This week, we’re all about Women’s Health. Laura Dowling, Pharmacist Manager of LloydsPharmacy Stillorgan, talks to us about the most common aspects of women’s health she advises upon in the pharmacy. As well as being a pharmacist, Laura is a mum of three, a yogi, a swimmer and an avid healthy eater. She tries to raise her kids, get them to school with full bellies and clean clothes, help her patients, get some ‘me time’, and stay happily married. It’s not easy but it’s fun!
A healthy body leads to a healthy mind, and vice-versa; and with fluctuating hormonal levels throughout her monthly cycle and indeed her lifespan, it is important that a woman feeds her body with the right foods and nutritional supplements to optimise her health. There are many claims made by many products; the important thing is to work with what suits you, your body’s needs and your lifestyle. These are the most frequent topics I get questions about from women in the pharmacy and the general advice I give. Your pharmacist can help you choose exactly what product is right for you and your needs.
Oils for General Wellness
Despite living on an island, a lot of us Irish women don’t eat nearly enough fish or foods rich in essential omega oils. High – quality nutritional supplements can make all the difference to busy women who want to put a spring in their step, especially if you are not a fish lover. I always recommend a good omega oil to someone who has a healthy diet but needs something ‘extra’. Omega oils are fantastic for maintaining heart health and normal cholesterol levels. Personally, I felt that my concentration levels also improved once I started to take them and my hair is super thick and glossy (and I really did have baby brain and thinner hair after baby number 3!). The high-quality fish and crustacean pharmacy brands that I routinely recommend are Eskimo, Morepa, Clean Marine or Revive Krill oil. A vegetarian option would be Udo’s Oil.
At present, it is estimated that 300,000 people in Ireland have Osteoporosis. It is not just a female condition but it is estimated that 1 in 2 women over 50 will develop a fracture due to Osteoporosis in their lifetime*. This condition results in bones becoming more fragile and increasingly prone to fracture. It is essential that we get enough calcium and vitamin D to limit our risk of developing osteoporosis. Vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium. We get it from sunlight – which in this country is difficult! Exercise can also play an important part in helping to reduce a patient’s risk of Osteoporosis and it is also an important aspect of treatment. So speak to your pharmacist about what supplements can make up for the rainy weather and advice before your start an exercise regimen.
Body Mass Index
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a scale used to assess whether your weight is healthy for your height. It is a general indicator of your risk of obesity and the many related illnesses that can occur when your weight is at an unhealthy level, such as Type II diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Your pharmacist can measure your BMI for you in private and advise you on how you can adapt your diet to reach a suitable weight. Free 1-2-1 weight-loss support is available at all branches of LloydsPharmacy as part of our Change your Health direction programme. Visit www.safefood.eu for more information and advice on your diet and weight.
I have helped many women that have hormonal imbalances, such as PMT or menopausal symptoms, by recommending vitamin supplements that are known to contribute to the regulation of normal hormonal activity. It is important for women not to be embarrassed by these hormonal imbalances. They are completely natural for a woman to experience. I always tell women to ‘own’ their symptoms. To be kind to themselves. To MAKE time for themselves. To exercise and feel the endorphins flow through their bodies. Sometimes it is the simplest of things that can alleviate low mood and reduce PMT, menopausal symptoms and depression or anxiety. Your pharmacist can advise you on what products may help you.
Many women suffer from moderate to extreme discomfort or pain during their period. This can even limit your daily activities. Many over-the-counter painkillers are safe and effective at keeping pain at bay when used as directed by your pharmacist. Heat is also helpful is relieving discomfort caused by abdominal cramps so try a heat patch or a hot water bottle. Do your best to exercise and stay active during your period to further ease your symptoms.
A balanced diet with regular meals should ensure your energy levels remain constant throughout the day and you maintain good sleeping patterns. If you’re struggling with tiredness and concentration, many nutritional supplements can help to give more energy. Revive Active is a personal favourite of mine as its perfect ratio of high – quality vitamins provides oodles of energy to even the most fatigued person. Products containing B Vitamins are also known to improve energy levels.
Vaginal thrush is something that many women experience. It is a yeast infection and usually occurs if a woman is run down from illness or stress, or if she has just taken a course of antibiotics. Symptoms include itchiness, swelling and discharge. Treatment using over-the-counter creams or pessaries, available from your pharmacy, is usually sufficient to clear the infection in a matter of days. Regular bouts of thrush should be investigated by your GP to ensure you are not suffering from any other complications.
I think that it is wonderful that emergency contraception is now available in all pharmacies in Ireland and this is something I help women with every day. Did you know that there are two ‘morning after pills’ available in Ireland? One (NorLevo) can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected intercourse and the other (EllaOne) can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected intercourse. If you are in need of emergency contraception, it’s important to act quickly and visit the pharmacy as soon as possible. The pharmacist will take you through a consultation in private to assess which medicine is most suitable for you. Your pharmacist can also talk to you about the most appropriate methods of long-term contraception for your needs. Women who smoke, are overweight or who are over the age of 35 need to discuss the use of hormonal contraceptives with their pharmacist and GP as contraceptive choices which were suitable in the past may no longer be appropriate for them. Visit http://www.thinkcontraception.ie/Contraception-35+.27.1.aspx for more information.
We’re here if you need us…
It is important that women of all life stages know that their pharmacist is available every day to help them at any life stage, trial or tribulation that they are going through. Many women today are so busy and it can be hard to find time to look after our own health and wellbeing as well as the health of our families. Every pharmacy in Ireland has a private room for a discreet conversation with your pharmacist – our advice is free and we’re available whenever the pharmacy is open. Come and talk to us.