrium, it affects the system. That’s the whole premise of the product: it’s looking at a holistic view of the body.”
Through her lecturing roles at the University of Surrey and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Norton has witnessed ‘huge leaps’ in how the NHS treats endo and what nutritional guidance is offered to women. “I think endo is more under the spotlight than it was … because fertility has become such a big thing. There’s definitely a growing awareness. It’s fantastic, but I think there’s much room for improvement. It hasn’t been totally sucked into the higher echelons of the medical community, but I think it is getting there.”
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows a rise in older generations tying the knot and then parting ways: in the decade between 2004 and 2014, the number of brides and grooms aged 65 and over who said ‘I do’ rose by 46%, and between 2005 and 2015, the number of women in the same age group who filed for divorce went up by 38%. The ONS refers to these people as ‘silver separators’. Regardless of what’s causing the rise, it’s yet another invitation for the natural products industry to provide gentle support to women weathering the storm of divorce – and The Natural Life Shop in Cranleigh, Surrey, has a few tricks up its sleeve for these customers.
For stress, grief and anxiety, Amanda Porter, the store’s shop assistant and holistic therapist, says: “We’ve got some marvellous products. My personal favourite for mild anxiety is Viridian’s L-Theanine & Lemon Balm. We’d also suggest something like the Cytoplan Multi B Extra because obviously stress knocks down your B vitamins.”
To lift the spirits of anyone bordering on depression, Porter says it’s Viridian again which comes up trumps. “Viridian does an amazing product called Saffron Extract with Marigold … that was clinically tried against Prozac and it came out more efficacious with no side-effects.”
“One of the other things we use quite a lot in our shop, which is especially good for the older generation who may well be on medication, are the Findhorn Flower Essences,” says Porter, explaining that these British-made essences work ‘on the same principle’ as Bach Rescue Remedy. “There’s one called Go with the Flow Combination Flower Essences for when you’re in a situation of change and finding it difficult. They can help with physical symptoms but they’re more help with the emotional.”
A juggling act
The ‘back to school’ period each September could reasonably be assumed to be one of the more stressful times of the year, with parents spinning various plates – from drops-offs to pick-ups, and after-school clubs to sleepovers – but Porter says her customers see that return to structure as a relief. “To tell you the truth, most of the mums who come here actually find it more stressful during the summer when their children are home!”
Nevertheless, a range of products are in place to support customers during the change of season. “We all know when the children go back to school they bring home all the bugs from class. I would generally suggest OptiBac’s For Daily Immunity product.”
With the nights drawing in during that first term, Porter also recommends that if women find themselves having to keep track of a multitude of plans, healthy oils such as MCT will help their minds to ‘stay sharp’, adding that this time of year is ‘all about your brain function and your cognitive function’.
In terms of women’s bestsellers, menopause remains a lucrative category for the store, with A. Vogel’s Menopause Support and Menoforce both flying off the shelves. But when it comes to trends, Porter has noticed a new wave of attention for OptiBac’s For Women live cultures. Demand for the product has ‘really sprung up recently’ as more women are looking to it for the targeted flora it provides for intimate areas. “The women in this shop love that product – for things like thrush, bacterial vaginosis, cystitis. It’s going like hot cakes; it’s probably one of the fastest selling products.”
Below the belt
If there’s one shopper motivation which upsets Amanda Porter from The Natural Life Shop in Cranleigh, Surrey, it’s young women’s desire to become ‘bikini body beautiful’. “Getting thin is something that breaks my heart. A lot of young women come in … to get thin. Being a health food shop, it’s really lovely that we can say that this starts with healthy eating; let’s look at your eating and how we can help you there first.”
With women perennially obsessed with beating the bloat, Beth Morris, clinical nutritionist at BioCare, offers her perspective on the root causes and some suggested cures: “Bloating is most often a sign of a sluggish digestive system, and we suggest that taking steps to support the digestive process is a good starting point. Foods that are gentle on the digestive system such as stewed fruit or vegetables, good quality protein and fibre, are excellent. Including ‘prebiotic’ foods such as chicory, garlic, artichoke and leeks can support a healthy ecosystem for our healthy bacteria gut to thrive.”
