Stephanie Edgar, BSc, joined the NHP & Pharmaceutical Regulatory Sciences team at Nutrasource in 2021 and brings a variety of experience in the Natural Health Products and Cannabis industries in Canada. Stephanie has helped numerous clients with submissions to the Natural and Non-Prescription Health Products Directorate.
Women’s health promotion and disease prevention are themes that tend to be minimized, overlooked, or rejected entirely by certain societal groups. As a result, women are talking more openly about their health and wellness struggles with each other and learning to advocate for themselves. By 2030, the women’s health market is projected to reach $58.24 billion globally.1
Women’s hormone health may be one of the most prominent trends. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), fertility, prenatal care, and sexual health are no longer taboo topics. Meanwhile, awareness around conditions like endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) has also increased, making room for discussion, diagnosis, and treatment options.
Menstrual pain is not normal, nor something that should be tolerated or left untreated. If this is the first time hearing this, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a healthcare practitioner (HCP) or gynecologist that is knowledgeable and supportive of women’s health issues. With respect to PMS, there are a few well-researched supplements that a HCP may recommend. For example, calcium, chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus), French maritime pine bark extract, and saffron have all been clinically shown to relieve premenstrual pain, with saffron exhibiting some benefits on mood and wellbeing.2, 3, 4
While fertility is a sensitive subject, it is important to talk about. Infertility can be caused by a multitude of different factors, but avoiding alcohol, drugs, and tobacco, eating a well-balanced diet, getting treated for sexually transmitted diseases/infections (STDs/STIs), and staying physically active can reduce risk. Additionally, some companies are starting to offer their employees fertility benefits, including assistance with in vitro fertilization (IVF), paid time off to heal from miscarriages, and empathy training for management positions.
Women are not only looking for safe, efficacious, and high-quality supplements for themselves, but their children as well. Choline, folate, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids are some of the key ingredients to look out for in pre- and postnatal supplements. Selenium and vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, B12, and D form a crucial part of a postnatal supplement regimen, especially when breastfeeding.5
Prioritizing mental health has long surpassed “trend” status and is here to stay. Women seem to be more willing to try alternative, natural, and/or new methods to ensure their emotional wellbeing is protected. Developing a consistent work-life balance, practicing meditation and mindfulness activities, and getting enough exercise are some practical ways to manage stress and maintain mental health.
Self-awareness and self-compassion will be at the forefront of self-care in 2023. Although rest and relaxation are still significant, the modes are changing. Mindful hobbies such as ceramic and pottery making, crocheting, knitting, and other forms of needlework are becoming more popular. Using creative outlets to help cope is on the rise, in both personal and therapeutic settings. Adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha, holy basil, lemon balm, and rhodiola rosea have also been shown to enhance emotional wellbeing.6, 7
The negative impact of social media is apparent in young females and women, with many choosing a digital detox. A favorite is the 1-1-1 rule: for one hour a day, one day a week, and one month a year, intentionally cut out or restrict screen time. Limiting screen time is not just for children as all age groups can benefit from improved mental health and sleep quality.
Another big movement in women’s health is reducing or eliminating alcohol intake, which has been deemed “sober curious.” The increased interest in this lifestyle has created a demand for alcohol-free options – one that the beverage and restaurant industries have fulfilled, offering non-alcoholic drinks and mocktails to satisfy every taste palate and preference. The benefits of minimal to zero alcohol consumption include better sleep, improved memory and immunity, more energy, and overall greater physical and mental health.
Recently, the link between diet and supplementation, the gut and other microbiomes, and hair and skin health has become more evident. Prebiotics, probiotics, postbiotics, and synbiotics – a category known as the “biotics” – elicit effects on multiple bodily systems, helping to support women’s health from the inside out.
When it comes to topical hair and skin care, market trends show that women tend to spend more on premium products that have clean labelling and are proven to work as directed. Repair, protection, and growth are top of mind for consumers looking to keep their hair looking and feeling healthy. Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp; gentle exfoliants with salicylic acid can reduce dandruff and prevent it from reoccurring, ultimately encouraging hair growth.
Similarly, Millennial and Gen Z women take a preventative approach to skin care, limiting sun exposure and reapplying SPF multiple times a day. Whereas ingredients that have the potential to damage the skin barrier like alcohol and benzoyl peroxide are being phased out. Again, biotic-containing formulas are gentle, yet effective for those with skin sensitivities.
Though there is some progression in women’s health, more can always be made. As conversations around women’s health and wellness become more frequent and normalized, opportunities arise in the market, creating subcategories for further research and development. As much as R&D initiatives advance the sector, these can only be established by actively listening to women’s health concerns and needs and seeking out their feedback. Only then can effective solutions be provided.
1 Grand View Research. (2022). Women's health market size worth $58.24 billion by 2030. Market Research Reports & Consulting. Retrieved March 6, 2023, from https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-womens-health-market
2 van Die, M., Burger, H., Teede, H., & Bone, K. (2012). Vitex Agnus-Castus extracts for female reproductive disorders: A systematic review of Clinical Trials. Planta Medica, 79(07), 562–575. https://doi.org/10.1055/s-0032-1327831
3 Shobeiri, F., Araste, F. E., Ebrahimi, R., Jenabi, E., & Nazari, M. (2017). Effect of calcium on premenstrual syndrome: A double-blind randomized clinical trial. Obstetrics & Gynecology Science, 60(1), 100. https://doi.org/10.5468/ogs.2017.60.1.100
4 Rajabi, F., Rahimi, M., Sharbafchizadeh, M. R., & Tarrahi, M. J. (2020). Saffron for the management of premenstrual dysphoric disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Advanced Biomedical Research, 9(1), 60. https://doi.org/10.4103/abr.abr_49_20
5 Aparicio, E., Jardí, C., Bedmar, C., Pallejà, M., Basora, J., & Arija, V. (2020). Nutrient intake during pregnancy and post-partum: Eclipses study. Nutrients, 12(5), 1325. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051325
6 Speers, A. B., Cabey, K. A., Soumyanath, A., & Wright, K. M. (2021). Effects of Withania Somnifera (ashwagandha) on stress and the stress- related neuropsychiatric disorders anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Current Neuropharmacology, 19(9), 1468–1495. https://doi.org/10.2174/1570159x19666210712151556
7 Cohen, M. M. (2014). Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 5(4), 251. https://doi.org/10.4103/0975-9476.146554
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