Written by: Jess Demasi (B.A. in Psych + Eating Psychology Coach. Postgrad specialty in women's health and hormones).
I can vividly remember the day in 5th grade when they separated us from the boys, sat us down on mini blue chairs that now would barely support one of my butt cheeks and showed us the video that taught us EVERYTHING we need to know about being a woman. Pause for hour-long eye roll.
You know what that video failed to mention (besides anything USEFUL)? It failed to tell us a week out of every month you’ll have the honor of going through cramps that feel like an alien is putting down roots in your uterus, heavy bleeding that makes you wonder if this will actually be the period that kills you, and (my personal favorite) the emotional breakdowns that cause you to question all your life decisions up until that point, making you do something so drastic that you spend the OTHER 2 weeks of the month doing damage control for. And around and around we go. Not to mention the bloating, water retention, breakouts, nausea, cravings and (for the EXTRA lucky ones) vomiting.
Many of us look at these fun activities and just say, “Yeah, being a girl can be a real pain sometimes” as if this is our duty or responsibility. Mostly because we were told this was ‘just a part of being a woman’.
Funny thing is, being in excruciating pain around your period is actually NOT NORMAL.
Normal? Absolutely not.
It is NOT normal to have PMS and menses symptoms that are so painful and invasive they intrude on your everyday life. Experience some cramping? Sure, your uterus IS pushing lining out of your body after all. Some light fatigue and maybe some cravings? Yup, totally normal.
Cramps that leave you bedridden and mood swings so bad you feel like you become a different person? NOT NORMAL
You’re probably finding that really hard to believe, considering most women don’t know or haven’t experienced anything different. But that’s exactly why having this conversation is so necessary. Extreme PMS that interferes with your daily life HAS a root cause (and no, it’s not ‘being a woman’)
THE ROOT CAUSE OF PMS: ESTROGEN DOMINANCE
Long story short, PMS is caused by a HORMONE IMBALANCE. Though there are many different combinations of imbalances that can lead to a whole host of problems, there is a specific imbalance that correlates most to PMS symptoms. This imbalance is something referred to as ESTROGEN DOMINANCE. This essentially means there is too much estrogen floating around in your body, causing negative side effects like cramping, bloating, nausea, heavy bleeding, blood clots, weepiness, and anxiety/depression.
When Estrogen is too high, it’s either 1) absolutely high or 2) high IN RELATION to progesterone. This is more common.
*You see, hormones are tricky. You can never consider one without the other. Absolute numbers rarely tell you anything, because it is the RATIOS of one in relation to the other that really matter. So, essentially, you can have normal estrogen numbers but if your progesterone is dipping too low, you automatically enter into an estrogen dominant state. See what I mean when I say hormones are so temperamental?
There are many things that attribute to Estrogen Dominance, and therefore PMS:
1. INSUFFICIENT LIVER FUNCTION
The liver is responsible for detoxing hormones out of your body. If the liver is unable to detox estrogen out swiftly, it gets absorbed back into your bloodstream and contributes to estrogen dominance. Overwhelming the liver with high fructose foods, alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods don’t allow it the breathing room to focus on properly detoxing your hormones, which is why drinking the week leading up to your period can exacerbate PMS symptoms.
2. STRESS IS TOO HIGH
Stress is the NUMBER ONE cause of low progesterone. When you are stressed your body STEALS the materials it uses to make progesterone to instead make Cortisol. This can happen from not sleeping enough, over exercising and undereating, emotional stress, or anxiety/depression. Low progesterone + normal/excess estrogen = Estrogen Dominance.
3. NOT HAVING REGULAR BOWEL MOVEMENTS
The liver and gut are BFFs. Like, sleepovers-everyday-make-up-secret-language-BFFs. The liver sorts through and gets the estrogen ready for removal, and your GUT is responsible for taking out the trash. If you’re not pooping (like MINIMUM once a day) then you are not taking out the trash enough. Estrogen will get reabsorbed back into your body and, well, you know what happens then: Estrogen Dominance.
4. CARRYING TOO MUCH EXCESS BODY FAT FOR YOUR BODY
FUN FACT: Fat cells produce Estrogen. Or, more specifically, fat cells perform aromatization–which is where they convert testosterone INTO estrogen. The more fat cells you have, the more estrogen you produce. This is one of the reasons why when women engage in restrictive dieting and lose too much fat too quickly, their hormones can get all messed up. You NEED body fat to have healthy levels of estrogen. If you have too much for YOUR body, though, you can have too many fat cells producing too much estrogen. This can contribute to Estrogen Dominance. (*note, there is no specific weight where aromatization won’t take place. Everyone’s healthy stable weight is different. Please don’t take this as a reason to go lose all your body fat. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, eat nourishing whole foods, DO NOT under eat, move your body, and allow your weight to settle into its stable natural place. If you do that, I promise this factor won’t need to be on your radar.)
5. CONSUMING PHYTO- AND XENO-ESTROGENS
Phytoestrogens are foods that ACT like estrogen in the body. I normally advise being cautious with these for women with estrogen dominance since they can react to different forms of estrogen in the body in various ways. Foods like soy, legumes, and flaxseeds are not bad but I highly recommend caution if you are actively trying to heal Estrogen Dominance.
Xenoestrogens are estrogenic compounds that are found in, like, EVERYTHING these days. Fertilizer, BPA, cleaning products, skin care, make up, etc. This is the big reason why safe/non-toxic skincare has become such a hot topic. Every day it seems like there is more science coming out about the harmful effects a lot of our personal care products are having on our endocrine system. NOT TO MENTION, toxins in our products have to be detoxed by the liver, which we need to unburden as much as possible so it can focus on ridding our body of excess estrogen!