Morris also believes that a key aspect of combating bloating is in the actual chewing of food. “It is important that we digest food thoroughly and properly. Good chewing prepares the food, mixing it with enzymes that help to break it down. Effective chewing means time to ‘rest and digest’ which is important for healthy digestion. Reducing foods that can be inflammatory for the gut such as gluten, dairy and processed foods is also advised to relieve additional stress on the digestive system.”
Organic Raw Maca Powder
Often referred to as the “fountain of youth”, Maca has been used for centuries due to its energy and endurance enhancing qualities. However modern nutritional research has revealed its powerful properties. Of the Earth Superfoods Organic Maca Powder is a rich source of essential vitamins and minerals, particularly iron, potassium, Vitamin B6, and zinc. Maca is also a source of almost all essential amino acids, and some fatty acids such as omega-3 known for optimising heart health. An adaptogen, maca works to balance out any bodily stressors or irregularities, whether they be hormonal, mood or energy related. 70g RRP £2.99 and 220g RRP £5.99
Natural Balance Ladies Choice
Ladies Choice helps support common menopausal concerns and contains a comprehensive range of herbs that help to alleviate many common concerns during the menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. Ladies Choice Menopause Support also contains nutrients to provide physical and emotional support during midlife.
FSC Evening Primrose Oil
A rich source of GLA (Gamma Linolenic Acid) in a convenient capsule form. GLA is a precursor of Prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances known to have important biological functions. Expressed without the use of chemical solvents or additional heat from the seeds of the evening primrose flower, this precious oil is carefully encapsulated with natural source antioxidant Vitamin E. As with all FSC supplements, FSC Evening Primrose Oil 1300mg is made in the UK with the finest ingredients and based on widely recognised scientific evidence of their health qualities.
Over 70% of immune cells reside in the lining of the gut and are supported by a diverse mix of gut bacteria (known as the “microbiome”). Whilst the urinary tract and vagina are constantly exposed to microorganisms, they are generally able to resist infection due to the body’s innate immune defences. When the immune system is compromised however, (due to stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, antibiotics or illness etc…) the vagina and urinary tract can become susceptible to pathogenic overgrowth, leading to conditions such as bacterial vaginosis, thrush and urinary tract infections (UTI’s). Recurrent bouts are therefore a sign that the microbiome might be out of balance and the immune system in need of additional support. Reducing sugar (which feeds unbeneficial bacteria and yeast), increasing consumption of brightly coloured vegetables and good quality proteins (providing the building blocks for immune cells) and supporting the microbiome by taking a good quality live bacteria supplement are therefore recommended.
Having adequate levels of Lactobacilli spp. is especially important for women, as it is these bacteria which predominate in the vagina and urinary tract. Here they compete with pathogens such as E.coli and Candida albicans for space and nutrients, and also help to create an acidic environment that protects against infections. Live bacteria supplements are well known for helping to restore gut lactobacilli levels, but studies also indicate they are able to help restore the urogenital microflora, and may therefore be beneficial in a number of women’s health conditions. For example, the 7 strains found in Bio-Kult Candéa have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of bacterial vaginosis. Lactobacillus acidophilus PXN35 and Lactobacillus plantarum PXN47 in Bio-Kult Pro-Cyan have also been shown in vitro to be particularly effective at inhibiting E.coli and E.faecalis, the two most common culprits responsible for UTIs. The product is also formulated with cranberry extract (providing a minimum 36mg Proanthocyanidins) shown in clinical trials to significantly reduce the recurrence of UTI’s, by preventing bacterial adhesion to uroepithelial cells, and vitamin A which contributes to the normal function of the immune system and maintenance of mucous membranes.
Women’s Lactobacillus & Bifidus with Cranberry
Pro-Ven Probiotics Women’s Lactobacillus & Bifidus with Cranberry contains the comprehensively studied Lab4 friendly bacteria combined with specific Lactobacillus gasseri, which is a normal part of the vaginal flora. Produced in the UK in our proprietary manufacturing facility, each capsule contains 17.5 billion live bacteria guaranteed to the end of expiry, along with cranberry extract and vitamin B6 to provide support for women’s health when taken every day. Pro-Ven Women’s Lactobacillus & Bifidus with Cranberry is gluten and dairy free and suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.
