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




Q&A WITH JARROD TUCKER FITNESS

I am beyond exited to share this interview I had with Jarrod Tucker. Jarrod is a fitness instructor, Zumba presenter, Strong by Zumba master trainer and the owner of Energize Studios running multiple exercise classes throughout the week. I personally have been attending his Strong by Zumba classes weekly for about 1 year now and it is by far my favourite way to move, its fast paced and varied and, with Jarrod leading the workout, you’ll push yourself harder and achieve far more than you thought was possible. His energy is contagious, his passion is obvious and his own personal health and fitness journey is one to inspire and transform. I know you’re going to get so much out of this interview, and I highly encourage any and all of you to check out one of his classes here in Newcastle – you are more than welcome to join me for Strong by Zumba each Monday and Wednesday evening.

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Q: Tell us what you do?

A: What I do is two-fold, I am very fortunate to be the Australia/New Zealand Master Trainer for the Strong By Zumba program which is a High-Intensity Interval Training and Muscle Conditioning program synced to music and also a Zumba Education Specialist and trainer for the original Zumba Dance-Fitness programs. 

Q: What does this involve?

A: Basically my job is to travel Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world and train instructors in how to teach these programs so they can run classes their own classes in gyms, community halls etc

 The second part of what I do is teaching regular group fitness classes every single week at my fitness studio, Energize Studios. I along with other members of our team deliver many group fitness classes each week in a variety of programs, styles and fitness levels to help inspire people to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Q: How did it all begin?

A: Strangely enough, my real journey through fitness and teaching began when a job I was at closed down and I was forced to fall back on skills I had which happened to be singing. So, with a few week’s notice I raced around to find out what venues I could hire and spoke to friends I had in the industry and I opened a dance and talent school. 

During that first year back in 2010, Zumba Fitness came to Australia and everyone was running classes. So I thought “we have to have this as well to stay relevant”. A dance teacher and I went to the training to become instructors (I was intending to be the backup) and when it came to crunch time, I ended up being the one who had to teach the classes. It turned out to be something I loved, and it helped me with my own fitness cause I enjoyed it (I was 110KG when I started. It also led me down the path of wanting to teach, help and inspire people with their health and fitness. 

Q: What does health and wellness mean to you?

A: Health and wellness is more than just about weight loss and looking good etc, although it often starts that way with many of us.

“I realized very quickly how important leading a healthy lifestyle was to my mobility, joint pain, energy, motivation, drive and also confidence. It really does help to remove limitations people place on themselves. Health and wellness is about being able to live your life feeling good and loving it on your own terms for as long as you are able to”.

Q: How do you have so much energy?

A: from the very beginning of my fitness journey I gave 100% to everything I did and even when I got tired I told myself “suck it up, you can do this”. So, my body has learned to adapt and operate at a high level.

Of course, you can’t do this without the right fuel and what you put in your mouth makes a huge difference to your energy levels. This doesn’t mean dieting always, or depriving yourself, but making smart choices about what you want from your health and your life.

Q: What is your number 1 tip for balancing everything?

A: Make time to enjoy your life. It’s so easy to get caught up in this cycle of training/crazy eating and chasing unrealistic goals. Make time to train, time to work, time to chase your dreams BUT don’t forget to make time for what you love to do and what helps you relax unwind and be yourself. 

Q: You’ve had an amazing fitness journey what do you credit to your success?

A: Two things mainly: find physical activities that you love and make you feel good so they become a want instead of a need, and always remember to continually push the boundaries of what you think you can do. The human body is capable of so much and there is little stopping you, except for you. 

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A photo of Jarrod himself from 10 years ago (2009)

 

Q Who inspires you the most?

A: In all honesty I am most inspired by the people I teach and train. I don’t follow a lot of celebrities or social media rubbish, but I am inspired when I have people in my classes or trainings that want it, and I see them continually strive for more. When I see those people achieve what they set out to do and continually improve it really drives me.

Q: What tips do you have for people starting a fitness journey?

A: A few simple points to remember: 

  • Start by finding an activity that appeals to you

  • At the beginning just try and make the chosen activities part of your regular routine so you don’t have to think about doing them instead of stressing about going hard and getting a huge workout

  • When you feel you can give more, give it

  • Make some positive changes to your eating habits 

Where can people find you if they want to connect?

You can follow me and/or connect with me on Instagram or Facebook.

If you would love to come and try a class you can see our full timetable here or stay up to date on Facebook.

If you would like to become a Zumba Instructor you can find training online here.

If you would like to become a Strong By Zumba Instructor and teach an awesome new high intensity program you can find a training online here.

 I hope you found some inspiration and encouragement from my latest interview. Check out a class near you and get in touch if you have any questions for myself or Jarrod about health, wellness, weightloss and fitness.

