Q&A WITH ALEXIS FROM MANA WELLNESS

I recently connected with Alexis via social media and was captivated by her poetic writings and passion for womens health - an area I myself am so drawn to and have much experience with both personally and professionally. Read on to hear about the work Alexis is doing in the health and wellness space, she has taken a holistic approach to womens health that encompasses mind, body and soul.

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Q: Tell us about what you do, what is at the heart of it?

My mission is to recreate women’s “health care” into a multi-dimensional journey of wellness. I work with women to detox not only their bodies, but their minds, hearts and spirits as well. I started in wellness about 6 years ago from the sport/fitness angle. The job burnt me out and opened my eyes to a new meaning of health. Over the years I’ve been drawn to more holistic practices such as TCM, ayurveda, meditation, yoga, etc. By trade I am a certified Holistic Health Coach, but my tool box is filled with practices from all sorts of philosophies. While nutrition is a huge component of my work, I also spend a good bit of time supporting my clients in emotional processing. The truth is a woman is not going to heal from green juice and cardio, she needs to get right down to the root first - which can be scary to do alone.  That’s where I come in!

How did it all begin?

I think this work has been lifelong for me and as I follow the breadcrumbs back I can see the evolution of how I got here. I’ve always been so passionate about empowering women and did so in many capacities throughout my life. However, becoming a holistic health practitioner was catalyzed by my own mysterious chronic illness. Throughout my twenties I struggled with all sorts of strange things that none of my friends struggled with. I was dealing with kidney infections, chronic UTI’s, ongoing sinus problems, etc. I had to lose my health several times before I finally started to surrender and take back my own power. The final straw was mysterious auto-immune symptoms that looked like extreme exhaustion, severe gut problems, zero libido, heavy brain fog, explosive anger, sleep disorder, hormonal hell, skin problems, anxiety, and finally heavy depression and weight loss. I was 27 and I was an angry mess. I was the “healthiest” person I knew yet I was also the sickest person I knew and that was enraging. This is when I really started to understand the depth of emotional health as a key factor in creating health or disease. I wasn’t dealing with emotional pain and it was festering in my body and manifesting in a way that I could no longer ignore. After 1000 blood tests, doctors visits, procedures, and pain, I found the right path with the right team.

The realization that finally changed my health was recognizing that I was the only one capable of healing myself. I stopped relying on external validation or tests to tell me how I felt or what I needed AND I started a gratitude practice that truly transformed my emotional health (among other things).  It was a long hard journey that has given me the empathy, compassion, and wisdom to support other women in healing.

Now, I have become the practitioner I wish I would have had at the very beginning before my whole life came undone. I empower women to activate their inner healer, reverse chronic illness and live wildly vital lives.

Q: You focus a lot on educating women around their own bodies, particularly their menstrual cycles, what does a ‘healthy’ cycle look and feel like to you?

Yes, body wisdom is super duper important. The first place to start understanding your body is in your cycle.  A woman’s cycle is not just menstruation as many women assume, but actually the entire 28-30 days. Each month a woman will move through the 4 phases of her cycle, each with unique needs and energy. Your cycle contains powerful information about how the rest of  your body is functioning.

Like most women I was always quite annoyed by my body, as though it were something I had to fight against. My periods used to be something to “deal with” not something to connect with. Whenever my body didn’t behave the way I wanted it to, I lashed out even further on it. I was “using” my body instead of honoring it. I wouldn’t consider myself a “hormone expert” but I do consider myself a translator. I help women listen to the language of their body and slowly decode the message.

Most women think suffering with menstrual pain every month is “normal.” I help them realize their cramps, migraines, bloating, and intense mood swings are a microcosm of the macrocosm. If you are dreading your painful menstrual phase, it’s more than likely you are dealing with gut imbalances and excess toxicity in the body. A healthy cycle means eating, moving and living in harmony with each phase. For example during your menstrual phase is not the time to be running marathons and hosting big important meetings. This is the time to rest and go inward. Meditation, journaling and restorative yoga are some of my favorite menstrual practices. During your ovulatory phase is a great time to be social, have a glass of red wine and enjoy group classes like dance or kickboxing. Getting in touch with these phases means you will work in alignment with your body and thus enhance it’s natural flow.

Q: Where can someone start on their way to learning about their own cycle and how to best support it?

Journaling is huge! I always have my clients do at least 1 week of food, mood, and movement journaling to start assessing their bodies. Alissa Vitti of Flo Living has pioneered a process known as “cycle syncing,” which teaches women how to follow the natural flow of their cycle. Her book Womancode is an amazing resource when first starting out and trying to educate yourself. While the book provides detailed suggestions around diet, exercise, &  lifestyle, I ALWAYS encourage my clients to be intuitive about their choices. Just because a book or a doctor tells you what to do doesn’t mean you should dismiss your own bodily intuition. Womancode is a great resource but again, every woman is completely different and should honor her inner knowing first and use resources as guidelines. My mission is to help women connect with their intuition in a way that leaves them less codependent on what others tell them and more self-empowered.

Q: What is your number one health tip for healthy humming hormones?

Rest! Women these days are struggling with so much fatigue, HPA axis dysfunction and overwhelming stress. Rarely do we give ourselves permission to rest without guilt. Rest is truly transformative and something I learned on my own healing journey. During my recovery I took 6 months off! I was petrified of what that meant because I had derived so much meaning from what I was “doing.” It took me some time before I completely surrendered to rest but when I did, WOW!  My mother actually said to me, “how many times in your life are you going to have the chance to rest for 6 months? Just embrace it because you have your whole life to work and produce.” I would say the same thing to all the women out there struggling to let go of the reigns for fear of losing “productivity” and thus self worth.

The truth is you could be eating the healthiest diet on the planet, but if you’re not regularly resting you will find yourself in a chronic cycle of dis-harmony.

Q: What is one thing you have daily or couldn’t live without?

One thing I have daily is green juice first thing in the morning. It makes a huge difference in my energy and metabolism. I usually make some mix of celery, cucumber, chard, green apple and herbs.

One thing I couldn’t live without though, would be meditation. Meditation is a form of rest that keeps me grounded and centered. Anyone who knows me knows I’m quite fiery and intense sometimes. Before meditation I had no grip on emotional/mental processing. I was always flying by the seat of my pants. I started meditating seriously almost 4 years ago and wouldn’t be the woman I am without it. It’s a tool I use with all of my clients because it is a cornerstone of optimal health. It fits perfectly with the whole concept of being your own healer, because when you meditate enough you truly realize that all of the answers are within. The trick is sticking with it long enough to connect with that channel. I suggest finding yourself a teacher or practitioner who can support you when you’re first getting started.

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Q: Where can people find out more about you and the work you’re doing?

My website or instagram page is a great place to start! You can find details about my story, my programs and my philosophy on both pages.

W: www.manawellnesshealing.com

IG:@_mana_wellness




NATURAL BEAUTY

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med)

This is the extensive list of ‘beauty products’ I use personally.

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Over the years I have simplified my own beauty regime immensely, I was the girl who wouldn’t leave the house with a full face of makeup, spray tan on and sporting a scalp bleach hair that’s been over-toned to the point of being silver-grey-blue rather than blonde. Coming from that to the present where makeup is minimal, its worn 1-2 times during the week, I don’t spray tan and colour my hair with half head of foils 3 times per year was not an overnight thing. The first time I turned up to work makeup-free I was asked if I was sick. I felt totally naked and ashamed.

It’s a confronting thing to strip back the many cosmetic layers that many of us are masked by, completely unaware of how much of our confidence comes through this.

But, like anything, you adapt. You push through and you allow your own natural beauty to shine and see the light (finally – my face was crying out for some much-needed vitamin D). I started to swap things out, once something ran out I would purchase something of better quality, using natural ingredients and products that aligned with my values.

The Function of Your Skin

Our skin is the largest organ we have, it’s part of our immune system, detoxification, elimination, and nutrient absorption. When it comes to caring for this incredible organ it's so much more than just skin deep.

The Skin and Our Microbiome

Our skin is covered with beneficial bacteria in an intricate balance that supports our own pH – anti-bacterial lotions, cosmetics and cleaning products can disrupt their habitat and lead to imbalances in our acid-alkaline state as well as sebum and oil production. With oily skin types its best to avoid cleansers and products that strip and dry the skin out, this signals to the body that we are lacking these oils for the skin and triggers a response to produce even more – leaving you in a vicious cycle of forever having an excessively oily complexion.

Imbalances within the microbiome impacts on the health of our skin and may present as conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis. Acne as an example is linked to gut health. Substance P is a molecule that’s produced within the gut from altered bacteria strains and this leads to the development of acne on the skin topically.

Do You really Need Deodorant?

Our skin expels and eliminates waste products from the body primarily through sweat. Foul body odour is a sign of ill health, and using antiperspirant deodorants inhibits the body’s ability to eliminate. Naturally, we will give off a scent, but when it’s to the point of needing to mask it with fragrances and deodorants is a sure-tell sign that there’s something out of balance for you, this could be food intolerances, excessive caffeine, sugar or alcohol intake or an imbalance in bacteria. I have now been deodorant free for more than 2 years and can tell you this – there are no complaints about how I smell to other people.

Impact on Vitamin D

Then there’s the matter of vitamin D, an essential nutrient we take in from the sun. It comes into contact with our skin and is converted to a form that the body uses to help with immune function, brain health, hormone production and to allow for the absorption of calcium into the bones. Cosmetic products containing sulphate laureate actually strips the skin of the compounds needed to convert vitamin D over to its active form to be used, leaving us vulnerable to the effects of vitamin D deficiency which is ironically wide-spread throughout this sunburnt country. You can read more here about the function of vitamin D.

My Personal Skin Care Routine

So, for me, my beauty regime looks a little like this

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• Makeup I use Eco Minerals Foundation, an Australian based company providing cruelty-free, vegan mineral makeup. It’s a beautiful light coverage with a matte finish.

• For mascara, I use Ere Perez, a completely natural mascara that’s been selling for over 13 years. It contains almond oil to strengthen and lengthen lashes while stimulating their growth. Its smudge-proof and water resistant.

• And lastly, as a moisturiser and makeup remover I use My Hemple hemp-seed oil. Hemp oil contains essential fatty acids that cannot be produced by the body. I keep one bottle in the fridge for use with food and cooking and another bottle in the bathroom to use topically to moisturise my skin and give off a beautiful glow. These essential fatty acids linolenic and oleic acids that are found in hemp oil play a role in skin health and anti-aging and are important nutrients to add to the diet. Use the code BRITTANI20 upon checking out to receive 20% off your order.

Simplifying in all areas of my life, including my skin care is so freeing. I give credit to the health of my own skin really to what I’m putting into my body, nourishing every single cell, keeping my gut bacteria in balance and inflammation at bay. To do this I eat real, living foods of plants, pasture-raised animals, seafood and eggs. I also supplement with organic whole-food capsules that flood my body with all the essential nutrients, polyphenols and antioxidants with added probiotics and digestive enzymes (to find out more about these products, get in touch)

If skin health is a concern for you I’d love to chat more about it and tailor a nutrient plan to suit your skin type and your concerns. Conditions like psoriasis, acne, eczema, and dermatitis are all signs that there is something out of balance within your body and a focus on internal health is key here rather than topical ‘band-aid’ applications.

Please do get in touch.

Yours in Health,

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THE KETOGENIC DIET

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med)

Please note this is not to be taken as health advice or used to treat and health condition. If you want to know more about how this information can be applied to you, please seek advice from your health care provider.

Both Personally and professionally I believe that being in a state of ketosis is beneficial for human health. However, I don’t agree that it is something to be sustained long term and I certainly don’t agree that being in ketosis is our default nutritional state. When we look back through history at traditional cultures and diets, how we ate was influenced largely by our environment, the seasons and the produce we had available. There would be periods of feasting and famine, times of increased and decreased carbohydrate sources from the varying local plant foods they had access too, something that we have lost in our modern times. Now we are in a constant ‘fed state’, rarely experiencing deprivation of caloric energy, but for many consuming a SAD diet (Standard Australian Diet) or heavily processed diet would be lacking essential nutrients.

Photo Cred:  Jordann Wood

Photo Cred: Jordann Wood

What is Ketosis

Ketosis is a physiological state, it’s something that naturally occurs in a state of fasting or starvation, or when there is limited carbohydrates (that are broken down to glucose) and glycogen (stored glucose) is depleted through movement. The end goal is to enter a state of ketosis, this occurs when our metabolism switches from burning glucose to burning ketones for fuel. In order to produce ketones, the diet must be carefully managed so that more fat is being consumed and carbohydrates are limited with moderate protein.

The ketogenic diet is a term used to describe a low carbohydrate and high-fat diet, this is to support and maintain this state of ketosis that can be difficult to maintain. There’s no one size fits all approach to this, due to our biochemical diversity some may maintain this ketogenic state far easier and be able to consume higher amounts of carbohydrates than the next.

Where most fall short in this is, they consume too many carbohydrates without realising. This can be through different milk products, like almond milk and soy milk, yogurts, cacao powder or chocolate and even nuts and seeds. Others may not track appropriately and simply not eat enough fat in their diet. Choosing the right fats is also important, more on this later.

So, What Are My Thoughts on Ketosis?

I think it’s great when done appropriately. A standard ‘keto diet’ is heavily focused on meats and dairy products like cream and cheese, which I don’t agree with. We need minerals, we need polyphenols as these are great for our health and there are many great high-fat plant foods that can be included in the mix.

I personally cycle in and out of ketosis quite easily. I practice of time restricted feeding, ensuring that I eat within a 10-hour window or less but not reducing my food quantity, I combine this with fasting intermittently for 16-20 hours only a few days out of the week, combined with a low carbohydrate, high fat diet allows me to remain in a state of ketosis. I’ll do this for 2-3 weeks at a time, no more. This feels good for me, its balanced and it gets me the benefits of being in ketosis short term. But this would not apply to everyone as we are all so wonderfully unique.

What Can Go Wrong

A true ketogenic diet is low in carbohydrates and high in fat, however its paramount that protein is moderate and at the right amounts for you. There are certain amino acids broken down from the protein we eat that are able to be used as glucose via a process known as gluconeogenesis. For women, in the long term low carb diets or restrictive dieting can influence female sex hormones and have negative outcomes on female fertility, our menstrual cycles, mental health, sleep and more. As women we have a beautifully complex and perfectly designed system which relies on our intricate hormonal dance, something we don’t want to disrupt with extreme dietary approaches.

Another occurrence with many low carb dieters is the demonisation of all carbohydrates that can take place, so its important to remind you all of the vast difference between carbohydrates found in refined flours and sugar or those that are from whole-food sources like potatoes and other starchy vegetables and whole fruit. Eating too many refined carbohydrates can have damaging effects on metabolic markers and blood sugar levels however I have not come across any research to show that eating carbohydrates from whole-foods leads to metabolic dysfunctions or conditions like diabetes.

