Tag Archives: adrenals

Gluten-free for 19 days and what have I noticed?

First of all, I cannot believe how quickly these last few weeks have gone by. The first day of my gluten-free journey I found myself at a wonderful Italian restaurant with my husband Joe and son Conor: dilemma #1: don’t reach for yummy warm focaccia and dip it into spicy extra virgin oil, as I would normally do. Temptation averted, the rest should be easy! I chose polenta and sausage for my entree, thus avoiding pasta and felt quite satisfied sipping on a glass of full-bodied red wine and walked away not feeling quite as stuffed.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation (no more than one glass a day)  it also is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

Red wine, Pinot noir in particular, is rich in resveratrol, an antioxidant protector of healthy cells against aging. When taken in moderation (no more than one glass a day) it also is known to have hormone balancing benefits.

It’s those first few days of making a change that are always the hardest and most daunting but once I settled in to my new routine, I found it easier every day to not reach for the pretzels….or grab a piece of whole grain toast for breakfast….sneak a bite of a cookie that someone(usually me!) brought in to work….grab some pita chips to dip into my hummus….order pizza for dinner or bagel and cream cheese for breakfast(these are some of my favorite foods, by the way).  Instead I made up a big batch of quinoa which I would have for breakfast with some cheese or eggs( in lieu of toast) or some polenta to have with roasted veggies and some protein for lunch or dinner. I often had thin rice cakes with hummus or nut butter for breakfast and I found some very tasty quinoa chips at our local New Seasons Market.  It took a little bit of planning and an occasional , ” oh right, I can’t have that right now” moment but it has been  fairly easy to eliminate gluten and wheat from my daily diet.

So what have I noticed? I don’t feel as full or bloated after a meal, my waist is at least 1 inch smaller, I haven’t felt as hungry between meals, my blood sugar feels more even and I haven’t had as big an energy dip after lunch. That last one is huge as I usually get up at 4:30 am during the week so I can get to the gym and walk my dog before work…so when 2:00pm rolls around, the temptation to take a nap can be pretty big(those Latin cultures with their afternoon siestas are ONTO something). Sleep has also been deep and restful , another substantial  plus as we all know how important getting adequate sleep is for restoring our adrenals and keeping cortisol levels balanced, equating to less belly fat: wow , this stuff really does make sense, doesn’t it? Avoiding gluten/wheat not only helps to even out our insulin production but it also helps to regulate our cortisol levels, both of which then help to reduce that dreaded belly fat/muffin top/menopot which we all are trying to avoid or diminish.

That dreaded belly fat! Reducing consumption of gluten-containing foods can help you to lose it

That dreaded belly fat! Reducing consumption of gluten-containing foods can help you to lose it

Now that I can see the finish line of this experiment, I am left wondering how I will apply what I have learned from these 21 days to my future diet and lifestyle.  As I suspected, my digestion, mood  nor skin haven’t changed so I don’t think I personally have gluten intolerance.  But I do think I will benefit from minimizing its consumption on a regular basis so I will treat eating wheat and gluten-containing products like I do sweets: small amounts, occasional consumption more like a condiment than a staple of life. That way I can indulge in a piece of pizza, a nice hot piece of focaccia, a warm chewy cookie from time to time.f

And that is the way we should eat, the way Michael Pollan has so eloquently laid out for us: “Eat food(whole), not too much , mostly plants”. If we all followed this advice, our level of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease , inflammatory diseases, and even mental illness would drop greatly. Adapting a whole foods, plant-based diet leads to optimal health and wellness, hormone balance and an improved quality of life. What could be better than that???

Spring is in the air and flowers are popping up everywhere: definitely adding to our quality of life...

Spring is in the air and flowers are popping up everywhere: definitely adding to our quality of life…

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Filed under Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

Last minute shopping and ‘to do list’

Okay everyone, tomorrow is the big day for those of you who are joining us on our second ‘consciousness cleanse’ so here are some tips and suggestions to make it more enjoyable, beneficial and to help you measure your own progress and results.

1. Load up on fresh veggies, fruits, whole grains: bread/crackers/pasta/brown rice/quinoa and whatever else that intrigues you. Here are a few examples of the things that I tend to eat, but trust me, there are endless choices of all of these!

