We frequently receive requests for an update column on women’s health problems. This month, we will chat with Helen Saul Case, the author of The Vitamin Cure for Women’s Health Problems. She is also published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. Mrs. Case graduated magna cum laude from Colgate University and earned a master’s degree in education from the State University of New York. She taught English for nine years, is a certified administrator, and worked as English department chair for four years. She is the daughter of Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D., the well-known author of many books including Doctor Yourself, who is also known for his starring role in the movie Foodmatters and his popular Web site Doctor Yourself.com. Mrs. Case currently lives with her husband and daughter in Western NY.
Passwater: You have compiled evidence about nutrition and women’s health and translated the science into an educational and informative book that can be readily understood by all. Your book is easy to read without being “dumbed-down.” You support your work with extensive research and references. Please let our readers know how your lifetime experience with nutritional medicine came about.
Case: When I was growing up, vitamins and nutrition were the answers to our illnesses, and more often for the prevention of illness. However, once I headed off to college—out of my parents’ nutritional reach and after not having a single dose of antibiotics until I was 17—I turned to conventional medicine. It seemed so easy to go to the doctor and get a prescription. In fact, it was downright comforting. I thought my parents had really missed the boat.
Soon enough, I found that drugs don’t always cure disease, and I found drug-induced side effects to be intolerable. After a while, especially dealing with my own personal ailments, I found that medication not only failed to cure what I suffered from, but it actually made things worse. I began to think: If my doctor can’t solve this problem, who can? If drugs don’t work, what will? How can I get better?
This is a scary place to be. I was left to fend for myself. This drove me back to how I was raised. I sought out natural vitamin cures because I needed to. As I searched for information to help myself, it occurred to me that there must be many other women out there looking for natural, nutritional cures, too.
Passwater: Isn’t nutritional medicine also known as orthomolecular medicine?
Case: Yes. “Orthomolecular” means using nutrients to maintain health and treat disease. I wished there had been an orthomolecular health book for the kinds of issues I wanted to know about. Well, there wasn’t. I just had to go and write it myself.
Passwater: What makes your book different?
Case: My book tackles the big questions. How do we use nutrition and high doses of vitamins to treat women’s health issues? Which vitamins should we take? How much? Do they work? And, are they safe?
Vitamins are safe and vitamins do work, and you don’t have to take my word for it. Information in The Vitamin Cure for Women’s Health Problems is backed up with hundreds of scientific references that provide plenty of support for the safety and efficacy of vitamin therapy. My goal was to take the mystery out of using vitamins and nutrition to treat female health issues, including my own.
One does not have to be a trained physician to help oneself. Of course, we should share our health concerns with a doctor. (A doctor’s ability to diagnose health problems is valuable, to say the least.) But, wouldn’t it be nice to not need to go?
Passwater: What are the major women’s health issues today and can they be addressed with better nutrition?
Case: It would be hard to think of any health problem that wouldn’t benefit from better nutrition. When was the last time bad nutrition helped anyone get well? While it is not a comprehensive textbook by any means, The Vitamin Cure for Women’s Health Problems provides a practical, step-by-step, drugless approach to address many specific health issues we can improve with vitamins and nutrition including:
• Menstrual and premenstrual issues such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), bloating, stress, cramps, cravings, acne, migraines, heavy periods, insomnia, fatigue, breast tenderness and mood swings.
• Vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections
• Infertility and sex drive concerns
• Urinary tract, bladder and kidney infections
• Health problems that are caused by hormonal contraception
• Prevention of female cancers of the breast, ovaries, endometrium and cervix
• Stress, anxiety and depression
• Menopausal issues such as hot flashes, sweating, vaginal atrophy, weight gain, digestive trouble, vaginal dryness, osteoporosis, heart disease, hair loss, joint discomfort, memory loss and urinary incontinence
Passwater: Your book discusses these women’s health problems in considerable detail. This is difficult for physicians to do because they allot only a few minutes to each patient. What can women do to get the most out of a doctor’s visit, especially when it comes to discussing the use of vitamins and nutrition?
Case: Doctors are busy people. We spend more time in waiting rooms than we do in one-on-one conversations with our physicians. This means we must begin to take responsibility for our own health and pay close attention to our bodies, our symptoms and how we feel. We need to learn more about ourselves than our doctors do. Maybe you think you are not up to the task. It’s time to reconsider.
Many people like to be told what to do, especially when it comes to their healthcare. But as talented and educated as doctors are, their tool bags are filled with drugs, not vitamins; their solutions are medical solutions; their cures are based on medical training. If we seek out natural alternatives, we just won’t find them in the tool bag. Instead, we put faith in pharmaceuticals, which may leave us worse off than before. We can choose to keep returning to the doctor, or we can choose a path leading away from the disease-medicate-disease-medicate spin cycle. We need to take a different approach, and that approach is education not medication.
Most physicians receive very little education in nutrition, especially when it comes to using vitamins and nutrients to prevent and cure real illnesses.
Women who have been offered nothing more than pharmaceuticals may feel they have few options. This is not the case. There are nutritional solutions to women’s health problems. Women can be self-reliant and take charge of their own bodies.