Switch to non-toxic skin care, makeup, and household products. Use the EWG skin deep database to see the safety ratings of thousands of products!
6. TAKING OR HAVE TAKEN THE BIRTH CONTROL PILL
You had to know this was coming right? What is the NUMBER 1 way to piss off your hormonal balance? Throw some synthetic hormones up in there and let them go crazy. If you’ve been on the pill or are on it, go here to read my in-depth post specifically about how to heal from the pill.
HOW TO GET RID OF PMS FOR GOOD
DETOX EXCESS ESTROGEN
You will do this by supporting your Liver and your Gut. A key recommendation for this is to eat a minimum of 30 grams of fiber from a MIX of soluble sources like root veggies and insoluble sources like leafy greens. Make sure you are pooping AT LEAST once a day. A good, hormone releasing, hey-look-at-you-go poop. Okay? This is important. It is crucial to be supporting your detoxification pathways to facilitate estrogen excretion. Here are my go-to detox supporting tips:
·drink warm water with lemon upon waking on an empty stomach
·sweat and move regularly
·consume potent liver supporting foods like dandelion root, broccoli sprouts, beets, grass-fed liver and bitter herbs
·take magnesium citrate if you struggle with bowel movements
·consume gut enriching foods like probiotics and bone broth
EAT AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET
When inflammation is high, it increases the aromatase enzyme, which, as I just mentioned, takes testosterone and converts it to estrogen. This makes estrogen dominance even worse and increases estrogen metabolites, which makes your PMS run wild. When you’re converting and producing more estrogen, with low testosterone, you experience symptoms like weepiness, mood swings, fatigue, inability to build muscle, and (most noticeably) your sex drive will disappear. In order to combat this, we need to focus on increasing our consumption of ANTI inflammatory foods while decreasing our consumption of inflammatory foods:
1. INCREASE consumption of these :
·omega 3 rich fish: salmon, sardines, wild herring
·fiber-rich and nutrient dense dark leafy greens
·turmeric & ginger
·COMPLETE proteins for your neurotransmitter health (aka, making sure you don’t feel like you’re going crazy during that time of the month) from pasture raised organic animal sources
·nourishing fats like avocados, grassfed butter, MCT oil, and olive oil
·starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, winter squash, cassava root, and taro
·bone broth and probiotic foods
2. DECREASE consumption of these PMS irritating foods *PARTICULARLY around menses:
·caffeine (at least while you experience symptoms)
·inflammatory fats: canola oil, safflower oil, vegetable oil, etc
·conventional meat and dairy: they are loaded with antibiotics which screw with your natural hormone levels–> choose grass-fed meat and grass-fed raw dairy
·over the counter pain meds like Tylenol or Advil. They mess with your bodies natural ability to regulate inflammation, which will increase it in the long run. Plus, popping them multiple times per day on your period every month can wreak havoc on the lining of your stomach. Try some of my pain-relieving tips at the end of the article!
·any food that YOU have a sensitivity to. Food sensitivities are one of the top unknown causes of chronic inflammation
Do you remember what I said happens when you are chronically stressed? THAT’S RIGHT! Your body steals materials it would use to make progesterone to make cortisol (I knew you’d remember. You guys are the best). This is something that is referred to as the ‘Pregnenolone Steal’. And it jacks your progesterone big time, therefore causing you to be in an estrogen dominant state by default. Estrogen Dominant= horrible PMS. When your progesterone is down and you’re producing extra cortisol, you’ll likely experience breast tenderness, intense sadness, anxiety, disturbed sleep, and excess weight in the midsection. Here are some of my favorite ways to manage emotional stress:
·cut out toxic people
·make boundaries. ALL DAY EVERY DAY MAKE BOUNDARIES
·learn to say no
·pray, journal, meditate
·stop finding your worth in the way you look–easier said than done, but a large source of stress for most women is physical insecurity and the day in-day out negative self-talk has physical consequences on your cortisol output
·prioritize sleep over any task, workout, plans, anything. Sleep is the foundation from which you function and can be your Badass self
·Practice Gratitude: every day, write down three things you’re most grateful for. Gratitude is the source of contentment
MAKE BARBELL YOUR BAE
Exercise, in general, is going to GREATLY improve your detoxification process, help with hormone balance, facilitate blood flow to alleviate PMS cramping and increase serotonin & dopamine production to keep your mental health stable. Resistance training- heavy weight training, in particular- is going to do WONDERS for your hormone health. Here’s why: UNLIKE chronic cardio that raises your cortisol level and can actually slow your metabolism, weight training sensitizes your body to a hormone called insulin.
Insulin is what your pancreas secretes when you eat any kind of sugar. Totally normal and necessary, but for most women that have lived on high amounts of processed foods and refined sugar, they have become insulin resistant. Basically, your body has become inefficient at processing sugar, and it is a precursor to diabetes. It also is HIGHLY correlative for women who have estrogen dominance and intense PMS symptoms to have some sort of insulin resistance (NOT ALL, but many).
The solution? Increase your insulin sensitivity. How? Well, besides the obvious of focusing on more whole foods, you can move your body in ways that feel good. Though I won’t FORCE you to love resistance training, I urge you to give it a shot because it is THAT beneficial for estrogen dominance.
Not only will you increase your insulin sensitivity, you will stimulate your Lymphatic system, improve detoxification, build muscle, speed up your metabolism, and balance your estrogen dominance with healthy testosterone levels which will restore your energy and (best for last) sex drive……
I should’ve led with that last one. Huh?
