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 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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FATS TO FUEL THE BRAIN

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

Our brains are primarily made of fats, in fact the brain is 60% fat! (Chang, Ke & Chen, 2009) and these fats are required through dietary sources to maintain structure of the brain, help with development through times of growth and to form the fibres of nerves to enable nerve transmission. This is important for cognition, balanced moods, memory, learning and vision (Kidd, 2007; Haast & Kiliaan, 2015).

Effects on the brain

Essential fatty acids, our Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are essential as they must be obtained through diet as they cannot be synthesised by the body (Chang, Ke & Chen, 2009).

DHA is especially important for the brain. The structure of DHA is rather unique and its functions are involved within nerve synapses in the brain (Paxton, 2015, pp.89-92). Brain tissue has a high concentration of DHA, as well as the retina, testes and sperm. DHA protects the brain against oxidative damage, it aids nerve development and enhances transmission. It is particularly important during times of rapid growth and development, as in pregnancy, new-borns and infancy. Breast milk contains large amounts of DHA as it is vital for the development of the baby’s central nervous system (Chang, Ke & Chen, 2009).

Phosphatidylserine a component of cell membranes and part of the phospholipid family is also another major player when it comes to brain health and function. Phosphatidylserine is particularly concentrated within the regions of the brain. It forms part of the myelin sheath of nerves as well as having a role in cell communication and the transmission of biochemical messages within the central nervous system (Paxton, 2015, p.100). It also regulates the functions of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine which are all involved in promoting a good mood and help with concentration and memory (Purves, Augustine & Fitzpatrick, 2001). Phosphatidylserine is also involved in glucose utilisation in the brain as well as displaying antioxidant activity (Paxton, 2015, p.100).

Fats are of particular benefit when it comes to brain health and most certainly not to be feared. All macronutrients serve a purpose within the body and restrictions of some may effect other systems or the body in its entirety. Pease consult a trained professional before making major changes to your diet.

Yours in health,

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References

Chang, C. Y., Ke, D. S., & Chen, J. Y. (2009). Essential fatty acids and human brain. Acta Neurol Taiwan18(4), 231-41.

Haast, R. A., & Kiliaan, A. J. (2015). Impact of fatty acids on brain circulation, structure and function. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids (PLEFA)92, 3-14.

Kidd, P. M. (2007). Omega-3 DHA and EPA for cognition, behavior, and mood: clinical findings and structural-functional synergies with cell membrane phospholipids. Alternative medicine review12(3), 207.

Purves, D., Augustine, G.J., Fitzpatrick, D. (2001). Biogenic Amines. Neuroscience 2nd edn. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11035/

7 SIMPLE FOOD HACKS & HOW YOU CAN GET MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK!

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

1.     Add fats

Vitamins A, D, E and K are all known as ‘fat soluble’ meaning they require fats present to be absorbed. Vegetables are rich in these guys so best way to increase absorption? Add some butter to your steamed veggies, drizzle that salad in olive oil or have a baked potato with cheese

2.     Spice things up!

Using spices and herbs to flavour your foods just increases the nutrition and ultimately the health benefits of your dish. Food IS medicine after all!

Herbs and spices are healing and each contribute their own unique array of benefits – so always good to use a variety. Some faves of mine…

  • Turmeric – bright yellow spice which I use in EVERYTHING I possibly can. I mix a shot each morning of turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar with a splash of warm water or a little kombucha to fire up my digestion and circulation first thing. Can be added to warm coconut milk to drink, into scrambled eggs, curries, soups – you name it. Its highly anti-inflammatory, potent antioxidant, detoxifying and immune building – so many reasons to include it daily

  • Paprika – deliciously smokey flavour and rich in carotenoids – which are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, also great source of vitamin C and as part of the pepper family is also a source of capsaicin which helps with pain relief and circulation

  • Cumin – great for digestion and nutrient absorption

  • Parsley – source of iron, vitamin C and detoxifying for the liver

  • Mint – calming and great for digestive support – peppermint oil capsules have shown benefit in those suffering with IBS.

  • Rosemary – great for cognition and memory!

  • Coriander seeds – also detoxifying, helps to bind to toxins within the body and eliminate them

  • Fennel seeds – a digestive aid and adds a slight subtle sweetness, I love these sprinkled on a breakfast bowl of greens and eggs w avo – yum!

