TAKE BACK CONTROL
Have you ever felt guilty about something you ate? I have. How often do we have a cookie, piece of birthday cake or slice of pizza and immediately start to regret it? I definitely have. Sometimes it feels like I am the only one struggling with this guilt but in reality most of us are battling with it internally.
Now, I’m not here to tell you to stop eating those foods but we can stop the guilt. We all experience feelings while eating food. Our hormones drive those feelings. When our hormones are in harmony, we are pretty much ready to take on the world. But a lot of the time, this is not the case and we have the power to change that.
I want to share my experience with you in dealing with hormones imbalances and if you follow me through the article, you’ll walk away knowing exactly how to make educated food choices to balance your body’s hormonal needs.
Have you experienced PMS cramps before? Have you heard or been told “you are a woman, so these things are supposed to happen. You’re supposed to have debilitating cramps or bleeding. It is normal”? I’m here to tell you that perceived normal is not necessarily optimal or healthy. PMS symptoms are signs that your hormones are imbalanced. The ones I’m talking about here are estrogen and progesterone.
Estrogen is the principal hormone in the early part of our menstrual cycle, the follicular phase. It helps us burn carbs more efficiently and impacts our ability to exercise among many other internal jobs. The other hormone progesterone plays a chief role starting mid-cycle after ovulation. We need both for a healthy cycle. Because of how important each of these hormones are to the body, we can think of our periods like a monthly report card for our hormonal health. Let’s dive into some problems that come up on our “monthly report card” and solutions that can support the underlying root causes.
Imbalances between these two hormones create symptoms like mood swings, lack of period, cramping, bloating, and more. Have you experienced cramping or bloating before your period? Yeah, me too. I had cramps so bad one time that I laid in the fetal position all day on the couch. How can people tell us this is normal? That this is how we should live?
So this got me thinking and I dug into research on how we can mitigate and support pms from a holistic perspective. Here’s what you can do to balance these hormones naturally and inadvertently support your symptoms. Take out your notebook or notes app on your phone and write this stuff down.
1. Foundations. We need to start with foundational elements that will positively impact your body’s ability to adhere to any specific protocol after this. You may already be doing some of these and this is a good opportunity to fine-tune the basics. Eat primarily a whole foods diet, hydrate 60% of your body weight in ounces, digest your meals properly, and manage blood sugar regulation. Here’s a quick and dirty way to remember the foundations:
My Daily 5
5 fruits & vegetables
4 protein servings
3 moments of gratitude
2 liters of water
1 hour of movement
Physically eating whole foods is half the equation. We also need to digest and absorb nutrients from these foods. This all starts in our mouths. The easiest way to get your digestion on track is chewing each bite 15 times. This magic number gives your body enough time to salivate and start enzymatic reactions for digestion. Another way to remember this is “drink your food and chew your liquids.” When you are drinking pre-workout or post-workout shakes, make the chewing motion. It sends the signal to start your insulin response much sooner leading to better nutrient adsorption and blood sugar regulation.
2. Macro tracking around menstrual cycle. The next thing we can do is specifically macro track around your cycle. In the first 1–15 days (follicular phase), your macros ratios should be higher in protein and carbs to support your estrogen levels. While estrogen is high, your body is more likely to burn carbs for fuel. On days 16–28, focus on high protein and fat with slightly increased calories. This supports progesterone levels as it triggers a rise in basal metabolic temperature. Your body temp raises between 2.5–10% in your luteal phase which means you burn an average amount of 100–300 extra calories per day. This is why you’re hungry and need more food. Let go of any guilt here and I encourage you to eat more food.
3. Vitamin B6 and Magnesium. I always recommend supporting whole foods if and when you can. You can enhance your B6 through organ meats, egg yolks, peanuts, and bananas. For magnesium, mushrooms, spinach, kale, and most legumes are potent sources. Take 100–200mg vitamin B6 and 200–300 mg magnesium if whole foods aren’t an option or you need additional support. For all my supplements, Biotics is my go-to brand because I trust them, their sourcing and quality testing. I’m sure there are other great brands out there too. This is something I work with clients on a regular basis. Finding the right brand to fit their needs and budget.
This supplement combo helps detoxify excess estrogen and will help you with acne, water retention, and breast soreness in particular. Magnesium enhances the uptake of B6 and helps get rid of emotional irritability and anxiety. It also reduces water retention, behavioral changes and cramping.