*note: This is a general recommendation for ALL month long. Listen to your body when you are PMSing and on your menses: if you are tired, sleep. If you want to move, go workout. You are the boss here.
As mentioned, it is very easy to enter into an estrogen dominant state if you’re progesterone dips too low. I mentioned above that this can happen for a number of reasons, mostly centering around things that put too much stress on your mind, body and heart. Learn how to manage those above, and then focus on a few key nutrients that are required for progesterone production.
·Magnesium: which regulates the pituitary gland (which then regulates hormones).
·Vitamin C: found in bell peppers, dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, and broccoli
·Vitamin B6: found in poultry, grass-fed beef, pistachios, and tuna.
·Zinc: found in Oysters, red meat, and some in pumpkin seeds.
·L-arginine: found highest in turkey, chicken, and pumpkin seeds
·Vitamin E: found highest in Almonds and Olive Oil. I recommend supplementing during your luteal phase (2nd half of cycle)
·Vitamin D: this is actually really important for ALL hormones, and considering most citizens work inside and don’t get their 20 minutes of direct sunlight a day, supplementing can be HUGE. I take a liposomal spray every morning with breakfast
MANAGE THE PAIN
I know what you’re probably thinking ‘Jess, I’m in pain NOW. Isn’t there anything I can do?’. GIRL I GOT YOU. I am not going to leave you hanging. While you implement all these long-term strategies, I have a few tried and true PMS pain relief techniques that never fail me or my cramping uterus:
·supplement with Magnesium Glycinate: Around 400mg and then leading up the week before your period until the first couple days of bleeding, boost it up to around 500-700 mg.
·Peppermint and Lavender Essential oil: AMAZING for headaches, nausea, and cramps. I rub peppermint oil in a circular motion on my temples if I ever get nauseous or have a headache.
·Magnesium Oil: it absorbs transdermally for better local absorption. I actually mix it with peppermint and lavender to get a dual pain relieving, calming rub on my tummy for menstrual cramps, stomach aches, and even sore muscles! Find it at any local health food store
·Heating pads: they’re a girl-with-cramps-so-bad-she-thinks-this-is-the-end’s best friend
·Exercise: on the days you know you usually get cramps, go and sweat. The endorphins help with the pain and the blood flow helps relieve cramps
Alright, ladies, that’s the basics of everything you need to know about PMS! Remember that extreme hormonal symptoms are NOT something you have to live with, but are your body’s way of communicating that something is off. Do some digging, and if you still can’t find relief from my suggestions above after a few cycles, get your hormone levels tested to pinpoint exactly what’s happening.
We hear the word fibre all the time, but what actually is it and is it really as important as what people say? Yep, it really is. I dare say it’s actually far more important than we even currently know.
Despite constantly being told by manufacturers and the front label of cereals and breads that we need to consume a high fibre diet, the extent of its impact on human health is not extremely well understood. The current basic knowledge on fibre is that it helps us bulk our stools and keep us regular but it’s involved in so many other important functions that get overlooked. I feel that if it had been given the attention it deserved from the very beginning and our health advisors were educated on its role in the body, we wouldn’t see so much chronic disease. That’s how important fibre really is. Anyone who follows me on social media knows I’m constantly talking about fibre but I promise it’s for good reason. Please let me tell you why.
Fibre is a structural component of plants and it's found in plant foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Fibre is not digested after we consume it. It remains unabsorbed as it passes through our digestive system and mops up toxins, waste products and any unwanted excesses. Let me say that again. It makes its way through our body and takes with it chemicals, toxins and any unwanted substances. It is the real detox deal. It even takes unwanted cholesterol particles which is why it has such large links to preventing heart disease. With heart disease being one of the largest killers of all time, you can see why I feel its use has been overlooked.
Due to this action of fibre passing through our digestive system, it helps us bulk up our stools and is vital for healthy elimination and detoxification.
Fibre’s also incredibly important for our gut bacteria. Whilst probiotics seem to be the go to treatment for most gut related conditions, they do not play the only part in changing the state of our microbiome.
Certain fibres are the food our bacteria need to ferment and create a healthy environment. Whilst I fully support the prescription of probiotics and prescribe them often myself, I always explain to my clients that changing the state of our microbiome doesn't just involve popping capsules and supplementing bacteria. We also need to feed the bacteria. We can do this by reducing inflammation-causing foods, increasing fermented foods and most importantly, consuming adequate amounts of fibre. Its role is irreplaceable and probiotics are only achieving one part of the job. Having a healthy microbiome is 100% important so let’s not forget what fuels it. Some fibres contain prebiotics, which are compounds that ferment in the colon and positively change our gut microflora. Our colon and its counterparts is one of the most diversely colonised and active organs in the human body (containing trillions of micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and yeasts) and prioritising its health and activity has positive repercussions for the whole body. Namely, the health of our colon impacts our immune system (as the majority of our immune cells actually live in our gut), our hormonal health (certain bacteria help metabolise hormones when they are in excess), our skin health, neurotransmitter production and more.
Since fibre is indigestible, it virtually contains no calories that can be utilised by the human body.
Food manufacturers jumped on the high fibre bandwagon and started fortifying their food with unnatural sources of fibre. Just keep in mind that a fibre supplement, drug or a fibre fortified bread doesn’t necessarily mean the fibre is doing the same thing as a natural, plant-based fibre source. Artificial fibres aren’t always well tolerated by the body and the food its being added to might lack the nutrients that fibre foods contain.
