Tag Archives: anxiety

5 days gluten-free, 16 to go

I cannot believe it is already March 6th and I am officially gluten-free, at least for now. So far, it has been way easier than I had imagined, which is great because I often feel a pang of guilt when I recommend trying this style of eating to some of my patients. I always suggest deleting gluten from the diet of patients with Hashimoto’s(an autoimmune version of hypothyroidism) , insulin resistance and diabetes, arthritis, IBS(Irritable Bowel Syndrome), diverticulitis, fatigue, weight issues and even mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Those who have followed this advice often report a significant reduction in their symptoms, so much so that they are happy to stay off gluten indefinitely.

For breakfast, I have had either gluten-free toast with peanut butter and homemade jam, rice cakes with hummus,  Greek yoghurt with fruit and nuts, eggs with lots of sautéed veggies  or quinoa with cheese. I have not felt deprived at all.

Lunch is usually a salad loaded up with veggies, a source of protein or two and some nuts thrown in for crunch(I am definitely drawn to crunchy, salty and spicy foods over others). Snacks include sliced up apples or pears, a handful of grapes or a small portion of nuts(10 almonds/walnuts, or 40 pistachios is just the right amount).

Dinner has consisted of roasted veggies and goat cheese, tomato sauce over steamed broccoli with parmesan cheese(here is where my Italian roots come out: I just love a hearty tomato sauce and have found it to be quite wonderful served over veggies instead of pasta: another way to lower sugar and gluten consumption), chicken + yams + a salad, seafood and quinoa and veggies: really the possibilities are endless. I went to one of our favorite Italian restaurants last weekend and chose the polenta with sausage: YUM! I avoided the warm crusty Italian bread with olive oil: ouch…but I survived and happily so. I honestly believe this is a good change for me as I am one of those who often fills up on bread if it is there.

I have noticed that 1. I feel great: lots of energy. 2. I am not as hungry between meals( I am quite the grazer usually) 3. My clothes around the waistline feel a little looser.  So these are subtle changes but it has only been 5 days. I will keep you posted throughout the next 2+ weeks.

Bon appétit, sans gluten.

Another fun birthday celebration(they just keep coming, thankfully): this time gluten-free for me

Another fun birthday celebration, Melinda’s(they just keep coming for all of us, thankfully): this time gluten-free for me

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

Menopausal Mother of the Bride Takes It Lying Down – Decompress to Destress

My daughter Jess was over this afternoon and insisted that I change the cover photo on my hormone consulting site: Your Hormone Balance (www.yourhormonebalance.com) to this one below…tell me, do I look like I’m in balance?

ImageActually this pic was taken the day after Jess got married …and that is me, the formerly shattered, out of balance, menopausal mother of the bride, ensuite at the Nines Hotel in Portland, a gift of dear friends who weeks before the wedding sent a lifeline..if you and Dave perchance could use a “decompression chamber” after W day we’d love to gift you a night at the NINES … interested? A full 3 seconds later I had forsaken my filial obligations for ME myself and I-time! What better way to destress but to decompress in style, and just let it all go: the internal chatter, the planning, the worrying over who might not speak to whom, or not show up, or go missing ….

So how does one regain balance when summer is done, the days are growing dark, your kids are married and moved away and you’re an empty nester now, a woman of une certain age still seeking balance in head, heart and hormones….what do you do?

Contemplating the message of balance at ground level beneath the third tallest tower in the world: Guangzhou City

Contemplating the message of balance at ground level beneath the third tallest tower in the world: Guangzhou City


You practice what you preach, that’s what you do! You calm down and carry on:
-cleanse your mind and body with outdoor exercise every day you can get out there (and when the weather turns gray take your Vitamin D3)
-walk the excess weight off, rain or shine
-strength train your way back to strong and lean
-ingest healthy, hormone-free foods, pure water, plenty of fiber and fresh vegetables and fruits (most Americans eat half as many vegetables and fruits as we should, that being 4 or more servings a day)
-detox to give your gut a break from overconsumption of caffeine, sugar and bad fats – as all who are following Kyle on her cleansing fast this week are doing, and bravo to you! 0

To truly deeply decompress you will need to block (especially before bedtime) the blue light beaming into your retina from an avalanche of electronic media we expose ourselves to (an estimated 7+ hours a day), those seemingly benign blue rays that raise stress hormones and deplete sleep hormones. No more taking your IPhone to bed with you. Sink into a warm bath instead, or slip into your comfiest clothes, light the candles, rub in your bioidentical hormones, and FLOP… on an aquamarine velveteen couch should one appear, or wherever you can Str-r-r-etch. Sigh. And B-R-E-A-T-H-E out all that good and bad stress in one big WHOOOSH … keep breathing and whooshing, deep and focused, to release the tension you’ve been holding in your body, dislodge the clutter in your mind, and clear your path back to balance!

