Summer Food Swaps
This is a guest post written by the lovely Jessica Stone, creator of www.greenappetite.com, a site dedicated to seriously healthy recipes that don’t skimp on taste!
When I met Nicole at CRAVE, a gathering of women-owned businesses, I knew she was onto something. Nicole stands out in the sea of health coaches and was talking about something very close to my heart: my period.
My own journey to healthier eating was partly inspired by my monthly visitor, or rather, my not-so-monthly visitor. Irregular periods messed up my schedule, my skin, and my moods. That is, until I started learning about how the foods I was putting in my body were negatively affecting my hormones. The big culprit for me had always been sugar – I loved dessert so much, I even trained as a pastry chef.
I’ve always been fitness conscious, so I never became overweight, but the unwelcome results were happening on the inside – to the point where one doctor wanted to put me on Metformin, a diabetes drug. I was only 34. Shocked, I did something else – I researched everything I could about how sugar was affecting my body and realized I needed to start eating foods with a low-glycemic load, curb my fat intake, and up my fiber. The results were so quick, it was miraculous: my cycle straightened itself out, my skin became clearer, and I became a believer.
While I still battle a sweet tooth, it’s no longer an all-out war. And I turned my newfound nutrition knowledge and long-standing love of the kitchen into something else: a passion for creating simple recipes that make my hormones very happy. Big-time bonus: they’re all period friendly! You’ll find them all on my site, Green Appetite.
Here’s a handful of favorites just in time for summer slimming.
Dulce de Leche bars
Getting your sweet fix doesn’t have to involve refined sugar. You’ll love these creamy concoctions as a dessert straight out of the freezer.
When you’re craving sushi rolls without the high-glycemic load of white rice, try this ridiculously easy toss-and-eat version.
Zippy zucchini hummus
A welcome change of pace from bloat-inducing beans, pack this on your next picnic for happy dipping.
A low sugar, low fat, high-energy swap for the usual ice-cream laden summer treat.
Want more period-friendly recipes? Come join the fun on the new Facebook page: www.facebook.com/greenappetiterecipes
Jessica Stone is a writer, trained chef, and the creator of www.greenappetite.com – filled with healthy recipes and inspiration for eco-conscious food lovers.
This past week I worked on a health immersion hosted by Whole Foods for it’s employees. Whole Foods is the only company in the country that provides it’s employees with an opportunity to turn their lives around in a week-long immersion of seriously healthy food and self-care practices. How totally cool is that? Can you imagine the nationwide savings on healthcare if just 10% of companies did this for their employees?!
This immersion came at just the right time for me – talk about needing some sun, sea and sand!
Since January I’ve been going non-stop! So I recently decided to do some blood work to check my hormone levels. I think it was more of an attempt on my part to confirm my suspicions rather than find out what was wrong. One of the biggest shockers for me was my pitifully low Vitamin D levels. The average range is 32-100 ng/ml (nanogram/milliliter) and I was scraping by with a 22! Yikes, major problem! In fact, many alternative and naturopathic doctors consider this average range to be incorrect. They suggest a range of 50-100 instead and recommend getting your levels to at least 75. So, as you can imagine, I was immediately on a mission!
I started to do some research and found some really interesting studies:
The Yale University School of Medicine did a study with 67 women suffering from infertility. Only 7 % of the study participants had normal vitamin D levels! The rest had either insufficient levels or an actual clinical deficiency. In fact, almost 40% of the participants had clinical vitamin D deficiencies.
A recent study on women with PCOS found that Vitamin D deficiency seems to be linked to the condition. After vitamin D supplementation, absent and/or irregular menstrual cycles began to normalize and dysfunctional uterine bleeding stopped in the majority of participants.
A study by scientists at the University of Massachusetts found that a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can help control some emotional symptoms of PMS, such as anxiety, irritability and tearfulness. This is because it helps boost estrogen and progesterone levels in women.
