Women’s hormones are responsible for menstruation, fertility, weight management, moods and more. Therefore, you can see keeping them in balance is key for good health. This blog post is talking about hormones in relation to exercise and nutrition for optimum hormonal health.
Exercise is defined as a physical effort that improves our health and wellbeing. If we approach exercise from a place of balance combined with good nutrition we can keep our hormones in check as they are so crucial for our health.
A balanced approach to exercise can help to regulate your cortisol levels, lower inflammatory markers and stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system. All of these things are critical for hormonal balance, strong immunity, mental stability and fertility.
Exercise like all things should be balanced. Ideally a mixture of resistance training and restorative practices such as walking, stretching or yoga are the best types of exercise for your hormones.
We know there is a long list of benefits to exercise so I will just list some of the main ones that are relevant to your hormones.
The exercise that is not good for your hormones is chronic cardio i.e. Running for long periods of time daily. Chronic cardio raises cortisol levels for prolonged periods of time, this pressure on the adrenals causes the sympathetic nervous system to take over during the workout causing the cortisol levels to be raised chronically.
Some side effects of chronically raised cortisol levels are:
What can we do nutritionally to help keep our hormones in balance and get the most from our training?
Eating is a good start! Under eating is one of the biggest problems I see with women, the 1500 calorie rule is false! This is hardly enough to sustain many women’s basic bodily functions, but add in any kind of strenuous exercise or extra need for healing and its far from enough.
If you are not receiving enough fuel, you send a signal to your pituitary gland that there is famine. The body realises this is a really stressful time to be making a baby. It therefore responds to this threat by down regulating or even shutting off hormone signalling and fertility functions. As we rely on fertility as a marker for optimum health, this affects you whether you are trying to have a baby of not. Under eating is not only a hinderance in balancing hormones it can also be the cause of imbalances. Some of the symptoms you may experience are insomnia, hair loss, weight gain, fatigue, thyroid dysfunction and loss of period.
Another relevant area to your nutrition that you may not think of is birth control. Getting informed about birth control is another way in which we can make sure we have healthy hormones. The pill can mask and exacerbate some common hormonal symptoms such as estrogen dominance, hypothalamic amenorrhea, PCOS and low progesterone. We are often prescribed the pill for everything from acne, PMS, irregular periods and any hormonal imbalance not for just birth control. The belief is that it will “solve” the problem but in actual fact, it is simply concealing the symptoms and can lead to the further imbalances.
Taking the pill is a personal choice but being informed about its effects is smart and can help you to manage some of the side effects should you choose to take it. Some common side effects are long term nutrient depletion of critical vitamins and minerals such as B6, Selenium and Vitamin E. The pill also disrupts the bacteria from your gut microbiome which has consequences for our immunity, skin and mental health. Getting educated about your specific hormonal symptoms means you can get to the root cause and not use a Band-Aid fix such as the pill for hormonal problems.
One of the biggest problems for women and their hormones is PMS, which is usually caused by an estrogen excess or imbalance of estrogen to progesterone. Estrogen excess is very common and getting rid of the excess estrogen is very important for health and hormonal balance.
You can do this by supporting your Liver and your Gut.
Some estrogen clearing tips:
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is one of the best things you can do for your hormones. When inflammation is high, it increases the aromatase enzyme, which takes testosterone and converts it to estrogen. This makes estrogen dominance even worse and increases estrogen metabolites, which makes your PMS worse. When you’re converting and producing more estrogen, with low testosterone, you are likely to experience symptoms such as weepiness, mood swings, fatigue, inability to build muscle, and a low or non-existent sex drive. In order to fight this, we need to increase our consumption of anti-inflammatory foods and decrease inflammatory foods.
Add more of these:
What I would like you to take away from this article? Hormones are very important for our health and we do have control over how much we are affected by them. We can manage our nutrition and lifestyle to support healthy hormone production and metabolism. Society has normalised PMS but it’s not normal, it’s become common amongst women but it is not the natural state for our body. Get your hormones in balance and your body will thank you. Book in for a consultation if you are concerned about your health or want some support to implement these changes.
Predictable periods are a sign that your body is working normally. You should have regular periods, unless of course you are pregnant, breastfeeding or in menopause. But often things can go awry with the menstrual cycle and cause problems.
