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As Women’s Month wraps up, Patrick provides the answers to help women be the healthiest versions of themselves, not just during the month of August, but every day, throughout the year.

Q: The vitamin and supplement industry is huge and only booming, what do you believe is a healthy balance for women relying on pill/shake aids in conjunction with their diet?

A: The starting point is always a healthy diet. By that I mean a Low GL diet, without sugar and minimal refined carbs; choosing wholefoods, nuts, seeds, beans, vegetables and fruit and more fish than meat. However; for optimal health that alone is not enough. The level, for example, of B vitamins, Vitamin C and Omega-3 fats that confer the best health for women requires supplementation.  That’s why I recommend the 100% Health Pack every day for all women. This is especially important from their 40’s onwards – the peri-menopausal years, and for women with PMS. In terms of supplements, the nutrients that work to balance hormones are isoflavones (found in beans), indole-3-carbonol (which is the key nutrient in broccoli), vitamins B6, B12, folate, magnesium and Zinc. This is what you want in a female-friendly supplement. These nutrients have been shown to keep bones healthy, reduce PMS symptoms, water retention, mood dips and anxiety.

Patrick Holford’s Female Balance is a female-friendly combination of herbal extracts, B Vitamins, Magnesium and Zinc, with Indole-3 providing essential nutrients for women.

Q: South Africa is burdened by a growing obesity epidemic, especially in women. Often women are also the backbone of their homes and much responsibility falls on them. Then there is mental health which is often “left out of the picture” with more focus on diet – what is your take on how these all link together and what are the implications?

A: The obesity epidemic is across the so-called civilised world. Our modern world of convenience means two things: less calories burnt through exercise and more ‘empty’ calories consumed. We actually eat far less food than our ancestors because we don’t need to. That is why diet alone cannot provide an optimal level of nutrients. Our ancestors were eating maybe 10 servings of fruit and veg. We struggle to get seven (that’s half a plate of vegetables with two main meals, and perhaps two pieces of fruit and a vegetable snack a day, such as a raw carrot with some hummus). We have become addicted to caffeine and/or to sugar. Some to both. That puts us permanently in stress mode, with raised adrenal hormones. There’s more adrenal hormone receptors in fat cells in the belly so stress, plus too many carbs or sugar leads to abdominal weight gain. Stress mode also depresses serotonin which leads to low mood and poor sleep. It’s a vicious circle. But if you start to eat well, exercise more, and take the right supplements everything improves. It is not difficult to lose weight and enjoy your food. I meet hundreds of people who have followed the Low GL diet, love the recipes and have lost tens of kilos. One woman lost 57kg in nine months. All these Low GL diet followers say their energy goes through the roof.

Q: Women – especially career focused women – have been found to drink alcohol more regularly to cope with the stress and pressure of life; can you speak to this need to compensate with substances to handle stress and the dangers thereof? How can women substitute this behaviour for something healthier?

Alcohol is our culture’s antidote to being in stress mode. Caffeine in the morning. Alcohol in the evening. It kind of works and I think the reduction in stress hormones induced by a drink might be why light drinkers have less heart disease and Alzheimer’s risk than abstainers.  If you can stick to one coffee in the morning and one glass of wine in the evening that’s not so bad, but few can. However; it is all too easy for one drink to become half a bottle. Now you’re going to gain weight and really need a coffee in the morning. Both zap energy. Then life becomes a struggle from day to day. It’s a vicious cycle. But you can break free of this dependence. If you quit caffeine and feel really “floored” you know you’ve become addicted. Likewise, with alcohol. It’s better to have at weekends only rather than every day.

If you need an extra bit of help to break the cycle, you might want to consider Patrick Holford’s 9-day liver detox. The liver is the greatest multi-tasking organ in the body. As a result its function – or dysfunction – has an incredibly important impact on our health. This is an easy to follow detox that can be hugely beneficial to your overall health – from increased energy and vitality to clearer skin, improved digestion, better breath, brighter eyes, fewer infections and a sharper mind.

Get your hands on a copy of The Holford 9-Day Liver Detox by Patrick Holford and Fiona McDonald Joyce, available at leading bookstores around the country.