This is why I’ve dubbed it the “period vitamin.” It is clearly connected to our reproductive health and there are distinct conditions that seem to be related to it’s deficiency. PCOS, Infertility and PMS are epidemic in the modern world. A coincidence? Probably not. And guys, you are affected too:
In men, vitamin D is essential for the healthy development of sperm and it helps maintain semen quality and sperm count. Vitamin D also increases testosterone levels, which boosts libido.
I also learned that vitamin D is not really a fat-soluble vitamin but rather a pre-hormone. The reason for this is because vitamin D acts more like a hormone in the body – it is the only vitamin that the body can manufacture.
Where and how do you get enough vitamin D?
- Well, the first thing I suggest you do is get tested to confirm your vitamin D levels using a 25(OH)D test, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Ask your doctor for this test as it is the most accurate one available.
- The best way to get vitamin D is through sun exposure. You should expose your face, hands and arms to the sun, three or more times a week, for 10-20 minutes, depending on your skin, the season, and the distance from the Equator. The best time of day for this is between 10am-2pm. Most importantly, this exposure to the sun should be without sunscreen, as sunscreen interferes with the production of Vitamin D.
- You can also get vitamin D from food such as fatty fish like herring, sardines and cod. You can also try shitake and maitake mushrooms as well as parsley.
- In addition, you can supplement. Most health experts recommend getting between 2000IU and 5000IU a day depending on the severity of the deficiency. Some other practitioners recommend getting as much as 8000IU a day in order to actually move your levels to where they need to be. Make sure if you buy supplements that the ones you buy contain vitamin D3 and not D2 which actually does not raise blood levels of vitamin D. In addition, vitamin K2 is needed to prevent vitamin D toxicity (which is rare!) so your supplement should contain K2 or you should eat fermented foods that are rich in K2. Think sauerkraut. If you choose to supplement, I recommend Nutrametrix Vitamin D with K2 because it comes in a super bioavailable form – more supplement for your body, less in your pee!
Have you been dealing with any menstrual and/or reproductive issues? Maybe vitamin D deficiency is the culprit. Tell me below what you’re dealing with and how you are fixing itCOMMENT
Hormone Balance & Your Liver Function
I talk a lot about the liver in my daily life! A lot of women don’t realize that their livers play an integral role in their hormonal health. Let’s put it this way…if you’re hormones are all whacked out, then it’s most likely that your liver is not feeling so hot.
Your liver functions in your body in much the same way a pool filter functions in a pool. Just as a pool filter cleans a pool by catching the dead leaves, dirt and insects, the liver detoxifies our bodies from harmful chemicals and toxins found in food and our environment. This is done in two phases and requires certain vitamins and minerals to do it effectively. Too much booze, drugs (illegal and legal – xanax has to be processed by your liver too), pesticides in foods, chemicals and environmental pollution (your liver doesn’t like smog), and too little nutrients can cause your lovely liver to get really bogged down. It ends up working all day long to remove these excess toxins that we’re exposed to, instead of doing it’s main jobs in the body.
One of the most important functions of the liver is to break down and remove excess hormones from your body. One hormone in particular is estrogen. As you know, estrogen is a big player in our menstrual health – it helps build the uterine lining, it keeps our vagina’s lubricated and even helps keep our mood elevated!
So here’s what happens: Once estrogen has done it’s job in the body, it is sent to the liver so it can be broken down and removed through the colon. Unfortunately, if your liver is all gunked up from the excess toxins it is exposed to then it is unable to function optimally and thus cannot remove estrogen at it’s normal rate. Estrogen is not metabolized properly and can be reabsorbed back into the body.
Even if a woman’s liver is functioning properly there is another factor to consider. Chronic constipation because of lack of fiber. Fiber increases the expulsion of excess estrogen so it would make sense that too little fiber would be a problem. As I mentioned above, the liver sends that broken down estrogen to your colon for removal. If your bowels aren’t moving then that estrogen can get reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. Ah, no good.
