Several dietary supplements and nutrients potentially provide benefits in preventing and treating common gynecological diseases like uterine fibroids (UFs), endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), infertility, menstrual disorders and vaginal infections, according to an article in the journal Nutrients.
The authors noted that numerous studies reveal that fruits, tea and vegetables, as well as various dietary compounds, can alter several signaling pathways involved in disease pathogenesis. Studies also show that nutrition can “impact cancer cells, such as the activation of tumor suppressor genes and an increase in apoptosis and the activity of cell survival proteins, thus playing a protective role against cancer,” they wrote.
For infertility, the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and olive oil, and low in red meat, has been shown to be associated with a higher chance of pregnancy, with the high fat content of vegetable oil perhaps being the driving force behind this connection.
The Nurses’ Health Study cohort also demonstrated a significant link between female fertility and consumption of low-glycemic carbohydrates, monounsaturated fatty acids and proteins of plant origin, along with supplements with iron, folate, and vitamins.
Likewise, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids appear to improve female infertility through changes in insulin sensitivity and inflammation because these pathways also influence ovulatory function.
For PCOS, the intake of omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids reduces the risk of PCOS in women with insulin resistance. Additionally, zinc supplementation may be an adjunctive nutritional treatment for inducing insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS.
For UFs, diets rich in vegetables, fruits and dairy foods can play a positive and protective role in the disease, whereas substantial intake of red meat might increase the risk.
For endometriosis, foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids like red meat are linked to higher levels of estradiol and estrone sulfate, thus resulting in higher concentrations of steroids, inflammation and increasing the risk for the development of endometriosis. Conversely, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the growth of endometrial implants and the production of inflammatory factors, especially in patients with stage III or IV endometriosis.
For vaginal microbiome, nutrients and female reproductive tract infections, numerous studies have found connections between bacterial vaginosis (BV) and low micronutrient status, including vitamins A, C, E and D and beta-carotene, and low dietary intake of folate and calcium.
For gynecological cancers, recent research has found that neither fruits nor vegetables are associated with the risk of any cancer. Furthermore, vitamins and mineral compounds do not reduce cancer risk in well-nourished populations.
For cervical cancer, reactive oxygen species (ROS) may play a role in cervical cancer pathogenesis; hence, consumption of dietary antioxidants, such as carotenes, ascorbic acid and vitamin D, might offer a protective role by neutralizing harmful ROS. Antioxidants might also modulate the immune system for a better response to the cancer microenvironment.
Similarly, natural antioxidants may retard or protect against persistent HPV infection and eventual cervical cancer development.
For ovarian cancer, isoflavones seem to have a protective effect, due to inhibiting the growth and proliferation of ovarian cell lines.