Women’s health

Healthy and powerful through all phases of a woman’s life
Women deal with a large number of challenges throughout their lives, from pregnancy to menopause and from PMS to bacterial vaginosis. And even some conditions that affect both sexes often occur much more frequently in women or with completely different symptoms than in men. Due to hormonal and anatomical differences, women are, for example, affected by iron deficiency and bladder infections significantly more often.

Iron deficiency

Iron is like fresh air for the cells
Constant fatigue and concentration problems are not necessarily due to stress or too little sleep. A lack of iron can also make you tired, because this trace element is enormously important for the body’s energy balance! Among other things, it is responsible for the body’s oxygen supply: The iron ions are an important component of the blood pigment haemoglobin. They essentially hold on to oxygen molecules and the red blood cells then transport them wherever they are needed in the body. Too little iron therefore also means too little oxygen for the brain and other organs. As a result, we feel listless, tired and get cold more easily.

External signs may include pale, dry skin, brittle hair and nails and cracked corners of the mouth. Iron deficiency is often accompanied by loss of appetite. However, when these symptoms appear, the condition is already quite advanced: In the event of an undersupply, the body first draws on the iron stores in the cells, then on the iron ions in the blood. In the medium term, it can even lead to anaemia. If you notice these or similar symptoms, it is advisable to consult your doctor.

Iron deficiency is common

Too little iron as a cause of tiredness and fatigue is not uncommon: In Germany alone, 14% of men and 58% of women do not manage to meet their daily iron requirements according to studies!

We use a relatively large amount of iron: Our bodies use between one and three milligrams of iron daily. It is therefore important to regularly replenish our iron stores. The body can only actually absorb a small part of the mineral from food. Iron from animal products is easier to reabsorb. Here, too, vitamin C can be helpful as it increases the absorption of iron into the body.

Certain population groups tend to lose a particularly large amount of iron or have an increased need for various reasons:

Increased need
Athletes, pregnant women, women of childbearing age, growing children. The latter gain significant muscle mass and blood in a relatively short time so iron levels need to be adjusted to keep up. Athletes excrete iron through urine, sweat and tiny muscle tears. Women lose iron with their menstrual period. Severe blood loss from giving blood also drastically lowers iron levels. Pregnant women also need to ensure sufficient supply for the foetus.

Absorption issues
Chronic intestinal diseases in particular, but also stomach diseases, can lead to reduced iron absorption. Some medicines also inhibit iron absorption.

Furthermore, vegans and vegetarians belong to the risk groups, because meat is an important source of easily usable iron.

What do you have to watch out for with iron deficiency?

If you suspect that your iron level is too low, for example because you have noticed symptoms such as tiredness or brittle hair, have your iron level checked by your GP as soon as possible. This is especially important if you belong to one of the “risk groups” mentioned above. With a simple blood test, you will then know for sure.

In most cases, an iron-rich diet helps to raise our iron level again and refill our storage capacity. But a food supplement can also be useful. In any case, discuss the dosage with your doctor, as the body does not excrete excess iron and an overdose can have dangerous consequences! In principle, you should try to eat an iron-rich diet. The trace element is found in both plant and animal foods:

Animal iron is bivalent, meaning it is present as a compound with two iron ions, and can be absorbed by the body more easily than plant iron. The bioavailability of iron from liver, red meat and fish is about 25%, which means that our body can only actually utilise a quarter of it.

Our bodies can only absorb a small amount of trivalent iron from plant sources, such as legumes, green vegetables, potatoes or red fruits, and its bioavailability is only around 8%.

Improve the absorption of iron

In addition, you can increase the bioavailability of plant iron with the help of a tasty trick that is especially interesting for vegans and vegetarians: with vitamin C. So by drinking a glass of orange juice with your meal, for example, you can improve your iron level considerably! Alternatively, you can finish off a meal with some fresh lemon juice if you enjoy it.

Foods with ingredients that inhibit or block iron absorption should at least not be eaten at the same time as foods containing iron. These include teas, coffee and red wine because of their tannin content, but also leafy vegetables such as spinach or rhubarb (oxalic acid) and dairy products because of the calcium and cheese, which contains zinc. Phosphate, as contained in many soft drinks (cola) and sausages, is also one of the substances that is bad for iron absorption.