In addition to all of this, if you are consuming a diet with too much fat, such as the Standard American Diet, your estrogen levels may go up. The reason for this is that excess dietary fat encourages reabsorption of estrogens from your gut into your blood stream rather than excretion of this excess estrogen.
And so it begins – a build-up of estrogen in the bloodstream. This results in a condition called estrogen dominance, where estrogen becomes dominant in the body, especially in relation to progesterone. It’s like a store where there are no sales but the owner keeps buying new products. Estrogen dominance can result in some rather unpleasant symptoms and conditions:
:: Fibrocystic breasts
:: PMS & PMDD – especially emotional symptoms like anxiety, depression and snappiness
:: Migraines, especially right before your period
:: Irregular periods and heavy bleeding
:: Endometriosis – from an overstimulation of the uterine lining by too much estrogen
:: Fibroids – similar to how endometriosis begins
:: Infertility – caused by many of the symptoms above
Here are a couple other things that contribute to the condition of estrogen dominance:
1. Stress. I said it! Chronic stress can cause chronically high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). Read more about all that here. Cortisol actually blocks progesterone receptors which can lead to low levels of progesterone in relation to estrogen. This results in symptoms of estrogen dominance.
2. Xenoestrogens. These are synthetic chemicals that mimic estrogen. They are found in plastics, and many many other products that we use in everyday life. We live in a pretty toxic world. Did you know there are over 80,000 chemicals currently on the market and the majority of them have not been tested for safety, much less proven safe. Xenoestrogens act like estrogen in the body making it seem like you’ve got more estrogen than you do. They are total impostors and wreak havoc on your delicate hormonal balance. BPA and phthalates are two of the worst offenders.
3. Alcohol. Do you know that alcohol consumption raises estrogen levels and slows down fat burning? Not cool! Just two servings a day for four weeks has been shown to raise estrogen levels by 22 percent!
So, what’s a girl to do? Here are 4 of my best recommendations:
1. Get that fiber in! Sounds boring right? It has been proven that women eating higher amounts of fiber have lower levels of circulating estrogen. This means that there is less estrogen wreaking havoc on your hot bod. What’s not to love? Try getting 25 grams of fiber a day into your diet. What does 25 grams of fiber look like? Here it is: 1 apple-5 grams, 1 pear-4 grams, 1/2 cup of kidney beans-6 grams, 1 cup of brown rice-4 grams, 1 cup of mustard or collard greens-5 grams. That’s 24 grams of fiber! So easy right?
2. Cut back on the zin. Alcohol impairs your liver’s functioning so much that circulating estrogen levels increase significantly with just two drinks a day. If you are struggling with any of the estrogen dominance issues above then reducing the amount of alcohol you drink could really help. The same goes for the men in your life. Liver impairment caused by too much alcohol can cause a condition called gynocomastia, which is characterized by enlarged breasts in men.
3. Reduce exposure to Xenoestrogens. As if we needed any more estrogen! PCB’s, pesticides, chlorine, you name it; they all have this effect on us. And let’s not talk about the ingredients in shampoo, body lotion and makeup. There are some serious offenders out there. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database to find out how your products rate. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ Start replacing your toxic products with products that contain more natural ingredients and less chemicals. Your body and your liver will thank you.
4. Eat foods that cleanse your liver. Dandelion greens contain many compounds that aid in the cleansing of the liver. I used to be scared to try new greens but they are seriously the best thing I ever incorporated into my diet. Avocados have been shown to protect the liver against toxic overload and turmeric has been found to protect the liver against toxins. In fact, turmeric is one of the most powerful liver cleansers out there.
In the comments below, tell me if you’re dealing with any of the conditions I mentioned above and what you’ve incorporated into your life to address them.COMMENT
Natural, Organic Cotton Period Products
I met Rebecca from Maxim Hygiene a couple of months ago and we hit it off instantly. We are both on a similar mission of empowering women through natural period health so of course we were going to be immediate BFF’s!
