It’s All About the Hormone Balance

Thank you Wellness Mama for another wonderful article! With the hectic, stressful lives we lead it is hard to find a balance. All the anxiety, lack of sleep, poor diet and lack of exercise can cause severe hormonal imbalances. This can dramatically affect our weight and can impede any efforts of losing weight. Check this article out for some interesting insights. The following text and images are courtesy of Wellness Mama. Enjoy! 

It’s All About the Hormone Balance


Its All About the Hormone Balance Its All About the Hormone Balance

It seems that the more we know, the more we don’t know. New research is constantly emerging on a variety of health topics but there is a common underlying theme.

What factor contributes to weight gain during pregnancy? Hormone balance.

What causes weight fluctuations, bloating and other health symptoms throughout the course of a month? Hormones.

What causes men to naturally put on muscle more easily or lose weight more quickly? Hormones.

What is a huge contributing factor of growth in children? Hormones.

What controls ovulation, reproduction, pregnancy, etc? Hormones

Yes, when it comes to losing weight or improving health, what do we focus on? Calories… or micronutrients… or diets.

It’s all about the hormones:

I’ve heard so many cases lately of people who have improved diet, started exercising, etc but are still not losing weight or improving health markers. After talking to many of these people, it seems that the factor they all have in common is an underlying problem with hormone balance.

I’ve written about Leptin and thyroid hormones before, and these are just a small piece in the complicated hormone system in the body. In a given day or month, a woman’s body will have fluctuations in hormones like estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, lutenizing hormone, prolactin, oxytocin, leptin, ghrelin, thyroid hormones, melatonin, serotonin and others.

Certainly, diet affects hormones to some degree, but other factors can have a tremendous impact as well, especially:

  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Exercise
  • Exposure to toxins
  • pregnancy or nursing

Though there is no single symptom that is a definitive sign of a hormone imbalance, factors that often indicate a hormone problem include:

  • sleep troubles
  • persistent weight gain or inability to lose weight
  • being hot or cold often
  • digestive problems
  • cravings
  • low libido
  • fatigue
  • depression or anxiety
  • mood swings
  • headaches
  • hair loss

What to Do About It?

For those with hormone problems, there are some important dietary and lifestyle factors that can help nourish the body so it can recover. For these people, things like dieting, extreme exercise or stress will only make the problem worse and it is more important to carefully support the body’s hormone system.

This is best accomplished by first improving factors like sleep and stress as well as nourishing (rather than depriving) the body.

As I said before: “Statistically, many people use hormonal contraceptives to help “balance hormones” or prevent acne, etc. The problem is that this is just treating the symptoms and not addressing the root cause. The body naturally moves toward balance so if hormones are out of whack, it is not from a contraceptive deficiency, but rather that the body is not producing the natural hormones optimally.”

Get Some Sleep!

While you are sleeping, your body is extremely active removing toxins, recharging the mind, and creating hormones. Skimping on sleep, even for one night, can have a tremendous impact on hormones and even one night of missed or shortened sleep can create the hormone levels of a pre-diabetic (source).

I shared some tips in a previous post for optimizing sleep:

A daily (and nightly) routine can make a big difference in how easily you fall and stay asleep. You’ll have to experiment to find out what works best for you but here are some helpful suggestions:

  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time, even on weekends to keep your hormone cycle regular.
  • Eat a high protein/high fat snack a few hours before bed (7pm or earlier) or consume a lot at dinner.
  • Avoid caffeine after 1 pm.
  • Install F.lux  (it is free) on all computers and devices to reduce blue light and help you sleep better (it is also easier on the eyes!)
  • Drink enough water during the day and stop drinking about 2 hours before bed so you don’t have to wake up to use the bathroom.
  • Take a soothing salt bath about an hour before bed with some relaxing music or a great book.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of sunlight each day (even if you aren’t trying to get your vitamin D). The exposure to the wide-spectrum light during the day boosts serotonin levels, which will help improve melatonin levels at night
  • Avoid artificial light as much as possible after the sun goes down.
  • Pray, meditate or find a way to reduce stress.
  • Give yourself a massage before bed to release stress and help relax (Personally, I love this for home-massage)
  • Stretch before bed to relax muscles.

This post has some additional tips for getting great sleep.

Eat Some Fat:

Fats, especially saturated fats, are vital for hormone health as the body uses fats as building blocks for hormones. As this article explains:

“When these important saturated fatty acids are not readily available, certain growth factors in the cells and organs will not be properly aligned. This is because the various receptors, such as G-protein receptors, need to be coupled with lipids in order to provide localization of function.