  • Cayenne – stimulating, warming and clearing. Great for immune support and an analgesic (pain relief)

  • Ginger – helps to reduce nausea and stomach cramps, as well as soothing for the digestive tract. Also anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, immune supporting

  • Cinnamon – blood sugar balancing, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory. Cinnamon on foods is like giving yourself a warm hug

3.     To up your iron

Iron is present in 2 forms: haem and non-haem. Haem iron is what we find in our animal products – red meats, eggs etc and its much more easily absorbed and used by the body. But for our vegetarian friends who rely on non-haem sources from chickpeas, lentils, spinach and seeds to help get more out of your meal try adding a little vitamin C. You can do this by drizzling lemon juice over your salads, or pairing a meal with a white wine (note that red wine can reduce iron absorption).

What not to do: have a black tea or cup of coffee with meals, this can actually block the absorption of minerals

4.     Soak your grains

Phytates present in grains, nuts and seeds reduce the absorption of nutrients from these foods. Best way to rid your food of these compounds? By simply soaking them in water, drain and then rinse prior to cooking – easiest way is to leave them soaking overnight (hello overnight oats), it also makes things easier on your digestive system.. its not ‘you are what you eat’, but rather ‘you are what you absorb’!

5.     Read the ingredients, not the calories

When sussing out a nutritional panel on packaged foods, rather than look at the total calories or even just the carbs, fats or protein content look at the ingredients. You’ll want to be able to understand and know what is listed, when weird numbers and letter combos are popping up and you have no idea what that is, best not to put that into your body cos’ it probably has no idea what that is either, or what to do with it.

6.     Learn to cook

Digestion begins long before you take your first bite. The smell, the look, the thought starts the whole process as your body prepares to eat, saliva and other enzymes begin to secrete – but when we’re relying on take away, ‘convenient’ meals, shakes and snacks this whole process is skipped. Meal times should be sacred, less distractions, a quiet time to sit, eat, chew your food and be mindful of everything that’s happening. Digestive problems are rampant now-a-days and I believe that the way we approach meal times and cooking can have a great impact on how we feel after foods. Try to avoid eating on the run if you can, or eating lunch at your desk while still hard at work and avoid eating when stressed/anxious – try some deep breathing to get your body to a relaxed state & then, take a bite.

7.     Just Eat Real Food #JERF

You may have seen this hash-tagged over social media already. The meaning behind it is simple: just eat what the earth has provided us to eat. Investing into eating the right foods now, a varied diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, quality meats, eggs and wholegrains that have been minimally processed is worthwhile to avoid the costs of ill-health later down the track. Make your plate a rainbow with each meal, getting a wide variety of foods. Mother nature has so wonderfully packaged our foods with vitamins and minerals in perfect ratios as well as fibre, antioxidants and other plant compounds known as phytonutrients that provide a whole host of health benefits that fortified foods and synthetic supplements just cannot give us.

This doesn’t mean you must deprive yourself - have that cake, or go out for a treat, eat some pizza, but rather have these things in balance with a good, wholesome diet.

Food is to be enjoyed, to be shared, to nourish and to respect

Yours in health,

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WHAT DOES CHOCOLATE & BLUE-GREEN ALGAE HAVE IN COMMON? …

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

Ahh that feeling you get when you let that sweet chocolatey goodness just melt in your mouth, feelings of euphoria, the endorphins released and the happiness in your heart (and in your belly) – you could also say these are somewhat like the contentment you feel when captivated by a good book, focused on a project or the ‘runners high’ when you get back from a challenging workout, but to associate these all with the blue green vegetables of the sea? .. that’s probably not such a common feat.

The most well-known member of this blue-green algae family would be spirulina, and thankfully its becoming more popular as time goes on (with good reason!). It contains all our essential amino acids, making this guy a complete source of protein for vegans and vegetarians, has a wide range of B vitamins, contains vitamin E, and the essential minerals potassium, calcium, chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sodium, & zinc.

The deep blue-green pigments of spirulina are all thanks to the phytonutrients within; chlorophyll, phycocyanin, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, lutein & many more. These guys are responsible for the potent antioxidant levels, fighting free radical damage on a cellular level within the body. Spirulina also contains different enzymes & trace elements.

Spirulina has shown benefit for strengthening the immune system, displaying anti-cancer properties and its use for conditions such as diabetes mellitus type 2 through its blood-lipid lowering and anti-inflammatory potential.

So how do you associate the algae’s with the chocolates of the world? It all comes down to a little substance known as ‘PEA’ (phenylethylamine). A chemical that can be made within the body by the brain or adrenals from two of our amino acids – tyrosine and phenylalanine. The action of PEA increases neurotransmitters in the brain that help us focus or pay attention – those times that you’re just so engaged that you lose all track of time – that’s attributed to PEA. Studies have shown that high levels of PEA are found in happy people’s brains, due to PEA’s action of preventing dopamine from being deactivated, therefore, raising its levels. High levels of dopamine are associated with an optimistic attitude and increased concentration.