Rebecca told me the story about how Maxim Hygiene began and I knew I had to try the products. There aren’t tons of feminine hygiene products on the market that can make the claims this lovely lady does about her products. Here’s what you need to know about Maxim Hygiene products:
:: Made with 100% Certified Organic & Natural Cotton
:: Chlorine/Dioxin Free
:: Synthetic Free
:: Wood Pulp Free
:: Hypoallergenic/Irritation Free
:: Eco-Friendly & User-Friendly
I don’t know about you gals but I definitely don’t want anything other than natural organic products anywhere near my lady parts. Especially when you consider the scary statistics on the chemicals that are used to produce most feminine care products. Here’s a breakdown of what you should know:
:: About 90% of materials used to make traditional pads/liners are PLASTIC, polluting our environment forever
:: Other ingredients include bleached wood pulp, man-made chemically-created materials and bleach/dioxins
:: 70 MILLION menstruating women in N. America will use approx. 17,000 disposable pads/tampons each in their lifetime
Yup, that’s the not-so-perfect picture of those “perfectly” white pads and tampons you might be using. Obviously I try to avoid chemicals that are going to mess with my hormones as much as possible. One of those chemicals is bleach.What makes it really bad is it’s by-product, Dioxin. It is a residue of the chlorine bleaching process and is a well-known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. It is considered to be one of the mostly dangerous chemicals and has been banned in many countries including the European Union.
This residue can stay in the fibers of feminine care products which you are putting in or next to your body, leading to prolonged exposure to this toxic substance. Dioxin settles in the fat cells of our bodies and stays there for the rest of our lives, building up over time, so increased exposure means increased risk.
The issues below are all related to conventional pads and tampons. If you’re concerned about or dealing with any of these issues then the Maxim Hygiene line of products might be for you!
:: Allergic reactions causing an itchy or raw feeling
:: Vaginal dryness (tampons)
:: Concerns about TSS (tampons)
:: Tampons causing more cramps or increased flow
:: Uncomfortable to wear
Okay enough of the gloom and doom. Let’s get to the goods! I got to try out the Organic Classic Contour Pads and the Organic Applicator Tampons.
Okay so the pads. I find myself wearing pads more and more these days. I like the idea of things flowing, rather than getting stopped halfway down the line. Many many women have told me that pads make them itchy and even give them yeast infections. This is because conventional pads are made of plastic and wood pulp. Hello, gross. The Maxim pads felt amazing! I know, I totally just said that. LOL But they did and they lasted forever. I literally used 2 a day on my heaviest days. I was super impressed with how well they stood up and how much they absorbed. AND, they don’t have wings which concerned me at first but I didn’t even need them. They get an A+ from me! P.S. They do have an ultra-thin with wings option if you’re looking for that.
And the tampons. I have never had a good experience with cardboard applicator tampons. I’ve always felt like I’m being stabbed – I’m sure you get my point so I’ll spare you the details. This is a complaint I hear from so many women who want to switch to natural tampons but can’t because of the applicator. Well, I’ve got news! The Maxim tampons are literally the first cardboard applicator tampons I’ve used that actually do have a soft, rounded tip for easy use. They even felt like a plastic applicator tampon. They get a serious thumbs up from me! P.S. They also offer tampons without applicators too!
I’ve got even more good news. Rebecca and the crew over at Maxim were generous enough to donate FREE products for me to give away to all of you!
The first 25 participants to enter this giveaway will instantly win a combo trial pack of Maxim Hygiene Products and ONE lucky grand prize winner will win their choice of FOUR Maxim Hygiene products.
Giveaway Rules: (I’m a rule breaker but these ones can’t be broken unfortunately). You must be at least 18 years old and a US resident to enter the giveaway. The contest runs from Tuesday May 7th 2013 – Tuesday May 14th 2013.