It’s so easy to get fibre from real sources just the way nature intended - so endeavour to do that instead. When you read this list of foods that contain great sources of fibre, you’ll see how easy it is to achieve once you’re aware of it. The problem is that daily intake of fruits, vegetables and plant foods is just not being prioritised.
Medical literature suggests that eating a low intake of fibre is associated with an increased risk of colon, breast, ovary, endometrial and gastrointestinal cancer. To cut a long biochemical story short, there needs to be sufficient fibre mopping up toxins and unwanted particles in our digestive system, otherwise, they can cause damage to cells and start the inflammatory cascade. That's where we may say hi to chronic disease. Fibre-rich foods are also extremely nutrient dense, which is cancer preventative alone.
There’s another way fibre is cancer protective and it’s via the production of compounds called short-chain fatty acids. These are produced when fibre ferments in our colon. They not only help us metabolise important nutrients but they’re extremely anti-inflammatory for our gut. So many conditions are characterised by chronic inflammation in the bowels, so ensuring short-chain fatty acids are being produced via fibre intake always needs to be a priority. Low levels of short-chain fatty acid production have been linked to all kinds of worsened symptoms in inflammatory bowel disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. When intestinal tissue is being so dramatically damaged from poor food choices, medications, stress, alcohol, smoking etc, short-chain fatty acids really are Superman turning up in a cape.
Research also shows that patients with Crohn’s disease were able to go into remission with increased short-chain fatty acid production. That is incredible and could potentially be a management technique for the debilitating condition that is Crohn's disease.
But let’s get back to cancer prevention. One particular short-chain fatty acid, called butyrate, has been found to help keep colon cells healthy, is associated with the prevention of tumor cell growth and can encourage cancer cell destruction in the colon. If that’s not amazing enough, animal studies have shown us that cancer development may be significantly reduced with sufficient short-chain fatty acid production and a healthy bacterial environment.
Fibre and short-chain fatty acid production has also found to be useful in diabetes and insulin resistance. Consuming the recommended amount of fibre has the potential to slow down the rate at which we absorb glucose, has a role in the prevention of weight gain and fibre rich foods increase the amount of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants in the diet, all of which contribute to the prevention of diabetes.
It is well noted in literature that fibre is important for bowel regularity. This is primarily due to fibre's ability to increase the weight of your stool. Larger stools increase the ease and comfort around passing a stool and reduce the time between making trips to the bathroom. Having a high fibre diet is in most cases an effective treatment for constipation.
Now do you understand why I feel all our health advisors need to be well versed in fibre?
So where do we get it?
Processed breakfast cereals right? Ideally not.
Firstly, there are many different kinds of fibre and they don’t all have the same function. One type of fibre-rich food won't possess all the benefits I’ve just mentioned, so it’s so unbelievably important that we get a diverse range of plant foods in our diet. There’s cellulose, hemicellulose, lignins, pectins, gums, beta-glucans, resistant starches, fructans and chitin. Some are fermentable, some do the mopping up and excretion of toxins, some bind to excessive cholesterol, some produce short-chain fatty acids, some slow the rate of our glucose absorption and others feed our beneficial bacteria what they need to thrive on. As we can see, fibre is extremely medicinal and we need all of it.
The good news is that most plant foods contain fibre but there are some definite standouts:
-Whole grains: brown rice, rye, barley and oats.
-Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, peas and beans
-Vegetables: asparagus, onion, garlic, leek, artichokes, tomato, root vegetables, cabbage family vegetables, potatoes that have been cooked and then cooled, celery, carrots and broccoli (especially the stalk)
-Fruits: apples, pears, figs, strawberries, raspberries, banana, avocado, apricots and citrus fruits
-Nuts and seeds including flaxseeds
-Other: psyllium husks
Take home message 1: Fibre is anti-inflammatory, helps create a healthy environment for our bacteria, is associated with the prevention of cancer, is effective for protecting our heart and helps manage blood sugar levels.
Take home message 2: Fibre is the real deal when it comes to detoxification. Skip the skinny teas, juice fasts and expensive detox supplements. Just eat a good amount of fibre - and make sure you're drinking enough water with it too.
Written by Dr Tim Leeming - Chiropractor & Exercise Nutritionist
To be healthy, all we need to do is exercise often and eat a healthy diet, right?
Last time I checked social media, all it said was that you need to have an exercise regime of 3 x CrossFit, 2 x running, 1 x hot pilates and a weekly Stand-Up Paddleboard yoga session. Plus, you have to eat a vegan diet that is biodynamic, honouring the rhythms of the sun and moon, and only drink water that is mixed in a 1:17 ratio with pink Peruvian rock salt. Alongside 90 minutes of daily transcendental meditation, with sunrise and evening balancing of the chakras, you’ll be healthy as you need to be. Oh, plus you must also take a quarterly trip to Bali, because it’s like a super healing and spiritual place where you’ll feel most connected. Too easy!
Ahh it’s a funny little world we live in, isn’t it? While the above is (somewhat) having a laugh, the complexity and layers to it aren’t all that unfamiliar for many of us just trying to do the right thing for our own and our family’s, friend’s and community’s health. Somewhere along the way, amongst the digital shitstorm of Instagram, Google, podcasts and audiobooks, living a healthy life got really confusing!
Perhaps one of the more poorly understood and misguided topics circulating out there in cyberspace is the relationship between exercise, food and overall wellbeing. Fair enough that it is not-so-well understood; depending how deeply you wish to understand it, it can be quite the course load. However, it can also be much easier to wrap your head around than social media currently makes it!