I am mindful of the change to our microbiome that occurs with the restriction of carbohydrates. The bacteria within our gut feeds off of fibre from the diet, fibre is found in carbohydrate containing foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes and beans. A ketogenic diet restricts many of these food groups and as a result the bacteria starve. It’s important to ensure you’re consuming non-digestable fermentable fibres like resistant starch that don’t contribute to our carbohydrate load. I always advise you work with a health professional on this to ensure your diet is appropriate.

What Can Go Right

The application of a ketogenic diet has been shown to have therapeutic effects for many health conditions, however this does not mean that it is to be applied to everyone. We know from research that conditions like epilepsy, type 2 diabetes, PCOS, Parkinsons and Alzheirmers Disease may benefit from the application of a ketogenic diet as well as to support weight loss in some people groups, like menopause (working with a health professional, of course). There is no one-size-fits-all approach to diet.

Another known benefit of ketosis is that fasting mimicking effects it has within the body. This triggers autophagy a process of cell cleaning, removing old cells and repairing damaged ones. This can have benefits on our immune system, brain function, skin health, energy, inflammation levels and more.

I see many people benefit greatly from this style of eating, but many also don’t. We are so beautifully and wonderfully unique and this should be celebrated. I have seen differences between different body types that can help indicate whether a low carb approach is right for you, but please always consult with your health practitioner before radically changing your diet.

Some Food for Thought

When thinking about trying a low carb or ketogenic diet ensure that you’re still getting a wide variety of plant foods, this is still possible to do so while maintaining your ketogenic state.

  • Make it primarily plant-based. Eat plenty of low carb vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, and spinach.

  • If choosing to eat meat, opt for quality meat products like grass-fed organic beef, pasture raised hens, wild caught fish, and organic pastured eggs.

  • Drink lots of water, add a little sea salt for electrolytes

  • Eat a variety of fat-rich plant foods like avocado, macadamias, hemp seeds and olives

  • Always opt for whole foods, not binge on ‘fat bombs’ and coconut oil

  • Listen to your body and work with a professional, please!

Interesting in trying this out for yourself? Get in touch, I’d be happy to put together a tailored to you ketogenic plan to suit your needs and be aligned with your health goals.

Yours in health,

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Q&A WITH JORDAN PIE

It was such a delight to get to chat with Jordan Pie. This blond beauty is someone I gravitate towards and connected easily with over social media. I have been following along intently ever since, constantly being inspired, educated and encouraged. I love her food philosophy and approach to nutrition as well as her simplicity in her self care advice - definitely worth the read!

You can find out more about Jordan and connect with her through her instagram and her website - where you can also grab a copy of her incredible cook book Gutalicious.

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Q: Tell us about what you do, what is at the heart of it?

A: I’m a Qualified Nutritionist, GAPS Practitioner, freelance food stylist and photographer, recipe developer, a health and wellness blogger, oh and a cookbook author. I believe food can be used as medicine, so I help to educate people to see food in a brand new light by providing delicious, easy, gut friendly recipes.  

Q: What does health and wellness mean to you?

A: I believe it’s different for each individual. However, my food philosophy never changes;

  • Eat food your great grandmother would recognise

  • Less is more when it comes to ingredients

  • Include a wide variety of vegetables—you can always add more

  • Just because the ingredients change, doesn’t mean the menu has to. There is always a healthier alternative to your favourite foods

  • Eat to be well, not to be thin

Q: What is your number one health tip for general well-being?

A: Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time consuming, and you don’t need a million and one things on your plate to make it tasty. It’s simple: Eat real food (preferably spray free/ organic). I truly believe that the worst thing you can put into your mouth is ‘guilt’. Because if you’re constantly stressed about what you eat or drink, it’s actually going to cause more weight gain, more hormonal imbalances, more digestive distress, and more sensitivities to healthy foods. This is why it’s so important to tune into your body, understand what YOU need, and ditch dieting all together!

Q: You’re a recipe developer and make the most amazing creations – what inspires you in the kitchen and how did you get such skills?

A: Cooking, creating new recipes, styling and photography is my creative outlet. If I wasn’t able to do this as part of my job, I think I would go a little cuckoo haha. I’m inspired by in-season produce and what I find at my local farmers market. I also get inspired by having only 4 or 5 ingredients in the fridge because I love the challenge of trying to create something incredibly delicious with only a handful of basic ingredients.

Q: You, like myself, do a lot of work from home and a vast variety of tasks, what are some of your hot tips for keeping on track with it all – do you have a routine or practice that ensures you get things done but also stay balanced and grounded?

A: As an entrepreneur, and someone running and growing my own small business, I find it so incredibly hard to stop myself and take a break sometimes. In the past I’ve definitely had the bad habit of working Monday-Saturday, slacking on taking my supplements, not leaving the house for 2 days and burning the candle at both ends. I can sometimes feel guilty if I take a break (even if it’s well earned). It’s taken (still taking) a lot of effort to put myself first. But the truth is, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not taking care of anything. So each week I try to remind myself to fill my own cup up first, and that I do have permission to rest. I’m not responsible for fixing everything and I don’t have to make everyone happy. This is challenging for me as I’m the classic nurturer - aka used to putting everyone else first. I have found planning out my days or week in advance super helpful because I schedule in research, meetings, one-on-one consultations, free-lance work, recipe days as well as down time and catching up with my loved ones.

Q: As a health practitioner it can be hard to remember to give back to yourself, and to keep your own health as a priority, tell us how you implement self-care:

A: I think a lot of people can get overwhelmed by the notion of what self care/ love is and may think they’re not doing enough. But self care can be as small as flossing your teeth. Or saving money for your future. Booking that holiday you’ve been dreaming of all year. Self care is saying no to a party you know you’re too tired to attend. It’s going to bed 30 mins earlier. It’s letting yourself eat your favourite chocolate or applying a face mask while you make yourself a cup of tea. I think self care and self love looks different to everyone, but the sentiment remains the same. We practice it so we can work on being the best version of ourselves. My favourite self care practice is to get out into nature, I find it so grounding, energising and it helps to re-set my body and mind. But I also love taking an epsom salt bath or making myself a cup of bone broth to drink or sometimes it may be as simple as watching a really good movie. 

Please comment below your key takeaway from this, I know I will be taking on board the self care practices and keeping things really simple.

Yours in health,

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POST NATAL DEPLETION (+ AN EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT)

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv.Dip Nut Med)

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Transitioning into motherhood not only brings on enormous waves of emotions, but it also brings about some complex and overwhelming experiences for both mum and dad. Many mothers experience postnatal depletion, which can occur within weeks, months, years – or even a decade after the birth itself. Which, when you think about it, makes complete sense. You are growing a tiny human inside of you for 9 months and this draws upon your own nutrient stores & resources leaving you with less. This is why preconception care is so important to ensure that you’re nourished and well fed to take on the task of growing and birthing a tiny, precious, human into this world.

DID YOU KNOW? A mothers brain shrinks by 5% within the third trimester? This is to support the growth of our babies - that baby brain is a legitimate thing!

The purpose of this article is to get the information out there, to build awareness on the topic so that mothers can get the care and the advice of how to nourish and replenish their stores to give them back their vibrancy and their vitality. Yet commonly we see new parents running off little to no sleep, feeling overwhelmed and forgetting to feed themselves which not only affects their own health and wellbeing but puts a strain on their relationship with their partner, or even those with family and friends.

It takes a village to raise a child, but in this modern day, many women are doing it all themselves – the cooking, cleaning, caring, washing, driving, more cleaning and more washing at the expense of their own sleep, nourishment, and sanity. This scenario itself being stressed out and overwhelmed contributes further to the loss of nutrients and combined with breastfeeding (If you do) is a recipe for depletion.

In traditional cultures, women in their reproductive years of life would be fed specific diets that were laden with nutrient dense organ meats, fatty cuts of meats and broths to ensure that they remained well nourished. You’re eating for two in the sense of nutritional needs, rather than caloric requirements.

What Does Post Natal Depletion Look Like?

  • Exhaustion

  • Pain

  • Forgetfulness

  • Indecisiveness

  • Moodiness

  • Weight gain or significant loss

  • Foggy head or ‘baby brain’

  • Low mood and lack of concentration

Is this sounding familiar? Well fear not because it’s not all bad news - there is hope. I’ve got an online short course in the works ‘Nourishing Mums & Bubs’ that will be designed with new mammas in mind to be time savvy, cost-effective and with practical advice & education on how to replenish the stores and keep up with the demands nutritionally, physically and mentally post-birth.

The Nourishing Mums & Bubs E-Course Will Include:

  • A preparatory phase that will begin in your final trimester of pregnancy to get you ready for what lies ahead. We will talk through your after birth plan - will you have family close by to help with the cooking and cleaning? Do you have a partner on board who will take time off work to be your hands and feet? Have you got nourishing meals batch-cooked and ready to whip out of the freezer for a fast and stress-free dinner? These are some of the things we will go over in short segmented videos that you can watch in the comfort of your own home.

  • Identifying and supporting the changes in hormones, when they occur, how you may expect to feel and how best to support the changes and the transition through.

  • A list of nutrients that have been lost with simple and easy ways to get them to combat the depletion.

  • Support for sleep - how to enhance it, when to get it and how to cope with less of it

  • Tips, tools and tricks that will safeguard your mental and emotional health

  • Exercise guides to begin with (thanks to my husband who is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist)

  • Plus many recipes (that won't take you too much time or effort) but that will be replenishing and nourishing for both mum and bub (once bub is ready)

I will also get you thinking for the months ahead and what obstacles may arise – how to avoid mastitis, or treat it if needed, how to care for cracked and dry nipples, beat the baby blues and so much more. This will be formatted in a way that’s easy to view, access, learn from and apply.

If you’re interested to learn more about this or would like to sign up to the course please leave an expression of interest below and I can get in touch to give you the run down and the expected date of launch.

Yours in Health,

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INTERMITTENT FASTING

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip Nut Med)

The term ‘Intermittent Fasting’ is broad, vague and very generalised. There are multiple methods of intermittent fasting that have more recently become popularised in the media for its health benefits. A quick Google search of intermittent fasting brings up a list of health claims ranging from improved mental clarity and concentration, weight loss and fat loss, lowered insulin and blood sugar levels, reversal of type 2 diabetes, increased energy, increased growth hormone, lowered cholesterol.

The thing is, although intermittent fasting can provide a number of benefits to your health, bio-individuality needs to be considered and this practice, like many others, must be tailored to suit you as the individual.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting involves a period of time during the day or the week where you abstain from foods or calorie-containing drinks. Intermittent fasting has been around for centuries, historically we were hunters and gatherers, food wasn’t as readily available as it is to us now. We wouldn’t wake up in the morning to be met with a fridge full of food, supermarkets down the road or fast food delivered straight to you. Periods of feasting and famine were of the norm, and with this, we were able to progress and evolve. The types of intermittent fasting differ in their time spent feeding and fasting. Some of the most common methods are outlined below:

The 5:2 Diet

Intermittent fasting was first really popularised by Michael Mosely when he wrote the book on the 5:2 diet. What this entailed was eating your normal diet 5 days of the week but only consuming 500 calories on 2 days of the week. These 2 days could be consecutive or randomly throughout the week.

The 16:8, 18:6, 20:4 Diet

This style of fasting restricts food intake to a specific timeframe. It can be anywhere from a 14 hour fast with a 10-hour feeding window, 16-hour fast to an 8-hour window, 20-hour fast to a 4-hour window and so on (you get the drift, right?).

Alternate Day Fasting

This style of fasting is simply eating one day and fasting the next. An intense approach especially when first starting out and one that I wouldn’t recommend without the monitoring of an appropriate health professional.

Fat-Fasting

Fat fasting has been popularised in mainstream media with the beginning of the bulletproof coffee, an idea coined by Dave Asprey which involves consuming calories in the form of fats only and restricting protein and carbohydrates. This style means you still get some of the benefits of fasting but also with the inclusion of calories and energy to the body. When implemented appropriately it can induce a state of ketosis short term which also provides additional benefits.  

Time-Restricted Feeding

Time-restricted feeding is similar to intermittent fasting but involves complete avoidance of foods and drink apart from water for a select period of time. Sachin Panda’s approach is focusing on a practice known as ‘Time-Restricted Feeding’ (TRF). This concept is a daily eating pattern where nutrient intake is limited within a window of a few hours, usually less than 12, however, the quality and quantity of nutrient and calorie intake is not changed. He looks into the effects of food and drink intake on the circadian clocks of our organs. We have our master clock that regulates all sleep-wake cycles, but each organ will have their own circadian clock and rhythm that is dictated by food and drink consumption. Anything that your liver will metabolise, even herbal teas that contain no caloric value, will trigger a response by the liver and will, therefore, reset its clock. This means that outside of your allocated feeding window, you are to take in water only. No teas, coffee, juices, none. As these will reset the clock via the effects it will have on the liver.

Fasting Mimicking Diet

Formed by Valter Longo, this style of eating is considered as ‘fasting with food’ so patients are still able to have some form of calorie content but with altering where these calories come from it will trick the body to remain in a fasted state, and therefore increase client compliance in doing so. The diet is primarily a high-fat diet, with low amounts of protein and carbohydrate, giving about 10-50% of their normal caloric intake and participated for about 4 days. The diet is still able to produce effects on some markers of aging and disease states, very much the same as would a water fast for 2-3 days. In studies, fat loss has been observed, most of which was surrounding the organs, known as visceral fat (the type of body fat you don’t want to have) while there was no loss in muscle mass. 

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work

  • Autophagy

    Fasting induces a reparative state. A process known as autophagy (‘self-eating’) is the body’s system of spring cleaning, so to speak. Any dead, damaged, diseased or worn-out cells are eaten up, stripped for parts and the end result is molecules that are used for energy and the synthesis of brand new shiny cells, thus improving the overall efficiency of each cell.

 

“It’s our body’s innate recycling program, autophagy makes us more efficient machines to get rid of faulty parts, stop cancerous growths and stop metabolic dysfunction like obesity and diabetes” – Colin Champ, M.D.

 

  • Immunity

    More so with longer term fasts (fasts that are longer than 48hours), stem cells are produced. Stem cells are quite remarkable, they have the ability to become many different cell types, replicating at a rapid rate and may then aid the body’s own healing process by regenerating new cells and ultimately new tissues. Stem cell injections are becoming more of a well-known practice for injuries, although transferring someone else’s stem cells may not be so compatible, the best option is to create them yourself, which you can do through fasting. In mice, periodic fasting promoted a stem cell-dependent regeneration of immune cells.

