Hormone Imbalance in Women

Our hormones…when they are in balance we can feel energized, healthy and full of life. When they are off, it can feel like hell. And for women, our hormone balancing act starts when we hit puberty and really keeps coming at us until after menopause. And unfortunately, it is something that we never really talk about, never learn about and don’t discuss with our doctors or health practitioners until we are experiencing intense symptoms. But we’re going to change all that with this week’s blog dedicated to hormone imbalance in women.

What are the symptoms of hormone imbalance?

Hormones play a very important role in our overall health. Depending on which hormones are not in balance or not working properly, your symptoms can be drastically different. For women, the most common hormonal imbalance is PCOS – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and affects one in every 10 women in ‘childbearing age’. That said, your normal hormonal cycle naturally changes during puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause. And if you are coming into or going through menopause right now, your hormonal balance is a key part to your daily life.

According to Healthline.com, symptoms of a hormonal imbalance specific to women include: heavy or irregular periods, including missed periods, stopped period, or frequent period

  • acne on the face, chest, or upper back
  • thinning hair, hair loss or excessive hair on the face, chin, or other parts of the body
  • weight gain or trouble losing weight
  • darkening of skin, especially along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath breasts
  • skin tags
  • vaginal dryness and/or vaginal atrophy
  • pain during sex
  • night sweats
  • fatigue
  • increased sensitivity to cold or heat
  • constipation or more frequent bowel movements
  • dry skin and/or puffy face
  • unexplained weight loss (sometimes sudden)
  • increased or decreased heart rate
  • frequent urination and increased thirst
  • muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness and/or muscle weakness
  • pain, stiffness, or swelling in your joints
  • increased hunger
  • depression
  • decreased sex drive
  • nervousness, anxiety, or irritability

That’s a serious list. But if you can relate to even just a few of these symptoms, it might be time to consider how your nutrition is affecting your hormone balance. As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, this is one of my fields of concentration. And I would love to help you! Workshops and free health consultations are coming up…email me at andrea@fitcommunications.ca for more info. But let’s first give you a few great tips on how nutrition can help.

What does nutrition have to do with it? How can nutrition help?

When we have cellular inflammation (which can be due to microbial invasion or diet here) our insulin levels tend to increase. What we need to do is avoid this inflammation and in turn, avoid insulin spikes. We do this by choosing foods to help balance our inflammation and hormones levels all out.

There are a few theories on what foods we can choose to help with hormone balancing, but all really have the same concepts in mind. For example, according to Barry Sears, lowering your excessive carb intake is key. You plate should be 1/3 low fat protein and 2/3 colorful fruits and vegetables. Adding in good fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds and olive oil is also key. He also suggests eating three meals per day, 5 hours apart, and including supplementing with Omega-3 fish oil and polyphenols (this is what makes fruits and veggies so colorful!)

Next, we have to talk about sugar. According to Sarah Wilson, sugar is what makes us fat while adding appetite and hormone havoc to our bodies. According to Wilson, the maximum daily sugar intake should be 6 – 9 teaspoons per day. But the average person eats 23!! This excess sugar intake can cause a host of issues from diabetes to cardiovascular disease to increased inflammation and everything in between. It really is the sweet and silent killer of our generation.

What about menstrual wellness? Can the way we eat affect our periods and pre-menopausal symptoms?

In short, YES. Eating a low-glycemic diet is important, ensuring our liver is working optimally through detoxification. By this, I mean eating an abundance of cruciferous veggies (think broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, bok choy), increasing our intake of phytoestrogens like whole organic soy and flaxseed, and beets seriously becoming your new best friend. We also want to ensure we keep our lifestyle health in check with both stress reduction for 15 minutes per day (walk outside, meditate, yoga, stretch!) and regular exercise.

As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, helping women through their hormone imbalances and figuring out what foods can help and which ones can hinder is an integral part of what I love to do. Getting on the road to health and happiness by using food as medicine is key. For more information, feel free to contact me anytime at andrea@fitcommunications.ca

 

 

 

Binge Eating Disorder

Eating disorders is a near and dear subject to my heart. As a woman who is always doing my best to cheer women on, how could it not be something that is? In Canada, approximately one million women have an eating disorder, and it is one of the leading causes of mental health issues resulting in premature death in our country. It affects girls and women of all ages. Did you know that 81% of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat? And 51% of 9 and 10-year-old girls feel better about themselves if they are on a diet.

Recently, through my education at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York, I listened to a lecture by Amy Pershing, the Clinical Director at the Center for Eating Disorders and Founding Director of “Bodywise,” a comprehensive treatment program for binge eating disorder (BED). Binge Eating Disorder, or BED, is an eating disorder that I had personally never heard of before, and was shocked to find out that it is the most common eating disorder in North America by 5 times. This week’s blog is to share some of the knowledge I learned as it may be helpful to our readers both personally or for someone they love.

Those with Binge Eating Disorder are often viewed by outsiders as people with low self-esteem, a lack of willpower, depressed and that it is not a ‘real’ eating disorder. What is important to remember here is that shame does not create sustainable change. Shaming anyone into doing or changing anything simply does not work. In fact, it typically does the absolute opposite.

Approximately 30% of those diagnosed with BED are NOT overweight nor obese. I find this a really interesting point, as many would assume binge eaters would definitely overweight. But that is not the case. I feel it is important for our readers to know should they worry someone in their life might be dealing with this disorder. But what DOES it mean to have BED?