This blog will discuss the main problems with the menstrual cycle and what to do about it. Read on for advice for your period!
The problems can be varied. Some of the more common ones are:
These issues are essentially caused by imbalances in hormone levels, specifically progesterone and estrogen. It may be that progesterone is too low or too high. Low progesterone can lead to an irregular menstrual cycle. You may have estrogen dominance or too little estrogen. Relative estrogen dominance can be a factor, when estrogen is high relative to low levels of progesterone.
Another way that hormones get dysregulated is due to birth control. Birth control pills contain synthetic estrogen and progesterone, or just progesterone, which prevent ovulation each month. If there is no ovulation, you can’t get pregnant. However, the pill has negative side effects. It disrupts the body’s natural hormone cycle to prevent ovulation. It keeps estrogen levels artificially high. Synthetic hormones are not seen or broken down by the body as well as natural hormones are. Studies show birth control pills can reduce the development of strong bones, negatively impact gut and immune health, damage vaginal and bladder health and impact brain health. The effects of birth control pills can be very subtle and take years to appear.
It can get confusing with the different reproductive hormones, the debate around the Pill and the fluctuations experienced throughout the monthly cycle. So, what can you do to better manage your cycle?
Testing helps to get to the root of the problems.
Hormone testing is key. Blood tests can help determine whether hormonal imbalances are causing your menstrual problems. However, the gold standard hormone test is the DUTCH (Dried Urine Test Complete Hormones). This test samples urine to establish hormone patterns. It is by far the most effective way to look at reproductive hormones.
Work with your Nutritionist to get testing and interpretation. With the test results, you can see what your hormone imbalance is, specifically, and take steps to re-balance things.
Fortunately, hormonal imbalances can be improved, or even reversed, with diet and lifestyle changes. Here are some suggestions you can try, on your own, to improve things.
These tips should help to rebalance your hormones and bring your cycle back to its natural state. If you need more help, then get a DUTCH test done with your Nutritionist and take a targeted approach to addressing your hormonal balance today!
Written by Bronwen Carmichael and Nicola Schuler
Who isn’t feeling anxious these days? Our lives have changed very suddenly and we are living with a lot more uncertainty than we normally do.
Anxiety can be a common issue at the best of times and it may be especially true right now as we are going through this pandemic. This blog post will talk about anxiety and how nutrition can help.
Anxiety can be mild to debilitating and is characterised by excessive fear and worry. Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
Standard medical treatment for anxiety is counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Anti-depressant medication, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) are often used too. SSRIs can help but they do not address the root causes of the anxiety. They also have side effects and damage gut health.
There are many potential causes of anxiety. We mention a few here but cannot cover all causes in this blog:
Many factors can affect anxiety and mood. It may be a relatively simple and quick fix that you can do on your own like diet change. Or it may be a more complex situation. Some approaches to consider with anxiety include diet and nutrition, lifestyle changes and supplements. Here are a few ideas:
Anxiety is difficult to cope with and can have different causes. Try out some of these tips to see if you can reduce your anxiety. In more complex situations it may be better to work with a professional to support you on the road to addressing anxiety. Book in for a consultation if you are concerned about your anxiety or want some support in making these changes.
By Bronwen Carmichael & Nicola Schuler
Did you know that our liver is the organ responsible for metabolising all our sex hormones such as oestrogen? It’s also the organ that metabolises alcohol. Our body sees alcohol as a toxin and potentially life threatening therefore, when we consume it our body stops the metabolism of sex hormones to focus on the processing of alcohol.
When alcohol is being consumed regularly or over extended periods of time and particularly if combined with other things such as trans fats, sugar and possibly combined with constipation there can become a problem of congestion in the liver. This means the oestrogen does not go through its proper detoxification cycle to be excreted. This can mean oestrogen is recycled back into the blood stream. This can lead to an excess of oestrogen and symptoms such as PMS, bloating, heavy or painful periods, sore breasts, headaches/migraines cellulite and fat deposits that won’t budge in the lower back, abdomen, hips or backs of arms. This kind of recycled oestrogen has been found in higher amounts of women who have had certain types of breast cancer. There have been very strong links between alcohol consumption and the risks associated with breast cancer.