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Hormones 101

What is a hormone exactly? 

How do I know if I have a hormone imbalance?

And if I do, what can I do about it anyway?

These are common questions that Candace and I hear as we work with women everyday.  Sometimes we forget how many of us don’t know the basics about our own bodies so don’t feel embarrassed if you are among those who don’t. I rely on my car mechanic to sort through the ins and outs of my vehicle when IT is out of balance. But I always feel a little sheepish because I don’t even know the right questions to ask. In many ways, I think women feel the same way about their bodies when they begin to show signs of imbalance. So here is a brief overview to answer these questions and help you understand when it is time to do something about how you feel.
A hormone is a chemical that is produced in a gland(such as the ovary or the thyroid) which is released and has far-reaching effects on other parts of the body. These hormones have many functions, including regulating metabolism, fertility, fluid balance, mood, blood sugar regulation, to name a few. Hormones act on organs, tissues and cells throughout the body and are essential for optimal functioning.
Hormones work best when they work together and are balanced with one another.

Think of a symphony which consists of various musical instrument sections  coordinated in such a way  that each section comes in at just the right moment, volume and tempo to complement the other sections. When the conductor and the musicians work well together, the music is melodic and lovely. When they don’t, it is difficult  to hear the music at all(it sounds more like a bunch of noise!).
There are days when all of us wake up and we just feel ‘in balance’ and have energy to spare. Then there are those days that we know our balance is definitely off; everything seems off-kilter. This brings me to some of the symptoms of hormone imbalance. We have mentioned a few in previous blogposts but here are some you may(or may not ) be aware of: hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, belly fat, irritability , depressed mood, anxiety, foggy thinking, feeling cold, hair loss, hair in new places, weak or peeling nails, insomnia, low libido, menstrual changes, dry skin, vaginal dryness, inability to concentrate, fatigue, memory changes…… I could go on but I think you get the picture.

If any of these sound familiar,  there is a good chance that something has caused your hormones to be out of balance.  Common causes include pregnancy, stressful life events, over scheduled and busy lives(sound like anyone you know???), lack of exercise, poor diet, toxins in our environment, toxic relationships, job stresses, and the simple act of moving into ‘midlife’ .We all have so many demands on us and often don’t have enough time in the day to get it all done, leaving us feeling depleted and ‘not like ourselves’.

Hmmm…got you thinking hopefully, so now what? Stay tuned and we will be posting a ‘checklist of symptoms of hormone imbalance’ in the near future so that you can do an inventory of your individual symptoms.  Once you have those identified, the next step will be to get your hormone levels tested.  Let us know if you would like to   get this done as we are working on putting together an offer for our readers and would like to get an idea of how many people are interested.  Just list your first name and first letter of your last name in the comments section.

As always, give us YOUR suggestions for future blogposts and feel free to ask us questions….there is no such thing as a silly question!

Wishing you balance

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

What does the new year mean to you?

I am going to share something about myself: I LOVE magazines. You might even say that I am just a little bit addicted to those wonderful, shiny, colorful, insightful and often inspiring publications that arrive at my house each month. When one shows up in my mailbox, I can hardly wait to pore over the contents, often from cover to cover, during one of my early morning workouts(remember, I am one of those nuts who go to the gym 5 mornings a week and yes, I can read on the stairstepper)or in the evening as I settle down to relax.

I am constantly amazed at some of the information that I have gleaned over the years from these little gems. Currently I subscribe to More, O, Whole Living, Portland Monthly, In Style, Life Extension and let’s not forget the weekly New York Times Magazine. In addition I work in a medical office and have access to a plethora of others(lucky me: I don’t have to sneak my reading in on the checkout line). In general I am usually reading at least a few a week.
I imagine a lot of you are also afflicted with this affinity for magazines(I know most of my friends are: we often swap piles of them when we see one another, the ultimate in recycling!). One thing we can count on every January is the attention given to resolutions, restarts, new habits, breaking old ones, weight loss programs, cleansing ideas, decluttering, etc. Here are a few examples of the ones I noticed just this past week as well as my thoughts about them:
“Dr. Oz’s 28 day plan to renew your body, mind, and soul”. O Magazine: wow, all 3 in 28 days????