You have three ways to enter:
1. Tweet about the giveaway (you can do this as often as you like).
2. Like my page on Facebook.
3. Follow me on Twitter.
The Cortisol Connection
It has been a huge week for me and it’s only Wednesday! On Monday afternoon I spoke live on the Infertility 2 Pregnancy Virtual Summit and then spoke on a panel event called “The Balancing Act of an Entrepreness.” Apparently I can talk about this stuff all day long!
Upon reflection, I realized that these two events were very connected because the basic concepts I discussed were rooted in hormonal health. Naturally! On the Fertility Summit, I spoke about the hormone cortisol and it’s profound effect on women’s reproductive health while on the panel discussion, I spoke of cortisol’s effect on women business owners.
In thinking about this post, I wanted to be able to tie the two events together because they each led to so many new lovely ladies joining my mailing list. Hooray for that! I want to provide valuable content to a large cross-section of women and cortisol problems definitely affect a large cross-section of women! Cortisol does not discriminate ladies!
We hear about stress and it’s effects all the time. What’s not talked about is the fact that this broadly used term does indeed have a physical effect. And it is most especially apparent in women. We feel the effects of stress much more than men do and that is because of our hormonal makeup. We’ve plain just got more hormonal action than the dudes. Of course this is a good thing when everything is humming along smoothly, but when it’s not, things deteriorate fast for us
The hormone behind most stress-related conditions is cortisol. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands during times of stress, which is the reason it has been dubbed the “stress hormone.” The body needs cortisol to power through demanding situations, whether it’s dealing with hectic schedules and difficult bosses or a traumatic life event. Unfortunately, many of us over-produce this hormone due to unrelenting stress in our professional and personal lives. Some of us are so sensitive that the smallest thing can cause our adrenals to over-produce cortisol…so if you’re not feeling stressed, you might not be off the hook.
There are two key points about a healthy stress response that need to be emphasized: First, it takes priority over all other metabolic functions in the body and second, it wasn’t designed to last very long.
Our ancestors used this response to escape life-threatening situations like running from wooly mammoths! Their adrenals would release cortisol, which would immediately increase their heart rate and blood pressure, release energy stores for immediate use, shut down digestion and other secondary functions, and sharpen their senses. Thousands of years later, our bodies still respond the same way, except nowadays we’re most likely just sitting in traffic! In the past there would be acute moments of stress followed by periods of rest but today we are in a constant state of chronic stress with very short periods of rest. Our adrenals are living in the past and have not adapted well to this norm.
Cortisol is great in the short term to help us deal with a perceived threat, but can have a detrimental effect on the body in the long term. This is because cortisol has three main jobs:
1. It raises blood sugar (to feed muscles so you can run away)
2. It raises blood pressure (so you can get out of a threatening situation)
3. It lowers immune function (as well as shuts down digestion and reproductive organs – basically any bodily function that isn’t necessary to survive).
As you can imagine, this will inevitably lead to major fallout over time. Symptoms & conditions associated with dysregulated cortisol:
:: Inability to maintain steady energy levels throughout the day - Reliance on carbs/caffeine
:: Fatigue and grogginess (lack of energy in the morning, even after a full nights sleep)
:: Tired but wired feeling, poor sleep (difficulty winding down or staying asleep
:: Unstable blood sugar levels – cortisol and insulin work together, and when cortisol goes up insulin goes up. High insulin causes the ovaries to produce more testosterone. We do not want this! PCOS is the result for many women.
:: Brain fog and forgetfulness – ADD, scattered thoughts, inability to focus on a task for long
:: Estrogen dominance and other conditions of hormonal imbalance
:: Fertility issues – difficulty getting and staying pregnant – cortisol directly affects our progesterone levels
:: Weight gain in the mid-section – the dreaded muffin top that keeps getting bigger. This is because belly fat has 4 TIMES more cortisol receptors than any other body fat.
:: Low stamina for stress, and easily irritated, high anxiety, panic attacks
:: Poor immunity; high incidence of colds and flu; chronic infections (bacterial, viral, yeast)
:: Dry, unhealthy skin with excess pigmentation, and/or adult acne
:: Lack of libido or no libido – double sad face!