    There are also effects on autoimmunity to take note of, more information on this can be found here  

  • Ketosis

    Ketosis is a physiological state that occurs in a fasted state or when following a diet that is limited in carbohydrates, with moderate protein and higher amounts of fat. You see the body has alternate fuel sources, in most cases, the body will utilise glucose from dietary carbohydrates or from glycogen (stored glucose) for fuel, but when this is depleted through fasting, carbohydrate restriction and exercise the body will then switch to ketones that are produced by the breakdown of fats for fuel. Ketones are an excellent source of energy for the brain specifically and add to the cognitive effects that intermittent fasting may have on the brain.

  • The Benefits on Blood Sugars

    The work in this area has prompted the thought that intermittent fasting could be of benefit when addressing blood glucose dysregulation. From the 1950s until today it has been advocated by many to consume 3 large meals and 2 snacks, encouraging foods to be eaten at 3-hour intervals with promises to ‘balance blood sugars’ and ‘speed up your metabolism’. However, now with more recent studies conducted, we can see that food restriction and periods of fasting can be of great benefit in regulating blood sugar fluctuations as well as other metabolic markers. Limiting the amount of food eaten and how regularly you are eating means that there is less glucose present and therefore less insulin needed.

    Studies conducted in humans diagnosed with type 2 diabetes assessed the efficacy of intermittent fasting on blood sugar levels. The results concluded that intermittent fasting may reduce blood sugar levels to a healthy, normal range, favoring the implementation of fasting as a safe and effective tool. It makes sense, type 2 diabetes is caused by large amounts of carbohydrates which leads to a flood of insulin in the body that the pancreas just cannot keep up with, so why are they then given insulin to treat it.? Think about it. Why would we give someone insulin to treat a condition that’s caused by too much insulin, to begin with?

  • Benefits on Gut Health

    There are also benefits on the gut. When we have a break from food between meals, and not spending the day picking, snacking and grazing it induces our migrating motor complex. This complex acts as a broom, sweeping away debris and build up from within the intestines. This can only occur during a fasted state and is particularly beneficial with sufferers of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). Please see a medical professional for support in this area, like a Nutritionist (like me, hello) or Naturopath

  •  Endurance

    Fasting has been shown to benefit physical endurance, this I’ve noticed within myself. With periodic fasting overnight, going for a run the following day I’ve found that I am able to run longer, faster and more efficiently. Funnily enough, I was more energetic in a fasted state than if I had eaten food.

  •  Brain Function

    Mentally, it’s been noted that when in a fasted state many experience a sense of euphoria. Consider this, without food we should experience better brain function, cognition, and energy. Not the other way around. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors needed to be vigilant and agile when hungry, to be able to hunt and kill to feed again. Now with the health issues, we are facing largely due to the poor diets we are eating coupled with sleep deprivation and stress an onset of symptoms including lightheadedness, irritability, and fatigue commonly occur… Basically the feeling of being ‘hangry’. Not exactly a healthy response.

    Intermittent fasting has been shown to enhance cognitive performance, due to its effects on neuroplasticity and synapses in animal studies. Regeneration of myelin sheath, the protective outer layer of our neurons has also been attributed to fasting’s effects, as was observed in the condition of Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune condition characterised by the degradation of healthy myelin sheath. It’s also been shown to reduce cancer size by 45%, highlighting the effects that fasting has on disabling the growth of a number of tumours as well as increasing the effects of chemotherapy drugs to target the malignant cells and spare normal healthy cells.

  • Chemotherapy Tolerance

    Research has shown that fasting can enhance the effects of chemotherapy. This occurs as the cancer cells become more sensitive to the chemotherapy itself whereas normal healthy cells don’t seem to have the same effect.

    More on this here

  •  Longevity

    In animal models, it’s been shown that intermittent fasting does lead to a longer life. Fruit flies are commonly studied as they have a rather short lifespan, making it easier to note the effects. Results from one study, in particular, found that intermittent fasting (using the 5:2 method for just one month) was sufficient to extend lifespan. It was shown to improve resistance to oxidative stress as well as improved gut barrier function and a reduction in age-related pathologies. Dr. Valtor Longo is really leading the way in this field of longevity and healthy aging and is worth looking into for more information on this topic of fasting and longevity. For the sake of the length of this article, I won’t go into it too much more.

    You can read more on his work and the work of Satchin Panda here 

  • Fat and Muscle Mass

    During a fast fat is oxidised to provide fuel, this can result in weight loss for most or improved body composition. What’s more is that protein is generally spared, meaning that short term fasts will not lead to muscle breakdown but can actually stimulate the production of human growth hormone that is involved in the synthesis of new tissue, muscle, and even bone. 

The Difference Between Men and Women

There is so much information on the benefits of intermittent fasting, however, in the research, there is so much to consider. For example, in women fasting can induce anxiety, insomnia, irregular periods and weight gain. Which is quite the opposite effect than what is claimed by health and wellness advocates everywhere.

Women have a much more sensitive hormonal system, from a biological perspective we want to be fertile and reproduce. So in a state of deprivation, this is shut down. This is how fasting may trigger negative effects for some. Studies have shown that a 2 day fast in women shifted their nervous system state to a more sympathetic dominant one (fight or flight), whereas in men it was the opposite as they were in a parasympathetic state (rest and digest).

More recently the function of hypocretin neurons has gained interest. These have the ability to inhibit sleep and lead to feelings of wakefulness. Their excitation occurs in reaction to the body detecting a starved state. They can act on the female hormonal system and lead to insomnia or trouble sleeping. Male neurons seem to respond to starvation with autophagy far more readily than women, although this is conflicting in the research and more is needed to confirm this effect. Fear not as there are other ways to induce autophagy if this is what you’re after. Exercise and infrared sauna use can also stimulate this effect.

When Not to Fast

  • If You’re Stressed

    Fasting is a stress on the body. When blood sugars dip, cortisol is released to bring blood sugar up to a regular range. Fasting can increase cortisol levels within the blood which can lead to detrimental effects leaving you feeling worse off than before. What can you do? You can practice time-restricted feeding, eating within a 12-hour window and maintaining a 12 hour fast, you will still reap some benefits in terms of cancer risk reduced and longevity benefits without putting too much of a stress on the body.

  •  If You’re Pregnant or Breastfeeding

    As we have already noted, fasting elicits a different response in women than it does in men. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not participate in any form of fasting, restriction of dieting. A nutrient-dense whole foods approach during pregnancy and breastfeeding is crucial, this is a time of rapid growth and development and places huge nutritional demands on the body.

  • If You Have or Had an Eating Disorder

    In no way would I encourage any form of restriction if you’re still working through an eating disorder. Eating regular is important to ensure that your body is nourished and well. I understand how easily information like this can be used to fuel unhealthy habits and encourage more restriction and deprivation.

  • Thyroid Conditions

    Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid is overactive. It involves a dysregulated HPA axis or HPT axis to be more specific.  Managing hyperthyroidism requires adrenal support, reducing inflammation and improving sleep quality. Because of the effects on the metabolism regular food intake and antioxidant consumption is needed to maintain body composition and reduce oxidative stress that can occur.

  • If You Have Irregular or Missed Periods

    Hypothalamic amenorrhea occurs when the brain stops communicating with your female reproductive organs because there is too much-perceived stress. This condition is commonly driven by undereating or over-exercising. In this instance, the body will produce stress hormones at the expense of sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.

How To Start

Now, the point to reiterate here is that fasting is practiced intermittently. Not on a regular day-to-day basis. That just takes away the intermittency of it. We don’ know exactly how often, how long or how much people should fast, and of course, know that we are all so uniquely different. Fasting is a stress on the body, and this needs to be considered. When facing high stress in your day to day life, fasting would not be advised for you. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – always consult your health care professional before making any radical changes to your diet and lifestyle and respect their opinions on it.

It you are adamant about starting here is how:

  1. Start slow

  2. Switch first to a wholefoods diet first – limiting refined sugars, carbohydrates, and packaged foods

  3. Trial cyclical low carb days, eating more fat from whole foods and restricting high carb foods like grains, legumes, potatoes, and fruits.

  4. Trial an intermittent fast for 1 day of the week and note how you feel - listen to your body with this. If you feel worse, then stop.

You may feel some hunger when you first start, but if you start having issues with sleep, feeling sick, light headed and shaking then most certainly honour this and what your body is trying to tell you and stop.

For women do it less frequently on non-consecutive days and on days that you are not doing a high-intensity activity, you can also incorporate more of a fat fast to provide some calories but still getting some of the effects – this can include bulletproof coffees or teas. This will induce ketosis and give you still some cell renewing properties and can provide fuel to the brain.

Please let me know if you do intermittent fasting and how you include it in your life – how has it made you feel? I’d love to know in the comments below!

Yours in health,

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WHY YOU'RE NOT LOSING WEIGHT

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (Adv Dip Nut Med, BHSc Nut)

Weight loss isn’t always as simple as calories in vs calories out, and this confusion can leave many of us feeling defeated and frustrated after trying time and time again to reach our goals. What many don’t often realise is that there are so many other players involved when it comes to our weight. The body can often resist weight loss purely form a survival mechanism but with hormones, stress, lifestyle and environmental influences mixed in it can create a whole cocktail of roadblocks stopping you from reaching your goal.

#1 Stress

Stress can inhibit weight loss, this is largely due to elevations our stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol disrupts our appetite and leads to increased weight that’s predominantly stored around the abdomen. When stressed we are in a state of sympathetic nervous system dominance, this is also known as our ‘fight or flight response’. When in this state blood sugar levels rise and fall that may trigger cravings for refined carbohydrates and sugars.

What can you do?

Focusing on stress reduction either through lifestyle practices like gentle exercise, meditation and mindfulness, Epsom salt baths and use of essential oils, as well as diet to include more healthy fats, quality proteins, and smart carbs. Not to mention specific nutrients like magnesium and B group vitamins, these are best sourced from a qualified practitioner like me for the appropriate script.

#2 Over-Exercising and/or Under Eating

This is another form of stress, and particularly important for women to note. Too much exercise can place too much of a stress on the body and when combined with calorie restriction, this can trigger a starvation response, signalling to the body that there aren’t enough resources and now is not the time to lose any more! Exercise also increases the elimination of estrogens and simultaneously reduces the production of estrogen – this may be of benefit with women with estrogen levels that are too high, but a deficiency of estrogen can also lead to weight gain – more on this to come!

What can you do?

Take a break, take a long walk and swap out your CrossFit or HIIT sessions to more outdoor walks, pilates or a Barre class to minimise that cortisol production but still, provide the many benefits of movement. Focus on nourishment at meal times, work with a practitioner to put together an appropriate meal plan for you that will give your body the nutrients it needs for pre and post exercise as well as the correct macronutrients needed to support healthy weight loss.

#3 Sleep

Getting quality sleep and the right quantity of hours of sleep is crucial for healthy weight loss and body composition. Studies have found that those who slept between 3.5-5.5 hours a night consume nearly 385 more calories the next day compared to those who sleep between 7-10 hours. Lack of sleep also increases your risk of chronic disease, cancer, diabetes, anxiety, depression and many more.

What can you do?

Focus on sleep hygiene as well as including dietary and lifestyle practices that will promote restful, restorative sleep. See these tips to get a good nights sleep here.

#4 Toxicity

We may not be aware of the toxins we are exposed to, but it’s now estimated that food alone is sprayed with toxins in numbers that are 17 times greater than what they were 40 years ago providing us with a chemical cocktail of toxic substances. What’s more is that for many of us before we leave the house we have already exposed ourselves to an alarming amount of different chemicals and pollutants. They are in skin care, makeup, cleaning products, cookware, electronic devices, car fumes, factories, in our food and drinks, through alcohol and even coffee consumption. Toxicity places an additional stress on the body, which as we have discussed, can lead to obstacles with healthy weight loss and many of these substances now being shown to disrupt our hormonal systems, wreaking havoc on our body.

Vitamin D and calcium work together to promote weight loss yet we are living in a culture that is largely deficient in vitamin D, common skin care products contain substances that strip our skin of the compounds needed to convert the rays from the sun into active vitamin D in the body.

What can we do?

Detox! Take a good inventory of your household, your workplace and the environments you spend a lot of your time in. You can either go all out and throw out everything or work through it one item at a time consciously swapping over chemical-laden products for natural alternatives. Using food, olive oil or coconut oil works wonders in terms of moisturiser, you can use essential oils with baking or bicarb soda for cleaning, or fill a spray bottle with water, vinegar, and lemon essential oil as a surface spray and wipe. I use essential oils instead of perfume, I don’t wear deodorant (eating clean and keeping clean fights and funky smells) and I clean my teeth with baking soda toothpaste. There are many different options to support your low-tox lifestyle! Getting adequate sunlight for that vitamin D! Being outdoors for 20 minutes at least with skin exposed in large enough areas to increase absorption - think tops of legs, arms and chest.

For more advice on cosmetics and beauty products, I encourage you to check out Emily Banks from Depths of Beauty she is a wealth of knowledge and an incredible resource.

#5 Poor Gut Function

The way we digest, extract and absorb the nutrients from the foods we eat is pretty important. With any digestive disturbance, it’s important to investigate with a qualified practitioner to get to the root of the cause. The microbiome plays an important role in metabolism, food cravings, and nutrient absorption and this may need to be addressed, pesticides on foods, antibiotic use, chronic stress, fibre deficient diets and use of microwaves can all disrupt our microbiome and lead to dysbiosis. Parasites are also very common and can cause nutrient deficiencies, bloating, fatigue and changes to appetite. There may be specific foods that cause an immune response, triggering a cascade of processes that may result in inflammation, further sustaining weight loss resistance.

What can we do?

For an individualised approach and appropriate prescription I would encourage you to work alongside a practitioner, I see many clients for digestive complaints and all will involve a completely different approach to their treatment. Simple dietary tips to support gut function is to get adequate fibre, lots of colour and antioxidant, drink plenty of water and even trial the inclusion of fermented foods. Please note that when trying ferments for the first time start slow, depending on the state of your microbiome you may respond with some bloating or gas. Fermented foods are histamine-containing foods as well as bone broth which is also important for gut health, to address histamine issues please work with a practitioner for support.

#6 Hormone Imbalances

The thyroid gland is responsible for the metabolic functions within the body. It secreted hormones T3 and T4 which are important when it comes to our weight and body composition. The intricate hormonal dance we have going in on can be disrupted, the thyroid is particularly sensitive to a diet that’s low in iodine, or too high in iodine, toxicity, and stress as well as inflammation and autoimmunity. With this, the thyroid can produce too much or too little T4 and this can impact on your metabolism.

 Steroid hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone also need to be in balance. Estrogen deficiency can occur just as easily as estrogen dominance can. This can happen in cases of increased stress as the body’s precursor to these hormones is also needed to create cortisol so the body will make more cortisol to get through the stress at the expense of our sex hormones. Too much exercise as we have discussed will also promote estrogen excretion and reduce the production of it.  

