The irritable moods and water retention that affect many women the week before their period can be helped by taking more magnesium, says Dr Ann Walker.
While it’s not known exactly how the nutrient helps, it’s thought to boost the production of dopamine, a brain chemical which may be linked to mood.
Magnesium may also help prevent the inflammation which causes water retention. Dr Walker, who runs a herbal medicine clinic in Berkshire, says: ‘Many people don’t eat the foods which contain magnesium, such as wholegrains, beans and green leafy vegetables, so supplements may help. You need about 270mg a day, and look for magnesium citrate, which is easier to absorb than magnesium oxide.’
Millions of people in the UK suffer from back pain, but women are more prone to lower back trouble – as a result of a combination of factors including the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and large breasts.
But this pain is often easily curable by performing stomach exercises, says GP Dr Claire Rushton, vice chairman of the Family Doctor Association.
She says: ‘People don’t realise that when the stomach muscles are weak, it can lead to back pain. The stomach muscles actually support the back; if their tone is poor, you tend to sag and your back then takes the strain.’
A simple exercise performed ten times each morning and evening will strengthen your tummy muscles.
Go down on all fours, keeping your back straight, then pull in your belly button as far as you can and hold for a count of ten. ‘After a week you should start to feel better,’ she says.
Dr Rushton also recommends pulling your tummy in if you’re bending forward to pick up something, as this also protects your back.
INFECTED HAIR FOLLICLES
If you’ve had any part of your body waxed, wait a couple of days before going swimming or using a Jacuzzi, advises Alison Cope, consultant virologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
‘The open hair follicles make women prone to skin infection with bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which thrives in warm, wet areas and which causes “hot tub folliculitis”,’ she says.
This is an itchy, red rash which can lead to infected bumps. In serious cases, antibiotics are needed to clear up the problem.
And while hot tubs are the worst offenders because the temperature of the water makes it an ideal breeding ground, swimming pools also pose a risk.
Cope advises showering before and after using a pool or spa to minimise the chance of spreading bacteria or becoming infected yourself. Showering afterwards helps ensure you get rid of other people’s bacteria; showering before stops you spreading yours.
‘Also, don’t go to a place for waxing where they dip the spatula in a large tub of wax,’ she warns. ‘Chances are lots of other spatulas have been dipped in the same tub and the wax has become contaminated with other peoples’ skin flora (micro organisms that live on the skin).
‘This means organisms such as streptococci and staphylococci (even MRSA) can be transferred and cause infections like cellulitis ( infection of the tissues below the skin).’
The moment thrush strikes, many women reach for a tub of yoghurt to treat the fierce, burning pain. But this won’t cure the Candida infection that’s causing the flare-up, says Dr Meera Kishen, consultant in sexual and reproductive health and member of the Medical Women’s Federation. ‘Although it feels like it is helping, this is because it’s cooling and soothing – cold water will have the same effect.’
Instead, sufferers should take a vaginal or oral preparation such as Canestan, available over the counter from chemists, and wear loose-fitting clothes and cotton underwear.
Despite common wisdom, thrush isn’t the most common vaginal infection – twice as many women get bacterial vaginosis, an infection caused by overgrowth of bacteria.
‘This can be caused by bath additives, sex or the coil,’ says Gloucestershire GP Dawn Harper. ‘One in three women gets it. The discharge is thinner than thrush and has a characteristic odour.’
Treat vaginosis with gels such as Balance-activ (from chemists).
News stories about the huge rise in skin cancer have made many women afraid to go out in the sun or, if they do, they smother themselves head-to-toe in sun block.
But they could be doing themselves more harm than good, warns dermatologist Dr Cecelia Tregear, of the Wimpole Skin Care Centre in London.
The body needs the sun to manufacture vitamin D and a deficiency can lead to serious problems such as rickets and osteoporosis. ‘A deficiency is also linked to cancers, bone disease and heart disease.’
Dr Tregear says women should try to strike a balance between avoiding skin cancer and protecting their bones, by going outside when it’s sunny for 20 minutes without wearing sun cream.