4. Vitamin A and Manganese. Whole food sources of retinol or preformed vitamin A are liver, fish oil, and egg yolks. People don’t always love these foods though so another form called Beta- carotene is useful. It is found in all yellow and orange fruits. Manganese’s best sources are seeds, peas, beans, spinach, and kale. Take 900mcg/day of Vitamin A and 9 mg /day Manganese if supplementing.
This combo helps promote progesterone. Vitamin A is also specifically helpful for skin issues. Manganese plays an important part of cholesterol synthesis which estrogen and progesterone hormones derive from. It helps a lot with heavy cramping and spotting.
Let’s look at another hormonal imbalance called PCOS.
PROBLEM: POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME | PCOS
The next common issue I see in women is PCOS. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is a hormone disorder with symptoms including infrequent menstrual periods and experience problems with fertility, weight gain, and exacerbated PMS symptoms. It’s classically diagnosed by having 2 out of 3 factors: androgen excess, polycystic ovaries, and ovulatory dysfunction but can get misdiagnosed pretty often. Your doctor is the best place to go if you suspect you might have it and for those who already do, we can help support the underlying causes...inflammation and blood sugar dysregulation. So, how do we naturally do this?
1. Foundational FIVE. Start with the foundational 5 always. The reason here is that it balances your blood sugar levels and helps get rid of insulin resistance. It’s simple to implement, track, and repeat. Specific foods you want to add in are whole eggs, fatty fish, and mushrooms. They help support healthy metabolism and blood sugar levels specifically for PCOS.
2. Probiotic and prebiotic. The next specific recommendation is in your gut. I recommend taking a prebiotic and probiotic when dealing with PCOS. Prebiotic is the non-digestible part of foods like bananas, onions and garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, the skin of apples, chicory root, and beans... Prebiotic fiber goes through the small intestine undigested and is fermented when it reaches the large colon. This fermentation process feeds beneficial bacteria colonies (including probiotic bacteria) and helps to increase the number of desirable bacteria in our digestive systems, aka the gut.
Probiotics are live beneficial bacteria that are naturally created by the process of fermentation in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, kimchi, and others. These foods help heal and lower inflammation. Prebiotic are like fertilizer and probiotics are like new grass growing (hopefully). If you’re thinking of supplementing, try a synbiotic that has both probiotic and prebiotic components. Start with 1 pill every other day and eventually move to once a day.
3. Vitamin D & Zinc. The third recommendation to support the underlying root causes of PCOS is vitamin D and zinc. Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin we are all getting a great amount of when we step outside. Getting outside 20–40 minutes a day is preferred. If you can’t, supplement with 1000–2000IU per day.
Zinc is a natural anti-androgen treatment that is focused on symptom relief while working on the big picture of inflammation and blood sugar regulation. Zinc kills bacteria, reduces inflammation and lowers the rebound of androgens. Brazil nuts, pecans, pumpkin seed, ginger root and black pepper are the best sources of zinc. Or you can take 30mg a day in supplement form. The symptoms it helps with are hair loss, acne, and facial hair.
PROBLEM: HORMONAL BIRTH CONTROL
In my practice, I’m seeing a shift in contraception types women are choosing these days. We all know about the classic routine hormonal pill. You set your alarm for the same time each day and when it rings, it’s time to take your pill. Anyone else set a calendar alarm? How about what happens when you forgot to take your daily pill? The moment I open my purse and realize I forgot it sent a chill down my spine because I knew the agonizing symptoms that happen next. I was more prone to pregnancy but also experience symptoms like spotting, cramping, and nausea.
Have we ever stopped to think why are those symptoms happening? What’s going on inside our bodies? This was another “ah-hah” moment in my career. I dove into more research, and here’s what I found. It’s because HBC pumps synthetic hormones mimicking estrogen and progesterone into our bodies while suppressing natural hormones.
So as we realized these potential setbacks from HBC, drug companies started changing the idea of the pill with new methods like implants and IUDs. These methods release less hormones and primarily only progestin that in theory goes directly to the uterus and not circulate the bloodstream. There are even some non hormonal IUDs like copper IUD. Adding a device or hormones does have an effect though any way you slice it. So let’s look at solutions for each category of HBC here and how to mitigate nutrient deficiencies naturally.