“2012 is YOUR year”: In Style Magazine. I knew this was going to be my year!

“This is the year to : Feel Grateful, Get Your Finances in Order, Lose Weight, Discover What You’re Truly Meant to Do”: Parade Magazine. I was exhausted just reading the taglines!

“Start the new year bright: clean eating action plan: 21 Days,+50 Recipes: A whole new you!:Whole Living. It sounds great, but I know me: I could never follow such a stringent plan

“The Secret of Willpower: how to flex it and why you have more of it than you think”: Whole Living. Hmm, now that actually grabbed my attention

I think you get the point by now. According to the media and our society in general, January is THE month to change our ways, to redo our diets, lose those stubborn pounds we have been carrying around for too long, cut down on drinking/smoking/fill in the blank, become a more patient person, learn a new language: the list is endless. And no wonder so many of us who have great intentions to stick to our new year’s resolutions just can’t quite make it more than a few weeks before we revert back to baseline, often feeling as though we have failed.
Perhaps we should reframe the way we think about what the new year means to us. I like the word ‘aspiration’ better than resolution. The definition for ‘aspiration’, according to Merriam-Webster, is: “strong desire to achieve something high or great; the act of breathing and especially of breathing in”. I like the image of listing my aspirations better than writing down my resolutions. Creating a list of aspirations has a more hopeful tone and positive spin that makes me want to look at my current strengths and weaknesses and take inventory. I love the idea of creating a list that moves me forward in my journey towards balanced living.
And the second aspect of aspiration: the breathing in, is a particularly lovely way of embracing new ways of living. Breathing is essential for living. The practice of yoga emphasizes paying attention to the breath, which links the body and the mind. One of my aspirations this year is to practice yoga more frequently. I have never walked away from a yoga class where I didn’t feel more at peace and relaxed, yet I often don’t make time for this practice. In a recent edition of Real Simple magazine( ah ha! they DO come in handy!), there was a terrific article on “Mood-Boosting Workouts”. The following exercise types were reviewed: Yoga to feel more content, Pilates to sleep better, cycling to increase your energy, lifting weights to achieve clarity and Tai Chi to reduce stress.

Yoga by the ocean: wonderful balance

I was particularly taken by yoga’s ability to boost one’s mood and reduce overall anxiety. The practice of yoga causes an increase in GABA ,which is one of the neurotransmitters that helps to reduce anxiety(GABA is actually is also available as an amino acid supplement over the counter for those who need additional help in this area). In addition, the slow rhythmic breathing used during yoga helps to increase oxygen flow, which in turn promotes optimal functioning of the brain and other essential organs. After 3 months of regular yoga practice, subjects in a study actually had observable changes in their parasympathetic nervous system: this is the one that kicks on when you are asleep and helps your body to restore. Several studies were cited in this article: go to http://www.realsimple.com/health/fitness-exercise/5-mood-boosting-workouts-00100000065518/index.html for the complete article.
Our hope with this blog is that you will create your own unique list of aspirations and begin to move forward with us on the path to balanced living. There are many aspects on this path towards life balance. Exercise is one that we hope you aspire to as you embrace the new year. A recent article in NY Times quoted Jack LaLanne’s wife(he died this year at the age of 96 !):”Jack trained every day of his life as if he were going to the Olympics…..Jack wanted to to show people that just because you’re getting old, you just don’t quit exercising.” He was an inspiration to many: “I can’t die. It would ruin my image”. I love that attitude. Everyday, he just showed up. And it showed.

So as you contemplate your aspirations for 2012, consider the things you want to embrace in your life, the things you want to breathe in this year.  The opportunities really are endless and we are excited about all of our hopes for the new year. Wishing you and all you hold dear a happy, fulfilling and amazing new year.

