Tag Archives: depression

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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Fall cleansing is in the air

We have been truly blessed with a warm and sunny ‘Indian summer’ here in the Pacific NW this year but 2 days ago, the autumn switch turned on, dropping the temperatures down into the 50’s by day and 40’s by night. Any illusions of an endless summer were quickly abandoned, so back indoors we go for the majority of our waking hours.

I imagine many of you, like me, find yourself purging your house of excess things, rearranging cupboards and closets, raking up the fallen leaves and turning over the soil in the garden. There is something about the transition from living outdoors as much as possible to nestling inside that makes me want to simplify my surroundings before adorning the house with decorations for our fall and winter festivities. One of my fall rituals is moving all of my spring and summer clothes(after taking all of the ones I still didn’t wear to Good Will for a better home) from my bedroom closet to my spare one,  in exchange for my fall and winter wardrobe.  Doing this always makes the seasonal change so definite for me.  I actually enjoy this ritual as it makes me reflect on the activities of the past few months while thinking ahead to the upcoming holidays.

Fall lights add to a warm and cozy atmosphere: I can't resist!

Fall lights add to a warm and cozy atmosphere: I can’t resist!

For those of you who are faithful MP blog followers, you know that fall also means thinking of ways to be more conscious and mindful about the food and beverage choices we will be making in order to stay balanced despite the holiday festivities. This can be a huge challenge to many of us: avoiding unwanted weight gain, getting inadequate sleep, feeling stressed out about shopping(perhaps on a more limited budget than in years past), getting burned out by the extra demands placed upon us, all of this leading to cortisol overdrive and its many associated symptoms(irritability, insomnia, anxiety, depression, belly fat, salt and sugar cravings, to name a few).

So we will be hosting another “Consciousness Cleanse” starting on Sunday, November 17th and will run for 10 days, ending just in time for Thanksgiving. As in years past, there are 4 major food/beverage groups that we will avoid during the ‘cleanse’ . These are caffeine, alcohol, sugar and ‘the whites'(white flour, rice, potatoes, pasta and again white sugar).  Some of you who want to do a deeper detox/cleanse of sorts may also want to eliminate gluten and/or dairy and/or soy, particularly if you suspect a sensitivity to a particular food type.

Some examples of the kinds of food you CAN eat and that will make you feel wonderful

Some examples of the kinds of food you CAN eat and that will make you feel wonderful

Last year we had approximately 60 people participating in our fall ‘cleanse’ and it was pretty remarkable to listen to the various comments people had about their personal experiences.  To view these, please go to ‘Kyle’s blog’ and scroll back to Oct 2012 and March 2013 blogposts to learn more about the cleanse and the reactions of the participants.  We are excited to be doing this again and we hope that you will join us.

For those of you who are interested in a longer term detox, please click on this link

http://bit.ly/HkqEyt

to work along with Andrea Nayakama and her staff of functional nutritionists for 21 days starting on Monday November 4th. Once you click on the link, you can listen to the  webinar she did yesterday: Tipping the Scales. This which was a really nice overview of the link between what we eat and our hormone balance and I recommend that all of you take the time to listen to it. We have written quite a bit about the importance of hormone balance and health/ optimal weight over the past 2 years so some of the content will be familiar to many of you, but I know that no matter how much I learn about this amazing and complex topic, I inevitably take away another ‘pearl’ with every new talk or article I come across.

Stay tuned. We will be posting more in the upcoming weeks to help you get ready for your 10 day fall cleanse. I promise you that if you partake in either the deeper detox or the 10 day mini-cleanse, you will gain a new awareness that what you put into your mouth  really matters . More about the details and benefits in upcoming posts. For now, remember to drink tea(all types but green is great for weight control and immune system), plenty of water, choose organic foods as much as possible, exercise  a minimum of 4-5 days a week and get at least 7 hours of sleep every night for optimal health and wellness.

Fall morning walk at sunrise: a lovely way to get daily exercise

Fall morning walk at sunrise: a lovely way to get daily exercise

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Back to that gut feeling, remember???

Eating a wide variety of whole foods helps diversify your micro biome

Eating a wide variety of whole foods helps diversify your micro biome

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about the importance of paying attention to the ‘micro biome’ of our intestines. I mentioned that just about everywhere you turn these days, there is somebody talking about this: the links between our micro biome and health issues, such as our immune system, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression: the list goes on.

