5 Nutrients to Support Your Period

Premenstrual and menstrual symptoms can be less than manageable. Heck, I know plenty of women who have such debilitating symptoms, they’ve taken off school or work at some point. That’s crazy. We should be able to use those days for a mental health reset or when we’re actually sick with other illnesses. So, how can we begin to minimize and alleviate these symptoms to save our sick and PTO days?Ā Nutrition is one of the large pieces to completing this puzzle. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Water

Did you know that water is a nutrient? It sure is! It’s okay if you didn’t, but is it that much of a surprise? We NEED water to survive, and our bodies are made of 60-70% of the stuff! When we are properly hydrated during our periods, we decrease our chances of cramping. This is because we aren’t retaining water and decrease bloating. Water can also help with muscle function, which the uterus is! (well, partly).

2. Omega-3s

Consuming foods high in omega 3s (fatty fish like salmon and tuna, flaxseeds, chia seeds, soybeans, etc.) has been proven to reduce menstrual pain, help with depression and mood swings, and is a great support for brain health which may help with lessening the incidence of headaches!Ā¹

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a bright yellow spice known for its unique flavor in Middle Eastern dishes, its anti-inflammatory properties, and its ability to be used as a clothing dye. Ya, it stained my nails from dinner last night…the only downside, but I digress. The antioxidant compound in turmeric is called curcumin. In larger doses, curcumin has been shown to reduce oxidative muscle damage and aid in healing and recovery by decreasing inflammation. This can help with period cramps since the uterus is a muscular organ.

*HOT TIPS* If you don’t like the taste of turmeric, you can purchase a turmeric supplement. Just make sure that black pepper (pepperdine) is present in the formula because it makes it more bioavailable and easier to absorb for us! Same goes for when you are cooking with turmeric or even make a turmeric “golden” latte- add a pinch of pepper!

4. Iron

Iron is the number one nutrient women are deficient in, partially because we lose iron when we menstruate through blood. Here are some great food sources to add to your diet to receive proper amounts of iron:

  • grass-fed beef
  • lentils & legumes
  • shellfish
  • liver & organ meats
  • turkey
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • dark chocolate
  • tofuĀ¹

**HOT TIP** consuming vitamin C increases iron bioavailability. Example: bell peppers with tofu- yum!

5. Magnesium

Studies have shown that magnesium both eases period cramps and decreases the prostaglandins (lipids that act like hormones) that cause those contractions and cramping. So not only does magnesium alleviate the symptoms, but it addresses one of the root causes.

Foods high in magnesium include:

  • pumpkin seeds
  • almonds
  • spinach
  • cashews
  • dark chocolate
  • avocado
  • nuts and seeds
  • tofu
  • whole grainsĀ²

Nutrition can greatly influence how our body operates and feels, with menstrual symptoms being no exception. Water, omega 3s, turmeric, iron, and magnesium are nutrients that can aid in cramp and unfavorable symptom reduction. Please consult with your doctor if you are currently taking any medications to avoid food/drug interactions, and feel free to reach out with questions with how to incorporate these into your diet!

Disclaimer: TheĀ medical/healthĀ 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 ofĀ medical/healthĀ advice. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITEĀ OR OUR MOBILE APPLICATIONĀ IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Resources

1.Ferguson, S. (2019, July 16). What to Eat During Your Period: Fish, Leafy Greens, Yogurt, and More. Retrieved August 04, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/womens-health/what-to-eat-during-period

2.Ā Spritzler, F. (n.d.). 10 Magnesium-Rich Foods That Are Super Healthy. Retrieved August 04, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-foods-high-in-magnesium

Women Have Testosterone Too!

Testosterone, a male sex hormone that many think is only produced in, well, men is also produced by women. Testosterone in women is made and secreted by the ovaries, just like estrogen. This hormone actually aids in growth and maintenance, muscle building, reproductive health, bone mass, mood balance and even influences behavior. So yes, as women, we need this hormone. It’s when testosterone is too low or found in excess in women that it becomes a problem.

Signs and symptoms of high testosterone:

  • excess body and/or facial hair
  • hair thinning/loss/balding
  • acne
  • enlarged clitoris
  • decrease in breast size
  • deepening of the voice
  • increased muscle mass
  • irregular periods
  • mood swings
  • low libido Ā¹

Some causes of elevated testosterone:

  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • adrenal and thyroid disorders
  • certain medications

*genetics and insulin resistance can also be risk factorsĀ Ā¹

What can I do?

Elevated testosterone can be diagnosed through a routine blood test. From there, adjusting your lifestyle and habits could be the first proactive step to influence your hormonal status.