The onset of menopause often brings with it a loss of libido, but tibolone, a drug commonly prescribed to treat associated symptoms such as hot flushes and osteoporosis, can help.
Because the drug contains testosterone, one of its added benefits is that it helps perk up many women’s love lives as well as combating the symptoms of menopause.
‘Studies show that taking it for four to six months can improve your sex life,’ says GP Dr Zara Aziz, a GP in Bristol. ‘It’s thought to work by increasing blood flow to the genitals as well as replacing female hormones.’
We all think of milk as soothing for our stomachs, but it’s the worst thing you can drink if you’ve just had a bout of diarrhoea, warns Winchester GP Anna Wilson.
Diarrhoea is a common symptom of irritable bowel syndrome, which affects an estimated four million women in Britain.
Dr Wilson recommends avoiding milk for at least 48 hours after a tummy upset.
‘Diarrhoea tends to knock out the lining cells of the gut which produce a lot of milk-digesting enzymes. It takes time for them to recover and, while they do, you have transient milk intolerance,’ she says.
‘But people very often make the mistake of drinking milk when they are getting better. Instead you should drink water or soya milk for a day or two to let the gut lining recover.
Being tired all the time is often put down to anaemia and women think they should take more iron, but that could do more harm than good.
You may actually have haemochromatosis – a condition where the body absorbs too much iron and which can be toxic, leading to a build up of iron in organs, liver or heart failure and even death.
‘If you see your GP because you’re tired all the time and have aches and pains, you’ll usually be tested for anaemia,’ says Dr Pixie McKenna, a presenter on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Illnesses.
‘Your doctor may then tell you all is well – in fact you have a really good supply of iron – that’s why haemochromatosis is often missed. It’s an inherited condition and is very common in people of Celtic origin – one in 83 are carriers. Yet it’s easily detected by having a blood test, and is treatable.’
Eating the wrong foods can make you age ahead of your time, says London cosmetic surgeon Dr Lucy Glancey. ‘One of the theories of ageing is that we have too many free radicals in our skin which accelerates the ageing process,’ she explains.
Free radicals are molecules that destroy body cells. A major source is thought to be sugar.
As Dr Glancey says, food such as doughnuts give you a sudden ‘massive rush of sugar’ – the body can’t eliminate this sugar effectively, and in the long run that sugar creates free radicals.
She recommends sticking to foods with a low glycemic index, such as most fruits and vegetables, fish, eggs and meat, which don’t raise the body’s blood sugar levels so high.
During her 40s, a woman’s menstrual cycle can shorten to every three weeks, premenstrual syndrome symptoms become more severe and periods longer and heavier. To improve their quality of life, many women opt for a hysterectomy.
But according to sexual health consultant Dr Tina Peers, who is based in East Surrey, many women could be spared this operation if they simply changed their contraception.
‘Mirena, the progestogen coil, is the Rolls-Royce of contraception for women this age. It stops periods in 85 per cent of women.
‘Another choice that’s possible for those concerned about taking the combined pill until they’re 50 is NuvaRing, a disposable vaginal ring that’s as effective as the Pill but delivers a lower rate of hormones.’
Ovarian cancer is known as the ‘silent killer’ and claims more than 4,300 lives a year in the UK because it has few symptoms, so is hard to detect.
One of the signs that’s most commonly missed or misdiagnosed is a bloated tummy, which women often put down to irritable bowel syndrome, says Dr Rupal Shah, a GP in Battersea, London.
‘If you feel constantly bloated for more than a couple of weeks and that feeling doesn’t disappear after you’ve been to the loo, then book an appointment to see your GP.
‘If it was IBS, you would expect to get some relief when you go to the loo and your bowel settles down. It’s not right to feel bloated day after day.’
Depression isn’t always in the mind – it can often be the warning sign of another illness or condition, warns London GP Ellie Cannon.
‘Depression and anxiety can be early symptoms of physical conditions such as anaemia, thyroid problems or the menopause,’ she says.
‘Before taking antidepressants, talk to your doctor about whether you need a blood test to rule out the possibility of these conditions.’
Source: Mail Online