The messages that are sent from the outside of the cell to the inner part of the cell control many functions including those activated by, for example, adrenaline in the primitive mammalian fight/flight reactions. When the adrenal gland produces adrenaline and the adrenaline (beta-adrenergic) receptor communicates with the G-protein and its signal cascade, the parts of the body are alerted to the need for action; the heart beats faster, the blood flow to the gut decreases while the blood flow to the muscles increases and the production of glucose is stimulated.

The G-proteins come in different forms; the alpha subunit is covalently linked to myristic acid and the function of this subunit is important for turning on and off the binding to an enzyme called adenylate cyclase and thus the amplification of important hormone signals.

When researchers looked at the fatty acid composition of the phospholipids in the T-cells (white blood cells), from both young and old donors, they found that a loss of saturated fatty acids in the lymphocytes was responsible for age-related declines in white blood cell function. They found that they could correct cellular deficiencies in palmitic acid and myristic acid by adding these saturated fatty acids.”

Coconut Oil is amazing for hormone health. It provides the necessary building blocks for hormone production, can assist weight loss, reduce inflammation, and even has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.

If you really need hormone help, aim to consume 1/4 cup of added coconut oil a day. My favorite way is to blend into coffee or tea. This is the highest quality one I’ve found.

Helpful Supplements:

“In a perfect world, we would be rising and sleeping with the sun, getting Vitamin D from the sun and Magnesium from the ocean while relaxing and exercising in great balance each day in a stress-free world. Since I doubt that describes any of us currently, supplements can fill in the gaps. I’ve talked about the basic supplements that I take before, but there are some specific ones that are helpful for hormone support.

  • Maca– A tuber in the radish family that has a history of boosting hormone production and libido. Many women notice less PMS, increased fertility, and improved skin while men notice increased sperm production, libido and better sleep. Maca is also high in minerals and essential fatty acids, making it great for hormones.  It is available in powder form (least expensive option) or in capsules. Maca should be discontinued during pregnancy. The effects of Maca are somewhat cumulative, so the best results are seen after 3-5 weeks of taking Maca regularly.
  • Magnesium– Magnesium supports hundreds of reactions in the body and often contributes to better sleep (which is great for hormones!). There are several effective forms of Magnesium: In powder form with a product like Natural Calm so that you can vary your dose and work up slowly,  ionic liquid form  can be added to food and drinks and dose can be worked up slowly,or  transdermal form by using Magnesium oil applied to skin. This is often the most effective option for those with damaged digestive tract or severe deficiency. Magnesium often greatly helps both PMS symptoms and menstrual cramping.
  • Vitamin D– A pre-hormone is supportive of hormone function. Best obtained from the sun if possible, or from a D3 supplement or Fermented Cod Liver Oil (what I do in the winter). Make sure not to get too much, and optimally, get Serum Vitamin D levels checked to minitor levels.
  • Fermented Cod Liver Oil– Provides many of the necessary building blocks for hormone production including Vitamins A, D, and K. It also is a great source of Omega-3s and beneficial fats.
  • Gelatin is a great source of calcium, magnesium and phosphate. It supports hormone production and digestive health and helps sooth inflammation, especially in joints. We use Great Lakes Kosher as I was able to verify with the company that it is sourced from grass-fed, humanely raised cows, and as such is higher in nutrients.
  • Vitex/Chaste Tree Berry– Nourishes the pituitary gland and helps lengthen the luteal phase. It lowers prolactin and raises progesterone. For some women, this alone will improve symptoms.
  • Natural Progesterone Cream– PMS and menstrual troubles are often linked to specific hormone imbalances. Especially for those with short cycles or short second phase of their cycle (ovulation through start of menses), progesterone can be the issue. I’ve seen people add only natural progesterone cream and see symptoms greatly reduce. If you do use progesterone cream, do you own research, make sure you have a good brand that is soy-free and only use for the second half of your cycle (ovulation through menses).
  • Red Raspberry Leaf A well know fertility herb that is also helpful in reducing PMS and cramping. It has a high nutrient profile and is especially high in calcium and is a uterine tonic. It is available in capsule form, but makes an excellent hot or cold tea.

NOTE: Make sure to check with your doctor or health care professional before taking any new supplements, especially if you are on medications or contraceptives.

Sweet Asian Salad

Yummy recipe from Vegan Richa. See blog post here.