  • Take a step back from intense exercise. Instead, try walking for a bit until you feel better and your hormones balance out.
  • Consult with a dietitian to achieve a healthy weight to support your reproductive organs and system.
  • Aim to consume phytoestrogens to help raise estrogen levels and decrease testosterone. Minimize foods that metabolize estrogen, such as cruciferous vegetables (just for the time being).
  • Add healthy fats to your diet that support endocrine function and reproductive health, such as avocados, nuts and seeds, tahini, coconut milk, etc.

Phytoestrogens

Here is a list of phytoestrogens that may help raise low estrogen levels and decrease elevated testosterone levels.

  • Seeds! Flaxseed meal, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds
  • Fruits, such as strawberries, apricots, and oranges
  • Dairy
  • Soy products, mainly tofu, soybeans, and tempeh
  • Vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and kale
  • Lentils and legumes
  • Chickpeas
  • Olives and olive oil

So, what questions do you have? Leave them for me to answer, contemplate, and research for you. I am happy to assist! XO -Danielle

 

Nutrition’s Impact on Hormones: My Newfound Passion

Nutrition’s Impact on Hormones: My Newfound Passion

Hello readers! How are you all today?

I’m going to be very open in sharing that I just returned from my OB/GYN appointment. It was time for both my annual and pap smear. I currently reside in Chicago and visited the Rush gynecology office for the first time. I HIGHLY recommend Dr. Banner to anyone in the Chi looking for a new gynecologist. She was THE BESTTTT and answered an abundance of questions I had about my body and my newfound passion/borderline obsession with nutrition and hormones. Dr. Banner also assured me that this is a wonderful specialty to get into, as many of her patients are always asking about what they can change about their diets to alleviate hormonal symptoms.

Now, let’s back the train up to WHY I got interested in this area. There are two reasons. One of them is that two months ago my breasts were tender (okay, sore AF) for 3 weeks straight. They were so sore in fact, it was the first thought I had when I woke up in the morning. I thought I could be pregnant, so I took a test- negative. Phew! After ruling that out, I dove into research on hormones post-eating disorder. I found that it’s common for those recovered from an eating disorder to experience something called fat redistribution. This is when the fat on your body (usually your abdomen) is redistributed to other parts of the body because the body no longer needs that extra layer of fat to protect vital organs during starvation.

Along with increased fat on my body and my breasteses, more estrogen was being produced. Estrogen is mostly made and secreted by the ovaries, but fat cells also release small amounts of this hormone. Estrogen (along with progesterone) makes your boobs tender and sore! “OKAY, this all makes sense”, I thought. SO I gained weight, my fat cells secreted estrogen, and BOOM!- my boobs grew a cup size. My husband is not complaining. šŸ˜‰

The second reason I got into hormone and nutrition research was after listening to Rachel Mansfield’s “Just the Good Stuff” podcast episode featuring Alisa Vitti. Alisa is a holistic hormone expert and the best-selling author of Woman Code and In the Flo. I purchased and listened to the later after the podcast and was SOLD! I proceeded to ask myself, “Why don’t women know more about their bodies?”, and “How was I not taught about nutrition therapy in relation to hormonal support and balancing?”.

I immediately started talking about my findings, and come to find out, almost EVERY single woman I spoke with has had some form of a hormonal imbalance in their lifetime! Now, this can be due to a number of things- diet, stress, xenoestrogens, chemicals…the list goes on. The point is that there is obviously a need to help women find balance in their lives and in the foods and drinks they consume, not to mention the cosmetics and cleaning products we’re using!

My goal is to help women feel their best and operate at an optimum level, no matter what phase of their cycle they’re in. Therefore, I am developing a program called Fuel Her Up that will educate women on their bodies and empower them to alleviate hormonal symptoms through nutrition and lifestyle changes- to be released Spring 2021.

I will be writing an intro on this topic soon, so keep a look outlook to learn about Hormones and Nutrition 101! In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts on nutrition, hormones, and anything I discussed in this post. šŸ™‚

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

 

Changes in Appetite and Weight Gain are Normal When Self-isolating

Changes in Appetite and Weight Gain are Normal When Self-isolating

Uncertain times. Self-isolation. Social distancing. COVID-19. Pandemic. All words or phrases we can go the rest of 2020 (or our lives) without. The harsh reality is, all of these things currently describe our social climate, and this climate and environment are not what we’re accustomed to. As a result, our routines have changed, habits have been broken, and new rituals have been adopted. Eating is at the forefront of these changes, and many have struggled with their relationship to food and eating since lockdown.

I have spoken to many friends who have made self-deprecating comments about their weight gain over these past few months. While all I want to do is comfort them with “Oh no, you look great!”, I also want to relay the reality that it is okay if you’re not moving as much, eating more, or have gained weight in self-isolation. Here’s why.