Passwater: What mistakes might women make with nutritional therapy?
Case: The biggest mistake is not trying it. Another common error would be to view nutritional therapy like how we view medical treatment. The medical mindset is that there is a drug for every disease. This is truly a limited view. There is no one-step, one-dose or one-pill solution for better health.
Effective dosages of nutrients vary based on a woman’s particular needs. Real healing requires that you start or change many of your lifestyle behaviors if you expect to get better. Natural cures involve many steps. We need to eat right, and drink plenty of water, and take our vitamins, and drink fresh, raw, vegetable juice, and exercise, and take steps to reduce stress. I guess what I’m suggesting isn’t easy. But isn’t suffering from sickness harder?
Passwater: Are there women’s health problems that are growing disproportionally fast?
Case: Practically all of them.
Passwater: You emphasize getting to the root of the problem rather than just treating the symptoms.
Case: You are exactly right. Adding a chemical to your body does not really address the underlying cause of a condition. Similarly, there is not only one nutrient needed to cure one disease. But one of these two choices is remarkably safer, usually cheaper and, in many cases, more effective than the other.
We have a choice: to manage symptoms by suppressing them with medication or surgery, or to make our bodies as healthy as possible so they become inhospitable hosts for sickness.
Passwater: Many women struggle with premenstrual syndrome. How can vitamins and nutrition help?
Case: If you head to your doctor with a list of PMS complaints, he or she is likely to suggest medication. Moody? Antidepressants may be prescribed. Bloated? They are likely to suggest diuretics. Cramps? Pain relievers might be suggested. For some, these may work. For many others, they won’t, and the undesirable side effects of the drugs still do.
Just because we have a drug for it does not make it a disease. Just because we experience cyclical, normal changes, does not mean we are defective. Do we need to manage our systems so we can live healthy and fulfilling lives? Yes. Do we need to be wacked out on drugs because we have a classifiable mood disorder? No.
There is so much we can do with nutrition to alleviate PMS symptoms. Menstrual cramps? You may need more magnesium. Fatigue? You may need more iron and vitamin C. Feeling cranky lately? Try
B-complex vitamins; water-soluble and safe. Vitamin C is another mood enhancer.
When you feel out of balance, it is your body’s way of calling your attention to an issue. The trick is to learn about your body, and then learn what it needs and what to do that works best for you. The Vitamin Cure for Women’s Health Problems goes into great detail about how lifestyle changes and vitamins and minerals can help these issues and many others.
Passwater: Many of our readers may suffer from stress, anxiety and depression. What does your book offer here?
Case: Women are far more likely to experience stress, anxiety and depression than men. While there may be many contributing factors, the reason behind your condition may be your body’s need for a whole bunch of nutrients. Vitamins A, C, E, D and the Bs, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, chromium, selenium and other nutrients like omega-3 and lecithin: all of these may play a role in helping you feel better. You need more water when you exercise; you need more sleep after an exhausting day. Doesn’t it make sense that you may need more essential nutrients when you are stressed, anxious or depressed? For example, if a gal works at a high-stress job, her need for vitamins rises. The best part is vitamins are safe, effective and relatively inexpensive. It makes good sense to give them a try. In The Vitamin Cure for Women’s Health Problems, I walk you through how to use nutrients to help stress, anxiety, depression and more.
Passwater: Do women generally need to take vitamin and mineral supplements? How do you answer the many physicians who claim a good diet is enough?
Case: No. A whole lot of women aren’t eating good diets, and even a well-managed diet can still be missing something.
“I get the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of all my vitamins and minerals,” one might say. Well, maybe one does…but everybody is different. Just because one person requires one level of a certain vitamin to stay well and feel great does not mean that same amount will work for someone else.
Obtaining therapeutic levels of nutrients may require supplementation. For example, to battle mood swings, taken along with other B-vitamins, effective doses of B6 range from 50 to 200 mg a day. That’s 25–100 times the RDA. To try and attain that amount of B6 from your food, you’d have to eat a couple dozen cans of garbanzo beans, hundreds of bananas or a truckload of spinach. Supplements sure do come in handy!
Passwater: What can women do right now to start feeling better?
Case: The first step is to learn about your options, especially those you probably haven’t heard about in the doctor’s office. Start reading about the studies on effective vitamin therapy, and then check the references. Go straight to the source and see that science demonstrates again and again that vitamins and nutrition can prevent and arrest chronic disease. Don’t have time for all that? My book can help.
There is so much you can do to start living a more vibrant life. That’s the good news. Learn and live, and live well.
Passwater: We can’t go into much detail in a short conversation, so how or where can readers find your book?
Case: Any bookstore can order it, and it is available from large online retailers. You can also buy it at www.doctoryourself.com/helensaulcase.html.
Passwater: Thank you for chatting with us and for your helpful book.
Dr. Richard Passwater is the author of more than 45 books and 500 articles on nutrition. Dr. Passwater has been WholeFoods Magazine’s science editor and author of this column since 1984. More information is available on his Web site, www.drpasswater.com.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, November 2012