Some of my favorite produce choices

Some of my favorite produce choices

Some of my 'go-to' whole grains

Some of my ‘go-to’ whole grains

2. Stock up on a variety of healthy protein choices: beans, hummus, yogurt(high protein, no sugar), nuts, eggs, cheeses, tofu, tempeh, meats(hormone and antibiotic free whenever possible), chicken(free range organic is preferable), nut butters(without sugar, of course). These are all loaded with amino acids which are essential for brain health and mood stabilization, as well as for sustained energy and maintenance of muscles and bodily tissues.

Examples of easy, healthy protein sources

Examples of easy, healthy protein sources

3. Have an assortment of beverages that you can choose from: herbal teas(see my post from yesterday), juices, kombucha, sparkling water and cider and for those of you who will be weaning slowly off of caffeine, decaf coffee and black teas.  In lieu of ‘cocktail hour’, try drinking a ‘VIrgin Mary and reap the benefits of the vegetable juices while savoring the taste of your drink or try sparkling water with a slice of lemon or orange.

4. Be sure to get in some physical exercise each day. Walking is great plus whatever else you enjoy. Drink plenty of water as well throughout the day.

5. If you are already taking a multivitamin, continue to do so. Other things to take: drink some Yogi De Tox tea, 1-2 cups /day, if it is available to you. Take Ashwaganda and Milk thistle: good for adrenal and liver support. We will make more suggestions later on.

5. Take some baseline measurements of your physical self, as well as some of the indicators that measure how well you sleep, your mood, energy level etc.

Today, weigh yourself, measure your waist at the smallest point, again around the umbilicus, your hips and thighs at their widest point: write these down in a place that you can easily locate in 11 days.

Also write down the answers to these questions: what time do you go to bed, awaken, how many times do you awaken throughout the night, are you rested upon arising, is it hard to fall asleep? What is your energy level like throughout the day: when are your peaks and valleys, how is your energy affected by eating/work/exercise/stress? What are your elimination patterns like: easy, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gassy? What is your mood like throughout the day: anxious, depressed, irritable, happy, content, variable? Be sure to write all of this down as well!

On day 11, I will ask you to remeasure and re-answer those questions so that you can get a more objective assessment of how your body responds to cleaner, more conscious eating.

Okay, bon appetit to all.  We look forward to hearing your comments and we will keep you posted as well on our progress throughout the next 10 days.

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Filed under Essentials, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

“What if one small change could improve your WHOLE life”(tagline on cover of October issue, Whole Living)

October is here and with its  arrival comes that wonderful transition between the lazy days of summer and the arrival of cool crisp days, colorful fall leaves(depending of course on where you live!), digging through your ‘winter wardrobe’ and getting re-acquainted with life lived more indoors than out. It is also that time before the arrival of ‘the holidays’ and the onslaught of celebrations, busier schedules, over-indulgence of food and libations, often less sleep and feelings of being overwhelmed.

So this is a perfect time to hit the pause button(for those of you new to our blog, go back to my post from December 9, 2011: “Hitting the Pause Button”) and regroup.  Although summer markets offer wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables and the daylight hours seem endless and filled with activities,  I often feel as though I need a break from my food and beverage habits of the summer before the start of the holiday season: too many late night barbecues and perhaps an over-surplus of happy hour get-togethers(Portland is famous for its selection of happy hours, in case you don’t live here).

Barbecue with great friends, Manzanita, July 2012

Last fall I went on a ‘cleanse’ of my own design for 10 days and I felt so empowered and healthy that I decided to do it again this October. This is not your usual cleanse filled with special drinks and supplements, but rather a very simple one that eliminates specific food and beverage groups. It was designed to make me more conscious of the food and beverage choices that I was making and led me to a better awareness of what I was putting into my body.  I loved how I felt afterwards and its effects lingered long afterwards. Of  course, here it is a year later and I am badly in need of a tune-up.

During some of my recent conversations about this with family, friends and patients, people have expressed an interest in joining me on this 10 day cleanse and have asked me to share this on the blog.  So here goes: starting on Sunday, October 14th , I am going to eliminate caffeine, alcohol, sugar and ‘whites’ from my diet. I plan to do this for 10 days in a row so that Tuesday, October 23rd will be my final day. I chose these dates because they work for ME and my schedule.  If you would like to join me and those dates are not optimal for YOU, play around with the starting and stopping dates but start when you can: the more the merrier!!  I have several friends in my book group who are going to ‘take the challenge’ and we are excited to have the camaraderie and support of one another.