Fat cells act as a secondary source of estrogen. So, when estrogen is low, the body will create more fat cells necessary to maintain adequate levels. The body is resourceful like that!

What can you do?

Stress reduction, dietary analysis and nutritional treatments work beautifully to balance hormones. If you suspect a hormone imbalance is going on definitely go and speak with your health care practitioner to conduct the appropriate testing to confirm. Symptoms experienced with thyroid imbalances include:

  • Nervousness

  • Insomnia

  • Racing heart

  • Increased sweating

  • Muscle weakness

  • Multiple bowel movements

  • Thin, brittle hair

 This would indicate an overactive thyroid.

Additionally, there are symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue

  • Dry skin

  • Weight gain

  • Feeling cold

  • Low mood

  • Constipation

  • Muscle weakness

 And these would point more towards an underactive thyroid gland.

#7 Medications

Your medications may be playing a part – and this is in no way to tell you to stop taking them, but to learn to be mindful of the implications on your weight that they can cause. Common culprits are the oral contraceptive pill, antidepressants, steroids, and angiotensin-receptor blockers.

What can you do?

If your medication can be changed, then work with your prescribing physician to slowly come off them. If it’s the pill you’re on for contraception only then there are other options you can explore, if it's for skin or period complaints it’s worthwhile working with a practitioner to get to the root of the problem – is it a zinc deficiency? Do you have endometriosis or PCOS? Are your natural hormones off balance? These are worthwhile investigations to bring your body back to a state of balance.  

#8 Overeating or simply eating the wrong thing

We are all uniquely and wonderfully made, meaning that one diet fits all is not a sound approach to health or weight. For many we simply may not be eating the right amounts, or tricked into consuming ‘superfoods’ that are not so super after all, foods like the trendy acai bowl, many store-bought dips, dressings and condiments, marinades and seasonings in foods, vegetable oils used like grapeseed, sunflower, canola, safflower and ‘natural’ sweeteners like agave.

What can you do?

Keep it simple, choose to eat SLOW:

  • Seasonal

  • Local

  • Organic

  • Whole

Studies have shown that diets that are moderate-low in palatability work well in supporting weight loss. Consuming adequate protein to increase thermogenesis through digestion as well as taking ‘diet breaks’ to help lower the body’s set point and also give you a break from it all. These are all areas worthy of another article in and of itself, but we can see from this one alone just how many other factors there are to consider when it comes to weight loss.

I always encourage you to work alongside a practitioner to support you, give sound advice and prescribe necessary nutrients for you. We are all so beautifully unique and this is something to treasure and work with it, rather than work against it by taking the advice from Dr. Google or the latest celebrity endorsement.  

Yours in health,

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SEED CYCLING

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med) 

Seed cycling is, in a nutshell (excuse the pun), a method of using certain seeds to support female hormones during the different phases of their menstrual cycle. Seed cycling has been used to support women suffering from absent periods, PMS, infertility and perimenopause symptoms as well as providing healing support for chronic conditions like PCOS and endometriosis. Seed cycling harnesses ‘food as medicine’ to support the intricate hormonal dance that occurs in a woman’s body in a delightfully inexpensive and non-invasive way.

Who’s Involved?

•    1 Tbs Flaxseeds

•    1 Tbs Pumpkin seeds

•    1 Tbs Sesame seeds

•    1 Tbs Sunflower seeds

How this works

During the first stage of your cycle, the follicular phase, you consume 1 tablespoon each of both flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds and continue this every day for 14 days. After this, you will switch over to 1 tablespoon each of sesame and sunflower seeds, again every day for 14 days during your luteal phase. Its recommended that you have the seeds ground fresh before consuming. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to do this is to add them to a morning smoothie. This way they are blitzed to a finely ground liquid gold that’s easy to get into my diet.

The First Phase (Days 1-14)

Day one of the follicular phase is your first day of bleeding with your period. During the follicular phase, estrogen should rise. Estrogen is needed to stimulate the endometrial lining to thicken in preparation for a fertilised egg to embed. Without fertilisation this lining will shed, you will bleed, and that is what is a woman’s period. Estrogen is also needed to peak for ovulation to occur, and this should ideally happen between days 12-15. Ideally day 14.

Flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens, phytoestrogens are a plant-based source of estrogen that adapt to the body’s estrogen levels. They increase estrogen levels where needed, yet they also can decrease excess estrogen in the body. This is thanks to the lignans they contain, which bind to estrogen receptors and help to modulate estrogen production. Flaxseeds are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation in the body.

Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, zinc nourishes the ovarian follicles (the eggs) and promotes ovulation to occur. Ovulation is important as it establishes regular cycles and provides a balanced supply of estrogen and progesterone.

The Second Phase (Days 15-28)

Around day 14 ovulation should occur, and so then you will enter into the luteal phase. The luteal phase should last at least ten days, any less may indicate low progesterone levels and possible concerns with fertility. During this phase, estrogen should drop and progesterone will rise. Progesterone is needed to enhance the uterine lining (endometrium) and to facilitate egg implantation. Estrogen levels may increase again during this phase but when they rise too high they can trigger symptoms of PMS, so the key here is balance. Ideally, progesterone and estrogen should be within a specific ratio. So during this phase, to keep progesterone levels high and maintain hormonal balance the focus is on seeds rich in omega 6 fatty acids that convert over to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) within the body.

Sesame seeds are rich in lignans which act on modulating estrogen and progesterone levels within the body. They are also a great source of omega 6 to be converted into GLA in the body. GLA is anti-inflammatory and helps to balance out female hormones.

Sunflower seeds are rich in selenium, an antioxidant mineral that supports liver function and the elimination of excess hormones. Without the appropriate detoxification of hormones, they can be reabsorbed and enter back into the bloodstream, creating imbalances. Sunflower seeds also contain omega 6’s to convert to GLA.

Things to Remember

With anything relating to hormones, it's important to know that to see results and improvements it takes time. You won't see the results within a day, or a week, but rather over 2-3 months or more. The time it takes will depend greatly on your current hormonal health and health history. For women who have been on hormonal birth control for some time it’s expected to take longer than someone who has had only minor hormonal imbalances.

Additional considerations to seed cycling are addressing lifestyle factors that may be affecting hormones. Stress is a huge factor to address. Cortisol, our main stress hormone uses the same precursor that’s needed to create progesterone and estrogen, so under stress, the body will focus more on making cortisol at the expense of those hormones. Over-exercising, undereating or other underlying pathology also have a part to play, and for these conditions I strongly encourage you to work with a trained practitioner such as a Nutritionist (like myself!).

Got questions or need more information? Get in touch and let’s chat!

E| wellfed.health@gmail.com

IG| @well_fed_

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HEALTHY HORMONE SERIES PART V

HEALTHY HORMONE FOODS 

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med) 

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” famously quoted by Hippocrates the Father of Modern medicine somewhere back in 400BC. This is most certainly true when it comes to human health, especially when considering hormonal health. It’s a common trend for women to be dieting, restricting or limiting food intake, opting for low calorie and low nutrient foods in an effort to obtain a certain size or frame, unbeknown that they are causing much distress in terms of their hormonal and reproductive health.

Nourishment is the core focus, when the body feels that it is in an underfed state it creates a stress on the body. This stress can lead to increased cortisol, at the expense of oestrogen and progesterone synthesis, which as we’ve previously mentioned can lead to weight gain in and of itself. Not to mention that increased cortisol can lead to the apple shaped figure, with weight stored around the abdomen – this is known as visceral fat and is linked to increased risk of diabetes, cancer, fatty liver and metabolic disease.

Macronutrients are just as important and the micronutrients. Getting the right amount of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, and, from the right source.

Carbohydrates are of importance when it comes to ovulation, the right carbohydrates are slow release carbohydrates that don’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Think starchy root vegetables like sweet potato, carrots and parsnip as well as fibre rich grain-like seeds quinoa, millet and amaranth, brown or basmati rice, oats, lentils, legumes, nuts and seeds. Adding ample fats and proteins help to further slow the release of glucose in to the blood stream.

Fats are for hormones, fats give fluidity and structure to cell membranes and cholesterol in particular is needed for our steroid hormones – oestrogen and progesterone. Confused about which fats are the right fats? Choose wholefood sources like avocado, olives, nuts and seeds, fatty cuts off grass fed meats, egg yolks and select minimally processed oils/lipids such as butter, coconut oil, olive oil and avocado oil.

Protein is the foundation when it comes to our structure, both physical and biochemical – including hormones. Amino acids are required for hormone synthesis, like tyrosine for our thyroid hormones T3 and T4. If opting to eat animal products or not, I must encourage you to select pasture raised, free range, grass fed. Not only is it better for the environment, better for the animals but also better for your health. The nutrient content of naturally raised and fed animals is much higher with a better quality of fats, being more anti-inflammatory than inflammatory. Vegetable proteins much be emphasised in a vegan or vego diet, with adequate amounts with each meal and across the day. These include lentils, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds and grains. 

Specific Foods to Include

Foods including oranges, grapes, mushrooms, celery, onion, coriander and fennel have been shown to reduce the production of excess oestrogen by acting on a specific enzyme known as aromatase and inhibiting its function. This is of benefit when considering hormonal conditions that are characterised by high levels of oestrogen.

Cruciferous vegetables which include broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kale activate specific detoxification pathways in the liver that are responsible for metabolising and clearing out excess hormones.

Magnesium, zinc and B6 work synergistically to create progesterone. Magnesium can be found in leafy green vegetables and cacao (chocolate), zinc in red meat, oysters, nuts and seeds and B6 in foods of animal origin, particularly organ meats and potatoes.

Fibre, a commonly forgotten nutrient is important for promoting bowel clearance, reducing the risk of constipation as well as further promoting the elimination of hormones from the body.

Then we have foods including flaxseeds and soy, which are known as phytoestrogens. What this means is that they act like oestrogen would in the body, they bind to the oestrogen receptors but exert a weaker oestrogenic effect than our natural oestrogen would. They work in two ways.

  1. They help promote levels of oestrogen in cases of oestrogen deficiency or menopause, a time where oestrogen levels fall.

  2. As they are a weaker oestrogen in the body, they can help in cases of oestrogen excess and conditions like endometriosis and even certain cancers as they will compete with the body’s own oestrogen for a receptor but would not provide such a strong reaction as natural oestrogen would.

Soy

There’s been a lot of talk about whether soy is good or bad for you. There has been much concern surrounding its inclusion in the diet with risks of certain cancers and thyroid conditions. Will drinking soy milk cause men to develop breasts? Will eating tofu give you cancer?

The research has produced conflicting results. Studies in animals have found that soy did induce cancer growth and development, but when looking at epidemiological studies in human populations found that soy consumption provided protection against breast cancer risk. In terms of suspected hypothyroid or other conditions involving thyroid function, soy may not be the main concern but rather iodine status.

To break it down further, we have multiple estrogen receptors in the body, with two that have been considered here in isolation:

  • Alpha – exerts proliferative effects

  • Beta – anti-proliferative effects

True oestrogen is a potent stimulator of the alpha receptor and will cause proliferation of those tissues, hence the problem of oestrogen in hormone sensitive cancers. However, soy has been shown to have a negligent effect on the alpha receptor. It’s believed that soy’s effects are cancer-reducing because of its action on the beta receptor.

What is of concern, and should be considered, is the fact the most soy products are highly processed and genetically modified. If opting to eat soy, choose organic, select soy foods like tempeh that are fermented or use soy lecithin in smoothies and warm drinks (goes beautifully in a turmeric latte before bed). Soy milk might not be the best choice to include as a major staple in the diet as naturally occurring soy contains a variety of fatty acids but a higher level of inflammation promoting linoleic acid (omega 6 fatty acid). It’s also worthy to note that common commercially bought soy milks contain added vegetable oils, such as canola and sunflower, further increasing the level of omega 6’s.

Always always always consult a medical professional and work with them in terms of diet and nutritional supplementation if you’re worried about thyroid health or have other hormonal concerns.

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Yours in health,


 

HEALTHY HORMONE SERIES PART IV

NATURAL CONTRACEPTION, EXERCISE & LIFESTYLE 

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med) 

Apart from diet and nutritional supplementation, there are some key lifestyle factors that come into effect when considering our hormones. Our hormones are somewhat sensitive to things like stress, inflammation, exercise, increased fat mass, toxin exposure and the use of the OCP, but in our current fast-paced toxic world, these things can be unavoidable for some. So how can we combat the negative effects of each?

Stress and inflammation were discussed already in the last post and is worth reading back over before continuing with this one, so let’s take a more in-depth look at some other suspects causing hormonal distress.

Toxins

These include things like hormone disruptors from cosmetics, plastics, pesticides from foods, medications including antibiotics and the many fragrances we spray, cleaning products, fumes from the traffic around us and so much more than we are unaware of.

Our skin is our largest organ. It absorbs and excretes, meaning that what you put onto your skin will ultimately enter into your body. Traditionally in some cultures, olive oil was used for dry skin but now we are applying lotions containing more than 20 odd ingredients, most of which you wouldn’t identify or even know how to pronounce. What’s more is that an ingredient listed as ‘fragrance’ can contain up to 100 separate ingredients that are considered toxic to the body. Today, the average woman uses at least 15 different products in the home before she’s even left the house – that’s not including the variety of toxins that are in our environment, which is estimated to be about 70,000 NEW toxins and chemicals since World War II.

“Emerging evidence suggests that nutrition can modulate and/or reduce the toxicity of environmental pollutants. Diets high in anti-inflammatory bioactive food components (e.g phytochemicals or polyphenols) are possible strategies for modulating and reducing the disease risks associated with exposure to toxic pollutants in the environment”

– Bernhard Hennig PhD, RD

The liver is the primary organ for metabolising and eliminating environmental toxins and pollutants from the body, and certain foods can help support its processes:

  • Drink green tea

  • Use spices and herbs like parsley and turmeric

  • Consume an abundance of cooked cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kale

  • Include sulphur rich foods like garlic, leek, and onion

  • Flavour your water with some fresh lemon

  • Ensure that adequate antioxidants from coloured fruits and vegetables are included in the diet – eat the rainbow!

It’s also a wise move to take a complete inventory of your current morning routine – are there certain products you could eliminate, or make a simple switch? There are some great varieties of sulphate and paraben free shampoos and conditioners, as well as soaps and washes. Olive or coconut oil can be used as moisturiser. Cleaning can be done with variations of vinegar, water, essential oils or lemon. Teeth can be brushed with a mix of baking soda, coconut oil, and peppermint essential oil and natural deodorants are quite easy to come by – or you can simply go without. Having a healthy body means you’re free from nasty odours, which are another clear indication that there’s something out balance in your body. Cutting back or making the switch not only does wonders for your hormones and health but also halves the time it takes to get ready each day.