Early morning along the ocean

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

Hitting the Pause Button(another essential ingredient for balanced living)

The countdown continues: now I am faced with “16 shopping days til Christmas”(how did this happen and why do stores love to remind us of this???) and my initial reaction last week, when I thought about the list of things I still wanted to get done, was to reschedule my weekend away at the beach with my friend Melinda, her daughter Rupa and my loyal canine companion Riley(aka best dog in the world….). We had planned this time away months ago after looking at our individual commitments throughout the fall and had finally found a weekend that was just right for all of us. So when last week came I couldn’t imagine how we had done this to ourselves, booking time away right smack in the middle of that uber-busy time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas!! Another example of a “senior moment”, perhaps, but on the other hand, maybe this was the perfect time to get away and recharge. So I resisted the urge to call her and suggest a change in plans: in other words, I opted to ‘hit the pause button’ and go for it.

Kyle, Melinda and Riley enjoying a Christmas pause

It’s funny but I can name on one hand, maybe, the times I have regretted hitting that button. Life gets going so quickly some times that we often forget to block out time for R and R. That is a huge mistake. Our bodies, minds and spirits need time to rejuvenate and recharge and when we neglect to allow ourselves those periods of rest, we shift into that chronic stress response with all of its negative effects. And don’t you just know when your body has hit that point? Symptoms start to emerge, including insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, sugar cravings, moodiness, increased belly fat, feeling overwhelmed, distracted, to name just a few of the things you might be feeling when you are “stressed out”. In my last blog post, I reviewed the adaptive stress response(running from the proverbialwild animal who is chasing you) vs the maladaptive response, when your body is in “chronic stress response mode”. It is the maladaptive response that leads not only to all of the symptoms(and more!) that I just listed, but in addition an increased risk to many types of illnesses.

“There is very good scientific and medical evidence to show that chronically elevated cortisol levels are associated with obesity, hypertension, diabetes, fatigue, depression, moodiness, irregular menstrual periods, decreased sex drive , and Alzheimers”(from ‘The Cortisol Connection: why stress makes you fat and ruins your health-and what you can do about it’, an excellent book by Shawn Talbot, PhD, 2002).
Once you realize that you may be suffering from some of these symptoms and a feeling that you are spinning out of control, think first about getting your hormones tested. Candace and I are huge advocates of the “test and treat approach”, in comparison to the more commonly seen “guess and treat approach”. In my practice, after I take a thorough history of my patient, I then order a group of tests designed to identify exactly what is causing the patient’s symptoms. All too often I see women prescribed antidepressants, tranquilizers or sleeping pills to treat what may in fact be a hormone imbalance. And although women often protest to their providers that they aren’t depressed or anxious(after being told that their test results are normal, or worse yet, ‘you are just going through the change: you just need to deal with it and eventually it will be over’), they often feel as though they haven’t been listened to and don’t know what the next step might be.

A spectacular December morning on the Oregon coast

Know that you are not alone in feeling this way but also know that there is something that can be done to make you feel better from the inside out, which is a more sustainable way of living a balanced life. Make an appointment with a provider in your area who knows about saliva and blood spot testing and who is knowledgeable about bio-identical hormones and adrenal fatigue. This can be a life-changing experience: I hear this from my patients every day and it makes my job so gratifying. If you are in the Portland , OR vicinity, please feel free to check out www.pearlwomenscenter.com . If you live in a different area of the world, feel free to ask us the best way to find a knowledgeable provider in YOUR area. This will be a step that you will never regret taking. You deserve to live the best life you can: ‘Hormones in Harmony, Lives in Balance’. This can be true for you as well.

Oh, and getting back to my own “Hitting the pause button” last weekend: so we spent 2 wonderful days walking through the little beach town of Manzanita on Oregon’s magnificent north coast, as well as ooh-ing and ah-ing at the sweet Christmas lights on the local stores. We even accomplished a few things(no, we never did write our Christmas cards….oh well) by getting some Christmas shopping done. We ate and slept incredibly well, we laughed, A LOT, but the high point for me came on our long walk Saturday morning along the beach, the sun spectacularly shining on the bluest of water, the air calm and cold. While walking, I heard a soft bark from somewhere near the dunes, and much to our wonder and surprise, was a beautiful seal lion, waiting patiently for the tide to come up so she could return to her sealife. We were able to get close, but not too close, and truly it was a magical moment to be in the presence of such a magnificent wild marine animal…..and all because I remembered to take time to pause and remember to breathe amidst all that is left to do.

Our new friend up close: the wonders that are possible when you take time for yourself

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