This little piece of writing is going to bust a few myths, so that you can better understand the role exercise plays in health and vitality, and how food fits into the equation. Ultimately, I hope you can read this and breathe a sigh of relief as you reconnect with the simplicity of moving, eating and being well!
The most important thing to understand is that the balance between diet and exercise for health (and body weight, though we here at The Nutrient Project typically don’t like to make the scales a focus) likely occurs at a ratio of 80:20 (food:activity). That is, 80% of it is food and 20% is exercise or energy output. As we are all quite unique, this 80/20 ratio is not rigid. I’d suggest it can drift 10-15% in either direction. For some, healthy function and an optimal body weight are achieved through around 65% dietary focus with 45% coming from physical activity. At the other end of the scale, some of us can achieve optimal health
through 95% diet and a minimal 5% of exercise with intent.
It’s true that you cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet, no matter who you are. Just because someone might look like Zac Efron in Baywatch, doesn’t necessarily mean their insides are in as good a shape. Looks can be very, very deceiving, and this is why we don’t rely on the scales to measure health.
Almost equally as important as understanding that food comes first in the intake/output equation, is knowing that exercise does not have to be high-intensity hard work! Just as social media got a little crazy with health care advice from all the best bloggers, our physical activity priorities have become heavily geared towards intense exercise. It just doesn’t have to be this way!
“No pain, no gain” and “sweat it out” aren’t always the answers.
Again, the way your body responds to various forms of physical activity is as unique and individual as your personal ratio of food:activity for best health. I have known a remarkable number of people to find highly intense exercise more damaging to their wellbeing and bodyweight than gentler modalities. They routinely respond to a 45-minute HIIT session by becoming systemically inflamed with an acute increase in bodyweight, they take days to recover, get injured often and suffer from a great deal of psychological distress from trying to self-motivate for the next session. I’ve seen the same in some individuals who choose to run for exercise.
For such people, you are probably a whole lot better off letting go of the pressure you feel from watching Instagram videos of famous ‘fitness experts’, and instead finding a tepid form of physical activity the stimulates your physiology in a healthful way. Perhaps it’s barefoot beach walking, hiking hills, heated (or not) yoga, aqua exercise (aerobics or jogging) or riding a bike. There are plenty of other, more creative ideas out there – typically administered by progressive and thoughtful professionals who recognise this need for slower, more gentle exercise in a particular facet of the population. I take my hat off to these health professionals.
The main caveat here is that you shouldn’t use the last paragraph as an excuse to not exercise a little harder from time to time. While a small proportion of us will probably benefit from exclusively gentle activity, the majority of us will respond best to a variation of some higher-intensity activities mixed with lighter modalities. A couple of gym sessions plus a longer walk and a yoga session to round out the week, for example.
Keep in mind that movement is movement – whether you are going for a walk for the point of getting some exercise, or you spend 20 minutes walking to work and another 20 walking home, it all adds up. Therefore, if you’re less active in your daily routine (of work or whatever you give most of your time to), you might want to consider more organised exercise per week (and how you’re fuelling yourself, of course!). If you’ve got an active day job, consider how active it is while you plan your weekly exercise sessions. Either way – active day job or opposite – it is pertinent that you move often! If you’re seated for much of the day, it pays to get up and move every 30-60 minutes, even if just for a few minutes.
The latest science is telling us that even if you blast a heavy training session before or after work and you eat only, if you sit all day you are at a significantly greater risk of poor heart and visceral health (the figures are as frightening as those for smoking).
So, hopefully by now it is making sense that eating well comes first and exercise doesn’t always have to be hard and intense. We’ve also pointed out that moving more and moving often throughout the day should be of higher priority than sweating it out at the gym for 45-60 minutes. A final point that I should make, as an exercise nutritionist in particular, is that timing can be everything.
To get the most out of your body following any exercise or activity that you do, it’s essential to consume something shortly after (aim for no more than 30-45 minutes post-activity). This ensures that you are replenishing micro and macro nutrient stores, promoting optimal physiology in the breakdown and clean-up of toxins, and the building and regenerating of healthy tissues!
If you struggle to eat anything after exercising, try to have something liquid or smooth that is still reasonably nutrient-dense. A smoothie, chia pudding or soft piece of fruit are all good options. Of course, it’s hugely important to look at what you are eating around exercise, but that is not the purpose of this article. With exercise, the general rules of eating real, whole foods that are varied in colour and quantity and minimally processed by humans still apply. You’ll find plenty of wonderful information throughout the rest of this website about wholesome and nourishing foods to fuel overall wellbeing!
Don’t be discouraged by what you see on social media, and don’t feel like you’ve got to physically punish yourself in the exercise arena to achieve any sense of health or optimum function. You’re not a contestant on ‘The Biggest Loser’. Know that movement (and not just organised physical activity) is essential for wellness, and this can be achieved in many ways!
The bottom line is, without good food to fuel your life, no matter how much you exercise, you simply won’t be as healthy as you can be.
If you’d like to ask me anything, or talk further about your own exercise, eating or overall health, just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Dianna Bedran (BHlthSc, AdvDip Nat & Nut, Remedial therapies, Cert Hatha Yoga & Ayurveda).
Could you be living with endometriosis and not know? The probability is worth being considered as 1 in 10 women are sufferers (1). Endometriosis can take up to 10 years before it is diagnosed, and sometimes longer. This is due to women believing their pain is normal, or for medical professionals telling them their pain is normal.
