Should I go low-carb?

Going low-carb has remained popular over the years and has been around since the late 1800s. I will try my best to lay out the pros and cons of a low-carb diet and who could benefit from this protocol without being TOO biased. ūüėČ

The low-carb diet has cleverly masqueraded as the Atkins diet, Paleo, Dukan Diet, and now the infamous ketogenic diet. All of them primarily condone eating animal protein, healthy fats, and very limited (if any) grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, and anything containing sugar (carbs). While this may appear to be a grand idea at first, especially because society associates sugar with being “bad”, we need to look at the full picture here.

Typically, the Average Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for carbohydrates is from 45-65%. For a 2,000 calorie diet, that amounts to 225-325g. Many studies define a low-carb diet as anything <130g, and a very low-carb diet as anything <20-50g. Below is a chart depicting what the Atkins diet, Paleo Diet, and Ketogenic recommend/require from macronutrient distributions compared to that of the recommended ranges.

So, why do people choose the diets above? Good question. The main motivator is weight loss. When people cut carbs that retain water, minimize their overconsumption of carbs that convert into fat, and focus on their intake of whole food proteins and fat, weight loss is bound to occur in those who have some to lose. However, this weight loss is typically short-term and regained after a period of time because reintroducing carbs has an adverse effect from restricting it for so long…you start to retain that water again, you might even over consume by excess portions, and just feel like you’re losing control again. The list goes on and on.

In addition, if your body is not in a true and constant state of ketosis (using ketones as energy), low-carb diets under the recommended 130g for DIABETICS will ultimately make you crave…you guessed it…carbs! This could partly be why you are craving sweets- because you are not consuming enough carbohydrates or not the right sources of them with protein and fat.

 In a study published in the European Heart Journal in September 2019, researchers concluded that people who ate the least amount of carbs had the highest risk of death from cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer.

So who can benefit from a low-carb diet?

THOSE WITH THE FOLLOWING MEDICAL DIAGNOSES!!

  • Diabetes
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)- not all need to go low-carb!! Moderate carb intake should work when given the proper nutrition education
  • Epilepsy
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Glycogen Storage Disease
  • Obesity
  • GLUT1 Deficiency Syndrome
  • Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Other medical conditions that have showed promise with a low-carb diet but need further research on humans (not rats) for application:

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Autism
  • Alzheimer’s
  • certain autoimmune diseases

To conclude, unless you have the medical conditions listed above and consult with a doctor and dietitian of consuming less than 130g of carbs/day, then there is no need to subscribe to a low-carb diet. Carbohydrates break down into sugar in our bodies (fruit and veggies included!). That sugar is also called glucose that our brain uses as its primary choice for fuel. Fun fact: Our brain needs about 120g on average a day. OUR BRAIN ALONE AND NOT INCLUDING THE REST OF OUR ORGANS! Feed and love on that pretty brain and body of yours. Don’t fret about carbs.

Need further guidance? I got you, boo.

Email me at daniellencahalan@gmail.com or schedule your nutrition consultation HERE.

5 Nutrients That Support Your Menstrual Phase

Let me be clear. All nutrients are beneficial and serve their purpose at different times. I am also a big proponent of individualized nutrition based on what a person’s specific needs are. With that said, these 5 nutrients are my personal findings and round up of what can help most women with various symptoms during their menstrual phase.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that has been shown to reduce symptoms for both PMS and menopause. During your luteal and menstrual phases, a magnesium supplement, foods rich in magnesium, and even magnesium oil or lotion can help relax the smooth muscles of your uterus, decrease inflammatory prostaglandins (the hormone-like lipids that cause contractions and cramps), reduce headaches and breast tenderness, and even help curb sugar cravings.

In terms of hormonal balance, magnesium is needed for the production of TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone, which is responsible for your body’s metabolism. In addition, it aids in blood sugar balance and estrogen detoxification. Women with PCOS are 19 times more likely to be magnesium-deficient, and those with diabetes or an autoimmune disease are also at high risk for deficiency.

Women want to aim for 400mg of magnesium per day.

Here are some food sources rich in magnesium: 

  • pumpkin seeds
  • almonds
  • spinach
  • cashews
  • soymilk
  • black beans
  • edamame
  • dark chocolate

As for supplements, magnesium in the forms of aspartate, citrate, lactate, and chloride are more bioavailable and readily absorbed than magnesium oxide and sulfate. I was just recommended magnesium oil from Ancient Minerals and will report back after a few months of using it.