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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Q&A WITH LUKA McCABE

If you don’t already, I’d strongly encourage you all to check out the incredible work Luka is doing over on her instagram. It was an absolute pleasure to chat with Luka this week on a topic that is very near and dear to me. Luka is a mumma, mid wife, nurse and health & wellness advocate empowering others and providing incredible resources to guide, nourish and inspire. She educates around all matters of child nutrition, baby led weaning, parenting, health and more. In this interview we cover the why behind why she does what she does, how she got to where she is and what her home-birthing experiences were like!

This is a powerful and truly moving interview, Luka is one bold, compassionate and empowered woman who is doing incredible things for the health and wellness space - providing evidence based recommendations so that other mums who are overwhelmed with the information can find peace, clarity and confidence in how to feed and raise a healthy family.

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

A: I run a small instagram account called @boobtofood which focuses on ideas to help guide, nourish and inspire mum’s (and dad’s) and their babies journey from ‘boob to food’. How to navigate the world of first foods focusing on foods that are nutrient dense, gut loving, easy to digest and provide the ‘why’ behind the foods - why should we eat it, or avoid it and what is it doing to our bodies. My aim is that mums will be INFORMED, educated and can then make evidence based decisions regarding their babies health. That they will see food as medicine, as fuel, and that their babies will grow up healthy and hopefully see preventable diseases decrease (eg obesity, hypertension, diabetes etc).

Q: How did it all begin? 

A: Ive been interested in health for years, and definitely really ‘cleaned up’ my diet when I was pregnant with my first born Flynn. Pregnancy seems like a very common time for women to focus on looking after themselves - as they are now caring for two! When it came time to introduce him to solids I did ALOT of research. At the time the recommendation was to start solids at 4 months (from the healthcare system) however after attending nutrition seminars for babies and doing my own research especially into gut health it was clear to me that babies should start food at 6 months (which the recommendation has been recently changed back to). It was also recommended to me that I start him on rice cereal (which went against everything I believed in), so instead I searched for alternatives. He was started with egg yolk, liver, bone broth, marrow, sardines, sauerkraut, and lots of fruit and vegetables. He has grown into a healthy toddler who eats anything and everything! I was surprised with my second born Florence that again I was recommended to start her on rice cereal (I have a blog post on why I hate rice cereal!), so I decided to start @boobtofood and HOPE and PRAY that people would see the message, and see feeding their baby as an opportunity to nourish them and help them thrive, not just fill them with empty ‘cardboard-hydrates’.

Q: What does health & wellness mean to you?

A: Everything! Im not strict, I don’t diet, and I live life. If I go out with my friends I will eat the gluten etc. However for my daily life, my home life and my kids life we place health and wellness in the highest regard. I INVEST our money into good ingredients; an investment into our health, we cook everything from scratch, we also look after our physical bodies; we see regularly chiropractors, remedial massage, I go to the gym most days, my husband practices Jiu-Jitsu and surfing most days. I know what it feels like to live life with optimum health, and I don’t want to ever feel any different!

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

A: My biggest rule of thumb is if that food didn’t exist (or couldn’t have existed without machines/heat etc) 200 years ago, then we shouldn’t eat it! Theres alot to say for ancient traditions, and thats how I treat our health. 

For wellbeing, especially for mums would be to take time for yourself  as often as you need. For me this is the gym in the morning, or a walk, or a coffee with friends without children. I also need to see people daily to help me feel alive and sane!

Q: What is your favorite food/meal

A: My favourite meal is a very simple one - good quality sourdough with avocado and all the toppings! My favourite food would have to be haloumi ;) 

Q: What is your number one tip for balancing all that you do – work, marriage, family, health, relationships?

A: Not sure if I can say I have balanced it all, most days feel like a juggling act and I feel like i’m failing at one aspect every day. If i’m focusing on family I feel like I can’t focus on ‘work’, if I focus on ‘work’ I feel like i’m not doing enough for my kids.. but I feel like thats life, its that ‘mum guilt’ we all get! 

The best thing I can do, is to love the kids dad, to stick together as a family unit and hope that together we can raise nice children and keep a roof over our heads! 

Q: Since becoming a mum, what is one of the most important lessons you have learned?

A: I always thought I would hate to be a stay home mum, that I would be so bored and want to go back to work straight away - how I was wrong. Becoming a mother released my purpose for life that I didn’t know existed. I learnt to wholeheartedly put others first, to become selfless, giving and a source of strength. Ive been taught patience, empathy, love, understanding and also to look at things again through a child's eyes. To slow down, to realise whats important, what true joy looks like, and also what sleep deprivation and the brink of insanity feels like haha!

Q: Tell us about your experience with pregnancy, homebirth and raising healthy children? 