Cysticlean 240mg PAC®
Natural prevention and treatment for cystitis and recurrent UTI sufferers. Cysticlean 240mg PAC® is a premium product with the backing of clinical studies that proves it works. It guarantees a unique level of 240mg PAC which is significantly more effective than lower dose alternatives. It has a proven anti-adhesive effect on e coli-the cause of many urinary infections. At a time of growing antibiotic resistance Cysticlean can play an important role in cutting their use. A recent clinical study with more than 150 people have shown that Cysticlean 240mg PAC® may be as effective as antibiotics in preventing recurrent UTI.
Essential Female Multi Veg Caps
Formulated specifically for the needs of the 18-39 age group. A unique blend of vegan-friendly high quality nutrients and botanical extracts including hibiscus and cranberry to move beyond a basic multivitamin and support optimal health. Iron contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue, supports normal cognitive function, the formation of red blood cells and the immune system. B6 contributes to the regulation of hormone activity. Part of the 200+ range from the ethical vitamin company, Viridian Nutrition, founded on the principles of Purity, the Environment and Charity. Dedicated to the continued success of the specialist health food store.
Menovital – Take the misery out of menopause
One the most challenging stages of a woman’s life is the menopause, levels of female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone begin to fall during this time. This can cause unpleasant symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, irritability, mood swings and depression. MenoVital® is one of the most comprehensive Menopause products on the market. It consists of: 16 essential ingredients including: Soy Isoflavones, Flaxseed, Siberian Ginseng extract and Starflower to help the body maintain overall health and well being during the mid life change.m MenoVital from HealthAid retails at £11.99 for 60 tablets. Contact HealthAid Ltd on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit
Garden Of Life Microbiome Formula: Once Daily Women’s
Formulated by Dr Perlmutter, Microbiome Formula provides the most diverse, shelf-stable blend of 16 live bacterial strains. Clinically proven strains support women’s intimate flora (L.reuteri, L.fermentum and L.rhamnosus) all while supporting digestive and immune health. Each daily serving provides 50 billion CFU of live cultures, resistant to antibiotics, stomach and bile acids and complemented with digestion friendly, certified organic prebiotic fibres. Devoid of artificial ingredients, dairy, gluten and soya, the formula is also Non-GMO Project verified
Nature’s Answer: UT Answer
UT answer provides a concentrated 3-day regime to support the urinary tract’s health, with a synergistic and effective combination of ingredients. Nature’s Answer offers almost 5000mg of D-mannose, an amount clinically shown for best results; 500mg of concentrated Cranberry Fruit and Vitamin C to give your urinary tract the quick support it needs! Enhanced with Quick-sorb®, a patented blend of Ginger, Amla fruit and Capsicum for maximum absorption. Devoid of sweeteners, artificial preservatives, alcohol and gluten, this formula is suitable for vegans and vegetarians
For Optimal Skin, Hair and Nail Health One tablet provides 200mg of silica. We use naturally derived silica from bamboo gum which contains 75% organic silica and is one of the richest, most bioavailable forms.
MSM (Methylsulphonylmethane), a natural sulphur containing compound, has been included as it’s an essential nutrient required for the body’s production of proteins, many of which are found in hair, skin and nails. We’ve also added:
• Biotin as it contributes to the maintenance of normal hair and skin
• Zinc as it contributes to the maintenance of normal skin, hair and nails
• Vitamin C as it contributes to the maintenance of normal collagen production.
The sparkle of health- AQUA Carpatica Natural Sparkling Mineral Water
All women should be well aware of the power of two mighty minerals: Calcium and Magnesium. One of the six essential minerals, Calcium is a naturally occurring mineral necessary for overall health.
Meanwhile Magnesium, truly women’s best friend, plays a central role in healthy metabolic, muscular, and cardiovascular performance. It is also fundamental in regulating neuronal function and effective in relieving PMS-related anxiety and menstrual migraines.
AQUA Carpatica Natural Sparkling Mineral Water provides 26% of the NHS’s recommended daily amount of magnesium for adults per litre and almost 40% of the daily amount of Calcium.
Get your sparkle of health from AQUA Carpatica!