“Healthy” looks and feels a little different to everyone, and women’s health is no exception. Women and people with cycles have varying needs when it comes to issues like their reproductive health, sexual wellbeing, and nutrition.
Since May is Women’s Health Month, we’ve identified some of the most common questions and concerns that many women share and compiled a list of products, resources, and information to help improve your overall wellness on your own terms. These are small changes that we hope can help make life easier, healthier, and happier for all women at every age and phase of life.
Period Care with Fewer Chemicals and Plastics
Tampons, pads, and other menstrual care products are monthly essentials, but many women are understandably concerned about the plastic, metals, and chemicals used in period products and their packaging.
Using waste-free or chemical-free period care items can make your period easier on you and the environment. In her lifetime, a woman will use anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 pads or tampons, contributing massive waste to landfills—but thanks to innovations in the world of women’s health, there are now more sustainable ways to take control of your period.
Reusable period products produce no waste and are just as reliable as single-use pads and tampons. Menstrual cups are washable, bell-shaped cups worn internally to collect your menstrual flow, while reusable pads and liners can be washed and reused after every period.
Seventh Generation offers tampons, pads, and liners made with organic cotton and/or without the use of chlorine, synthetic rayon, or fragrances to give you chemical-free period protection.
If you like to use cleansing wipes during or after your period, try chemical-free biodegradable feminine wipes instead of traditional wipe products that take longer to break down in landfills.
Eating intuitively with your menstrual cycle is a natural way to help with period discomfort. According to Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, a New York City-based nutritionist and founder of Real Nutrition, “The most important thing is to decrease inflammatory foods like sugar, alcohol, processed foods and gluten.” While she emphasizes that “eating at regular intervals, staying active and balancing blood sugar will help you feel good before and during your period,” Shapiro also offered a few more tips for eating well at that time of the month:
Eat a balanced diet rich in fiber, antioxidants, lean protein and heart- healthy fats to balance hormones
Drink lots of water to help flush out excess water retention
Limit sodium intake and add foods that are high in potassium (like bananas, spinach, and sweet potatoes) to reduce bloating
Sexual Wellness with Women in Mind
Did you know that having an orgasm reduces stress, helps you sleep better, and even helps to keep your vagina healthy? Whether with a partner or flying solo, sexual wellness plays a big role in a woman’s overall mental and physical health. Women’s Health Month is a perfect time to take stock of your sex life and consider your own needs, whether that’s a more natural form of protection or supplements to support vitality.
Invest in a personal massager or vibrator that suits your preferences. With vibrators in your choice of shapes, sizes, and styles—and eight different types of vibrations—Lelohas all your needs covered.
There’s no shame in the lubricant game—for many women, lubricants can make sex much more comfortable and pleasurable. Because some commercial lubricants contain parabens or fragrances that can irritate the sensitive skin around the vagina, try switching to more natural formula. Green Goo’s Southern Butter is made with all-natural coconut oil to give you a comfortable glide without irritation. “Intimate products contain so much that we shouldn’t be putting on (or in) our bodies—petroleum-based ingredients, preservatives—and we knew we could look to nature and make something better,” explains Green Goo CEO & Co-Founder Jodi Scott. Green Goo slow-infuses coconut, jojoba, and olive oils to emulate the body’s natural chemistry, as well as the vitamin and mineral content from herbs like calendula, sunflower, and lavender to nourish sensitive skin. Says Scott: “It’s good for you, good for your sex life, and good for the planet.”
Safe sex is the best sex, and for many people, that means using tried-and-true condoms as contraception. For a more environmentally conscious alternative, try switching to a condom brand like Glyde, which uses plant-based materials like thistle extract and ethically harvested rubber latex, and no chemicals or parabens.
Studies show that certain herbs can help boost libido. Moon Juice’s Sex Dust is a powerful blend that taps into the sexual superpowers of herbs, so the chocolatey-tasting powder may give your sex drive a little pick-me-up. According to Moon Juice founder Amanda Chantal Bacon, Sex Dust primarily relies on Shatavari, “which is traditionally used in Ayurveda as the ultimate female tonic and has also been referred to as ‘the female Viagra’ to boost libido and get the juices flowing.” Chantal Bacon explains that Sex Dust also “supports women in every phase of life—from PMS to perimenopause—by aiding in fertility, milk production, and soothing cramps.”