1. Your routine has changed.

The fact is, all of our schedules have changed. Your Sunday meal prep may no longer be because it is no longer necessary. You can make your meals day to day since you’re home. You might not be waking up as early to eat breakfast, or you might be snacking later on in the day. A small grab-and-go breakfast with your nonfat latte is no longer, neither is your salad you used to have 15 minutes to scarf down at work. THIS IS ALL OKAY.

Embrace the change in your routine. Realize that while normalcy as we knew it has now evolved for the time being, we can still be empowered and take control of our meal prep, eating habits, and how we choose to accept that things are different. We can even try new things in the kitchen!

2. You’re likely not moving as much.

Replay your pre-COVID work or school day in your head. Go ahead. Take a moment to do this. Did you bike or walk to your destination? Climb the stairs to your office or the train? Walk or run with a family member, friend, or your pup? The point I’m trying to make is that we were much more active prior to all of this. It’s tough to say and acknowledge, but it’s true, and this is also OKAY. But why is this okay?

It’s okay that we’re not moving as much because this means that those who are still under the shelter-at-home order are abiding by the guidelines. It means we care about people and are showing it by social distancing. It means we’re doing our due diligence for society and the greater good of public health. While people are still getting out for runs and walks, it may not be as far or as long. Of course, there are the few exceptions for those who are still self-motivated to do at-home workouts. Kudos to you, my friends, but you must admit it’s still not the same as intense as gym workouts. We have to give ourselves and others grace, exercising or not.

3. Your sleep pattern may be off.

We no longer have to be in bed by 11PM since we no longer have to answer to our 6AM alarm. A lot of us are staying up and sleeping in later. Some may still be getting the suggested 7-9 hours per night, but many are not due to stress, anxiety, insomnia, and/or “quarantine dreams”.

When an individual is chronically sleep-deprived (less than 7 hours per night), ghrelin (the hunger hormone) increases and leptin (the satiety hormone) decreases. When this occurs, you eat more. Dr. Michael Grandner from the University of Arizona shared at the Food and Nutrition Conference of 2019 that those who are chronically sleep-deprived tend to eat 300-500 more calories per day than those who sleep well.

Here are some tips from the National Sleep FoundationĀ on how to achieve a better night’s sleep.

4. Your hormones are out of whack.

In addition to an increase in ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and decrease in leptin (the satiety hormone), epinephrine and cortisol are released when the body is under stress. Worrying about finances, anxiety about contracting COVID, and the psychological effects of self-isolation all qualify as stressors.

When epinephrine (aka adrenaline) is released, your body breaks down glycogen (stored glucose/simple carbohydrate) in the liver. When cortisol is released, your body actually produces glucose in the liver. Yes! Our body is so incredible, it can produce glucose when the body is in need. Any fight-or-flight response instigates both hormones to be released. Having more glucose, or sugar, in the body actually decreases appetite because our body is considered “fed”, so people in isolation may be experiencing waves of no appetite followed by ravenous bouts.

5. Objective or perceived life stress (PSL) can lead to binge eating.

According to a study about isolation and eating habits, “perceived social isolation [is] associated with greater binge eating”. Isolation means we’re alone and/or separated from society- our friends and family- those who bring us joy and meaning to life. With a lack of socialization, loneliness increases, and behavioral changes ensue. Behavior is directly correlated with eating habits, thus, these behavior changes and possible cognitive distress can trigger binge eating. Another study concluded that perceived life stress (PLS) and cognitive restraint can lead to stress eating comfort food. This type of stress eating can be addicting and difficult to break because this behavior can give a false sense of emotional relief and control over something.

Psychologically speaking, eating can be about control. For those with eating disorders- behavioral Ā issues, trauma, stress, and perfectionism can all be reasons for their existing condition. You can see how self-isolation, losing a job, or the unknown would all be fairly aggressive triggers for these disorders- worsening the condition or causing one to relapse. If you or someone you know is struggling with their relationship to food, check out this article titled, ”Ā Binge Eating Disorder and Isolation: How to Break Out of the Cycle”.

Here are some other resources to seek help. In addition, please contact your physician or a local eating disorder clinic for better care and guidance.

NEDA: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support

NIMH:Ā https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/education-awareness/shareable-resources-on-eating-disorders.shtml

In Summary…

A change in appetite and weight gain are normal when self-isolating. Our minds and body’s adapt and meld to our environment and social climate. This adaptation might involve eating more and moving less. It is our bodies response to stress, change, and boredom (which I failed to mention earlier). Please be kind to yourselves, give yourselves grace, process and feel your emotions, and reach out to loved ones or medical professionals if you need help. I am always here as a listening ear should you need one.

Love you all. Stay safe and take care. Xo Danielle