Omega 3s

Omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help with bloating, uterine inflammation, migraines, and even mood swings. In a study of women with polycystic ovary syndrome and irregular periods, an omega 3 supplement was given at 3g/day for 8 weeks. This resulted in decreased elevated testosterone and androgen levels with a regulation of menses in the omega 3 group.

In another study, women took 1,000mg of fish oil/day. The experimental group reported less menstrual pain than the comparative group who took the pain reliever, ibuprofen.

Here are some food sources rich in omega-3s: 

  • fish (salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, and mackerel)
  • nuts and seeds
  • fortified foods (I have been using this Silk oat, almond, and pea milk blend infused with DHA omega-3s!)

Zinc

Supplementing with 30mg of zinc 1-3x daily during your luteal and menstrual phases can significantly reduce (if not manage or eradicate dysmenorrhea- period pain!). Zinc can also block androgen production, such as testosterone, which helps in treating acne and reducing excess facial hair.

Here are some food sources rich in zinc: 

  • oysters
  • shellfish (crab and lobster)
  • red meat (I recommend organic, grass fed and pasture-raised)
  • legumes
  • nuts and seeds- especially pumpkin seeds!
  • eggs
  • whole grains

B vitamins, specifically B6 and B12

It’s a toss up between which B vitamin is more important to focus on. Both B6 (pyridoxine) and B12 (cobalamin) can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, which as we know can be rampant during our luteal and menstrual phases. Here are the main contributors of each.

B6 can help regulate periods, so if your cycle is irregular, I would recommend incorporating foods that contain more of this B vitamin. B6 also helps minimize bloating and has the ability to produce amino acids, which is needed more during your bleed for replenishment and to avoid muscle catabolism.

Here are some food sources rich in B6: 

  • pork.
  • poultry, such as¬†chicken¬†or turkey
  • some fish (cod, salmon, halibut, trout, tuna and snapper)
  • peanuts
  • soy¬†beans
  • wheatgerm
  • oats
  • bananas

B12 largely contributes to red blood cell formation, which is also crucial during this time.Since we are losing blood and iron, new red blood cells are needed to help carry oxygen throughout the body and keep energy levels high.

Here are some food sources rich in B12: 

  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish
  • eggs milk

Iron

Last but not least is iron. About 70% of our body’s iron is found in red blood cells. When we bleed during menses, we lose blood and, therefore, red blood cells and iron. It is important to replenish this mineral, as to avoid iron depletion or anemia. Women need approximately 1.8 mg of iron/day. If you donate blood, you lose about 200 mg of iron, and those breastfeeding and postpartum can lose up to 700 mg. Breastfeeding mamas need to increase their iron intake by 0.5-1mg/day.

P.S. Iron is better absorbed in the company of vitamin C, so add peppers, citrus juice, broccoli or tomatoes to your meals with iron-containing foods. Using iron pots can also increase iron levels! We only absorbed 10-30% of iron, so keep that in mind when measuring and accounting for your food. 

Here are some food sources rich in iron: 

  • lean beef
  • veal
  • poultry
  • pork
  • lamb
  • liver
  • fish and shellfish
  • greens
  • tofu
  • lima beans
  • legumes and lentils

Summary

Upping your nutrient consumption game is a great strategy in preventing or treating PMS and menstrual symptoms. From the abundance of research I’ve been doing lately on women’s health (specifically nutrition and phases of the cycle), I found magnesium, omega 3s, zinc, B vitamins (B6 + B12), and iron to be some of the most crucial in alleviating unwanted cramps, headaches, lethargy, acne and more while also replenishing the body with the fuel it needs to process and recover best.

If you have basic nutrition questions, I can answer those for you, but hang on tight for when I become licensed in February to better serve your personal needs. Xo Danielle

Disclaimer: The medical/health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate professionals. We do not provide any kind of medical/health advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATION IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

 

How to Start Cycle Syncing

I discussed what cycle syncing was in my last post, but now I’m sure you’re wondering how to get started. Here are my top 5 tips on how to live according to your cycle without overcomplicating things.