1. Foundations FIVE. The foundations support your body’s ability to deal with the added hormones or devices. This one carries true no matter if you take a pill, have an implant or IUD. Start here to give your liver more support as it is detoxifying synthetic hormones on top of its other 100+ jobs in the body.
2. Zinc. For women with an IUD specifically, I recommend supplementing with zinc. Add brazil nuts, pecans, pumpkin seed, ginger root and black pepper for zinc sources. If you want to supplement, 30–60mg of zinc per day using Biotics Supplements.
Copper levels are usually elevated with this form of birth control. The mineral copper has an antagonistic relationship with zinc, which means zinc levels are usually low, near deficiency depending on the person. If you feel anxious or did once you put in your IUD, it might be from high levels of copper. Get it checked with your doctor and start adding in those whole food recommendations.
3. Liver and gallbladder Support. You want to support your liver and gallbladder and take some of the pressure off it to detoxify HBC. This solution is dialed in for pill contraceptive ladies. The support solution is beets, taurine, and vitamin C. Beets or beet juice works here. Sometimes I ask clients to get Brad’s beet chips so they can get a taste of them before adding full beets to their diet. Taurine is an amino acid. Best way to get it here is shellfish, oysters, and clams. Be careful with dosing taurine. I ask your doctor to recommend the right dose if seafood isn’t working. For vitamin C, citric fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits.. Vitamin C can be supplemented with 75mg once a day.
This combination will help cleanse the liver and give it extra support on the pill as well as keep your gallbladder functioning properly. Vitamin C helps the body defend itself and support tissue health and healing. I use it for clients pre and post operations as well.
PROBLEM: POST BIRTH CONTROL SYNDROME
If you do decide to step away from the pill, you may find yourself experiencing a post pill syndrome. PBCS is the last topic I want to chat about today. It is your body’s reaction to stopping synthetic hormones and detoxifying itself. It goes into testosterone rebound and liver repair mode. I see this all the time in my practice and have experienced this first hand myself. Think of this process like a slingshot. All the suppression increases tension on the rubber band and then when hormones are finally released (aka when you come off the pill), it’s a bit of an overkill from all the build up. This causes your liver to work overtime, detoxifying as much excess hormones as it can while it works through the last of the synthetic hormones in your body. It’s easy to slip into an “estrogen dominance state” which can heighten pms like we just learned. Here are my favorite ways to prevent such a rebound and help your liver.
SOLUTION BEFORE YOU QUIT
1. Foundational FIVE. Start with the foundational 5 always. The specific reason this time is inflammation. We don’t want your body to work harder than it needs to send and receive internal signals. In order to balance your natural hormone levels after taking synthetic ones, we want the signals to be as clear as possible.
2. Take a multivitamin each day starting 1 month out. A multivitamin is a good way to give your body extra support because you come off the pill. Make sure it has magnesium and B vitamin complex including B6. It may help the rebound be less severe. My favorite multi-vitamin is from Biotics. Take it in the morning with breakfast and you are good. It’s that easy!
SOLUTION ONCE YOU QUIT
3.Seed cycling. Seed cycling is a trendy topic right now but it does work. Here’s what you do. Take 1 tbsp of flaxseed and pumpkin seeds on days 1–15 of your cycle. They naturally support estrogen levels. Crush them up and sprinkle them on your breakfast or in a smoothie every day. On days 16–28, take 1 tbsp sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. They stimulate progesterone production with high levels of zinc and vitamin E. Eat them independently with a meal. Just make sure to have them every day. Keep rotating back and forth between the two sets. It takes about 3–4 months to see significant progress for most women. It helps your body naturally find it’s rhythm again. If you don’t have your period right away, start on the first of the month or when your sister, partner, or bff has her period.
If you take away anything from this, I want it to be how important the foundations are and that natural remedies take time.
Start with the foundations to set yourself up for success. The biggest mistake I see in clients is jumping straight for supplements without fixing digestion or blood sugar control.
Take your time. Natural remedies don’t work overnight. They take consistency. But they contribute to health more than pharmaceutical intervention.
Understanding your root cause associated with your symptom points you in the direction of remedies. Take time to learn about your symptom, work with a professional, and then start supporting it.