A: Ive had two children - Flynn (nearly 4) and Florence (11 months). My pregnancies were straight forward and relatively easy (although both were nearly 2 weeks overdue). 

With Flynn I planned a birth at Belmont birthing centre, as we lived in a granny flat at the time and wasn’t enough room to birth in. My birth was ok, it was long (about 36 hours total) and I had a water birth but unfortunately had a nasty tear that required surgery at the John Hunter (which was embarrassing as thats where I work as a midwife haha). For Florence I planned a home birth and it was again very long as she was posterior, but NO TEAR (thanks to perineal massage! Too much info? Haha). My recovery was great with her!

Q: What would you tell someone who is considering doing a home birth – what do they need to consider and what can they expect? 

A: Homebirthing is amazing, to not have to leave your sanctuary, to not have to get in the car, to not have to adjust to a new sterile environment, to control who is in your space, to go to bed straight after birth - it was beautiful.

However, in saying that, home birthing was something I really wanted. For me I felt ‘safer’ at home, and had a peace to stay at home, and was more scared to go to hospital than to stay home. I had complete trust in my birth team; in my midwives. I never had doubts because I trusted their opinion explicitly. 

But for some people, the thought of home birth could inflict fear, anxiety, worry and doubt. You need to birth somewhere where YOU feel comfortable, as if you have that fear and anxiety in labour, you will produce adrenaline, which counteracts the oxytocin that is helping you to labour well - and in turn you might not labour well because of your fear. 

Remember that your birth choices are yours, educate yourself, be informed and remember that you are always a part of decision making when it comes to your pregnancy and labour xxx


You can connect with Luka via instagram and be in the know of any upcoming workshops and E books she has. She has recently released the Nourished Kids Lunchbox which is a must have for any parents out there. Please let us know in the comments below what you loved about this interview and if anything really resonated with you from this.

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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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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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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INFLAMMATION; THE GOOD, THE BAD AND HOW TO BALANCE

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

The Good

Inflammation; the body’s natural response to illness or injury, characterised by pain, redness, swelling and heat. It is designed to be a short lived protective mechanism to aid the healing process within our bodies.

The pain alerts our bodies to the problem, the heat burns off any bacterial or microbial infection and the swelling allows increased blood flow of our white blood cells which assist in cleaning up the damaged site, with this increased blood flow to the area, redness occurs.

The Bad

Sometimes this response may get out of control in response to dietary or lifestyle triggers; poor diet, lack of physical activity and stress. Chronic or long-term inflammation ages us. It can occur within the body without us even knowing it. This low-grade, chronic inflammation is the driver of almost ALL disease states; obesity, asthma, eczema, acne, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, autoimmune conditions, fibromyalgia, arthritis and diabetes.

It is now believed that reducing inflammation through lifestyle and diet may be the most important factor in contributing to overall health and longevity.

How to Balance...

 Firstly, diet.

As mentioned above, a poor diet can lead to chronic inflammation.

Inflammatory foods to reduce include;

  • Refined sugars; soft drinks, lollies, confectionary, baked sweets

  • Fried Foods; fries, fried chicken, coated fish, onion rings, deep fried mars bars! (obviously ha!)

  • Gluten; doesn’t mean everyone should be ‘gluten free’ (actually a lot of gluten free products can actually be worse for us, best to choose naturally gluten free grains, mentioned below) however, it is an inflammatory food. Best to cut back on its more refined forms such as white breads, pastas, cakes & chips and swap for a sourdough, rye or wholegrain varieties

  • Dairy; again, not to be completely cut out for everyone as it does come with it some good minerals, fats and proteins. Good quality dairy should be chosen as is mentioned in the list to follow. But, this does include cheeses and milk as technically being inflammatory…

  • Vegetable oils; sunflower/safflower oils, rice bran oil, canola oil, margarine ‘spreads’, sauces, dressings, chips & crackers

  • Refined flour; breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits, pizza, white breads, pasta - ‘white flour’ as this has been stripped of its bran, fibre and nutrients

  • Artificial sweeteners and additives; ‘sugar free’ soft drinks, chocolates, protein supplements and bars, flavoured waters, packet sweeteners commonly found in cafes and restaurants – Equal, Splenda etc, again – most packaged and processed foods will have listed different additives within them, if you can’t understand or identify them it’s likely your body won’t be able to either!

Anti-inflammatory options to include/replace;

We can’t be expected to remove whole food groups from our diet but should really be focusing on what to include into our diets…

  • Instead of using refined sugars, try using more natural forms; dates or maple syrup in baking, raw honey on cereals or in tea/coffee, rapadura or coconut sugar – instead of the white stuff. You also still need to be mindful of how much added sugar you’re having each day. Craving something sweet? Try opting for a piece of whole fruit to satisfy that tooth!