Here are 6 practical steps to start reducing your cortisol levels now:
- Reduce your light at night. Too much light at night actually stimulates your adrenals to produce more cortisol to keep you awake. This prevents you from being able to wind down and sleep properly. Does the term “tired but wired” sound familiar to you? Here’s what to do. After 9pm turn off as many lights in your house as possible. Do light candles, they make everyone look pretty and they’re sexy too! Give yourself a laptop curfew, this means no laptops in bed ladies. That bright screen is keeping you up at night.
- Practice saying “probably not or no”. Women are programmed to overcommit, overprovide and people please, often at the expense of our own health and adrenal function. Many times we feel resistance to something but do it anyway, in fear of letting someone down. This week when someone asks you to do something that you know will stress you and your adrenals, practice saying “Probably not…(pause), but let me think about it.” Or just straight up say no. People love us when we say yes to everything so this might ruffle some feathers. No guilt is allowed!
- Walk barefoot on the earth. There is actually scientific evidence that walking barefoot on the earth, grass or beach can help reset your adrenal function and improve chronic fatigue. Our bodies’ electrons become frazzled by the harmful electromagnetic fields emitted by man-made products such as computers, phones, hair dryers & home appliances. The earth’s electrons seem to restore order. This is probably why gardeners and farmers are so happy! Now go lay in the grass or hug a tree…your adrenals will thank you.
- Support yourself nutritionally. Eat regular meals, especially breakfast, which include high-quality protein, whole grains and good fats. Properly timing meals to prevent dramatic dips and spikes in blood sugar minimizes cortisol output and also gives you more sustained energy throughout the day. You goal is to feel full for 4-6 hours after you eat – this is a good indicator that your blood sugar is balanced. This is the key for addressing a number of hormonal imbalances and the basis of my program.
- Supplement wisely. Most of us take supplements and never see any effect. This is because we are probably not taking the best quality we can get and/or not taking the right targeted amounts. Most people do best on 3 or 4 supplements at a time, anymore than that and we get overwhelmed and give up. A good B-Complex vitamin is incredibly powerful in addressing a number of hormonal and reproductive issues. And getting 2000-4000mg a day of fish oil a day has been shown to lower cortisol levels and reduce inflammation. Our lady parts are especially vulnerable to inflammation, which is the negative response our bodies have to foods (think sugar, refined wheat products etc) and environmental pollutants that are harmful to us.
- Reduce or cut out caffeine and sugar. I know, I know. This is tough for many people but think of this: both caffeine and sugar stimulate your adrenals to produce cortisol. In addition, both of these substances do a double whammy on the body by raising not only cortisol but blood sugar levels too. This keeps us on a rollercoaster of blood sugar lows and highs that we can’t seem to escape. That 3pm energy slump? It’s related to imbalanced cortisol and usually we grab something with sugar or we get a coffee to deal with it. Take baby steps and wean yourself off of these elements slowly. Try Dandy Blend coffee substitute and use honey and stevia in place of sugar.
Want to learn even more about this and what you can do? Well you’re in luck because today is the day that the Fix Your Period Lite Program starts! I am going to talk about all of this and so much more – we’ll cover the best foods to maintain optimal hormonal health to deal with fertility issues, stress, PMS, cramps (you name it!), supplements and botanicals, self-care practices, reclaiming your feminine vitality along with hormone testing and so much more! If you want to learn more check out the program page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t wait to meet you!
In the comments below, do you feel like stress plays a big role in your life and your hormones? How have you reduced it or taken control of it? We’d all love to hear what’s worked for you! <3COMMENT
Had one of these recently. You know the nights I’m talking about. You just keep tossing and turning, your mind is racing, you’re yawning, you feel tired but sleep escapes you. Ugh! I can’t think of anything worse! Of course you’re not alone. 1 out of 3 people have insomnia at some point in their [...]COMMENTS READ MORE