It is NOT normal, and leaves certain women suffering for numerous years without care or management. A lot of awareness is coming to light nowadays, and I'm glad to see so many worthy articles circulating. Some women I have spoken to with endometriosis appear to be vague in regards to knowledge, treatment and management of the condition. Education is valuable in taking steps forward to improving your health, and taking control of your current situation. If you are a sufferer, then you know how it can affect your daily life in unpleasant ways. So here’s an overview on endometriosis and ways to work through it in order to improve your quality of life.
What is it:
Tissue within the womb are known as endometrium. This grows during the menstrual cycle and is shed when there is no pregnancy, as menstruation. Endometriosis is a condition where similar endometrium is growing in other parts within the body, including female reproductive organs. Behaving in the same manner in response to estrogen, it follows a similar cycle yet has no where to shed and is trapped within the body. Endometriosis is known as an inflammatory condition. It can occur at any age starting from menses, and with a possible reduction in symptoms with menopause (2).
Pain is common and can vary from extreme to no pain at all, which is known as silent endometriosis. Having no symptoms does not mean that you no longer have the condition.
Furthermore, endometriosis can lead to other conditions and symptoms within the body. Due to its inflammatory nature, it can affect hormones, sleep, energy levels, mood, bowel movements, ovulation pain, and pain during intercourse. It can cause muscular and skeletal pain, joint pain, IBS, and UTI’s. The upside is that endometriosis can be managed and one can live symptom free with proper management.
This can only be done through surgical intervention, yet surgical intervention will not cure endometriosis. It can only be managed with the correct care. Blood tests and scans can not diagnose endometriosis. The only way to diagnose is via a laparoscopy / laparotomy, followed by a biopsy (3). For this to be performed correctly, the surgery needs to be done by a well advanced surgeon who specialises in excision of endometriosis.
There is no cure for endometriosis. Even if you no longer express the symptoms, you still have the condition, however, it can still be a manageable condition. It should be noted that the extent of the symptoms do not express the severity of the condition. You can live pain free and still have endometriosis. Although commonly prescribed, the oral contraceptive pill is not always the best answer. It can mask the condition, so when a woman comes off the oral contraceptive pill in an attempt to fall pregnant she may face infertility struggles and a chronic condition to treat (4). It is best to ask for all your available options and make an informed decision best for you and your current circumstances.
It is also worth noting that endometriosis can be anywhere in the body. Places it expresses itself include the bowel area, joints, and even around the heart. It is not only in the uterus, therefore, always seek the advice of a well informed health care practitioner before getting surgery such as a hysterectomy.
The following was stated by Dr Jason Abbott, Medical Director at Endometriosis Australia and Professor of gynaecological surgery at UNSW:
“Women with endometriosis, by definition, have disease outside the uterus with these areas of inflamed tissue being the cause of pain and/or infertility. Hence, the uterus in women with endometriosis is often normal. Having a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and/or cervix) without removal of the additional endometriosis will cause ongoing symptoms in a woman with pain. So, hysterectomy is not a cure for endometriosis but it is beneficial that endometriosis is removed” (5).
Infertility & pregnancy:
There is a misconception around believing that having children will cure endometriosis (4). What is true, is that a full term pregnancy can decrease the risk of having endometriosis. Also, during pregnancy and after pregnancy, hormonal changes occur naturally within the mothers’ body. These changes may improve the symptoms of endometriosis but only temporarily. Therefore, having a baby is not an ideal treatment option for endometriosis sufferers.
While some women with endometriosis find it difficult to fall pregnant, others have had no issues at all.
There seems to be a genetic link with endometriosis in families (2). It presents itself as an autoimmune condition due to its inflammatory nature. This is not to say that it is an autoimmune condition, just that more research needs to be conducted in this area.
Having excess estrogen will not cause endometriosis, yet the condition itself is driven by estrogen (4). This could be estrogens from the environment, drugs, body fat, food, plastics, hormones, or circulating estrogen's that are within the body.
Once correctly diagnosed, a multi disciplinary approach should be implemented for successful management. This should include proper nutrition, lifestyle changes, possibly counseling, herbal medicine, acupuncture, exercise, pain management, and supplements. Ideally seek a well informed practitioner to manage the treatment plan, and dispense practitioner quality herbs and supplements.
Nutrition & Supplements:
1. An antioxidant rich diet will address oxidation within the body occurring as a result of the inflammation. Include more fresh fruits and vegetables, preferably organic when possible. Vitamin C rich foods such as guava, pineapple and oranges are a great source of antioxidants. Vitamin A rich foods such as carrots, and broccoli are also beneficial (3).
2. Wash your fresh produce well to remove the residue of chemicals and pesticides. These can be hormonal disruptors.
3. Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids for their anti-inflammatory benefits, pain management, and positive affects on the hormonal system (2). Omega-3 fatty acids also assist with mood and brain function.
4. Supplementing with the anti-inflammatory N-Acetyl Cysteine assists pain reduction. Studies have shown this to be an optimally functioning supplement for endometriosis sufferers (6).
5. Include foods from the brassica family of vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. They have an ability to assist in the clearance of estrogen's not required from the body.
6. Turmeric is another great anti-inflammatory. It has also been shown to reduce the size of endometriosis lesions and it's activity (6). Turmeric is also a beneficial liver herb and assists the liver with hormonal clearance (2).
7. Reduction of red meat, processed meats, caffeine, sugar, deep fried foods, saturated fats, cigarettes and alcohol. These can increase inflammation in the body. Alternatively include more ginger, nuts, seeds, and cold pressed oils.