  • Fried foods may be replaced with baked foods – bake chicken, fish and potato/roast veg. Even try crumbing your chicken and fish at home with wholemeal bread crumbs, crumbed nuts or quinoa! Delicious!

  • Gluten-free grains – quinoa, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, rice, oats – all wonderful options! Eating a variety is key & always soak in water before cooking – this aids digestion and increases nutrient availability

  • Dairy – whole milk, natural and unsweetened yoghurts, grass-fed butter, or for dairy free alternatives there’s an abundance of nut milks available (super easy to make! And be mindful that store bought products may be secretly laden with sugars and additives), coconut milk and cream, coconut yoghurt, ghee (lactose removed from the butter).

  • Vegetable oils – swap out for olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed butter

  • Refined flour – change it up and use buckwheat flour, almond meal, coconut flour (if gluten free) or selecting wholemeal products instead

  • Artificial sweeteners – again, can use any of the sugar alternatives listed above, or just cut it out completely. Try replacing soft drinks with mineral water with fresh fruit, lemon juice, mint etc to change it up!

Other anti-inflammatory foods to include are fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, lentils, whole grains, ‘good fats’ – avocado, olive oil, fatty fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel), grass fed beef, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds and spices; cinnamon, ginger, turmeric & paprika!

Stress reduction

Stress can create much inflammation within the body and is vital to incorporate some relaxation techniques into your day to combat the effects. This might look different for everyone as not all of us have the time, or the will to sit in silence, meditating on a mantra for hours during the day but could be as simple as 10 deep breaths while making your cup of tea, or even in the bathroom, turning off your phone at night and taking a bath, going for a walk in nature – without your phone or even some gentle exercise like yoga or pilates.

Exercise

I’m not here to tell you when, where or how to exercise (that’s out of my scope of practice) but to encourage you just to move your body each day, work while standing at your desk, walk to work, just walk anywhere/everywhere you can, get in touch with some friends and organise a social bike ride together or a bush walk on weekends, or, get in touch with a trained professional/personal trainer to tailor an exercise program just for you. Our bodies were made to move, exercise not only helps us to cope with stress but also increases endorphins, helps with brain function and memory, bone density, muscle strength and body structure.

For more information, or advice with how to incorporate dietary changes whilst still maintaining nutrient density and variety you can book an appointment

Yours in health,

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CHOLESTEROL.. IT'S NOT A DIRTY WORD

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

There’s a lot of fear associated with cholesterol, with it "being linked to an increased risk of heart disease & all" (which is another blog post all in and of itself). But, what you may not know is that cholesterol is required for a number of different reasons; hormone synthesis, as an antioxidant, aids the bodies healing process, is required to form vitamin D, neurotransmitters and is also needed for our cells membrane’s (the outer layer) structure (Marieb, Hoehn & Hutchinson, 2013).

Cholesterol is found in the foods we eat, but misinformation may have you believe that dietary cholesterol will increase your blood levels… When in fact our liver produces about 85% of it! You may be familiar already with the different types of cholesterol; HDL (known as the 'good' cholesterol) & LDL (known as the 'bad'). These terms in fact are referring to the lipoproteins which act as transporters carrying the cholesterol throughout the blood stream.

Dietary cholesterol will not effect your bodies cholesterol levels, saturated fat however, will & you know what else will?...

Stress.

When you’re stressed the body creates more cholesterol as it helps to mop up endotoxins. Endotoxins are released during this time of stress and are damaging to the body, creating inflammation. So, to counteract this effect, cholesterol is produced (Marieb, Hoehn & Hutchinson, 2013).

Diets low in saturated fats (commonly in vegan/vegetarian diets) can reduce the total level of cholesterol within the body, and this can result in depression and anxiety (Colin, Reggers, Castronovo & Ansseau, 2002; Papakostas et al, 2004).

As I’ve mentioned earlier, cholesterol is needed for hormone synthesis. Sex hormones testosterone, progesterone and estrogen are all dependent on cholesterol. Cholesterol is also a pre-cursor to vitamin D, an essential fat-soluble vitamin required for multiple functions in the body (too many to list here).

Morale of the story; cholesterol is GOOD, its needed by the body and it’s also created by the body. So you can stress less & as always, be kind to yourself x

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References

Colin, A., Reggers, J., Castronovo, V., & Ansseau, M. (2002). Lipids, depression and suicide. L'Encephale29(1), 49-58.

Marieb, E., Hoehn, K., & Hutchinson, M. (2013). Human anatomy & physiology. [San Francisco, Calif.]: Pearson Education/Benjamin Cummings

Papakostas, G. I., Öngür, D., Iosifescu, D. V., Mischoulon, D., & Fava, M. (2004). Cholesterol in mood and anxiety disorders: review of the literature and new hypotheses. European Neuropsychopharmacology14(2), 135-142.

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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