Heather’s Bitter & Sweet Asian Salad. Vegan Glutenfree Recipe

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This salad is amazingly easy to throw together and keeps well for a couple of days in the fridge, serves well hot, cold or at room temp – making it the ideal candidate for a potluck or cocktail party.
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The quinoa can easily be swapped for rice, the edamame for green peas and the purple cabbage for green cabbage. Although the purple cabbage makes this dish quite pretty.
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Gluten free, vegan & nut free – this is a dish that certainly pleases a crowd. Even the pickiest of eaters at book club went back for seconds.
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Bitter & Sweet Asian Salad
serves 6-8
you will need:
2 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 cup shelled edamame
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1 medium carrot – peeled into ribbons
1 cup pineapple- cut into bite size pieces
1 1/2 cup(s) shredded purple cabbage
for the dressing
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup tamari
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp organic rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp ground fresh chili paste
1 tsp of each – black & white sesame seeds
Assembly: 
In a large bowl add quinoa through cabbage – gently tossing to mix well.
In a small bowl, add all ingredients for the dressing and whisk until emulsified.
Add the dressing to the large bowl and gently mix with a rubber spatula until dressing is evenly distributed – garnish with additional sesame seeds if desired.
Serve at room temp, cold or warm – keeps in the fridge for at least 3 days.
 
Enjoy!

Cucumber Salsa

Saw this delicious recipe on Facebook courtesy of 45 Minute Skinny.

Crisp Cucumber Salsa:
Note: 1/4 cup is only 16 calories

2 cups finely chopped seeded peeled cucumber
1/2 cup finely chopped seeded tomato
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
1 jalepeno pepper, seeded and chopped
4-1/2 tsp minced fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/4 c reduced-fat sour cream
1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
1-1/2 tsp lime juice
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp seasoned salt
Tortilla chips

In a small bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In another bowl, combine the sour cream, lemon juice, lime juice, cumin and seasoned salt. Pour over cucumber mixture and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately with chips.

Giveaway: Veganist by Kathy Freston


In this nutritional guide, Freston promises the reader 10 incredible changes, both physical and mental when making the conversion to veganism. She discusses topics ranging from moral and ethical treatment of animals, nutritional and health benefits of a plant-based diet, the potential benefits on the world population and health, to a better state of mind.

Simply put, the book is a gathering of data (scientific studies, interviews with doctors, statistics, nutritional information, insider information from the meat industry) and opinion providing evidence for the benefits of a plant-based diet.

If you’re interested in a general overview on the benefits of eating a plant-based diet, this book is perfect.

GIVEAWAY: If you’d like to enter the Giveaway for a copy of Veganist by Kathy Freston simply comment below and a winner will be chosen at random on Sunday, July 8th.

Food Journal Accountability Final Days 20-21

Day 20 was about preparing for New Year’s Eve. I ate a full breakfast of quinoa, coconut milk, walnuts and hazelnuts. Delicious and filling. By lunch time I was still full, but to eat I made myself a pretty big salad. I had an apple for a snack before dinner and a tasty lentil stew for dinner with tomatoes, potatoes, celery, lentils, vegetable broth, and some other veggies. I also enjoyed half a baked sweet potato with dinner.

New Year’s Eve was spectacular, but that is for another post. I began the morning with lots of water. Had a big bowl of oatmeal with fruit around noon and a salad and bruschetta for dinner. Delicious! Once the party began I snacked on some chips, by 3am I had a piece of pizza and at 6am before passing out I shared a bowl of ramen with a friend of mine. All part of the celebration. These things will be kicked now that it is 2012.

I lost a total of 5lbs over the course of the past 21 days. I feel great! I did not incorporate as much exercise as I initially intended but I revamped my workout this morning with a trainer (a post with details is coming).

I have learned a few things from this experience: blogging daily about my food intake it too much. I hope I didn’t overwhelm anyone during this process. I also learned that I drink a ridiculous amount of coconut milk (not a bad thing) and I need to work on consuming more complete proteins. This can be done a variety of ways. Quinoa is the only plant-based complete protein; however grains can cause inflammation and can prevent the absorption of nutrients. Spirulina is a good source of omega-3, but does not have 6 or 9. I know root vegetables are good sources of these other types. I’ll do some research and post shortly.

Thanks for sticking with me through this!

New Year’s Resolutions

I am not usually one for New Year resolutions; however, my recent lifestyle transformations have led me to consider setting goals that I have progressively worked to achieve over the past few months into a concrete idea for the new year. Merely as a means to fully visualize where I see myself now and in the future.

2012 Resolutions

Health:

  • 100% Vegan – No excuses, no cutting corners (even for holidays), I can do this
  • Try some new recipes and start making tonics
  • Workout at least every other day at the gym including cardio, yoga, and weight training
  • Do P90X daily (contingent my boyfriend ever getting around to sending me it)
Lifestyle
  • Get outside!! Bundle up and enjoy the fresh air and sunlight.
  • Go horseback riding at least once a week
  • Spend more time playing with my dog and taking her on little adventures
  • Read more – I have an enormous stack of books that lay untouched, desperate to please me
  • Sleep – try and get a full 7 hours every night
Professional:
  • Pass all parts of the CPA exam
  • Complete all class requirements for admission to vet school
  • Write a baller personal statement for admission to vet school

 

Food Journal Day 18-19

Yesterday and today were about the same. Lots of water in the mornings and a delicious peach, banana and mango smoothie with coconut milk for lunch.