Kyle making better food choices

Ah,  you ask: how did I pick these 4 main groups to eliminate? Essentially all of them have an effect on the adrenal glands and liver, as well as your insulin levels.  As always, it is extremely important to support your adrenals as well as giving them a break from time to time as well!! In addition,  we need to strive for a more steady insulin balance in our daily lives.  The health benefits of maintaining a steady insulin/glucose balance are far-reaching: decreased risk of breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, dementia….the list goes on and on.

I could have included other food groups, such as dairy, gluten and animal proteins but these have so many health benefits and are not problematic for me. I choose to eat a diet that is primarily plant based in general and when I do eat animal protein, it is always raised organically. Feel free to include other groups to eliminate that will benefit you : modify and individualize this cleanse so that you get the most out of it.  Perhaps you will choose not to eliminate caffeine. I have heard many concerns about caffeine-withdrawal headaches, which are valid: you might try gradually decreasing the amount of caffeine you take in rather than going cold turkey.  You could try substituting herbal teas at times which might help you become ‘caffeine-free’ by the end of 10 days.

In terms of ‘sugar’, I plan to eliminate any item that contains simple sugar and focus on foods that contain natural sugars instead. I  like to use stevia or Truvia as a sweetener, as it comes from the stevia plant and has no impact on glucose levels. I suppose one could make an argument that honey and agave are naturally occuring sugars, which in fact they are. They do affect blood sugar levels but the rise is not as steep, so  I will leave that up to you whether you would like to eliminate them or perhaps include them in small doses.

And what do I mean when I say “the whites”? White rice, white flour, white potatoes, white pasta, white sugar…..sorry folks, although some of the foods that contain them are often comfort foods and childhood favorites, they are so devoid of nutritional value and are huge culprits in terms of raising glucose levels, they have to go for awhile. There is a great deal of evidence that an excessive level of sugar(glucose) is one of the primary causes of all types of diseases: dental disease, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases are some of the primary ones. So anything we can do to minimize the amount of sugar we consume will have a powerful impact on our health, as well as our hormone balance.

It always comes back to balance…and hormones...remember insulin is a hormone as well. And all of them work together to help you to feel your best. When one or several of your hormones are out of balance, whether this is caused by stress, diet, lifestyle, aging, genetics or environment, the rest of your hormones will strive to get back to balance but often the ‘new balance’ doesn’t feel that way at all.

A feeling of balance and beauty

So mark October 14th on your calendar and do the cleanse with me . I will include more details about what to include as well before I start so stay tuned. As always, we love to hear from you. Please be sure to comment on the blog as well as on Facebook as some of our readers may not be your ‘friend’ and don’t get to see what you are writing.

See you soon. I look forward to your company during these 10 days.

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Filed under Essentials, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance

Top 10 Hormone Rebalancing Tips: YOU could be walking around with a hormone imbalance and Not Even Know It! Oprah said that but what did she mean? Hormone imbalance defined.

Return to Balance

No one likes being out of balance, especially when the hot flashes, foggy thinking, and mood swings of menopause leave us feeling like a pale reflection of our former selves. During this hormonally challenged time its important to realize that the extent to which we suffer from troublesome symptoms has much do with the extent to which our lives – and our hormones – are out of balance.

Picture if you will synchronized swimmers all pointing their toes in perfect petal formation at the exact same moment. Suddenly, one of the swimmers takes off in a different direction, let’s call her progesterone, another dives to the bottom of the pool (call her testosterone), a few more decide to make waves (call them cortisols) while the last but not least of swimmers (call her estrogen) takes over the whole routine. All that beautiful synchrony, gone.

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Key hormone players achieve balance through synchrony

And so it goes with us. When our hormones are out of sync, we are out of sync – physically, mentally, emotionally. And because hormones are so mutually dependant (a deficiency of one creates a surplus of another), there are countless opportunities for imbalance. As Oprah put it at the opening of her show on women and hormones, “You could be walking around with a hormone imbalance and not even know it!” Knowing the signs and symptoms of a hidden hormone imbalance is your first big clue, testing and exploring your options is next  …. But before we go any further, let me explain what a hormonal imbalance is…. It’s what happens when one or more of the key hormone players (see Kyle’s most recent blog): estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and/or Cortisol, fall out of proportion to each other, (or like our synchronized swimmers above, swim off in different directions) that we are left with excesses of one hormone and deficiencies of another, a working definition of hormone imbalance. These unwelcome but inevitable shifts in hormonal milieu can be handled but until we learn how, they can seriously disrupt our  moods, memory, mojo, and zest for living. It can happen to the best of us …I would describe myself during my early experience of imbalance as feeling addled, exhausted and unloving…in a word or two: basket case.  Here now are some of the more common (preventable – seize on that word ladies) doozies:

