Omega-3s, pycnogenol and beta-glucans help women manage life phases

Omega-3 fatty acids eased depression during pregnancy, Pycnogenol cut menstrual pain and the use of pain medication, and beta-glucans boosted cancer-fighting cells, in three new studies.

In an omega-3 study, researchers explained that pregnant women often become depressed due to physical and emotional demands, but need an alternative to anti-depressant medication, which may harm the baby. Doctors noted that prior studies have linked low levels of omega-3 to depression and theorized that the baby depletes the mother’s omega-3 stores. Twenty-four pregnant women with major depressive disorder took 3,400 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day or a placebo. After six and eight weeks, those who took omega-3 had significantly less depression compared to placebo. Nearly 40 percent in the omega-3 group reported no symptoms (remission) at all. There were no side effects for mothers or babies. Omega-3s make up nearly 70 percent of the developing infant brain, nervous system and retinal eye tissue.

In a study of severe menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea), 116 women with or without dysmenorrhea, aged 18 to 48, took 60 mg of Pycnogenol or a placebo for two menstrual cycles. Participants could take pain medication, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs called NSAIDS, as long as they kept a diary of doses. Women with dysmenorrhea had nearly 40 percent fewer painful days while taking Pycnogenol and used significantly fewer NSAIDS. During a third menstrual cycle without Pycnogenol, women who had taken Pycnogenol in the first two cycles had less dysmenorrhea and were able to take fewer NSAIDS. Study authors noted that NSAIDS generally do not relieve the painful spasms in dysmenorrhea and have side effects.

In a cancer immunity study from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, 30 postmenopausal women who had been successfully treated for breast cancer took a range of doses of beta-glucan extract from maitake mushrooms. Doctors drew blood after one, two and three weeks and found that women who had taken about 1 mg of beta-glucan per pound of body weight had the greatest increase in immune cells including cancer-fighting natural killer cells (NKC) and mature white blood cells.

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