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!

Estrogen Dominance: What Is It, and What Can I Do About It?

Estrogen dominance. It’s a term used to describe elevated estrogen levels within the body, for females or males. Estrogen dominance can also imply normal levels of estrogen in comparison to lower levels of progesterone at times throughout the menstrual cycle when progesterone is supposed to be the dominant sex hormone.

Signs and Symptoms of High Estrogen (for women):

  • irregular periods
  • bloating
  • weight gain
  • fatigue
  • difficulty sleeping
  • breast tenderness
  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • hair loss
  • low libido
  • benign cysts development in breasts
  • heightened PMS symptoms
  • headaches
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • cold hand or feet
  • memory issues ¹

Signs and Symptoms of High Estrogen (for men):

  • breast tenderness
  • breast enlargement
  • infertility
  • erectile dysfunction¹

These symptoms, especially a collection of them, are indicative of elevated estrogen. I always suggest contacting you primary care physician or OB to get a hormone analysis done to confirm this, but you can also tackle this issue with holistic approaches.

Holistic Approaches:

  1. Move more! Exercise aids in estrogen metabolism by releasing it from fat cells. Don’t worry. It’s not necessary to partake in vigorous exercise if that isn’t your style. Simply adding steps to your day (a common goal is 10,000 steps) works wonders in the long run.
  2. Try to avoid xenoestrogens, chemical compounds that mimic estrogen and cause endocrine disruption. Endocrines are glands that release these hormones, so if you have chemicals in your body that block or impair endocrine gland function, then your hormones will surely be out of wack. Xenoestrogens are found in plastic water bottles and food containers, beauty and cleaning products, and sunscreen (just to name a few). Do some research and buy brands with labels that say non-toxic and plant-based on them. Decreasing your toxic-load can do wonders!
  3. Chill out! Find things that help you relax and works for you. A sheet mask might sound idyllic to one person, while it sounds like a claustrophobic, goopy mess to another. Stress-management will help decrease cortisol production. In order for your body to make cortisol, progesterone is compromised in the process. If you engage in stress-reducing activities and some R&R, you will help save some of your progesterone.
  4. Catch enough Zzzz’s. Getting enough sleep will also lower your cortisol levels and keep your body regulated and in homeostasis. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep/night, with no one being an exception to how they operate or seem to succeed off less. Sleep is when our brains detoxify, our muscles recover, and our body rests and resets for the following day.

Foods For Estrogen Metabolism:

Here is a list of foods that can help metabolize estrogen and balance out your levels with progesterone. Estrogen is mainly metabolized in the liver and is then excreted through urine and feces.

  • Cruciferous vegetables (Wait a minute…I thought this was on the list for foods to eat for LOW ESTROGEN. Interestingly enough, cruciferous veggies can help those with low estrogen and those with high estrogen, as they act as both phytoestrogens and help estrogen metabolizers. Crazy paradox, right?). Here are some examples of cruciferous veggies.
    • broccoli
    • cauliflower
    • kale
    • arugula
    • watercress
    • cabbage
    • Brussel sprouts
  •  Mushrooms
  • Red grapes
  • Red wine!
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Green tea
  • Pomegrantes ²
  • Seaweed (nori) ³
  • Shellfish
  • Coffee

Still confused whether you have low or high levels of estrogen? I get it, the signs and symptoms are very similar. Once again, it’s a great idea to get checked out before assuming; However, positive lifestyle changes such as getting more sleep, stress reduction and management, avoiding xenoestrogens, and exercising more can’t hurt. 😉 and don’t forget my favorite part- the foods you can add to your diet! I want you to focus on what you can add to benefit your health and energy levels rather than restricting anything. Let me know if you have any general questions.

P.S. I started my internship today, so only 952 hours until I’m through! haha and that much closer to being able to counsel you on a personal and customized level. Woohoo!

Next Up…

“Women Produce Testosterone Too”

References

  1. Healthline. 2020. Signs And Symptoms Of High Estrogen: Diagnosis, Treatment, And More. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/high-estrogen#causes&gt; [Accessed 20 July 2020].
  2. Healthline. 2020. 7 Foods For Lowering Estrogen Levels In Men. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/low-testosterone/anti-estrogen-diet-men&gt; [Accessed 20 July 2020].
  3. Jane Teas, Thomas G. Hurley, James R. Hebert, Adrian A. Franke, Daniel W. Sepkovic, Mindy S. Kurzer, Dietary Seaweed Modifies Estrogen and Phytoestrogen Metabolism in Healthy Postmenopausal Women, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 139, Issue 5, May 2009, Pages 939–944, https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.108.100834
  4. Sisti JS, Hankinson SE, Caporaso NE, et al. Caffeine, coffee, and tea intake and urinary estrogens and estrogen metabolites in premenopausal women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2015;24(8):1174-1183. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0246

Signs of Low Estrogen and What You Can Do About It!

Low estrogen levels can display in a number of ways. Not only can irritating symptoms such as fatigue and headaches present themselves, but serious health repercussions can result from long-term estrogen deficits.