Estrogen Dominance (flabby, crabby and fed-up) – this mother of all hormone imbalances results from high estrogen levels relative to low progesterone as a result of erratic ovulation, normal aging, hysterectomy (particularly if estrogen therapy is prescribed post-surgery in the absence of its balancing partner, progesterone), and exposure to environmental chemicals known as “xenoestrogens” (see my Feb 1st post: the Cruciferous Connection). Too much estrogen triggers multiple symptoms like weight gain, mood swings, heavy periods/no periods, lost libido, lost pzazz, lost YOU…. It typically begins at Perimenopause (early to mid-40s) when hormones wax and wane, and ends with Menopause (early 50s) when cycles cease and the ovaries stop making hormones for good. Younger women who don’t ovulate regularly (note that lack of ovulation = lack of progesterone) can also be estrogen dominant, plagued by PMS, monthly migraines, tender breasts, water retention and painful periods. So when it comes to hormone imbalance, too much estrogen is just as much an issue as too little. Having said that….

Estrogen deficiency (hot, sweaty, weepy) – low levels of estrogen can trigger that hot flash in the middle of an important meeting, or night sweats in the middle of the night, as well as other bedevilments like vaginal dryness, thinning skin, brittle nails, bones, heart palpitations, fragile emotions, muddled mind….

Imbalances of Testosterone/DHEA and Cortisol (no longer lean, just mean) are a bad combination that deplete energy, metabolism, mental clarity, stamina, and the strength of our bones, muscles, and libido. When for instance, the stress hormone cortisol goes up or stays up, testosterone goes down along with our enthusiasm, drive, and zest for living.

Adrenal Imbalances (tired, wired, and bummed-out): Lows and/or highs of cortisol resulting from unresolved stress, junk food, lack of sleep and exercise, can cause rapid aging and belly fat bigtime – not to mention allergies, insomnia, and chronic fatigue.  This under-recognized imbalance generally makes an appearance in mid-life when the adrenal glands have to pick up the slack in hormone production. The once and future energizer bunny no longer hops but plops, her sunny mood submerged under a black cloud. This is the time when the flack hits the fan if we don’t take better care of ourselves; tired, overworked adrenals eventually burnout and so do we…

Fluctuating hormones at perimenopause when hormone production becomes erratic are usually behind the hair-raising symptoms known to everywoman as the “emotional roller coaster.” That’s when all hell breaks loose and we’ll do anything for relief!

Fortunately we have a lot more control over these ups and downs than we might think. Consider these Top 10 Tips  to empower yourself and return to balance:

1.   Determine your symptoms of hormone imbalance http://www.hormonesynergy.com/women.asp  or http://www.theseventhwoman.org

2.   Test your hormones to detect hidden imbalances http://www.canaryclub.org or http://www.zrtlab.com

3.   If you have an imbalance and need to supplement insist on bioidentical hormones – they are better and safer!

4.   Learn how and when to use natural progesterone, the “great balancer.” http://www.theseventhwoman.org

5.   Support adrenal health with optimal C and B-complex, D3, and herbal tonics such as Dong Quai, Astragalus, Maca, Rhodiola, etc.

6.   Avoid xenoestrogens – eat “hormone free” foods, go GREEN with home, garden, bodycare; microwave in ceramic/glass; reject synthetic hormone replacement (HRT) and any products with unpronounceable ingredients, exercise in the open air whenever possible.

7.    Counteract stress by releasing tension: stretching, deep breathing, yoga, pilates, zumba, walking. Strength train to boost hormones naturally.

8.   Take your vitamin Zzzs – power nap!

9.   Make more ME time

10.  Act the way you want to feel! ( The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, order at http://menopausibilities.com/womens-health-shop.html)

How do YOU rebalance? Have you got a top 10, or 5, or a Numero UNO all-time best tip you can share? We’d love to pass it on!

Rebalancing amongst the Rhododendrens

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Filed under Candace Burch, Hormone Imbalance, Women's Health & Happiness

35 shopping days till you know what:some thoughts on ways to de-stress

It happens every year without fail. One moment, I am blissfully settled into the rhythm of the summer, with our elongated days of early sunrises and late sunsets, energized by the seemingly extra hours in each day.