8. Fibre eliminates excess estrogen via the bowels by binding to it, so increasing fibre intake from sources such as oats, chia seeds, brown rice, avocados, berries, psyllium husk, lentils and legumes can be hugely beneficial.
9. Excluding soy as it may aggravate estrogen receptor sites (3). Many products contain hidden soy ingredients such as energy bars, muesli bars, packaged foods, and processed meats.
10. Studies have shown that the microflora can be disrupted in inflammatory conditions such as endometriosis. Lactobacilli probiotics have shown to improve such situations (7).
11. Supplementing with Zinc as it has been found that most endometriosis sufferers are low in Zinc levels. It will also help reduce pain and prostaglandins (6).
12. Reduction or avoidance of dairy and gluten. These foods may disrupt immune function and release inflammatory cytokines (6) which can further pain.
1. The use of custom made herbal formulas and supplements will dramatically drive the management of endometriosis. Seek the advice of an experienced practitioner for such prescriptions.
2. Avoid the use of tampons due to the synthetics, fragrances and hormonal disrupting chemicals they may contain. The use of pure cotton sanitary pads is recommended.
3. Meditation has such a calming effect on the entire system. It is effective in pain management, improving quality of sleep, regaining a sense of inner peace and releases happy hormones throughout the body making it a natural medicine wonder.
4. Allow yourself to explore, ask, investigate, and not stop until you are satisfied with the answers. I know women who were told that their pain is “normal” by their health care professionals and so accepted it as a part of who they are in a women’s body for 20 years on. It is not normal. It is an indication of an imbalance that should be addressed. This applies to all menstrual conditions. Proper management improves quality of life.
I believe in the power of nature and the innate intelligence within our bodies that has an ability to manage, treat, resolve, and transform. It takes a change in perspective, lifestyle alterations, and compliancy to a professionally tailored treatment plan. Stay informed, empowered, and in control.
If you don’t feel quite right, ask a health professional you trust to go deeper into that with you. Be selective, you don’t want to see a health professional who will be quick to prescribe or quick to dismiss your situation. Most importantly, spread the awareness! A possible 10 year time frame for a diagnosis is way too long. With the correct knowledge, women will be able to detect signs and symptoms and seek professional advice earlier. Most importantly, don't take "your pain is normal" as an answer.
1. Endometriosis Australia (2016). Endometriosis Research. Retrieved from https://www.endometriosisaustralia.org/research.
2. Trickey, R. (2011). Women, Hormones, & the Menstrual Cycle. Melbourne, Australia: Holistic Health Group, p. 250, 253, 260, 261.
3. Hechtman, L. (2012). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Sydney, Australia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, p. 816-817, 820.
4. Orr, A., (2017). The Facts About Period Pain & Endometriosis- “What Women Need To Know”. Retrieved from http://drandreworr.com.au/the-facts-about-period-pain-endometriosis-what-women-need-to-know/
5. Price, L. (2018). Here’s What You Need To Know About Hysterectomies As An Endo ‘Cure’. Retrieved from https://www.pedestrian.tv/health/lena-denham-hysterectomy-endometriosis-australia/
6. Briden, L., (2016). Endometriosis: 5 Natural Treatments That Really Work. Retrieved from http://www.larabriden.com/endometriosis-natural-treatments-really-work/
7. Bailey, M.T., and Coe, C.L. (2002). Endometriosis is associated with an altered profile of intestinal microflora in female rhesus monkeys. Human Reproduction Journal 17(7):1704-8. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/120938272.
Written by: Dr Tim Leeming - BChiro, BAppSc (Hons) - Sport and Exercise Nutritionist.
Weight loss is an ongoing and convoluted issue in the world of food and nutrition. Ironically, it has become a much larger problem since humans started “playing with food”. By this I mean heavily processing and refining foods, mass producing them, creating artificial replacements, combining them with synthetic additives and preservatives, genetically modifying, and spraying for higher yield and longevity.
Over the past century or so, a sudden spike in the requirement for food production to meet the demands of an exponential growth in the planet’s population has lead us to a rather interesting mix of politics, public health and food. When you really think about it, the fact that our governments are having to teach us something so natural as how to eat is actually quite a concerning notion. Perhaps one of the best examples of “playing with food” has been the government guidelines (a.k.a food pyramids) dished out to us in the past few decades.
I’d argue that a great deal of our current chronic health issues are a direct, or very closely linked, result of governmental dietary guidelines in the Western world. A few of these chronic health issues are things like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and auto-immunity. In technical terms, we refer to these as chronic, non-communicable diseases. I think there’s an ignorant irony in calling them non-communicable, because it is the ongoing and unrelenting pervasive communication of faulty information on government websites and handouts, in newspapers and on billboards and along our supermarket aisles that has ultimately landed us here.
Sure, there are plenty of other factors in this complex issue that have contributed to an alarming prevalence of chronic disease, such as stress, lifestyle choices, hours of daily movement and sleep duration and quality. But we simply cannot deny the role that food – something we engage with many times per day – has to play in the big picture.
I digress – the point of this article is not to have a socio-political rant. The point is to share applicable advice about how to lose weight in the most natural way possible; in ways that agree with your natural physiology.