As mentioned in my previous post, estrogen is a major female sex hormone that is mainly produced and secreted by the ovaries. Estrogen naturally increases during puberty and maintains levels during your reproductive years. As perimenopause approaches, levels begin to decline, but some women experience low estrogen symptoms well before this.

Signs and symptoms of low estrogen:

  • irregular periods
  • pain during sex
  • hot flashes
  • depression
  • headaches
  • recurring UTIs
  • incontinence
  • weight gain
  • fatigue
  • mood swings ¹

Please note that just because you identify with some of these symptoms, that doesn’t automatically mean you have low estrogen. This is not WebMD and you are not a doctor! If you suspect you may have low estrogen, schedule an appointment with your doctor for a blood draw and hormone analysis.

Some causes of low estrogen during your reproductive years include:

  • ovarian cysts
  • thyroid disorders
  • being underweight (if you don’t have enough body fat, your reproductive system cannot function properly)
  • excessive, intense exercise
  • chemotherapy
  • other endocrine disorders 

*genetics can also be a risk factor ¹

What can I do?

This is where I can come in to help! If you verify with your doctor that you have low estrogen levels, hormone therapy and estrogen doses are available. However, if you could raise your estrogen levels naturally, I recommend doing so with the following:

  • Consult with a dietitian to gain a healthy amount of weight to support your reproductive organs and system. (I will be offering this service as early as next March!).
  • Ease up on the exercise. To reset and regulate the body, I know many women who had to completely take a break from exercise. If you absolutely need to move for the sake of your mental health, I suggest going on walks or hikes with friends. 🙂 Light yoga can also be beneficial for the mind and body.
  • Reduce stress and cortisol levels by any means necessary,
  • Consume more phytoestrogens (plants that mimic the chemical structure of estrogen in the body by binding to estrogen-receptors).

Phytoestrogens

Here is a list of phytoestrogens that may help raise low estrogen levels and provide other protective, health benefits as well (against breast cancer, CVD, diabetes, obesity and more).

  • Seeds! Flaxseed meal, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds
  • Fruits, such as strawberries, apricots, and oranges
  • Vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and kale
  • Lentils and legumes
  • Chickpeas
  • Olives and olive oil ²

Foods High in Magnesium & Zinc

Foods high in magnesium and zinc have been proven to be supportive of reproductive health.

  • Avocados
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Shellfish
  • Wheatgerm
  • Oatmeal
  • Kidney beans
  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Bananas
  • Yogurt ²

Low estrogen levels can exist and plague women in their reproductive years for a number of reasons. Please seek medical advice and analysis if you suspect you have low estrogen before consulting with a dietitian and using your diet to balance hormones.

 

Resources

1. Medicalnewstoday.com. 2020. Low Estrogen: Causes, Effects, And Treatment Options. [online] Available at: <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321064&gt; [Accessed 12 July 2020].

2. Mdvip.com. 2020. Foods That Boost Estrogen & Testosterone – Living Well – MDVIP. [online] Available at: <https://www.mdvip.com/about-mdvip/blog/foods-to-boost-estrogen-testosterone-levels#:~:text=Eating%20foods%20that%20can%20help,help%20women%20raise%20estrogen%20levels.&gt; [Accessed 12 July 2020].

How Not to Spread Yourself [or Your Peanut Butter] Thin

How Not to Spread Yourself [or Your Peanut Butter] Thin

Preface

About a year ago, I started a new job. It wasn’t the exact position I wanted or originally applied for at this company, but it was a job in the nutrition field nonetheless. I was excited to get my feet wet and gain experience all while making money and contributing to my family financially. I also registered for two summer classes- Microbiology and Basic Chemistry. I thought to myself, “Great! I’ll work my ass off and save over the summer while knocking out a couple of classes”. In addition, I also signed up for a remote summer internship.

Sounds admirable, right? Well, after 3-4 weeks of working and going to class every single day, I came to the unideal conclusion that I had absolutely no time for the internship, let alone a social life or enjoying summer in Chicago with my husband and two pups (the 3 months us natives cherish). Not only did I have little to no free time, but I didn’t have a day off between work, classes, studying and homework for 2 months straight. Being the sensitive person I am, I fell into a deep depression (of which I won’t share the intimate details about, but it was one of the worst bouts I have ever experienced). Having limited time to exercise and partake in self care rituals only exacerbated this dark time in my life. I felt utterly defeated.

At first, I tried my best to internalize these “blues” and normalize my routine. After all, I had been the one to apply for the job and register for classes. It was MY responsibility to see them through and to carry my own weight. I already felt like I failed with throwing in the towel at my internship, so there was no way I was going to say decline additional work shifts or skip class. That just wasn’t an option in my stubborn mind. I stuck this brutal schedule out at the expense of my deteriorating mental health, and even my physical health. The stress had caused me to relapse with my disordered eating patterns. In hindsight, I think it was the only way for me to feel in control at the time. I barely made it through the summer, but when I did, I vowed to NEVER spread myself that thin again.

I added this preface to the article to share my first hand experience, in the hopes of being more relatable, and to let you know that you are not alone. Work addiction, work exhaustion, and work-related stress can be prevented and managed. There is hope. Allow me to help you begin navigating your way to a healthier and happier you while still maintaining success in the office.

How Not to Spread Yourself [Or Your Peanut Butter] Thin

As the title implies, not many people desire to be overworked and undernourished, in any sense of the definitions. This combination can be detrimental to our health, and it is quite unnatural for us as humans to self-induce exhaustion. We need rest and proper nourishment to regenerate and grow, and this starts on a cellular level.

Unfortunately, today’s world (at least in America) instills social pressure to be the most productive, successful in terms of career hierarchy and financial income, and the best at every single thing we do. There are only 24 hours in every day, and there are only 7 days per week…we know this. So how do we keep up with the demands of our families, jobs, and schoolwork while simultaneously enjoying life?

One way to approach this chronic epidemic of overworking is to simply ignore the “norms” of society and ask yourself, “What do I need that I am not receiving?”. If you are a husband, a wife, a mother, or a father, you need to take care of yourself first and foremost in order to optimize your duties as a spouse or parent. Some may call this selfish, but I call it an intelligent plan on action. If the answer to your question is clear, further explore how you can achieve what you so crave. Do you need a little more alone time? Do you need a date night with your significant other? What about indulging in a long lost hobby you no longer make time for? Whatever is missing, figure out how to incorporate that into your life.

Secondly, recognize that we as humans are very similar biologically, but our mental, emotional, social, psychological, and physical thresholds vary. You, and only you, know your true limits, so listen to your body’s cues. Do you feel physically fatigued? Then rest and get some sleep. Do you feel emotionally or mentally drained? Reenergize the best way you know how. Give yourself and your body what it needs and deserves. Only then can you optimally function and perform, in life and at work.

Thirdly, are you participating in self care on a basic level? What I mean by this is are you kindly allowing yourself to drink enough water, get ample sleep, and eat nutritious food (and not only nutritious food, but enough food)? Do you exercise 2-3 times/week? The exercise doesn’t have to be extreme, but movement has been proven to enhance organ function, sharpen clarity and cognitive processes, and improve your mood. Going for a  walk after you eat lunch at work will suffice and get your blood pumping, help you digest the food you just ate, and energize you for the second half of your shift. Another way to ensure health and performance is to eat enough calories in appropriate servings and macronutrient ratios. Don’t fear the fat or carbs! You need both for energy and many other functionalities. I used to stress about eating too much nut butter, but now I simply practice intuitive eating and eat as much damn peanut butter as I my body wants. 😉

A fourth thing to consider is the amount you have on your plate (no pun intended). I am a serial overcommitter, so I am far too familiar with this one. Ask yourself, “What do I want my work/life balance ratio to look like?”. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans work an average of 34.5 hours per week. That is less than most Americans think they work. Work is called work for a reason, and some days and weeks seem longer and more demanding than others. However, after subtracting the time we sleep (I accounted for 8 hours per night- 56) and the average work hours of 34.5/week, we still have 77.5 hours leftover. Sure, many of those hours are reserved for cleaning, doing laundry, running errands, and carting the kids arounds, BUT there are hours the individual takes for granted and doesn’t realize he or she actually has. Do yourself a favor and record what one regular week looks like for you to better assess how you spend your time. Perhaps you can tweak or adjust your activities and productivity after taking a better look. This includes scaling it back if you need to, and accepting that it is OKAY to QUIT anything you’ve previously committed to if it’s affecting your health to any extent!

The last thing I will leave you with is to find your purpose. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that finding purpose in life leads to contentment while focusing on being happy doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness. Why you ask? For one, if you put too much pressure on being happy, then you automatically take joy out of the equation and are inadvertently self-sabotaging yourself. Viktor Frankl once said, “Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.” You may or may not agree with this quote, but after reading his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, it clarified the idea of finding purpose before manifesting happiness. Sounds backwards, but trust me that this book makes sense of it all. Many people find purpose in their work, hobby, or as a parent or caregiver. Whatever your purpose is in life, go out and find it- embrace it and don’t lose sight of it.

So let’s review. How can your avoid spreading yourself or your peanut butter too thin?

  1. Figure out what’s missing in your life and make time for it!
  2. Listen to your body’s cues and respond accordingly.
  3. Partake in basic level self care (whatever that means to you). This includes eating as much peanut butter or your idea of indulgent food as your body wants (not what your mind or stress wants).
  4. Figure out your desired work:personal time ratio. Optimize your time.
  5. Find your purpose in life.

As a result of the worst summer of my life, I felt compelled to write this article and help others avoid and manage their work-related stress. I hope these suggestions help make sense of the work demands in America and how we can optimize our time and quality of life while still being successful. Please take care of yourselves- physically, mentally and emotionally. You deserve it, as it’s a basic human right.

XO Danielle