PEA is often referred to as the ‘love chemical’, and its responsible for the endorphin rush post exercise, when you are so captivated by a good book or movie or even when indulging in a chocolatey treat.

Some great ways to incorporate more algae into the diet can be through adding spirulina into green smoothies, home made salsa, salad dressings or just mixed into water with lemon juice. Always start with a small dose when having things for the first time – even if it is a naturally occurring substance, we are all different and can all respond differently to foods.

Enjoy the sea vegetables & all the happiness they bring x 

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EVERYDAY SUPERFOODS

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

The term ‘superfood’ is simply a term coined and used for marketing purposes only. Now, I’m not here to bash acai berries, tell you to cull quinoa or throw your goji’s in the garbage but let’s not get carried away with these guys and forget about all the super-wonderful foods we have locally, at our grocer, farmer’s markets and even in our own back yard.

APPLES

Most of the nutrients are found in the skin so be sure to eat them whole. Apples contain a special fiber ‘pectin’ which your gut bugs love! It acts as a prebiotic for your probiotic pals. It’s also a source of vitamin C, potassium and other components known as ‘phytochemicals’. These compounds are potent antioxidants, found in a variety of fruits and vegetables. Specifically, in apples, you will find quercetin, a flavonoid that is partly responsible for the colour of the apple. Flavonoids are anti-inflammatory, antiallergenic and heart-friendly compounds to support the popular phrase “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away”.

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BROCCOLI

A sulphur-rich cruciferous vegetable which is excellent for supporting liver detoxification as well as being one of the most nutrient dense foods and highest in protein, compared to other vegetables. It’s rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and folic acid as well as minerals phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. Again, containing phytonutrients, but more specifically lutein and glucosinolates which are anti-cancerous, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. The glucosinolates in broccoli are known to excrete the form of estrogen linked to breast cancer. Enjoy your broccoli baked, stir-fried or lightly steamed with a little olive oil or grass-fed butter to increase nutrient absorption (and it tastes delicious).

CAPSICUM

A brightly coloured and delicious eaten raw, grilled or cooked in the pan. Red capsicum has higher levels of nutrients than the green varieties, but none the less still both incredibly healthy! The phytonutrients in capsicum include lycopene (also found in tomatoes), zeaxanthin, chlorogenic acid and coumeric acid which are known to possess anti-cancerous and heart-protective properties. Capsicum contains high levels of vitamin C, vitamin K, B vitamins thiamine, folic acid and pyridoxine (B1, B9, B6) and beta-carotene which is your precursor to vitamin A. This vegetable is a brilliant immune builder and can also help reduce risks of heart attacks and strokes by preventing blood clots.

GARLIC

This one’s not for everyone, the potency of garlic being so sulphurous can cause some bloating, gas and not so pleasant breath. But, if you can tolerate it then I say go to town on this one as it’s a powerhouse of health benefits, most of which are attributed to the allicin. Allicin is responsible for the truly medicinal properties of garlic. Garlic is a source of selenium, an essential trace mineral in the body which also acts as an antioxidant. Its anti-cancerous, immune building, candida fighting and used commonly to help with stomach upsets.

LEMON

This bitter, sour fruit is highly alkalising to the body, aids digestion, is a diuretic, immune building and adds a refreshing twist to plain water or squeezed over salads, fish or vegetables to add a little extra flavour. It’s a source of vitamin C, B6, potassium, folic acids and flavonoids with minimal natural sugars.

SWEET POTATO

One of my favourite vegetables, I love it steamed or baked with cinnamon, coconut oil, and sea salt – delicious! It’s a source of vitamins and minerals from vitamin C, B6, B2, copper, manganese, and fibre. It's rich in carotenoids – high antioxidant phytonutrients which are anti-inflammatory. Interesting to note, sweet potatoes are a form of resistant starch. This is formed by cooking and allowing the potato to cool before consuming. This process of heating and cooling converts part of the carbohydrates over to resistant starch, a type of fibre that we as humans do not digest but rather it acts as a food source for the good gut bacteria. What this means is you’ll have fewer carbohydrates and more fibre, which is good to know for those of you who may be following a low carb diet. Did I mention its perfect for making delicious brownies?

WALNUTS

A great source of omega 3 fatty acids making walnuts a great food for a healthy heart and mind. Walnuts are known as food for the brain, and coincidentally they look like little brains themselves. They are antioxidant-rich, cholesterol lowering and help to relax the blood vessels, keeping them smooth and relaxed to reduce the risk of clot formation. Combine with chopped apples, cucumber, and celery in a fresh salad – it's delicious!

EGGS

Packed with protein and B vitamins for energetic bodies, eggs are also a source of vitamin K, D, and selenium. Eggs are also found to be a source of omega 3 fatty acids but this can vary depending on the source of the egg and the health of the hen – best to do your research with this one, as I would encourage you all to source quality eggs from free roaming, organic hens. Eggs are easily boiled and can be taken on the run as a quick snack, to bulk up salads, or to be stir-fried through with some vegetables to make a healthy scram.

BEANS

A meat-free protein source, full of fibre which assists in lowering cholesterol and help balance blood sugars. Beans are wonderful to maintain a healthy heart, not only because of the high fibre content but also their antioxidant levels and magnesium, a muscle-relaxing mineral that is essential to the body. Beans are also a source of minerals including iron, potassium, phosphorus, and manganese as well as vitamins B6, and B9 – these vitamins are cofactors for many of the biochemical pathways that happen on a cellular level that allows our body to function.

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FAST FACTS ON FATS

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

Not to be feared! Yes, there are an overwhelming variety of different types of fats & oils but by choosing the right kinds you can open yourself up to a whole host of health benefits!

To put simply, eating the right fats will help:

  • Keep your skin glowing

  • Reduce inflammation

  • Support immune system

  • Optimise gut health and digestion (our gut bugs ‘feed’ on unabsorbed lipids in the colon)

  • Improve sleep quality

  • Brain growth & development (therefore being essential for babies, children, pregnant & breast feeding women)

  • The absorption of certain vitamins (known as your ‘fat soluble vitamins’) these are vitamins A, D, E and K

  • Maintain heart health - reduce risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome

  • Keep bones strong through calcium absorption

  • Synthesise hormones, cholesterol & vitamin D

  • Cell structure

  • Insulation and protection

  • Keep you feeling full and reducing unwanted cravings

  • Help with weight loss – yes weightLOSS (the right fat does NOT make you fat)

  • AND, give the best flavour to your foods!

A basic breakdown of fats

You’ve got your saturated fats – solid at room temp, these are stable and not effected by oxidative damage causing free radicals, this makes them great uses for cooking at higher temps. Animal fats, full fat dairy, coconut oils, butter and lard all fall into this category.

Unsaturated fats are your monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Polyunsaturated fats are more unstable and can be oxidised, creating an inflammatory oil. These are liquid at room temp and include vegetable oils, canola oils and margarine.

Monounsaturated fats include things like olive oil and flaxseed oil. These are anti-inflammatory, containing high amounts of your omega 3 fats (these fats are essential fatty acids as they cannot be made in the body and therefore needed to be consumed through foods).

Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are these essential fats we need through diet. However, we need these in a correct ratio (3:1). The standard westernised diet is loaded with omega 6 fats, and yes these are still required in the body for many processes, but in such a large number are created much more inflammation and other conditions than we need. Reducing omega 6 intakes (from grains, animal meats that were fed grains and corn) and increasing omega 3’s from oily fish (salmon, sardines), chia seeds, walnuts, olive oils, avocado, flaxseeds, organic eggs and meat to get our ratio right!

My diet personally is made up of omega 3 fats, some monounsaturated (think olive oils, walnuts, oily fish, avocado, chia seeds etc) & saturated fats *pours coconut oil over entire life*.

Saturated fat sources are from organic and sustainable meats, where possible, from local farmers. This is purely because the animals aren’t living in such a stressed state, are free from hormones & antibiotics as well as being raised on their correct diets, and not force fed fattening, inflammatory grains (creating more omega 6 fats). Plus, local support, having built that relationship with the farmer and seeing their business flourish is a good thing!

Unsaturated fats from vegetable oils, canola oil or margarine should not be included in the diet. These are processed, bleached, hydrogenated, inflammatory and artificial to the body – trans fats cannot be metabolised by our bodies, they are foreign, man made products that are rancid and increase free radical production when heated – these are to be avoided, thankfully now more & more people are coming to learn and be educated on the issues around margarine (which contains trans fats) & GMO foods and better choices are coming from this – swapping back to the butter as our grandparents did!

How to get your fats right

Eat whole-foods, in their natural state. Using unsaturated fats at cool/low/room temps, cooking with saturated fats - using butter or coconut oil to flavour your vegetables, making fresh foods more flavoursome. Snacking on raw nuts and seeds, or sprinkling them over foods. By avoiding processed foods and packaged ‘convenience’ foods you will drastically reduce your exposure and intake to inflammatory fats and oils and will see a massive improvement in overall health, with increased omega 3s!

Think ‘SLOW foods’: Sustainable, Local, Organic & Whole

For more guidance please feel free to reach out to me.

Yours in health,

 

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