Exercise

Exercise is considered a stress on the body, but more of a hormetic stress than a negative one. What this means is that the stress that’s placed on the body in appropriate doses can induce an adaptive response as the body recovers, it gets stronger, more efficient and more robust. This is generally a good thing. However, there is always too much of a good thing and exercise is certainly no excuse.

For women, its advised that different forms of exercise are better at different points in our cycle, as the fluctuating hormones can require different applications of movement.

The first week of your cycle (days 1-7): A decline in oestrogen can contribute to lowered energy levels, as well as the loss of blood that can further exacerbate the fatigue with the reduction of iron. It’s recommended to take it easy during this time, rest more, enjoy a week of slower paced movements, maybe with some stretching or pilates thrown into the mix.

The follicular phase is where oestrogen picks up, oestrogen is stimulating, oestogren is known for that drive, it’s an anabolic hormone meaning that it’s for building up and creating. This is good news for those who are trying to gain more muscle. This is a time where we can afford to go a little harder with our workouts, with more resistance and weight training.

During ovulation testosterone levels rise, pushing you that little bit harder. This is a time where you can see some great results in your workouts.

The luteal phase we see an increase in progesterone with a reduction in oestrogen. Strength -based training may not be ideal during this time, but rather aerobic exercises or some short bursts of high-intensity training. Think of outdoor runs, swimming, and cycling.

It’s always best to listen to your body, especially in the luteal phase there might be some pre-menstrual symptoms present that can lower your motivation. Take a step back and focus on nourishing, relaxing, and taking things easy – you don’t want to overdo it as this can throw off the hormonal balance. Restricted dieting is popular amongst women when coupled with excessive exercise it can be disastrous for our hormonal health.

Fat Mass

Our fat cells (adipose tissue) are considered part of our endocrine system, as they are known to produce and secret hormones. Fat cells produce oestrogen, a type of oestrogen known as estrone. Too much fat mass can contribute to increased levels of estrone which has been linked with the development of PCOS, and certain cancers including uterine cancer post-menopause.

Oral Contraceptive Pill  

The oral contraceptive pill (OCP) made huge advancements to us and for women as a way to legalise contraception and has also been of great benefit for some women dealing with endometriosis or PCOS, so there are some definite advantages for its creation. The OCP is used by 33.6% of the women who are using contraception, with some women as young as 11 years old, the OCP is given for not just preventing pregnancies but to ‘treat’ a myriad of other problems.

I understand the need girls may have for the OCP when dealing with such debilitating pains, embarrassing breakouts or heavy bleeds that impair their own quality of life, but what I have a problem with is the lack of investigations into why such symptoms are occurring and also the lack of education surrounding the use of the OCP. I know many women now in their late 20-30’s who have been taking the OCP for more than a decade without really knowing how the OCP is working within their body, or really knowing what alternatives they have.

The OCP contains synthetic hormones that act to shut down ovulation, inducing a sort of menopausal state. Yes, a bleed does still occur each month, but this is an anovulatory bleed. What many women don’t know is that there are vast differences between our own natural hormones oestrogen and progesterone and the synthetic varieties used including ethinylestradiol, levonorgestrel, and drospirenone.

Natural Progesterone

  • Promotes embryo implantation and pregnancy

  • Decrease risk of blood clots

  • Promotes hair growth

  • Improves brain health and cognition

Synthetic progesterone

  • Aborts pregnancies

  • Increase risk of fatal blood clots

  • Hair loss

  • Causes depression

Natural Oestrogen

  • Growth of reproductive organs and breasts

  • Promotion of the lengthening of long bones, feminisation of the skeleton

  • Maintenance of structure of skin and blood vessels

  • Protects against cardiovascular disease

Synthetic Oestrogen

  • Mood swings

  • Depression – lowers serotonin levels

  • Low libido

  • Decreases bone density

What’s more, is that when women do decide to transition from taking the OCP towards starting a family, there can be a loss of periods for up to 12 months on average. Not to mention, if there OCP was masking any underlying pathology like endometriosis or PCOS for so long it can be a huge setback and significantly impair their own fertility. The OCP not only shuts down your natural hormones but it’s also linked with a risk of stroke and heart attack, breakthrough bleeding, depression and interacts with common medications including anti-epileptic medications, some antibiotics, asthma medications, paracetamol, antidepressants, and thyroxine.

The OCP and Nutrient Depletion 

Our body’s nutrient demands are increased when taking the OCP, again something that most women are not familiar with.

  • Zinc: Women using the OCP have reduced levels of zinc, thought to be due to changes in absorption.

  • B vitamins: Specifically, B2, B6, and B12 are all depleted by the use of OCP. Deficiency in B2 can lead to migraines and headaches which could be attributed to OCP use. Low levels of B6 can result in low serotonin, leading to low mood/depression. Low B6 increases the risk of thromboembolism.

  • Magnesium: Important for smooth muscle relaxation and energy production. A deficiency can contribute to muscle spasms and pains associated with menses. Low magnesium levels can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, anxiety, and migraines. Low levels also affect the balance between calcium and magnesium.

  • Vitamin E: OCP reduces vitamin E status. Vitamin E is beneficial for cardiovascular health and acts as an antioxidant within the body to help maintain vascular integrity.

  • Vitamin C: levels are lowered in platelets and leukocytes with OCP use. The OCP is thought to increase the metabolism of vitamin C. Hormonal therapies can also increase oxidative stress, increasing the need for antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamin C

  • Selenium: Another important antioxidant, deficiency can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. The OCP can interfere with selenium absorption.

If the OCP is something you wish to continue taking its good to be mindful of possible nutrients that may require supplementation. Always work alongside a trained professional to ensure the appropriate nutrients and doses are prescribed.

The Natural Approach to Contraception

  • Fertility awareness: This requires tracking your cycle and knowing with certainty when you are ovulating. As we’ve already mentioned in previous articles, there is a fertile window for women within their cycle. This method simply means abstaining from intercourse during this window or using other means of protection, like condoms.

  • Condoms: Simple, inexpensive and effective. Condoms also provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases. There are some natural and organic brands around that are better for you and the environment.

  • Diaphragm: a silicon diaphragm that you can insert and remove yourself, you can pick one up from your local pharmacy.

  • Copper IUD: Not suited for everyone, yet a non-hormonal method of contraception that won’t turn off your own natural hormone production, it also lasts up to 10 years and allows your body to return to its normal fertile state once removed. It’s not the best method with regards to your vaginal microbiome and has also been known to cause heavier bleeds, plus it’s much more expensive than other alternatives.

Yours in health,

 

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HEALTHY HORMONE SERIES PART III

TREATING PMS NATURALLY  

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med)

If you’ve missed the previous parts of this series, I encourage you to go back and read them from the beginning, to give you more understanding and insight for the blog posts to come.

As we’ve previously talked about, hormonal imbalances can lead to PMS. As excess oestrogen can manifest as irritability, tension, and aggression, breast tenderness, bloating, water retention and constipation before your period. A lack of progesterone can lead to feelings of anxiety, low libido, headaches, and migraines. Low progesterone can be due to the excess estrogen present as it may throw off the intricate balance of these hormones. We also know now the role that stress, and inflammation play in this PMS picture. So, with all this in mind, how do we go about treating this in a natural & non-invasive way.

To maintain hormonal balance, we need to ensure that we have the required substrates to make the hormones necessary but also have our detox pathways functioning well to ensure that we are able to metabolise and clear out any excess. Detoxification of hormones happens within both the liver and the gut. Poor digestion, food intolerances, excess alcohol, medications and consumption of coffee can all impact on these pathways and disrupt hormone levels. When hormones are not eliminated effectively it can lead to the reabsorption and contribute to conditions of hormone excess like heavy periods, fibroids and endometriosis as well as some common symptoms that can be attributed to hormonal excess.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? 

1. Support detoxification of excess hormones:

Specifically oestrogen and xeno-oestrogens that are in abundance in our chemical-filled worlds. Try swapping out coffee for green tea as coffee may inhibit oestrogen detoxification whereas green tea supports the liver to eliminate toxins sufficiently. Green tea also provides antioxidants in abundance, is anti-inflammatory and modulates the microbiome to protect the intestinal barrier from dysbiosis. Use turmeric and parsley liberally and include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. Drink plenty of water and increase vegetable fibre to promote bowel clearance and hormone excretion.

2. Take magnesium: 

Magnesium is typically lower in women suffering from PMS compared to matched controls. It supports oestrogen detoxification by stimulating certain enzymes and inducing the pathway in the liver known as glucuronidation, this is the key pathway to detoxify oestrogen. It’s also anti-inflammatory and quietens oestrogen receptors. Magnesium also supports the nervous system to protect against the effects of stress, ensuring cortisol is regulated and hormone production is balanced. The combination of broccoli sprouts and magnesium together, typically through supplementation, can relieve breast pain, support serotonin and GABA production to relieve emotional tension and promote bowel clearance, protect against migraines, support thyroid function, insulin signaling and balance blood sugars.

3. Consider Calcium D-glucarate:

A calcium salt that is synthesised in the body in small amounts. Supplementing with this, however, has been shown to promote oestrogen detoxification, reduce inflammation, and support gut function as it inhibits an enzyme known as beta-glucuronidase that are produced by bacteria within the gut and is involved in liver detoxification of excess hormones.

4. Reduce Inflammation:

Turmeric is a God-send when it comes to reducing inflammation and supporting hormones. It works on the liver to support healthy hormone metabolism and detoxification, as well as reducing oxidative stress and downregulates the production of inflammatory cytokines NF-KB, MCP-1, TNF-a and IL-6. Elevated levels of these means there’s inflammation present. Turmeric also provides pain relief thanks to its analgesic properties. A whole-foods dietary approach that’s rich in colourful vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and lower in the common inflammatory culprits that are gluten, dairy, vegetable oils and sugar.

5. Manage your stress:

Stress is unavoidable, but how we support our bodies to equip them to manage daily stressors is a vital part of establishing a healthy cycle. Stress can come from a number of sources from relationships, toxin exposure, psychological and emotional strains, trauma and even from things like exercising, dieting & food restrictions and a lack of sleep. Common stress combaters include mindfulness, meditation, and breathing techniques. Additionally talking to someone can help, either a friend or trained professional, learning to say no and take a step back, staying in for the night to wind down and relax – however that looks to you personally, or simply by turning off your phone for a day (I do this often when I feel I need to take a step back from life, a few hours in the evening or the morning with no contact from the outside world can be all I need to feel human again).

Eating enough and of the right things is essential. Think protein for neurotransmitters, like serotonin and melatonin for sleep, fats from olive oil, avocado, coconut products, butter, nuts and seeds can reduce inflammation, balance blood sugars and support brain function and slow release carbohydrates from starchy vegetables like sweet potato, or grain-like seeds quinoa, millet and buckwheat to provide B group vitamins that are depleted during times of stress. Starchy vegetables are calming for the body as they boost the anti-anxiety neurotransmitter GABA.

6. Get some sun:

Vitamin D levels are shown to be lower in those suffering from PMS compared to control groups. Low vitamin D is also more prevalent in women with endometriosis and is associated with pelvic pain. Vitamin D is obtained from food sources including free-range egg yolks, grass-fed butter, cod liver oil, and some types of mushrooms that are exposed to UV light. However we get most of our daily requirement from sunlight exposure. Although Australia may be a wonderfully sun-kissed continent, vitamin D levels are often low and deficiency is common. Optimal levels of vitamin D should ideally be around 200ng/mL, yet doctors advise that you’re ‘fine’ if you’re above 50ng/mL – I don’t think that’s enough. Vitamin D is an immune modulator, indicating its efficacy in preventing against autoimmunity. It is also known to regulate cells in the body to help protect against cancer – two health conditions that are on the rise within Australia, a vitamin D deficient population. More on vitamin D in another article “What’s the Deal with Vitamin D?”

7. Be good to your gut:  

 Your gut is one of the major elimination pathways for the body to rid itself of excess hormones, like oestrogen. Constipation is a clear indication that hormones are out of whack and it would warrant further investigations and appropriate treatments from a trained health professional. There is also a direct correlation to dysbiosis and conditions like endometriosis, with the microbiome of endometriosis sufferers having a larger number of pathogenic bacteria strains and a reduction in beneficial species like lactobacilli. The increase in pathogenic strains influence the levels of glucuronidase, meaning that oestrogens are reabsorbed by the body back into circulation. Chronic dysbiosis is commonly observed in cases of PCOS as well – more on this in future posts!

8. Nourish your being:

Getting enough macronutrients in the form of starches and carbs, healthy fats, quality proteins of both animal and plant origin, and fibre to support your bowels is, of course, important however a focus on nutrient dense foods are essential. As previously mentioned, being properly nourished supports your body through periods of stress. It’s also beneficial to include foods rich in zinc, vitamin B6, magnesium, iodine, selenium and calcium as these all support thyroid function, ovulation and progesterone synthesis. Speak with your nutritionist or naturopath about specific dietary advice or possible supplements to consider.

I always encourage you to work with your healthcare practitioner about appropriate supplementation in doses tailored to you. Stay tuned for tomorrows article “Lifestyle Factors that Affect Your Hormones”

Yours in health,

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HEALTHY HORMONE SERIES PART II

THE PMS CODE - YOUR BODY IS TRYING TO TELL YOU SOMETHING 

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med) 

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is believed to affect approximately 90% of women each month, with the presentation for each being vastly different. I’m certain the men in our lives think that we make most of this stuff up, that we are just being sensitive or overly emotional and irrational, which I must admit I have been more than a few times. But, unfortunately PMS is a real thing, but although it might be so common its most definitely not normal. Our periods should not be this way, they should not impact our lives to such an extent or the lives of our loved ones and people around us.

When PMS rears its head it’s not something for us to just suck up and push through, but to stop, take a moment to listen and really feel what your body is showing you, and from there address the underlying imbalances that are causing such discomfort. PMS can be a thing of the past, once you understand what is driving it.

There are many, many different presentations of PMS with symptoms effecting our physical, mental and emotional worlds. Mood swings, appetite changes, fatigue, irritability, acne, fluid retention, anxiety, depression, brain fog, insomnia, pain, migraines, breast tenderness, indigestion and constipation are just some of the many presentations of PMS. The timing of these symptoms may also differ woman to woman, for most these may occur during the second half of their cycle and pass with the onset of their period or very soon afterwards.

The development of PMS is not exactly clear cut. Its hypothesised that PMS can be due to fluctuations in sex hormones, a result of too much stress and disruption of our hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, from abnormal GABA function (a neurotransmitter responsible for calming the body), altered serotonin levels leading to feelings of sadness and altered bowel movements, a reduction in opioids and blunted response to endorphins.