For the people who believe it’s good for prevention of heart disease the WHO has changed its stance. The World Health Organisation and other key groups now recommend that people should not commence or maintain drinking to achieve health benefits and that there is no merit in promoting alcohol consumption as a preventative strategy for cardiovascular disease.
The largest ever study to assess alcohol and disease has concluded that there is no safe level of drinking alcohol. This news is especially concerning for women because alcohol is more toxic to women than men, and takes longer to process. This is due to the smaller percentage of water in a woman's body, and because the protein that breaks down alcohol is produced in smaller quantities in smaller livers. With this in mind, let’s look at the guidelines for alcohol consumption in Australia.
Guidelines and standard drinks vary in country to country however, a standard drink in Australia is defined as 10g of alcohol. This equates to a 100mL glass of wine. At bars and restaurants, wine is often poured at 150ml for a regular glass of wine, this can make it hard to monitor how many standard drinks you’re consuming.
The current guidelines advise:
· Drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day
· Drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion
· Children under 15 and up to 17yrs are at the greatest risk of damage from alcohol, drinking it should be delayed as long as possible
· No drinking for women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or breastfeeding
Drinking alcohol is a personal choice and one that in our culture can be taken too lightly. A 2018 poll by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education found 45% of Australian drinkers consume alcohol to get drunk, and – not surprisingly – that 73% of people believe that excess drinking is a problem in Australia. The takeaway? There are plenty of health reasons not to drink so why do we? Sometimes finding out our why? is the key to helping us change behaviours.
If you would like to cut down your drinking or stop all together, there are a lot of resources online. However, you could start by tracking how many standard drinks you’re consuming and aim to have at least three alcohol free days a week. You will probably find your sleep gets better, your skin will improve, increased energy and less digestive symptoms. Hopefully these will be the stepping stones to a happier healthier you.
Let’s face it, ladies. Menopause sucks. For those going through it, it’s exhausting, unwanted and often embarrassing. For those yet to experience it, the prospect fills us with dread. But it’s not all doom, gloom and hot flushes. In this article, I explore some of the ways women can help themselves through this challenging life-stage.
The ups and downs of menopause
If you’re aged between 40 and 58, you’re statistically ripe to experience menopause. The average is around 51. And how it presents – or it’s endocrinological and clinical features – are numerous. Weight gain. Hot flushes. Mood swings. Insomnia. Fatigue. Memory lapses. Even reading the list is exhausting.
Although it’s important to remember not every woman will experience all these symptoms all at the same time, the bad news is you are likely to experience most of them at some point. But before things get too bleak, let’s look at ways to minimise some of the worse aspect of menopause.
The power of exercise
Exercise is great at any stage of life. But it’s particularly helpful for peri-menopausal or menopausal women wanting to manage symptoms. There are many benefits for women to exercise into menopause, so supporting yourself nutritionally to help you stay as active as possible is vital.
Some of the benefits are of exercising include:
Eat to treat
Hot flushes are one of the most common symptoms that often increase before menopause, peaking two to three years after onset before tapering off again.
Some of the triggers include obvious factors, like stress, smoking, a high BMI and SSRI’s. But even coffee, spicy foods, alcohol, sugar and citrus fruits can all contribute. So it’s important to keep an eye on what you consume.
Studies have shown that consuming 50-100 mg/day of isoflavones from food seems to be a safe amount to help relieve hot flushes. And not hard to find isoflavones in several delicious forms and relatively small quantities:
A small note: it’s best to get isoflavones from food rather than supplements. Isoflavone supplements might interfere with thyroid function and inhibit mineral absorption, so stick with whole food sources wherever possible.
Build them bones
Osteoporosis is another concern for menopausal women. Understandably so. But there are plenty of ways you can preserve bone mass before and during menopause:
Swing your mood to the positive
Mood swings can be a common symptom of menopause. But smart nutritional choices can play a foundational role in stabilising the most extreme mood swings.
Above all, don’t take The Change lying down. There’s plenty you can do – and plenty to look forward to.
If you’d like to learn more about how nutrition can be used as a potent tool to help alleviate menopausal symptoms, then contact me to book a consultation.