  1. Read Alisa Vitti’s “In the Flo” book. This book is what sparked my interest in women’s health and biohacking your hormones .It’s a fairly easy read and account of how women are neglected in terms of diet and exercise advice compared to men (which many studies are based on). *hard eye roll*
  2. Take up seed cycling. Seed cycling is eating sunflower seeds and sesame seeds during your luteal and menstrual phases (the week before and of your period) and eating pumpkin and flax seeds during your follicular and ovulatory phases. These seeds contain phytoestrogens and other specific micronutrients that support your hormones during these phases. It is recommended to eat these seeds raw and to consume 1-2 Tbsp/day. *more on this in an upcoming post
  3. Exercise according to each phase.
    • Follicular phase: cardio
    • Ovulatory phase: HIIT, weight lifting, circuits
    • Luteal phase: pilates, yoga
    • Menstruation: walking, restorative yoga (Yoga With Adrienne on YouTube has a killer Yoga for Women sequence that helps ease cramps!)

*Each phase fluctuates in estrogen and progesterone levels, ultimately providing different levels of energy. This guide can help you give your body the grace and movement it thrives off of during each phase. Note: afternoon workouts are best as to avoid spiking cortisol levels.

4.¬†Eat more whole foods in general. If you read “In the Flo”, you’ll notice that nearly all of the foods recommended are whole foods. Whole foods contain more fiber, active enzymes, antioxidants, and micronutrients that support your reproductive and overall health. Aim to consume 2-3 fruits per day and 3-4 veggies/day, along with whole food proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains. *Those with PCOS or endometriosis should consult with a Registered Dietitian to set up a plan specific to their needs.

5. Eat or drink 1 fermented food per day! Good gut health impacts nearly every other bodily system. 80% of our immune cells are found within the GI tract. Eating healthy fats can result in glowing skin for our integumentary system, and a diverse microbiome encourages regular bowel movements. The list goes on and on. In relation to reproductive health, when gut health is rich in diversity, the estorbolome (what regulates estrogen) is also balanced and can maintain normal levels of this sex hormone. If the estrobolome is disrupted with dysbiosis (microbial imbalance) and inflammation, it strains its efficiency to maintain estrogen homeostasis.

Summary

Cycle syncing can be as simple or complex as you make it. I started out with these 5 changes listed above before diving into eating specific foods for each phase. With the stresses of everyday life, it can be difficult to take on new challenges and create new habits. Believe me, I know. Take on what amount is right for you, and remember, small changes add up!

What questions do you have? Leave a comment or message me on Instagram to discuss if you’d like. Happy syncing!

An Intro to Cycle Syncing

Hello! I realize that while I introduced cycle syncing on my Instagram account, I have yet to dedicate an entire post to it on my blog. For those of you who are not familiar, cycle syncing is coordinating your diet, exercise, and other lifestyle regimens along with your menstrual cycle and its 4 phase components (follicular, ovulatory, luteal, and menstrual). The idea is to “balance” your hormones in order to create homeostasis throughout your body, lessen unfavorable side effects (such as mood swings, cramps, headaches, etc.), and optimize your energy and potential!

Did you know that hormones affect more than just your reproductive system? Hormones are what control our appetite, metabolism, blood sugar, blood pressure, and many other bodily functions. They are essentially chemical messengers that activate other activities within the body, which is why it is so important for them to be produced and secreted within their appropriate levels. Diet and exercise can help with this, hence, cycle syncing.

“Cycle syncing” is a term that was coined by Alisa Vitti, author of Woman Code and In the Flo. She is a functional nutritionist, Holistic Health Counselor (HHC), and member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP). In other words, she knows her stuff. Alisa is the founder of FLOLiving and runs a virtual practice. She, in conjunction with other women’s health practitioners, have initiated this liberation and revolution of women speaking freely and openly about their cycles and hormones. We should be encouraging one another to live in sync with our bodies and cycles.

Does cycle syncing work?

While there are no specific studies on cycle syncing as a cohesive practice, eating specific foods and altering the type of exercises done in accordance with your menstrual phases has shown promising results. For example, ground and raw flaxseed meal contains phytoestrogens that have shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer due to its mild estrogenic effects. In addition, multiple studies have been done in relation to exercise and the menstrual cycle. While there are not always significant differences between phases, the mid-luteal (the week leading up to your period) has displayed a decrease in performance in the heat among athletes.

The short of it is that cycle syncing is still being researched as a tried and true practice; However, a healthy and balanced diet along with a change in various exercises isn’t going to harm anyone in the meantime. With that said, please work with a professional while changing your diet if you have a medical condition or if you are looking to lose weight or balance your hormones.

I hope you enjoyed this quick snippet of an intro on cycle syncing! Stay tune for detailed info on my next post “Cycle Syncing 101”.