Our reproductive hormones impact on many of our neurotransmitters and chemicals within the brain, hence why mood is affected when suffering with PMS. Progesterone for one, influences GABA. GABA is responsible for feelings of relaxation, is calming on the body and promotes restful sleep. Therefore, with lowered progesterone levels, GABA is affected and can cause changes to mood, inducing feelings of anxiety and impairing sleep.

Dysmenorrhea is the term used for painful periods. This pain is described as a dragging, dull ache or a heaviness with episodes of cramping and is generally located around the lower abdomen and pelvic region but may also spread to the lower back. Pain can be from the muscular contractions needed to shed the lining to induce the bleed, however extreme pain or pain that occurs at different times during the cycle, not relating to the bleed itself can all be indications that something else is going on and would warrant further investigation.

Endometriosis is a condition that can be responsible for such severe pains and its worthwhile to have this properly investigated if you suspect something is not quite right. There are slight differences to the pain of endometriosis in comparison to dysmenorrhea. Endometriosis pain may begin up to 10 days before the day of bleed and remain for up to a week after, there may also be pain present around ovulation (mid cycle) whereas dysmenorrhea is generally felt the day prior, or the day of the bleed and will pass shortly after, within a couple of days. More on Endometriosis in future articles, stay tuned!

Cracking the Code

Firstly, its best to log the symptoms you experience and when in your cycle they are occurring, as we have previously discussed in the last article there are many hormones fluctuating at different points during your cycle. Doing this can also give you an understanding of what is going on internally. For most, the symptoms present indicate signs that there is too much estrogen or too little progesterone. Although it’s a much more complex and intricate hormonal dance that’s happening within the female body, these two are centre stage and worth looking at in more detail.

Signs you have too much oestrogen

Feeling particularly aggressive and irritable, with fluid retention and bloating, breast tenderness as well as constipation, which then leads to more oestrogen reabsorption and further sustaining the distress.

Signs you don’t have enough oestrogen

A common sign of oestrogen deficiency is vaginal dryness, but other symptoms include dry skin, insomnia, weight gain, fatigue, hair loss and depression – I mean who wouldn’t feel depressed with symptoms like this! But more technically speaking, the low mood is to do with the relationship oestrogen has to serotonin, our ‘happy hormone’.  Oestrogen deficiency may occur when you’re unable to ovulate, this can be due to a number of things – under eating, stress or an underlying pathology. If you’re still ovulating it may just be that your oestrogen is on the lower end, and this might be noted with a lighter bleed with your period, referred to as a scanty flow. Changes to diet and lifestyle can rectify this and restore the balance.

Signs you have too much progesterone

To be completely honest, it’s not often you’ll come across this – progesterone is difficult to make. The more common scenario is a progesterone deficiency with oestrogen excess. Too much progesterone can occur with progesterone supplementation (note this does not include hormonal contraceptives, these contain a synthetic progesterone – not the real thing). Pregnancy is another time that progesterone may be high, or with oestrogen deficiency as this throws of the balance of these two hormones. In other instances, it may also indicate underlying pathology that would warrant further investigation, adrenal related problems may throw out your progesterone levels. Signs that you have too much include fatigue, morning brain fog, dizziness, water retention, sense of physical instability, anxiety and changes to libido. As these symptoms can be vague and an indication of a multitude of other health conditions its always best to work with a health practitioner to help guide you.

Signs you don’t have enough progesterone

Your luteal phase is shorter, and you will notice fertile mucous within the luteal phase, rather than around mid-cycle when ovulation should occur. If tracking your basal temperature, you may find that your temperature is lower during the luteal phase. Weight gain, low libido, irregular periods and problematic skin may also indicate that progesterone is too low. Progesterone can be more difficult for the body to create and requires consistent ovulation each month. Remember the corpus luteum mentioned in the previous post? This 4cm gland is formed from a single cell within a small window of time every month, meaning that you must be well fed and nourished. Underlying conditions that effect thyroid or to do with blood sugar imbalances must be addressed as these can impair ovulation. It takes 100 days in total for your eggs to reach maturation, so when it comes to healing hormones, be patient – it’s not an overnight fix.

A deficiency in progesterone could be due to increased stress or inflammation within the body, meaning that these will also need to be addressed to support healthy hormone production.

Apart from oestrogen and progesterone, both stress and inflammation can contribute or be the causative factor to what’s behind your PMS;

Stress is a major factor in the presentation of PMS. Cortisol, our stress hormone is synthesised from the same precursor that both oestrogen and progesterone are made. This means that during times of stress more cortisol is made from the precursor, leaving less available to make adequate hormones and leads to an imbalance that can affect your cycle as well as trigger PMS.  

Inflammation also comes into play. PMS is associated with higher levels of inflammatory cytokines, and this can manifest as pain and cramping, fatigue and migraines. Increased blood sugar levels also promote inflammation and lead to excess production of oestrogen.

When it comes to supporting your body naturally to reduce the monthly burden that your periods might often bring, it’s always a good idea to track your symptoms across the month, this allows you to gain more understanding of what exactly your body is crying out for.

Looking forward to the next part of this hormone series, ‘Natural Treatments for PMS’ where we will be considering all of the aforementioned information and breaking it down into some simple tips & tricks you can do for your body to make you menstruation more enjoyable.

Stay tuned xx

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HEALTHY HORMONE SERIES PART I

WHAT IS A HEALTHY PERIOD? 

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv Dip Nut Med)

Starting this 5-part series, where we will be talking all things hormones & health, with the topic of periods. This is our menstrual cycle. A topic near & dear to me, and often times one that comes up in conversations with girlfriends as well as in clinic with my female clients. It’s something that should be celebrated, talked about, and something that we as women (and our male companions) need more education and clarity around as many of us don’t truly understand the intricacies of the women’s cycle and the hormones at play - or how to appropriately support them. 

The menstrual cycle

This is the cycle that occurs, involving a number of hormonal and physical changes that makes pregnancy possible. The ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, thyroid, and brain are all involved with a number of different hormones at play. The process, in a nutshell, involves the development of an egg (ova) by the ovaries that are released (this is ovulation) to travel down the fallopian tubes and become embedded within the uterus ready to be fertilised. The lining of the uterus thickens each month in preparation for a possible pregnancy. Without fertilisation the uterus contracts to shed the thickened lining of tissue (which is our endometrial tissue) and this is the bleeding that occurs with menstruation which is known as the woman’s period.

The first day of the cycle is the first day of bleed, and the cycle finishes once the following months bleed occurs. The average length of a woman’s cycle is between 28-32 days. Anything outside of this time window is worth investigating. The entire cycle can be broken up into three stages:

1.     The follicular phase – this stage lasts typically from days 1 to 14, it is the first stage of the cycle in which the follicles in the ovary begin to mature. The follicles are tiny sacs in which an egg is contained.

2.     Ovulation/The fertile window – once an egg has reached maturity, it is released to enter the fallopian tube and make its way to the uterus. This usually takes place between days 13, 14 or 15. This ‘window’ is the fertile window, the ideal time to have sex if you’re wanting to conceive. Worth noting that not all women will ovulate at this time, so it’s important to understand and look for the signs that you have ovulated to know the ideal time for you and your partner to conceive. Ovulation does not need to occur to still experience a menstrual bleed, this is known as an anovulatory bleed.

3.     The luteal phase – the finale, in this time the lining of the uterus has thickened in preparation for a fertilised egg. Without fertilisation the lining will break down and contractions allow this to be shed as the bleed and signaling the beginning of the next cycle.

The Hormones

Hormones are chemical messengers produced by the body that stimulate a number of reactions and responses from tissues. There are a number of different hormones needed throughout a woman's cycle for it to be completed.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) – this is needed for puberty and healthy ovarian function. As the name indicates, its required for the stimulation of growth and the maturation of follicles to become the egg that is ultimately released during ovulation. FSH is also needed to stimulate the secretion of oestrogen. It's highest in the follicular phase of the cycle and peaks just prior to ovulation. 

Oestrogen – this is secreted by the ovaries and has a number of functions throughout the body. It's stimulating and is responsible for the drive we as women have, it promotes the growth and development of tissues, from breast to uterine lining. It halts the production of FSH so as to ensure that only one egg is matured and released with each ovulation, it stimulates the release of luteinising hormone (LH), it allows the secretion of fertile mucous (a clear indication of ovulation), which is a creamy egg white discharge that provides the sperm with an easier trip to the fallopian tubes to reach the egg.

Oestrogen levels peak during the follicular phase with a particular spike around ovulation – this triggers LH which allows ovulation to occur. Oestrogen is also needed for healthy bones, muscles, brain, heart, sleep, skin and metabolism. It tapers off during menopause, a time where there is an increased risk of bone, heart and metabolic conditions.

Luteinising hormone – a spike in LH mid-cycle triggers ovulation to occur, it’s also required for the development of our corpus luteum which is needed for the synthesis of our hormone progesterone.

Progesterone – almost opposing the effects of our stimulating oestrogen, progesterone is our calming hormone. It's secreted by the corpus luteum and also by the placenta during pregnancy. Progesterone is anti-inflammatory, involved in muscle growth, promotes sound sleep, protects against cardiovascular diseases and supports the nervous system during times of increased stress. Progesterone is needed to maintain pregnancy, its levels are highest during the luteal phase of the cycle. Without fertilisation of the egg, progesterone levels will then taper off which stimulates the contraction of the uterus to shed the lining and induce the monthly bleed.

Signs you’re ovulating

It’s common for women to experience anovulatory bleeds on the odd occasion, but regular occurrences may indicate hormonal imbalance is warrants further investigation. Without ovulation, there is a lack of progesterone made which can contribute to premenstrual symptoms including breast tenderness, insomnia, changes in mood (anxiety, depression) and increased appetite and food cravings. A lack of progesterone can also shorten the length of your cycle as the lining of the uterus cannot be maintained as long.

One way to track ovulation is by checking your basal metabolic temperature. This is a simple, effective and non-invasive tool to use. Using a thermometer which you can purchase from your local chemist, you take your temperature the moment you wake and can chart it using a hand-written method or through an app on your phone (I use Kindara). You can see what you have ovulated as you will find a rise in temperature. 

Additionally, you can watch for physical signs such as fertile mucous, this will appear as an eggwhite consistency that you will note around mid-cycle or during the luteal phase and is an indication that you are ovulating.


Premenstrual Syndrome – PMS

PMS is common, with a variety of symptoms occurring for each woman that can significantly impair their quality of life. Although incredibly common, PMS is certainly not normal. A healthy period should not cause distress, it should not induce significant pain or cramping, or be responsible for changes in weight and mood or disrupt your normal sleeping pattern. If you’re experiencing such complaints month to month it's worthwhile to work with a healthcare practitioner to make the appropriate changes to diet and lifestyle or include nutritional supplementation to restore balance and harmony.

Changes or irregularities to your period are a clear indication that something needs to be addressed, a great resource for further understanding this is the book by Sydney naturopath Lara Briden, where she refers to your period as your monthly report card. A great analogy in my opinion.

Our periods are a gift and a healthy period is a sign of balance, health and wholeness. Further articles to come will address natural treatments for PMS, look into lifestyle factors that are affecting your period, discussing what pathologies might be underlying your menstrual irregularities of pain – things like PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids etc, to finish up the week with healthy hormone foods and recipes. Here’s to happy, healthy hormones ladies!

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SEVEN SUGGESTIONS FOR SOUND SLEEP

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip NutMed) 

Humans need sleep. If we don’t sleep, we will die. It’s an essential part to complete a healthy life style – yes, I do believe wholeheartedly that food is medicine, but without quality sleep you won’t get far in terms of health, disease prevention or longevity.

Sleep is an active process, in terms of detoxifying the central nervous system, memory consolidation, synthesis of neurotransmitters, tissue repair, cellular repair and DNA repair. Our sleep cycle is, in part, regulated by the hormones cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol should spike in the early hours of the morning to get us up and out of bed, then taper off towards the evening as melatonin surges. Melatonin helps to prepare you for sleep, then fades throughout the night as the morning nears, which is when cortisol begins to rise yet again, and so starts another day.

This sleep cycle is known as our circadian rhythm, and it’s hardwired into every cell & organ system in our body. We have our ‘master clock’, but then with each organ they have their very own ‘clocks’ [circadian rhythms], which is not only dictated by sleep, but also our eating and drinking patterns too… for example, with our liver and digestive system.

The suprachiasmatic nucleus is the main controller of our circadian rhythm, it is located within a region of the brain known as the hippocampus. When altered, by either staying up late or waking earlier – our rhythm is disrupted, making consistency with our sleep and wake times crucial to optimal health, with exception to minor variations due to seasonal changes – i.e day light savings.

Almost 90% of Australians suffer from a sleeping disorder. Inadequate sleep and the issues that arise with day to day functioning affect 35-45% of Australian adults, and on average it is reported we are getting about 7 hours, although 12% report sleeping less than 5 ½ hours and also note that their daytime activities and ability to function is impaired.

It’s something that needs to be addressed, for this, some things need to change.

Seven and a half to nine hours is recommended for optimal quantity, but quality also counts. There are many different factors that can influence sleep quality, and how you set yourself up for the day in the morning, as well as the tasks and diet you have during the day can have huge impacts on how well you sleep that night.

1.     Get sunlight exposure first thing in the morning

Exposure to bright light, as in outdoor sunlight helps to regulate the sleep wake cycle. Getting outside first thing in the morning, even just for a walk around the block, or driving to work without sun glasses on, allows the sunlight to get into your eyes. Indoor lights or screens from phones/laptop/iPads do not count in this instance. 15 minutes is desired – it’s important to help change how our central nervous system synthesises serotonin, which is the precursor to melatonin, our sleep inducing hormone… Getting back outside at lunchtime will also help further – Try taking your lunch break away from your desk and sit outside, if possible.

2.     Eat a protein rich breakfast

Serotonin, as mentioned previously, is the precursor to melatonin. Serotonin is made from an amino acid tryptophan, which is found in protein rich foods, particularly of animal origin. Starting the day with a breakfast of eggs is a great way to get the tryptophan into your diet, a quick scramble, boiled, poached or fried – whatever you feel.

3.     Cut down caffeine

Caffeine has about a 6-hour half-life, longer in some who are sensitive. This can blunt your ability to wind down sufficiently for sleep that night. Even an afternoon coffee can cause a disruption in your sleep cycle later that night. Anyone who is having issues with insomnia, I would recommend going cold turkey on this stuff and monitor how it makes you feel and how it changes your sleep quality overall. Just try it for a week to see the difference.