Chemical-Free Fertility, Prenatal, and Postnatal Care
If you want to avoid certain chemicals and additives in your fertility, pregnancy, or lactation products, switching to more natural brands is the way to go. Here are some tips for naturally supporting your fertility and reducing discomfort before, during, or after pregnancy.
Fertility supplements specifically formulated to support hormone levels and ovulation are great additions to your diet. When looking for a supplement, Shapiro recommends looking for one that contains folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, and CoQ10.
While there is no specific diet that will ensure conception, eating nutrient-dense foods can help to support reproductive function. According to Shapiro, “[Eating for fertility] is very individualized, of course, but it is important to consume a balanced diet that maintains even blood sugar levels. It is important to decrease inflammation, therefore it’s recommended to remove foods like sugar and gluten. You also want to eat foods rich in antioxidants, fiber, and full-fat dairy; increase seafood intake; keep your proteins clean (organic, grass-fed); and eat a plant-heavy diet.”
Try adding adaptogenic herbs and roots to your diet to improve your fertility naturally. Research shows that ginseng may help to support fertility and have anti-fatigue properties. “Some adaptogens, like maca, have been shown to enhance fertility, and royal jelly is great for improving egg quality,” Shapiro adds.
The hormone progesterone is essential for promoting and maintaining pregnancy, which is why some doctors prescribe progesterone (in cream or pill form) to women trying to conceive. Try a paraben-free progesterone cream that contains progesterone sourced from the Mexican Wild Yam.
A prenatal multivitamin is a convenient way to get all your essential letter vitamins, iron, calcium, folate, and other minerals that support a healthy pregnancy.
Nourish skin during pregnancy with a belly salve made with natural ingredients. Along with emollient shea butter and beeswax, this one contains Certified Organic essential oils for a spa-like self care ritual.
Cracked, sore nipples from breastfeeding? Try an herbal nipple salve made with 100% organic ingredients that are safe for you and your nursing baby.
Just like prenatal vitamins are important while you’re pregnant, postnatal vitamins help support you while breastfeeding or recovering from giving birth.
Many nursing pads contain unnatural fragrances and chemicals like chlorine. These eco-friendly, hypoallergenic reusable nursing pads are safe for breastfeeding and gentle on sensitive skin.
Your body changes after childbirth, and so should your menstrual cup. This one is made specifically for bodies that have delivered vaginally or by cesarean section.
Menopause Care Using Natural, Nutrition-Based Remedies
From hot flashes to night sweats, perimenopause is a transition that comes with its fair share of uncomfortable feelings. While you may think you simply have to wait out perimenopause—and its sweaty side effects—until you reach menopause, there are a number of natural remedies that can help alleviate some of that discomfort.
Studies show that certain vitamins, herbs, and supplements may help make symptoms of perimenopause and menopause more comfortable. Flaxseed oil is shown to have beneficial effects against hot flashes, while calcium is important for maintaining bone health (as bone loss during menopause is common). A well-rounded menopause multivitamin is also a great way to support your specific needs in one simple step.
Another surprising symptom of menopause? Hair loss, which many women report as they’re beginning perimenopause. A natural supplement like Moon Juice SuperHair helps to naturally support hair growth stemming from hormonal changes. Chantal Bacon explains that SuperHair addresses what she considers the “four critical causes” of hair loss: “Whether you just had a baby or are heading into menopause, SuperHair manages stress with adaptogens, replenishes nutrition with a multivitamin, supports healthy hormonal balance with botanicals, and builds strength with micronutrients.”
Nutrition can be a close ally when it comes to keeping your mood on an even keel. Shapiro explains that as you age, you metabolize simple carbohydrates less efficiently, so eating a diet that’s higher in fat and lower in carbs can help keep mood swings in check.
When it comes to discomfort stemming from menopause, vaginal dryness is a common concern. Plant-based lubricants formulated without parabens or fragrances help to nourish your most sensitive skin and provide a bit of extra moisture.
Heart-Healthy Foods and Supplements for Women
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., so Women’s Health Month is a good time to begin paying extra attention to your heart.
In addition to regular physical activity, you might try eating a heart-healthy diet to help prevent cardiovascular disease as you age. Here are some foods that support heart function:
Studies show that 60% of the world’s underfed are women and girls. It is a part of Thrive Market’s mission to fight food inequality, so in honor of Women’s Health Month, we encourage you to consider supporting some of our favorite organizations working to provide healthy food and other resources to women and their families:
Amy Roberts is Thrive Market's Senior Editorial Writer. She is based in Los Angeles via Pittsburgh, PA.
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