Even just balancing our iron level can provide more energy and boost performance. But there is more you can do against constant fatigue… you can find many tips for more energy in day-to-day life here.


A condition predominantly experienced by women: Inflammation of the bladder (cystitis)

Increased urge to urinate and sharp pain when urinating: Almost every woman knows the typical symptoms of cystitis and many experience cystitis several times a year. In most cases, a urinary tract infection like this resolves quickly and without complications, but sometimes a visit to the doctor and antibiotics are required. We have compiled all the important information on causes, progression, treatment and prevention for you.

What is cystitis?

Cystitis is inflammation of the urinary bladder. The cause of the infection is usually intestinal bacteria that ascend into the bladder via the urethra. In particular, the bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli) likes to settle here. Women are affected much more often than men because their urethral opening is much closer to the anus and the urethra is also much shorter.

Which factors make you more susceptible to cystitis?

Due to their anatomy, women are affected significantly more frequently than men. Sexually active women fall ill particularly frequently, as bacteria can easily enter the urethra during sexual intercourse. Urinary tract infections also occur more frequently during pregnancy and after the menopause. People who wear a bladder catheter or suffer from diabetes also get more frequent bladder infections.

What are the symptoms?

Typical symptoms of cystitis are pain and burning when urinating as well as a constant urge to urinate; cramp-like pain in the lower abdomen often occurs as well. In some cases, the urine looks cloudy and smells funny; blood in the urine is also not uncommon.

How is cystitis diagnosed?

Cystitis is diagnosed on the basis of the symptoms and a urine test. White blood cells indicate an inflammatory reaction, the presence of nitrites, a metabolic product of bacteria, which indicates that there are bacteria in the urinary tract. A urine culture is often taken to identify the specific pathogens and to rule out possible antibiotic resistance. In the case of recurrent or complex urinary tract infections, an ultrasound examination is also performed to rule out anatomical changes in the kidneys and urinary tract.

How is cystitis treated?

If you feel cystitis coming on, you can do a great deal to relieve your symptoms quickly: You can flush out the bacteria by drinking a lot. Bladder and kidney teas are particularly good for this. Heat relieves the pain in the abdomen. If the symptoms do not improve within a few days with this treatment, you may need antibiotics. Your doctor decides which treatment is best for you. It is important to take the medication for as long as the doctor has prescribed it, otherwise you will be at risk of a relapse or the bacteria may become resistant.

How can cystitis be prevented?

Those who suffer from recurrent urinary tract infections can take numerous steps to reduce the risk of recurrence:

  • Drink at least two litres a day! This flushes any germs out of the bladder and prevents them from attaching themselves to the bladder cells.
  • Go to the toilet regularly and don’t wait until your bladder is full to bursting.
  • Always clean yourself from front to back after emptying your bowels to avoid moving germs from the anal area into the urethral area.
  • Only use water or pH-neutral intimate hygiene products for intimate cleansing.
  • Do not wear synthetic fibre underwear if possible
  • Cotton underwear should also not be worn too tightly and should be washed at 60° Celsius if possible.
  • As more bacteria can enter the urethra during sexual intercourse, it is recommended to go to the toilet immediately afterwards.
  • Condoms can protect against bladder infections. Chemical contraceptives, the IUD or a diaphragm increase the risk of infection
  • Avoid cold feet and take off wet swimwear immediately after swimming.


Nutrition during pregnancy

Pregnancy and your growing belly You can imagine how your little one is growing or see for yourself on the ultrasound scans. During this time of life, pregnant women often get a lot of well-meaning advice from all kinds of people about nutrition and behaviour. But what advice is really worth following?

A poor diet can lead to a lack of nutrients and be dangerous for mother and baby. On the one hand, complications can occur during pregnancy, and on the other hand, an adequate supply of vital substances is important for the healthy development of the baby. But does that mean you need to eat for two? Contrary to this common assumption, pregnant women only need more energy in the second half of pregnancy. And even then, they only need about 255 extra calories per day, which is roughly equivalent to a cheese sandwich.