4.     Alcohol must go

Alcohol disrupts the body’s ability to get into that REM cycle of sleep, it’s also a toxin to the body, meaning that while sleeping, when the body has many other processes to get through, it will prioritise the removal of alcohol before anything else. Initially it has a sedative effect, however the delayed effect of this is actually a stimulating or disrupting effect. If you do choose to drink in the evenings, try having them earlier to give the liver time to break it down and metabolise.

5.     Put the electronics away

Screens and lights from laptops, TVs, iPads, phones emit blue light, which sends your brain the message that ‘it’s still light out’ and will block or delay the melatonin secretion. Having at least 2 hours break between screen time and bed time is suggested or investing in blue light blocking sunglasses or using a filter on laptops if you must be on your device for whatever reason. However, its not just the blue light that’s the issue - just the stimulus of what is being viewed [60% of the brains stimulus is through what we see], whatever it may be, can be emotionally taxing and trigger a stress response which can impact on our sleep quality that night.

EMFs are also a problem, these secrete from electronics its best to have them all out of the bedroom altogether, and if the phone must be in the room for alarm or whatever the reason – have it on aeroplane mode at the bear minimum or invest in an old school alarm clock.

6.     Sleep Hygiene

This involves setting up the right environment for your body to prepare for sleep and maintain quality sleep through the night. Having the temperature slightly cool, a dark room, with clean sheets – all really important. The body’s core temperature must drop slightly to help induce sleep, taking a warm bath prior can have a rebound effect, letting off some heat before bedtime. You want it to be cool enough so that its uncomfortable to be not under the covers. Having the room dark enough is also vital to optimal sleep – as we know, melatonin is sensitive to light and dark. Your eyes are not the only light sensitive part of your body – so even if your eyes are closed and there’s some slight light coming in through the door or the blinds, your body will pick this up and it can disrupt your sleep.

Sleep hygiene also makes note to keep the bedroom for 2 things only – sleeping and sex. Not for watching Netflix or scrolling through social media. This sets the tone for the room, what its purposes are, so you know, and your body knows once it enters the bedroom it’s one of two options.

7.     Have a bedtime routine

A ritual to wind down, to signal to the body that its preparing for sleep. This can include taking time to read, meditate, pray, practice deep breathing, have a bath, maybe take a light walk, reduce the lights in the house, stop all work – don’t check emails etc. Keeping this consistent evening to evening is ideal, psychologically can have profound impacts on your sleeping patterns. Use this time, if you find a racing mind is impairing sleep preparation, then go deal with those issues – write things down, sort them out, so that you can quiet your mind ready for sound sleep.

Of course, this is a quick guide with some tools to help improve the quality of sleep, for specific health advice regarding medications, health conditions and so on I must advise that you work with your health care practitioner for further and more individualised treatments. 

Sweet dreams,

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PRECONCEPTION CARE

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc – Nutrition, Adv.Dip Nut Med)

Planning for your pregnancy should not only consider your circumstances, but also your diet and nutrition. The process of conception, pregnancy and birth in and of itself is a miracle and a completely mind-blowing process of creating and growing new life – it is a time where good nutrition is critical, and I’m not just talking about the 9months of pregnancy itself, but the time leading up to it.

The amount of time you take can vary depending on your own desires, the quality of your current diet, smoking and drinking status, oral contraceptive use, toxin exposure and so on. For some it might only be 6 months (which, ideally should be the minimum), for others up to 2 years might be needed to get your health and diet in check to support this miraculous process.

So, why is this so important…?

Ever heard of epigenetics?

For so long it was believed that our genetic makeup we were born with remained as it was throughout our lifespan, however now with more recent understanding, we can see that environmental factors – specifically diet in this case, can alter our genetic expression throughout our life, known as 'nutrigenomics' when discussing the influence of diet and nutrition on genetic expression... 

Think of these genetics as tiny light switches, being turned ‘on’ or ‘off’. This is a total game changer. Not only this, but how we eat can influence the genes within our offspring. Research has shown that within males consuming a high fat high sugar diet (that which is similar to a typical ‘western’ diet) actually increases the chances of their children developing type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition and was not believed to be influenced by diet and lifestyle as Type 2 has been.

Correlations exist between characteristics of nutritional quality during pregnancy and the risk of the child developing a range of diseases in adolescence and adulthood including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis and mental health disorders.

This goes to show, it’s not just about the mother’s diet during pregnancy, but both parties need to get on board with ensuring that the best nutrition is provided for their body’s well before they even think to conceive. The diet of both mum and dad before conception, and the diet of the mother during pregnancy, will determine to a very large extent the physical health, the appearance as well as mental and emotional well-being of the child.

A malnourished or depleted body needs time to recover, and that recovery should take place before, not during your pregnancy

Specific nutrients can influence sperm motility and morphology – literally the shape and their ability to swim is affected. It takes 3 months for new sperm cells to develop, its not something that a 7-day detox can fix! For women however, for a new oocyte to form, the cycle is about 100 days!

When nutritionally depleted, or with increased stress (physical, emotional, from toxin exposure and so on) fertility shuts down.

The body knows this is not an ideal environment to conceive and conserves its energy – in a nutshell (and, please note I’m not saying this is solely the reason behind every single infertility case – of course other common conditions influence this from obstruction, PID, infection, endometriosis, PCOS, lack of ovulation, in which women can still have a period, or otherwise). This is commonly seen in women with low body fat percentage and a higher muscle ratio, who exercise to the point when menstruation stops – referred to as the female athlete triad.

Macronutrients are important, in the right amounts – as deficiencies or excesses can both influence fertility, the pregnancy, the risk of complications and the size and health of the foetus, even into their adolescent and adult years.

“Female obesity is associated with significant alterations in reproductive health and fertility. Not only does obesity decrease the likelihood of ovulation, it also significantly reduces the chance for pregnancy in women who ovulate regularly. These data are of particular concern given the ongoing obesity epidemic and its effects on reproductive-age women. Furthermore, women on the extremes of body mass spectrum suffer from subfertility, implicating nutrition in cases of both underweight and overweight women.”

(Shaum & Polotsky, 2013)

A few beneficial nutrients to consider... 

  • Vitamin A - Vitamin A is crucial for genetic expression and genetic potential, for strong bones, healthy skin and keen eye sight, mineral metabolism, hormone production and mental stability. It is vitamin A which gives signal to the undifferentiated stem cells to differentiate into the various organs, such as heart, liver and lungs…

    Vitamin A is also needed for sperm production in men, as well as protects the sperm from oxidative damage.

  • Vitamin D - Vitamin D and A work in synergy and ensures optimal foetal development. Adequate vitamin D levels pre-pregnancy prepares the mothers bones, teeth, organs and brain for the additional stress that comes with being pregnant.

  • Vitamin E - Vitamin E is an antioxidant and important for immune and cardiovascular health. Studies have found that low vitamin E is associated with an increased risk of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. Vitamin E is also known to prevent preterm infants and male infertility

  • Vitamin K - For vitamin K2 specifically, research has identified K2 dependent proteins in sperm itself, and it plays a vital role in reproduction. K2 activates receptors responsible for the deposition of calcium and phosphorus in the bones and teeth.

    The brain contains high concentrations of K2, where it is involved in the creation of myelin sheaths (protective cases around our neurons), making it important to the development of the central nervous system.

  • B Vitamins – B12 and B9 – specific for methylation, a cellular process involved within every cell for the appropriate cell division and DNA replication – a vital part of fertility, growth and development during pregnancy

  • Vitamin C – The ovaries contain high levels of vitamin C and this nutrient is used rapidly during ovulation. It’s also an antioxidant nutrient, important for collagen synthesis and immune system support.

  • Choline - Choline is necessary for the development of the brain, and especially important for cholinergic neurons (acetylcholine for example). Egg yolks are rich in this nutrient, when from free range hens also provide vitamins A, D, E and K2 as well as minerals iron, zinc, copper and selenium

  • Iron – Required for the activation of the enzymes that are essential for DNA synthesis during cell replication. During pregnancy, iron demands increase to about 600mg per day. This is to support the increase in red blood cell production, a further 300mg is then needed for foetus. Iron deficiency during pregnancy may affect maternal morbidity, foetal and infant development and pregnancy outcomes.

  • Cholesterol – Needed for the structure of cell membranes, brain function, hormone production as well as the formation of vitamin D. Within the brain, it supports the brains structure and the myelin sheath of nerve fibres. It supports neurotransmitter functions, such as serotonin, our ‘feel good’ hormone.

  • EPA & DHA – Part of the essential fatty acids that must be obtained in the diet. EPA is anti-inflammatory, however DHA is critical for brain growth and development. Getting this through the diet by way of fatty fish consumption as well as supplementation with fish oils, krill oil and cod liver oil is highly recommended.

    More recently, researchers have even conducted many clinical trials using fish oil supplementation during pregnancy and breast feeding reduced the risk of sensitisation to food allergens. These studies revealed a 30 per cent reduction in risk of egg allergy by age one when supplementing with fish oils during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This is the equivalent of 31 children per 100, making it greatly relevant in a clinical setting to support and reduce egg allergy in children.

  • Probiotics – The research shows that supplementation with probiotics during pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding may reduce eczema risk. Specific strains were studied, which included Lactobacilus rhamnosus, that did show an effect in eczema risk reduction.

More specifically, for healthy sperm…

  • Selenium – increases sperm concentration and motility, improves morphology and increases pregnancy rate

  • Folate – increases sperm concentration, increases pregnancy rate

  • Zinc – improved sperm motility and concentration, improves pregnancy outcome, reduces sperm anti-bodies

  • CoQ10 – increases motility and sperm concentration, improves morphology and enhances acrosome reaction (basically fertilisation).

  • Vitamin C – improves motility and sperm density, reduces DNA fragmentation

  • Vitamin E – improves motility, concentration and pregnancy rate whilst reducing DNA fragmentation.

I could go on and on about every single nutrient and its benefit in pre-conception, fertility, healthy pregnancy as well as optimal health of your child but I fear it would result in an essay to be read.

Take home point – plan for your pregnancy, detox before conception, you’re creating new life and we want to give our bubs the best possible chance at life, not just their life but the generations that flow on from them – not only this, but nutrition to support the health of both parents during a time of rapid growth, change and increase physical and emotional demands – this to be continued after the birth, the ‘fourth trimester’ of pregnancy. For more information on this topic check out the brilliant work of Annalies Corse.

This is an area of nutrition I am personally so passionate about – if you have any further questions or would like guidance and help to plan for your pregnancy you can email to book in a consultation with myself, either face to face or on Skype.

Heres to happy, healthy family’s,


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References

Shaum, K. M., & Polotsky, A. J. (2013). Nutrition and reproduction: Is there evidence to support a “Fertility Diet” to improve mitochondrial function?. Maturitas74(4), 309-312.

THE MARVEL OF OUR MICROBIOTA

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, Adv.Dip NutMed) 

Our microbiome is the home of many different strains, a colony if you will of many types of bacteria. The largest amount of these are found within our guts, more specifically within our colons (the farthest part of the gastrointestinal tract). It may or may not surprise you to know that we are in fact more bacteria cells than we are human cells! Even our genes are out-numbered, in comparison to the vast number of bacterial cells that we host. These tiny bacteria friends of ours can be in excess of 1 trillion. With this in mind it is now redefining how we view our own human bodies and with the research being conducted we are still only just scratching the surface on what we know about their functions and effects on human health. What we know so far will be highlighted in this article, with some practical tips on how to maintain and optimise your microbiome… Prepare to be amazed and simply marvel at the wonders of your microbiota!

Whole body effects

Our microbiomes are the dictators of so much of our biology, closely linked with our metabolism, immune system, our brains and so much more! Referred to as our gut-brain axis is the link between the microbiome and our nervous system. It is known to effect our moods, behaviours, even playing a role in the development of neuro-degenerative conditions such as autism, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Immune health

If I were to ask you where you think the largest number of immune cells lived would your first guess be the gut? Maybe not, but that is the honest truth. The gut houses the largest number of immune cells. There is a complex interaction between bacteria cells and immune cells. They communicate with each other, creating harmony. They can impact respiratory function, how we respond to vaccines and even the progression of autoimmune diseases.

Gut bacteria can increase the number of T-regulatory cells, these are immune cells which help to attenuate inflammation as well as display calming effects on the immune system.

Gut-brain Axis

Communicating by way of the vagus nerve, either from the brain to the gut, or from the gut back to the brain and gives us a bit of an explanation as to why we experience the fluttering in our stomach when nervous, or the nausea we experience when stressed or anxious. When we perceive stress however it also effects our digestive capacity, making nutrient absorption somewhat limited. Our hydrochloric acid is also reduced in the stomach making the breakdown of proteins and other food products more difficult which can result in IBS type symptoms – altered bowel habits, bloating and discomfort as well as impaired cognition - that ‘foggy headed’ feeling coupled with fatigue & lethargy. On top of that, serotonin, responsible for feelings of happiness and which also impacts on bowel motility is predominantly produced in our guts, by our microbiome. In fact a whopping 95% or so is produced in the gut!

Fibre – ‘The Forgotten Nutrient’

Our microbiota are directly influenced by what we feed ourselves, as it will in turn result in feeding them. So, although our microbiome may be dictators of our biology, we ultimately hold the reigns with how we supply the fuel for them to flourish.

Fibre is ideally what they require, it is recommended that we consume 28g of dietary fibre, however with our western diets, a high majority of us are only getting about half of this.

Fibre is somewhat of a forgotten nutrient, although it doesn’t provide much in the way of caloric energy for the body, it does provide our microbiome with the energy it needs to produce the positive effects within the body. The bacteria ferment the fibre we eat, providing short chain fatty acids, as well as other immune-modulating compounds.

A lack of fibre can promote inflammation due to the impact on the immune system, meaning that our bodies may be kept in a hyper-inflamed state. Inflammation is the driver of almost ALL disease states, from asthma, arthritis, obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and depression making it vital that we incorporate a high majority of anti-inflammatory foods in the diet and restrict the inflammatory ones (more on this in a later blog post…).

Not only does it promote inflammation but a low fibre diet will also starve the bacteria in the gut, which then results in these bacteria feeding of the carbohydrates in the mucin which lines our gastrointestinal tract, gradually weakening this barrier and allowing particles that are to be eliminated be reabsorbed into the blood stream, further wreaking havoc. This is what is known as ‘leaky gut’.

A typical western diet is rich in carbohydrates and fats which are absorbed further up in the GI tract, mainly in the small intestine. Due to their simple nature and lack of fibre makes them more readily absorbed, meaning that they will not reach the colon where our microbiome lives. By consuming complex carbohydrates and a variety of fibres from wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and lentils, we can ensure that the fibrous parts of the plants will reach our gut bugs and give them the sustenance they need to thrive.

