WHY YOU'RE NOT LOSING WEIGHT

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

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

#1 Stress

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

What can you do?

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

#2 Over-Exercising and/or Under Eating

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

What can you do?

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

#3 Sleep

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

What can you do?

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

#4 Toxicity

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

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

What can we do?

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

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

#5 Poor Gut Function

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

What can we do?

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

#6 Hormone Imbalances

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

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

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

What can you do?

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

  • Nervousness

  • Insomnia

  • Racing heart

  • Increased sweating

  • Muscle weakness

  • Multiple bowel movements

  • Thin, brittle hair

 This would indicate an overactive thyroid.

Additionally, there are symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue

  • Dry skin

  • Weight gain

  • Feeling cold

  • Low mood

  • Constipation

  • Muscle weakness

 And these would point more towards an underactive thyroid gland.

#7 Medications

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

What can you do?

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

#8 Overeating or simply eating the wrong thing

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

What can you do?

Keep it simple, choose to eat SLOW:

  • Seasonal

  • Local

  • Organic

  • Whole

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

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

Yours in health,

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SEED CYCLING

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

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

Who’s Involved?

•    1 Tbs Flaxseeds

•    1 Tbs Pumpkin seeds

•    1 Tbs Sesame seeds

•    1 Tbs Sunflower seeds

How this works

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

The First Phase (Days 1-14)

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

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

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

The Second Phase (Days 15-28)

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

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

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

Things to Remember

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

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

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

E| wellfed.health@gmail.com

IG| @well_fed_

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HEALTHY HORMONE SERIES PART V

HEALTHY HORMONE FOODS 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specific Foods to Include

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soy

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

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

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

  • Alpha – exerts proliferative effects

  • Beta – anti-proliferative effects

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

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

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

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Yours in health,


 

HEALTHY HORMONE SERIES PART IV

NATURAL CONTRACEPTION, EXERCISE & LIFESTYLE 

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

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

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

Toxins

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

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

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

– Bernhard Hennig PhD, RD

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

  • Drink green tea

  • Use spices and herbs like parsley and turmeric

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

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

  • Flavour your water with some fresh lemon

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

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

Exercise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fat Mass

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

Oral Contraceptive Pill  

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

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

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

Natural Progesterone

  • Promotes embryo implantation and pregnancy

  • Decrease risk of blood clots

  • Promotes hair growth

  • Improves brain health and cognition

Synthetic progesterone

  • Aborts pregnancies

  • Increase risk of fatal blood clots

  • Hair loss

  • Causes depression

Natural Oestrogen

  • Growth of reproductive organs and breasts

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

  • Maintenance of structure of skin and blood vessels

  • Protects against cardiovascular disease

Synthetic Oestrogen

  • Mood swings

  • Depression – lowers serotonin levels

  • Low libido

  • Decreases bone density

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

The OCP and Nutrient Depletion 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Natural Approach to Contraception

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

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

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

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

Yours in health,

 

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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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