The science is becoming very clear now that nutritional guidelines telling populations to build their diets around a foundation of extensively processed and refined carbohydrates have literally lead to a heavier Western world. Over the past 30-40 years, we have been taught to eat using food pyramids that are built upon a foundation of bland and nutrient-void grains. Think wheat, flour, bread, muesli bars, white rice, cereals, etc, etc. We’ve been scared into avoiding dietary fat, and we’ve all but forgotten many of the nutrients beyond the big three: carbohydrate, fat and protein. There are actually hundreds of micronutrients – vitamins, minerals and elements – that are profoundly important in promoting not only weight loss but great health in general. To put it bluntly, the bottom line is that this advice – this dogma – has contributed to making us the fattest and unhealthiest society yet.
So then, how do you go about losing weight? Given the impressions I’ve pointed out above, the simple answer is: stop doing what the majority are doing! Stop basing your diet around this fallacy of colourless “foods” like breads, pastries, pasta and muesli bars. The next logical question then, “well if I shouldn't have so much bread or pasta, what can I eat?”
In the very wise and concise words of Michael Pollan, “eat food, not too much, mostly plants”. Pretty straightforward, right? Sadly, many of us have lost the concept of what food really is, and what isn’t really food. Through abundant marketing and accessibility, we’ve found ourselves in a society where man-made food-like substances are what most of us eat most of the time. If something won’t eventually rot or go off, it’s not food, it’s a food-like substance. There is a place for all foods in a balanced diet, however, a balanced diet means that the majority of your food is nutrient dense, natural, and has come from a whole food.
It’s not a diet, it’s not a strict regime, it’s just eating real, natural foods in the amounts your body requires and asks for.
To reiterate, the point of calling out food items such as flour, bread, pasta and muesli bars is not to demonise any single food as the cause of all ills, nor to completely ban these from the diet. Rather, the issue is that we have become heavily reliant upon these products, to a point that they form the foundation, the basis, the majority of what we eat! We need to reverse engineer the entire system – build a dietary foundation of real, unprocessed foods, upon which we can still enjoy those foods from time to time.
Consider these guidelines:
1. Eat real food – things you’d find in nature
2. Eat foods that have had minimal human interference. Ask yourself “how
close is this to how I would find it in nature?”
3. If it’s in packaging, opt for the shortest ingredient list possible. The
longer the ingredient list and the more unpronounceable and unnatural
chemicals added, the less likely it is to be a real food.
In practically applying these points, filling your plate with varied portions of fat such as nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut-based foods, eggs, grass-fed meat and butter is a great place to start. Supplement the fats with protein (ironically you’ll find that many good fat sources also contain good protein, i.e. nuts, seeds, meat, eggs) and carbohydrates from unprocessed sources like root vegetables, fruit or whole grains. Be sure to include plenty of leafy greens to ensure high micronutrient quantity. Every physiological process in your body relies upon a micronutrient precursor, so if you want your metabolism to work well (so that you can burn unwanted fat, detoxify, eliminate waste and feel great) you need to focus on micronutrients, too! That is how the journey to good health begins.
By now the idea that dietary fat is bad for you and will make you fat has been challenged and conquered many times over. If you want to lose weight, much of the scientific evidence will now tell you that eating healthy fats (and that includes some sources of saturated fat), plenty of properly sourced protein (think pasture-raised eggs and meat, organic nuts and seeds, not protein bars or powders with all the additives) and moderate servings of whole food carbohydrates is a very effective way to go. Funnily enough, the only macronutrient the human body doesn’t actually NEED to survive is carbohydrate! While that is an interesting point, we’ll talk soon about how completely dropping all carbs isn’t necessarily the way to go.
Vitally important for weight loss, by means of improving nutrient absorption and waste excretion, is to look after your gut health. In my experience, easily the most direct method for dropping the first two to five kilograms for any individual has been to work hard on supporting the microbiota or bacteria living in your gut. Very briefly, there’s two things to consider when doing so; the first is to increase fermented and probiotic foods in your diet, and the second is to reduce gut-altering foods such as sugar, refined carbohydrates, in some cases dairy and in many cases gluten. To truly discover more about how to improve gut health, there is plenty of awesome gut-specific advice throughout The Nutrient Project
Finally, a recent study (1) published in the renowned Journal of the American Medical Association, investigated whether a low-fat versus low-carb diet was better for weight loss. After 12 months, the authors concluded that neither diet was better than the other. Both groups lost similarly significant amounts of weight. The explanation? This particular study spent in excess of 20 hours educating the study participants about the importance of eating real, natural foods. Armed with that education and knowledge, it didn’t really matter whether these individuals massively decreased fat or carbohydrate, they still lost weight because they were eating real food!
Personally, in working with individuals trying to lose weight and improve their health and performance in sport, at work or in day to day life, I’ve found that focusing first on increasing quality fats is most effective. Alongside working hard on gut health, this is the most direct method for helping an individual to better listen to and understand their body and what fuels it runs best on. While the above JAMA study does show that low-fat and low-carb diets were equally as effective, the reality is that we are a high-carb society. So, before you opt for low-fat or low-carb, you must first balance out a likely high-carb Western diet by increasing quality fats and minimising carbohydrates to only real food sources. Once you have set a foundation of stable gut health, steady blood sugar levels (through eating satiating quality fats and getting rid of processed carbs) and a diet based on real foods, it will become so much clearer to you how you’re truly supposed to eat. That’s when you’ll find the body weight and energy levels that you’ve been wishing and working for.
For some, the concepts covered in this article are enough to get you started on an effective and healthy weight loss journey. For others, you might still feel the need for some guidance, personalised advice and help in general. If that is the case, reach out to The Nutrient Project Team and take a big step towards a healthier you.
(1) Christopher D. Gardner, PhD1; John F. Trepanowski, PhD1; Liana C. Del Gobbo, PhD1; et al: Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2673150