Of course, like with most things; variety is key! Eating seasonally is an easy way to achieve this diversity. Including different vegetables, fruits, beans, peas, wholegrains (whole wheat, oats, rice, quinoa, millet, barley, rye etc) meaning across the year you will be filling yourself with all types of fibre. This ensures a variety of different strains of bacteria, all of which will provide a different effect and benefit for the body

Yes, fruits, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains are carbohydrates, but they are not to be feared! However, with the mounting research coming out about the negative effects of processed carbohydrates; sugars & packaged foods, it’s understandable that we than associate ALL carbs with this group of ‘bad guys’ and avoid them. But in reality, it is about educating ourselves on which types of carbohydrates are of benefit to us and which are to restrict. This is where visits with a nutritionist can be of great benefit, to provide you with an individualised diet suitable to you, to educate you on what to eat, when to eat it and how to prepare it and how exactly it will benefit you. To empower you and work alongside you to enhance your health and wellbeing.

Consultations are available with myself and can be booked online

Yours in health,



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WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH VITAMIN D?

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip. NutMed)

With some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and predominantly most of Australia’s population residing along the coastal fringe yet there is a notable number of people having sub-optimal and even deficient levels of vitamin D. The Australian Bureau for Statistics (ABS) concluded that during the years of 2011 and 2012 approximately 4 million Australian adults were considered vitamin D deficient. It was found that 23%, or 1 in 4 Australians adults suffered some form of vitamin D deficiency (ABS, 2013).

We know for one, that we increase our levels through sun exposure, [through a complex procedure within the body which I won’t go into detail] but we also need to obtain this fat-soluble vitamin from dietary sources such as butter, egg yolks, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) and dairy (Paxton, 2015).

So, what is the deal with vitamin D? and why do we need to have more than adequate levels? 50nmol/L is recommended to prevent osteoporosis, however optimal levels should exceed 100nmol/L and most of us are not hitting this mark.

Vitamin D is known for its benefits to our bones, maintaining skeletal homeostasis, however it is also a vital component of our immune system, acting as an immuno-modulator, targeting specific immune cells, which contain vitamin D receptors, including our T-lymphocytes, B-lymphocytes, dendritic cells and macrophages (Baeke et al, 2010).

“Several epidemiological studies have linked inadequate vitamin D levels to a higher susceptibility of immune-mediated disorders, including chronic infections and autoimmune diseases”

(Baeke et al, 2010).

Vitamin D adequacy can be attributed to telomere length… Studies found that those with lower vitamin D levels had shortened telomeres which correlated to additional years of age and subsequent cellular damage (Richards et al, 2007).

Side note: Telomeres are caps at the end of our DNA strands which protect our chromosomes and are a biochemical marker for aging and cell damage. As these telomeres shorten with every new cell division (which is occurring all the time throughout our lives) they ensure that the DNA remains intact. Eventually telomeres get to the point where they are too short to continue to function, this results in our cells to age and cease functioning properly themselves. Telomeres can therefore be considered as an aging clock in every cell within our body.

Deficiency of vitamin D is also associated with autoimmune disease (AID), occurrence of AID in Australia has also been increasingly apparent (AIDA Report, 2013). Low vitamin D levels has also been attributed to obesity through its mechanisms of influence on insulin secretion, as well as showing positive effects on blood sugar levels (Earthman et al, 2012; Alvarez & Ashral, 2010).

The purpose of this article is to educate on the many functions of vitamin D in humans, backed by research. As we can see there are a multitude of benefits of having optimal levels, however too much can be toxic to the body. If you’re wanting to increase or assess your own levels of vitamin D please consult with your health practitioner to get appropriate supplementation and dietary interventions for your own individual needs.

I am happy to have a consultation with you, if you haven’t found yourself a practitioner to work with. You can book online here

Yours in health,

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References

Alvarez, J. A., & Ashraf, A. (2009). Role of vitamin D in insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity for glucose homeostasis. International journal of endocrinology2010.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Nutrients, 2011-12.

Baeke, F., Takiishi, T., Korf, H., Gysemans, C., & Mathieu, C. (2010). Vitamin D: modulator of the immune system. Current opinion in pharmacology10(4), 482-496.

Earthman, C. P., Beckman, L. M., Masodkar, K., & Sibley, S. D. (2012). The link between obesity and low circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations: considerations and implications. International journal of obesity36(3), 387.

Paxton, F. (2015). Foundations of Naturopathic Nutrition.

Richards, J. B., Valdes, A. M., Gardner, J. P., Paximadas, D., Kimura, M., Nessa, A., ... & Aviv, A. (2007). Higher serum vitamin D concentrations are associated with longer leukocyte telomere length in women. The American journal of clinical nutrition86(5), 1420-1425.

'COLD WATER THERAPY' - THE KIND OF STRESS YOU WANT IN YOUR LIFE!

Written by: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip Nut Med) and Matthew Kolasinski (MClinExP, BExSc)

How therapeutic does a cold shower sound right about now? For many, (especially those who are in the southern hemisphere with me and getting well into winter months) this may not be so tempting to give it a go, but let me first present some of the science coming out in this and see if this can motivate you to give it a go!

What started out as a conversation with friends and sharing ideas, turned into listening to many-a-podcasts and deepening our understanding & knowledge of this we have both dived right in and made cold water showers part of our daily routine.

From a purely anecdotal experience we found that after only a few minutes of cold showering we felt this physiological high - our moods were lifted, energy increased and tolerance to the cooler temperatures outdoors was heightened. From this we decided to look into the available research to understand what mechanisms are at play in contributing to the response, this rush from a cold shower.

A study conducted in 2008 by N.A Shevchuk tested the hypothesis that cold water exposure (2-3mins long at 20degrees celsius) could be used as a treatment for depression. What was found was that the cold exposure activates the sympathetic nervous system, increasing the blood levels of noradrenalin. Noradrenalin functions as a hormone and neurotransmitter that’s important for attentiveness, emotions, learning and dreaming. What’s more is that the anti-depressant effects can also be attributed to the high amounts of electrical impulses sent from the peripheral nerve endings to the brain, as the skin contains a high concentration of cold receptors, responding to the cold-water exposure (Shevchuk, 2008).

Dr Rhonda Patrick, (Ph.D. in biomedical science) has found that not only does cold water exposure create a 2-3-fold increase in noradrenalin but that when the body is cooled many genes shut down, the exception, however, are genes involved in lipid metabolism (fat burning) and the group of proteins known as ‘cold shock proteins’. Noradrenalin also contributes to having an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, these effects can be achieved with short periods of cold stress and has been recommended for the treatment of chronic pain. (link to the full report can be found at here.

As it has been identified in animal studies, it is currently hypothesised that the effects of cold water exposure lead to an increase in cold-inducible RNA-binding protein 3 (RBM3). RBM3 is found in the brain, heart, liver, and skeletal muscle. This cold shock protein RBM3 has the ability to decrease cell death, thus preserving muscle mass as well as showing positive neural effects (Ferry, Vanderklish & Dupont-Versteegden, 2011).

What may be criticised socially, or considered a little crazy just seems to make sense biologically and the effects we’ve felt from it personally is enough for us to keep up with this daily practice! Important to note that you must always consult your health professional before attempting anything discussed in this article – this post was written out of interest from our own personal experiences, to share some of the information we’ve come across, but not to be used as medical advice.

Happy showering!

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References

Ferry, A. L., Vanderklish, P. W., & Dupont-Versteegden, E. E. (2011). Enhanced survival of skeletal muscle myoblasts in response to overexpression of cold shock protein RBM3. American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology, 301(2), C392-C402.

Shevchuk, N. A. (2008). Adapted cold shower as a potential treatment for depression. Medical hypotheses, 70(5), 995-1001.

EFFECTS OF STRESS & HOW TO COPE

Written By: Brittani Kolasinski (BHSc Nut, AdvDip NutMed)

We’re all busy, our lives are full of hustle & bustle, families, kids, work, friends, cooking, cleaning, shopping, travel, events, oh, life!

With these busy lives can come a whole lot of stress. For our bodies when stressed, can enter into a ‘fight or flight’ response – it can even occur due to intense exercise/physical exertion. This ‘fight or flight’ response involves many physiological and biochemical changes, making the nervous system hypersensitive. The body responds to any sort of stress, be it physical, mental or emotional by activating our sympathetic nervous system and our adrenal glands to start releasing hormones: cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Through this the body will conserve energy from other organ systems, thereby slowing down their function and divert this energy to our arms, legs and brains. This was for our survival, originally a ‘stress’ would occur to man from an attack or some sort of threat, a tiger for example. So by the body slowing down other processes and directing the extra energy to our limbs we could then turn to ‘fight’ or to get away from the threat, fast! After this attack or danger would occur, cortisol would turn off the release of adrenaline and the body would return to function as normal.

But now, in this day & age the stressful event could be long term & ongoing from time constraints, job pressures, study, relationships, weddings & other events to more serious conditions of long term illness, chronic pain or emotional distress. Our bodies will remain in this stressed out state, still experiencing the same physiological and biochemical changes –leading to slow digestion, decreased immune system, changes to menstruation, effecting fertility, increased blood glucose levels, depleting our adrenal stores & keeping our cortisol levels high. During this, the bodies nutritional demands are increased, but with our digestive system being effected it leads to poor function & nutrient absorption. The elevated cortisol, the depleted adrenal stores & the effects on blood sugar can then in turn effect our moods, leaving us feeling irritable and even anxious. Sleep is also effected, that feeling of being ‘tired but wired’ leaving us as insomniacs or waking unrefreshed after a long nights sleep.

This long-term stress and adrenal depletion can leave us with a label of ‘adrenal fatigue’ – you may or may not have heard this term already. Basically, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol, following a diurnal cycle. Levels should be high in the morning when we wake, then steadily decline throughout the day. People who are chronically stressed will have elevated basal cortisol and a flattened diurnal curve, resulting in flat cortisol – this response is referred to as ‘adrenal exhaustion’.

Chronic stress is inflammatory, it raises our biochemical inflammatory markers which affect our serotonin levels, leading to anxiety or depression. It’s associated with poor memory, that ‘foggy headed’ feeling, with mood changes and irritability. With stress also decreasing our immune function leaves us susceptible to allergic diseases and the development of conditions such as chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases, premature aging, atherosclerosis, abdominal weight gain and even cancer! In women their menstruation & fertility are also effected.

As we can see, being stressed out can have some serious side effects, so what can we do about it? We can’t always escape the stress in our lives but there are ways we can deal with it.

The first thing is to assess the stress – look at what you can change, what is in your control & what you are willing to let go of, you might be able to lighten your load with work or other commitments & have more time for yourself (SO important!).

The second is to slow down. You’re busy, I get it & this doesn’t mean that you should have hours of meditation and stillness, but you can incorporate small pockets of ‘still’ into your day. What’s one thing you do every day? When you shower, or brush your teeth, even when you make a tea/coffee or are driving from one place to the next – make these moments a time of mindfulness. Breathing long, slow, deep breaths. Create awareness in that moment, noticing how you feel, your thoughts. Science has shown that by changing our breath from short, shallow breaths to long, slow & controlled we can get our bodies out of that ‘fight or flight’ response and back into a rested state. This can even be including 5-10 long breaths upon waking, taking your time to get up and out of bed – doesn’t have to be a radical change to your routine or take up too much time but you can find these pockets of still & embrace them.

Thirdly, single task! Do one thing at a time, for at least a few of the tasks you have to do in your day, not all of them – or you probably wouldn’t get anything done, ha! It is impossible for us to be focused on more than one thing (sorry self-proclaimed multi-taskers out there). When stress is rising focus on one thing you are thankful for – it can be as simple as ‘clean water’ or ‘your pillow’, changing your thoughts in the moment does not make the stressful event go away, but at least your body will be focused on something positive & help to diminish the negative effects associated with stress - worrying will not solve the problem either!

And lastly, what can we do nutritionally –

For one; (I’m sorry) but caffeine will have to go! This raises your stress hormones and puts more pressure on your adrenal glands.

Two; sugar also – get rid of it, stress raises your blood sugar levels, as well as sugar being highly inflammatory. This means no soft drinks, confectionary, cakes, chocolates, biscuits, even white, refined carbohydrates from breads, pasta etc

Three; get some vitamin C! Your adrenal glands need it, and they need to be supported – you can talk with your qualified practitioner about supplementation specific for you and include more coloured vegetables and fruits in the diet

Four; B vitamins – these are depleted in times of stress, again speak with your practitioner about supplementing and doses needed. This way you know you’re getting the best quality practitioner only supplements at a dose that is tailored to you and your current needs

Five; Magnesium - this mineral is also depleted during times of stress and is required for hundreds of enzymatic functions within the body, relaxes muscle & assists with energy production - deficiency can contribute to anxiety and depression, again consult your nutritionist/naturopath for the appropriate form of magnesium & the correct dosing. 

Six; Eat fat! Yep, lap it up! Good fats I’m referring to here (I’ve written a blog post on fats which you can find on this site, so you can know which ones to eat). This can include oily fish, avocado, olives and olive oil, nuts and seeds – these fats are anti-inflammatory, great for brain health and development and help to balance blood sugars. Fats also give flavour to your foods & increase satiety with meals, they are not to be feared!

Seven; Practice mindful meal times; digestion begins before you take your first bite. The site of food, smell of food & the thought of it begins to prepare your body to eat and digest. This in turn triggers saliva to begin to secrete digestive enzymes ready to break down this food. When we are eating on the run, working through our lunch breaks, or mindlessly eating whilst watching TV this process is inhibited. We can end up eating way more than we need to, leave us feeling bloated and sluggish, or with indigestion and we wonder why? Maybe you have food allergies, or maybe you’re just approaching food and mealtimes with the wrong mind set. Sit down at meal times, give thanks for your food - practicing gratitude, enjoy each bite, CHEW your food (its crazy how many of us don’t chew enough) and really be present, noticing how you feel, how it tastes – it can be almost a meditative experience.

With impaired digestion, some might find benefit in utilising a slow cooker, having more soft, water rich foods in the form of soups & stews – the slow cooking starts to break down the foods, with the water increased can help to aid digestion and reduce any digestive disturbances you may be experiencing.

Also to note – exercise can help with stress relief & the body’s ability to cope with increased amounts of stress, however if you’re already in that burnt out ‘adrenally exhausted’ phase, I recommend to exercise in a way that will not be overly stimulating, as that can create more stress on the body, but through a walk in nature, pilates & stretching – does not have to mean HIIT classes at the gym & can even just be 10mins of movement included in your day – even if you just park further away from work or wake a bit earlier each day to include this.

And lastly, seek help – if you’re not coping, or have in fact experienced a trauma, don’t try to tackle it alone. There is a big difference between being stressed out, and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – please, speak to your health professional about getting the appropriate support & treatment. Vulnerability is strength and asking for help is in no way showing weakness.

Be kind to yourself, listen to your body.

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