Another 4th of July in Manzanita with the family

Time moves slowly, schedules are easier with more time for beach trips, barbeques with family and friends, tennis and long walks, gardening and spending as much time as possible outside soaking up the sun’ s warming rays(and generous doses of natural vitamin D).

The shortening of each day is almost imperceptible but soon I am aware that I am waking up in the dark(I am one of those early morning “nuts” who exercises  while most people are contemplating an extra 30 minutes of sleep) and coming home from work in the dark. Which means only one thing: the holidays are coming!

Honestly, I love the holidays: the extra time spent with family, friends, roasting turkeys, holiday baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping , etc. But I have to admit, I do get a bit stressed out while contemplating all that I need to accomplish, on top of my usual life’s schedule(which is already pretty busy, like most of us). And stress has a distinct impact on our bodies’ abilities to stay in balance.

Stress is actually an essential element of living: our bodies were made to respond to stimuli, both negative and positive, in order to react and grow and adapt to life’s many challenges. A classic example  that is used to describe how stress helps us is this: in our cave dwelling days, if I was out looking for food for my family and I encountered a wild boar, my adrenals would produce a burst of cortisol, which then released  glucose from storage for fuel and epinephrine which allows my heart rate and blood pressure to increase(fight or flight response) so that I could run like crazy to avoid becoming said boar’s dinner. That is an adaptive response to a stressful situation. Our bodies have evolved to respond to episodic bouts of stress. Sadly, in our modern world, we are bombarded with a multitude of stressors: work, financial, relationship, less than optimal diets, chemicals, pollution, noise, world affairs, you name it. Oh yes, and holidays….

In response to chronic, repeated stressors, our bodies no longer need the glucose, or fuel, to run from danger so we store this fuel as fat just in case we need it later. Many of us begin to develop anxiety and insomnia, because our cortisol rhythms get disrupted and our body has lost its way back to balance.  This is obviously a maladaptive response with far-reaching effects on our physical and mental health.

Here are some suggestions to help you beat the stress and stay in balance during these next 35 days and beyond.

Exercise:  aim for 4-5 times/week: find something you enjoy; the rewards are higher metabolic rate, endorphin release(boosts mood and helps decrease inflammation); My next blog post will talk about specific types of exercise and how each one benefits you.

Rocket and Riley: having a blast on the beach!

Riley and Rocket, blissfully exhausted, getting some R and R

Nutrition: “Just say no to whites”: try to avoid foods made with white sugar, white flour, white rice and even white potatoes(okay, youcan have some mashed potatoes this Thursday but be sure to eat the yams as well). The whites are almost completely without nutritional value, even if it says “fortified” and your body recognizes them as a source of sugar. Overindulgence of sugar raises your risk of high cholesterol, belly fat, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, just to name a few. Choose whole grains, brown rice, quinoa, agave , stevia, amaranth. Nuts are loaded with micronutrients: eat a small handful everyday. Set a goal for yourself: try something new every week. Choose dark green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits. Drink herbal teas and water, lots of it

Supplements: be sure to take Vitamin D everyday . It is best to get tested first: the normal range is 30-100. I recommend that my patients take enough D3 to bring their levels up to between 50-70(I retest 3 months after they start the new dose, just to make sure). Vitamin D boosts your immune system(you won’t catch everything this winter), helps you stave off winter blues, and a myriad of other health benefits: watch for a future blog post about this amazing vitamin). If you are having a particularly bad day, try some Rescue Remedy. This is a “Bach flower” remedy that helps alleviate anxiety and nervousness, restoring a feeling of calm. It is so effective that even veterinarians recommend it for anxious dogs. It is a terrific go-t0 supplement. I never leave home without it!

Sleep and rest: It goes without saying that our bodies need to recharge and restore themselves. Each day carve out some time to be alone, with your thoughts, your prayers, to reflect away from all of the noise and distractions of daily living. And be sure to get enough sleep, at minimum 7 hours. Your body and your brain need that much rest to be ready to face the next day and be able to function optimally.

Kyle and Riley, enjoying a nap in the hammock(nirvana....)

Try to keep everything in perspective these next  weeks and reflect back to the meanings of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Take time to enjoy the hours spent with family and friends and create new and everlasting memories. And remember this essential truth:

Finding, being and staying in balance is a work in progress.

So much to talk about, so little time. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

See you soon.

Kyle

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Filed under Kyle Bell McAvoy, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance