Protecting Women’s Health Through Proper Nutrition

This March we are celebrating International Women’s Month with the theme “WE Make CHANGE Work for Women” and the subtheme “Agenda ng Kababaihan, Tungo sa Kaunlaran.” This year, the theme focuses on the celebration of women being able to exercise their choices, be heard, and benefit from changes. With these objectives, we hope to support women’s health through proper nutrition by providing services and nutrition education materials to help women make informed choices. Thus, this article focuses on how proper nutrition can help protect women’s health from pregnancy to the elderly years.

Nutrition During Adolescence

During adolescence or teenage years, teenage girls are usually concerned about their body image and peers. This is also the phase where many experience body image issues and turn into fad diets for weight loss which may compromise their nutritional status. Thus, it is important for us to educate our teens about balanced diet and how to stay physically active during these years to prevent overweight and obesity. At the onset of menstruation, supplementation of iron and folic acid is of utmost importance for them to replenish their iron stores lost during menstruation and to support optimal growth and development.

Nutrition During Adulthood or Reproductive Years

Adequate intake of vitamins and minerals during the reproductive years is important especially for Calcium, Iron, Folate, Zinc, Thiamin and Vitamins A, D, B6 and B12. At the onset of adulthood and reproductive years, women should start taking Folic Acid supplements in preparation for possible pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects and pregnancy complications. If a woman is not desirous of pregnancy, she may continue to take these supplements along with iron supplements during and after menstruation for anemia prevention. We also encourage women to become physically active during this stage to maintain good bone health and to prevent overweight and obesity, therefore, preventing the development of non-communicable diseases such as Hypertension and Diabetes.

Nutrition During Pregnancy

The First 1000 Days focuses on good nutrition for both the mother and baby starting from pregnancy up to 2 years of age. We have numerous nutrition programs to aid pregnant mothers on healthy eating during pregnancy as well as laws on Rooming-in and Exclusive Breastfeeding in the workplace. Our health centers also provide prenatal care which includes nutrition counseling, provision of Iron and Folic Acid Supplements to prevent anemia, monthly weight monitoring and Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices.  Mothers are also entitled to receive maternity benefits from Philhealth, SSS and maternity leave from their employers to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. Upon birth, mothers also have the choice to avail different family planning methods through the help of our LGU or primary care clinics.

Nutrition During Elderly Years

According to the Institute of Medicine, women ages 14 – 50 years old regardless of pregnancy or lactation need 1000 mg of Calcium and 600 IU of Vitamin D per day. This can be sourced from a balanced diet with adequate sources of Calcium such as Dairy products or calcium-fortified milks or foods. However, for menopausal women above 51 years old, calcium absorption is reduced and will need calcium supplementation of at least 1200 mg of Calcium and 600 IU of Vitamin D per day to prevent osteoporosis. Older women also need adequate protein intake and heart-healthy fats such as Omega 3 from fish to maintain good cardiovascular health and maintain muscle mass. Daily intake of fiber from fruits and vegetables can also help prevent constipation and digestive problems related to menopause.

In general, having a balanced and varied diet consistently from childhood to adulthood can help maintain good health and prevent diseases. However, women have varying nutritional needs depending on their life stage and may need special support and access to nutritional advice. If you are currently pregnant or lactating or have any nutrition-related concerns, you may visit our health centers for assessment and nutrition counseling.