We talk about our health a lot—dietary health, heart health, even hair health. But what still doesn’t get its fair share of conversation is women's health.
Most people assume anything related to your “lady business” only matters if you’re pregnant or sexually active. The truth of the matters is that feminine health is every woman’s business, regardless of sexual activity.
Your fertility is an intricate system connected to everything from the immune system to the neurological and gastrointestinal systems, so your feminine health can actually be clue to other things going on in your body. Here are seven things you need to start doing right now to keep your feminine health at its best.
01. Chart your cycle.
How can you take care of something if you don’t know anything about it? Certified FertilityCare Practitioner Suzy Younger explains how important it is to understand how our bodies naturally work. Younger says charting can help a woman “understand how her emotions change over the course of her cycle, her desire for intimacy, [and] the way she copes with premenstrual syndrome.” Younger adds that a woman who charts has “a greater respect for her fertility rather than fearing, ignoring, or rejecting it due to a lack of understanding.”
02. Pay attention to your body’s subtle warning signs.
Dr. Marguerite Duane, a family physician, tells us that being in tune to the signs your body is sending helps you know when things are a little out of whack. Weight gain, late or irregular periods, or painful periods can all point to a more serious underlying issue. Dr. Duane notes that even common headaches can lead to a diagnosis of a pituitary gland tumor. Knowing when something in your body is a little off can help identify health issues like thyroid disorder or infertility.
If you need a reason to de-stress, look no further. Excessive stress can throw off our entire cycles and make periods show up late. Stress can also lead to decreased fertility, weight gain, and depression. An analysis of several studies found that “women are twice as likely as men to experience depression,” partly due to the differences in hormonal regulation in women versus men’s bodies.
04. Eat foods rich in vitamin E and zinc.
What we put into our bodies has a big effect on our female health, which is why it is so important to feed ourselves foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Foods high in vitamin E, like almonds, raw seeds, and dark green, leafy vegetables help prevent vaginal dryness by increasing cervical mucous (which, contrary to common belief, is actually normal). Meats, dark chocolate, and other foods high in zinc help to combat infection and regulates the menstrual cycle.
05. Schedule a visit to your gynecologist.
A lot of women believe that going to the gynecologist is only necessary when they are sexually active. But it’s vital for all women to get to their doctor for a regular check-up. A regular wellness check-up and a Pap smear (which you should get every 3 to 5 years after the age of 21, even if you aren't sexually active) will ensure everything is working as it should.
06. Drink a lot of water.
Dehydration isn’t just bad for your overall health, it also leads to vaginal dryness, which can cause burning and itching. Dr. Hilda Hutcherson, co-director of the New York Center for Women’s Sexual Health, says that drinking your recommended daily amount of water is a simple way to prevent this problem. The mucus vaginal membranes require lots of water to work as they should. Getting plenty of H2O supports clean and healthy lady parts. Use this water calculator to find out how much you need to drink depending on your weight and workout time.
07. Think ethically about your period.
Did you know that many female hygiene products are full of chemicals and toxins, like crude oil plastics and chlorine-bleached wood chips? Yeah, not exactly something they're going to advertise. Andrea Donsky, founder of Naturally Savvy and co-author of Label Lessons: Your Guide to a Healthy Shopping Cart, found that because tampons and pads are considered a “medical device” by the FDA, brands aren’t required to label all ingredients on their packaging. So if these chemicals aren’t something you want in your body, try these ethical and affordable period products to make that time of the month as healthy as possible for you and the environment.
Commit to showing your feminine health a little more TLC. These must-do's will put your whole health in tip-top shape.
Photo Credit: Laurence Philomene