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Nutritional Health for Women

Special Diets
Special dietary restrictions or limitations require greater attention to nutrition. Medical conditions or illnesses might also require special diets or supplementation. If you experience any of these, consulting a nutritionist is recommended.

Diabetes requires careful maintenance of blood sugar, through blood monitoring and controlled diet. Blood sugar monitoring should be done as recommended by your doctor and also during exercise, especially if the exercise is for more than 30 minutes. You should always have a high glycemic index food available in case you develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and maintain your low to medium glycemic index diet with regularly scheduled meals. The best nutritionist for you is a certified diabetes educator. It is highly recommended you consult a nutritionist if you are diabetic, as your nutritional needs are beyond the scope of this book.

If you have an illness with fever, you will likely have to replenish the electrolytes potassium and sodium due to sweating. Similarly, gastrointestinal illness causing vomiting or diarrhea requires additional electrolytes; good ways to replenish are by drinking sports drinks. If you are taking antibiotics, increasing your daily intake of yogurt will help protect the normal bacteria in the bowels and prevent you from developing diarrhea. You must take a multivitamin during times of illness, as more vitamins are needed for the body's healing and stress response. An additional B complex and vitamin C can also be helpful. Avoid working out if you have fever, vomiting, or diarrhea.

If you regularly suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or frequent diarrhea, you need to consider replenishing your electrolytes and drink extra fluids. A higher-fiber, lower-fat diet with smaller, more frequent meals can help regulate you.

Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar that naturally occurs in milk and milk products. Babies are born with the enzymes necessary to digest lactose, but some adults outgrow it. With lactose intolerance, diarrhea and gas result after eating dairy products. Diarrhea can cause dehydration and loss of electrolytes, so these should be replenished. Lactose intolerance can be managed through pills that help digestion, such as Lactaid, or dairy products that contain the enzymes. If you cannot eat dairy products due to lactose intolerance you are unable to correct, make sure you are getting calcium through fortified foods and juices, or taking supplements to equal four servings per day. Soy milk is an alternative but is not usually as high in calcium as dairy products, so check the label.

Vegetarian Diets
Vegetarians must be very attentive to their diets, especially the amount of calcium and protein they take in. Although vegetarian diets are high in vitamins and fiber, they tend to be low in iron, calcium, and magnesium. Vegans, those who eat plant products only, must include two servings daily of beans or soy, grains, and nuts or seeds in order to ensure adequate protein combinations. They must also eat calcium-fortified foods or take calcium supplements to fulfill the 1,200 milligrams-a-day requirement.

Nutritional needs increase in pregnancy. Folate supplements should be taken when planning a pregnancy to prevent birth defects that can develop early in the development of the fetus, even before a woman learns she is pregnant. Most prenatal vitamins contain 600 to 1000 micrograms of folate, more than the RDI of 400 micrograms a day. Calcium needs increase to at least 1,300 milligrams daily and iron to 30 milligrams a day. After the first trimester, calorie needs increase by 300 to 500 calories a day, and more if you are exercising. Protein needs also increase slightly. Fluid needs increase dramatically, and water should be always available.

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From The Active Woman's Health and Fitness Handbook by Nadya Swedan. Copyright © 2003 by Nadya Swedan. Used by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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