Yesterday I stuck with more water and tea for dinner. I simply was not feeling food. I had an incredible amount of energy and did a lot of at home exercises with dumbbells and my yoga mat.

I woke up today feel light and healthy and a little bit sore. I did go to the gym today for an hour-long yoga class, about 25 minutes of interval training on the treadmill, and a whole bunch of machines working every muscle till they fatigued. I came home to a small cup of butternut squash soup and some sliced tomato with balsamic vinegar. Yum!!

Also, I completely forgot the weigh-in I was supposed to do Monday! I ended up doing it Tuesday and hit 135lbs!! So a 5lbs loss so far despite my little misbehavior around Christmas. Final day of accountability is Saturday. Going to keep up my good habits and weigh in Saturday morning before I consume mass amount of alcohol.

Food Journal Day 16-17

Monday began with a bagel with Earth Balance spread. Not good. It continued with nothing but water till evening when I had a little bit of left over pasta my parents brought home and some tea. Also not good. Definite lack of anything with nutrients or color.

Today was much better. I began with a smoothie. A delicious combination of peaches, banana, spirulina and water. I ran out of my usual coconut milk and found a can of Goya coconut cream. I didn’t use it. NEVER buy this. It is not natural. It is the water from a coconut with enough sugar and crap added to create a sticky and disgustingly sweet syrup. Stay far, far away.

I drank my smoothie around lunch time so I skipped food until evening. My parents and I went out to a local Turkish restaurant. I had a piece of bread with baba ghanoush and a smoked eggplant dish with some spicy rice and roasted tomatoes and peppers.

Goals for tomorrow are to maintain mainly liquids except for a big salad at some point during the day. I feel the need to cleanse after so many grains.

Food Journal Day 14-15

Christmas Eve and Christmas – a time of holiday festivities, traditional meals and lots of pie. I did not even attempt to fight the traditional meals and goings-on of these two days.

Christmas Eve started off well with a smoothie for breakfast, but ended with a late lunch/dinner of pizza. With the house empty of food and most places closed, my parents came home with pizza and I merely fell instep and grabbed a slice. Not the worst thing, but cheese is not on my new vegan kick.

Christmas Day includes two traditional meals. Breakfast is always cottage cheese pancakes with maple whipped cream and baked apples. Delicious. My mom is an amazing cook. No words can describe how delicious these are. I’ll post the recipe. Christmas lunch, which is so late it is basically dinner, consists of salad and antipasto with various meats and cheeses. I stuck to the salad, loading up on tomatoes, olives and cucumbers. Next, a massive piece of lasagna. Luckily, my cousin is a vegetarian so there is always a meat-free lasagna which I enjoyed a small piece of with some garlic bread. Dessert is even better. I had a piece of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Yum!

While absolutely none of this was in line with my goals, I gave myself some leniency being the holidays and being in a situation in which I cannot prepare a separate meal for myself. Next year, I hope to be more steadfast in my ways and will prepare my own dish to bring along and share. Penni Shelton of Raw Food Rehab has a lovely ebook Raw for the Holidays I have been meaning to buy. Great recipes apparently all based up on classic holiday dishes.

I have also decided to push today’s weigh-in to tomorrow morning.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

Food Journal Day 13

School concluded for the semester on Wednesday and work gave employees an 11 day holiday starting today. First full day of freedom. It was beautiful. I slept till 10AM (unheard of!) and took my dog for a two-hour walk/run to the reservoir. Along the way we met two very angry geese, two deer, one of which was eating a huge hunk of pumpkin, and a whole bunch of dogs out for a midday stroll.

Breakfast: Before I left for my walk, I made a quick strawberry and banana smoothie with coconut milk. Delicious and refreshing. It is always great to start the day with fruit.

Lunch: A delicious salad of mixed baby greens and baby kale, chopped cucumber, golden beets and pear, raw pecans (“candied” with a little maple syrup and cinnamon). The dressing was made with a teaspoon of raw honey, about 3 tablespoons of apple sauce, dash of cinnamon, about two tablespoons apple cider vinegar and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. It came out a little thick so I added a splash of water to thin it out.

Dinner: I made the mistake of not preparing a dinner for myself. Instead I ended up munching a bit. I began with a kiwi before moving on to a few rye Triscuits, all the while making a coconut flan for my family. It can be difficult to make a delicious dessert that I know I should not be eating. I did manage to resist. All except for one little taste test at the end.