In a nutshell, there is a lack of control and ability to stop the food eating binge, and tremendous amounts of guilt and shame go along with the binge. To be diagnosed with BED, three of the following must also be happening:

  1. Eating more rapidly than normal
  2. Eating until uncomfortably full
  3. Eating large amounts of food when not hungry
  4. Secretive eating
  5. Feeling disgusting, depressed or guilty after a binge

The above actions must happen one or more times per week for three months, and is not associated with bulimia nor anorexia. This is an eating disorder in and of itself.

Other than the obvious negative feelings about oneself that comes with BED, there are also numerous health issues that can also happen. These include but are not limited to:

  • PCOS – Polycystic OvarySyndrome
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Over production of cortisol (‘stress hormone’)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Asthma
  • Stress
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Sleep deprivation

People who are suffering from Binge Eating Disorder see food in a different way, meaning they have a relationship with food that is not necessarily healthy. Often food is used for emotional regulation, self-punishment, distraction, boundary setting, soothing, rebellion, or using food subconsciously.

There are many reasons why BED can happen, and what I feel is really important to know is that it can happen to people of all ages and lifestyles. Young kids who are forced to ‘grow up quickly’ often use food as a sense of comfort and secretly eat to feel loved. Athletes after finishing a competition or are in ‘off season’ often binge eat as they are feeling the need to rebel or take control of food off the playing field or stage. People who restrict their food intake for what appears to be healthy reasons may binge weekly on a ‘cheat day’. All of these are examples of BED, and it is not simply ‘overeating once in a while’. It is an eating disorder associated with mental health that needs to be worked on with a professional.

A statement of assumption in the lecture that really stuck out to me was this:

            Thin is always better.

            Thin is always possible.

            Thin people are better people.

None of these three sentences are true. None of these three sentences have value. But they are seen as truth in our society all too often. Being thinner will not make all of your problems go away. And bullying someone based on their body size or weight is never okay. You never know what someone is dealing with behind closed doors, so I ask for you to move through your day with kindness and love, and know that it isn’t always sunshine and roses for everyone each day.

If you or someone you know may be affected by BED or any other eating disorder, please ask for help. Here is a great place to start:

COVID-19 – Anxiety in Kids

Our new normal of COVID has undoubtably affected everyone. As adults, we have lost jobs, moved work to home, or have become a front-line worker. Parents have become teachers or stay at home “working parents” a top of our already demanding work and life schedules. We have become hyper-sensitive to sterilization and cleanliness, we are wearing masks and keeping our distances. There is no doubt that these changes are creating anxiety within even the most chill of people. For those that were already experiencing anxiety, these changes are taking things to a whole new level and come with its own set of challenges.

Our children are not exempt from this increased anxiety. Think about it… our kids were ripped out of school, out of activities, away from their friends and even their normal routines. Now add on the threat of “the end of the world” and discussions about daily cases and death tolls. All of this is in a home where parents are stressed to the max with all of their own personal issues surrounding the pandemic. Even as the restrictions are lifted, it is met with its own set of stressors such as wearing masks, fear of touching anything and getting back to school – with people they haven’t seen in months. This is enough to make even the most laidback child a nervous wreck.

It is difficult enough for adults to recognize anxiety in themselves, let alone reach out for help. As such, children are at a much bigger disadvantage. They likely don’t even know what anxiety is, let alone how to ask for help or how to deal with their feelings. Even those kids that do reach out may not be received with an open-minded and supportive response. And those parents or caregivers that do want to help their children, may have no idea how.

So what can we do as parents? Well as a mother, I have done quite a bit of research on the subject and here is what I would suggest:

    • Have conversations with your kids and ask them how they are feeling about “all of this”. Listen and don’t undermine or write off their worries. “You don’t have to worry about that” and “you’ll be fine” is not necessarily going to work. Their fears may not be as irrational as you think. I mean, did you think we would be here six months ago?
    • Don’t talk about, or watch the news with your kids. Kids don’t need to know case numbers or death tolls. Nothing that they hear will help to protect them and it will likely only increase their worries.
    • Do confirm that it is perfectly normal for them to experience the feelings that they are having. They shouldn’t feel badly about how they feel. Confirm that they are always able to come talk to you about this (or anything!)
    • Don’t ignore that we are in a very strange environment. They know. DO tell them about all the steps you, your family and school are taking and as scary as all of the precautions are, that they are being done to keep them safe.
    • Introduce them to “Deep Breathing”. The sheer act of slowing down and consciously breathing is one of the easiest ways to relax and help gain perspective. Try either of these sites for some neat ideas that are made for kids. yoremikids.com and copingskillsforkids.com. The second one is a great resource for parents in dealing with COVID-19 specific anxiety. It gives ideas for plans and strategies to combat a variety of feelings.
    • Look for help. There are SO many free services and exercises available on line. One that I think is great is from Anxiety Canada. They have many things directly related to and for children and youth.
    • Finally, try to give yourself a break and be a good role model. Show your kids how to relax and how to positively deal with stress and anxiety. They will learn more from watching you than listening to you.

It is likely that most children, teens and adults alike will or have experienced some level of anxiety as it relates to our new situation and the pandemic. If you are thinking that this is perhaps something more serious that should be addressed, there are many resources available to help.  Here is a link provided by Rupertsland that is full of resources.

Remember, if you are reading this, you are showing that you love your kids and want what is best for them. That makes you a super parent so for doing that so go easy on yourself – you’re doing a great job!