Nutrient requirements increase by leaps and bounds

However, the situation is quite different when it comes to nutrient requirements. Our requirements are already increased at the beginning of pregnancy because large amounts of vitamins, minerals and trace elements are needed to supply the unborn baby. For example, pregnant women (from the 4th month) need 58% more vitamin B6 than before. They need 38% more vitamin A, 43% more zinc and 100% more iron. Pregnant women can also often be lacking in folic acid, iodine, calcium and magnesium as well as vitamin C. Breastfeeding also results in a considerable increase in nutrient requirements. This is because the mother passes on some of the vital substances she has absorbed to the baby through her milk.

A conscious and balanced diet is therefore particularly important in these phases of life. But it is not always easy to meet the increased nutrient requirements just by choosing the right foods. In this case, targeted nutritional supplementation can be useful.

B vitamins for mother and baby

B vitamins in particular play a special role in the healthy development of the embryo from the very beginning. Even before pregnancy, it is essential to ensure you are getting a sufficient supply of vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid. Folic acid contributes to the growth of maternal tissue during pregnancy. Moreover, scientific studies suggest that these B vitamins can even have an effect on a later tendency to obesity, type 2 diabetes and the risk of cancer.

Attention: Vegetarians and vegans in particular are susceptible to a vitamin B12 deficiency and should pay special attention to making sure you get an adequate supply! Special dietary supplements without animal ingredients can compensate for this. In general, however, a strictly vegan diet is not recommended for pregnant women because of the increased nutrient requirements.

Within the vitamin B complex, folic acid and choline are of particular importance: A deficiency in folic acid is associated with development issues with the neuronal tube in the embryo, which can lead to spina bifida in babies. It can sometimes be difficult to meet the additional folic acid requirement through food alone. In addition to foods containing folic acid, such as cabbage, pulses and fruit, a dietary supplement can therefore be useful.

Iron and iodine should be used with caution

Iodine is also one of the trace elements that is needed to a greater extent during pregnancy. It is needed for the development of the thyroid gland, the hormones of which are involved in growth, energy metabolism, brain development and bone formation. However, there are no general rules concerning individual iodine requirements. Whether a food supplement is necessary should therefore be discussed with your doctor to be on the safe side. Iodine sources include iodised table salt and sea fish.

The situation is similar with iron. In addition to the normal mental development of children, iron is especially important for blood formation. Only when there are enough red blood cells can the body ensure sufficient oxygen supply for mother and baby. Many women take an iron supplement on their own initiative to cover the double iron requirement during pregnancy. But there are also dangers associated with overdosing! Initially, you should try to meet your needs with iron-rich foods such as red meat and eggs, legumes, wholemeal products or green vegetables instead and only take a high-dose food supplement in close consultation with your doctor.

Nutrition tips for pregnant women

It goes without saying that you should not drink alcohol during pregnancy to protect the baby. But raw foods of animal origin should also be avoided during pregnancy: They can contain germs that can trigger dangerous infections in unborn and newborn babies without developed immune systems. Therefore, sushi is off the table, as is raw minced pork, tea sausage spread, cold-smoked ham and fish, raw milk cheese and dishes containing raw egg such as tiramisu or zabaglione.

You can, however, eat the following things:

  • A handful of biscuits or rusks in the morning: This will raise your blood sugar level and counteract morning sickness.
  • Low-fat products made from pasteurised milk: These foods provide plenty of calcium for the baby’s bone structure.
  • 1-2 portions of sea fish per week: This contains iodine. In addition, the omega-3 fatty acids from herring and mackerel etc. are important for brain development.
  • Five portions of fruit and vegetables a day: This is in addition to whole grain products and potatoes or rice, which cumulatively provide most of the important nutrients for you and your little one.

It is important to eat your meals regularly throughout the day. Divided into about five to six portions, they provide constant energy and nutrients. This will also help you avoid major fluctuations in blood sugar levels, which can lead to morning sickness. Drinking plenty of fluids is also important: drinks such as fruit or herbal teas and fruit juice spritzers are best. On the other hand, you should greatly reduce the amount of coffee or black tea you consume because of the caffeine or theine they contain.