I would like to share this excellent piece that just aired on NPR(National Public Radio, for you uninitiated into the wonderful world of public radio….). You can choose to listen to and/or read the transcript. The information is presented very clearly and should provide additional insight into this important and timely topic. Bottom line, pay attention to the health of your gut. The implications are enormous.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/07/22/203659797/staying-healthy-may-mean-learning-to-love-our-microbiomes

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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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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.

Image

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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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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First Person: My Search for My (Happy) Self, part 1

Hi there! Blogmother Anne here, to post the first installment from a woman who has just started her own path looking for balance. You can follow her story as it unfolds by using the drop-down menu at right, where you’ll find each installment under the First Person Category.

About a month ago, I found myself in front of my bathroom mirror wondering who the heck that was staring back at me…without getting into the raw details, I’m a 50-ish woman navigating a path through divorce and financial

Who is this person? It just doesn't seem to be the real me...

devastation for the past 3½ years, no more or less challenging than many that life is known to dish out on occassion. I keep thinking I’m coming out on the other side…but darn it, something always seems to scuttle it and I feel as if I’m back at square one. Suffice to say I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and thoroughly incapable of pulling my tattered hopes out of the cellar for another day. 

Now, before you think you’re reading about one big pity party, you also need to know that I have a dedicated cadre of incredibly generous and level-headed friends, a gem of a daughter, a loving and supportive family, and I’m so far from the utter physical devastation of a tornado or a hurricane that in the big picture I have relatively little to complain about. But nonetheless, there I stood, realizing that I was once again way too uninterested and defeated to face this particular day or any other in the foreseeable future… and so I made the decision to get a prescription for anti-depressants.

Several of my friends have gotten through some pretty tough times with the help of these modern medical wonders…and I didn’t see why I couldn’t too. So within two days, I was filling a prescription and fervently hoping that the six weeks of adjusting to half doses – with side effects including headaches, sleeplessness, and more — wouldn’t sink me any deeper than I already was. I read all the drug precautions and disclaimers and indicators, then got up the next morning determined that, with just a swig of my morning coffee to wash it down, I would begin a pharmaceutical journey to my very own confident and happy future.

And I didn’t have intense side effects: mild headaches in parts of my head where I never had them before, a vaguely upset stomach, another sleepless hour or so to subtract from the usual short night. But I did have one other side effect, apparently from reading the three pages of information provided by the pharmacist: a nagging sense that this

These pages of cautions, precautions, disclaimers and relevant facts for a popular anti-depressant spooked me, and led me to start thinking seriously about bioidentical hormone therapies with Candace's & Kyle's help.

was not the right thing for me, that I was taking chemicals rather than therapy, that I was giving up control. My doctor had told me that on the rating scale they used my depression was mild – yet the popularly prescribed anti-depressant was only shown to be as effective as a placebo for mild depression. After about three days I began to worry about my brain chemistry, and the length of time I would have to be on them to see results and then beyond that to wean myself off them (it’s not recommended to stop in the fall due to the possible compounding effect of seasonal affective disorder).  I was actually resigning myself to a year of taking pills that alter my brain chemistry, all the while gambling that I would be one of the perhaps 50% that would benefit.

My ritual of a healing morning coffee was replaced with a sense that I had surrendered, and thinking that there must be a better option in something less chemical and pharmaceutical, something that would let me still be in charge.   

Enter Kyle and Candace. I’ve known Kyle for years, and through her I now count myself among Candace’s friends, too. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know they truly believe in the power of balanced hormones. I had also been reading the wealth of information about healthy hormones on The Seventh Woman Foundation website, an excellent resource.  I decided that I wanted to try this out…I wasn’t locked into long treatment cycles, and could be in more control of my own health with the ability to make adjustments that suited me.

The saliva test kit...four vials to fill with spit at four different times of day, a rated checklist of symptoms, and a prepaid UPS envelope to send it all back to the lab for testing.

So less than seven days into the half-dose beginnings of what was looking like at least year of anti-depressants, I put an end to them and took a saliva test. Spitting diligently into four vials at various times of the day will measure a variety of hormone levels, and I filled out a form from the test kit detailing everything from my emotions to my physical health. I packed the vials and questionnaire into the preaddressed envelope, popped it into a UPS drop box, and told myself to be calm and patient for a week of waiting for the results to arrive, and then a few more days to have the results interpreted by Kyle & Candace. Without even seeing the results they both recommended finding an adrenal supplement from the natural grocery health aisle, to get my cortisol (the hormone you blow through during stress) back on the map…and from the very first day of taking it I’m sleeping much better. They tell me it’s the magnesium; and while that’s interesting, the big news for me is: I’m sleeping!

And as for the saliva test, the next move belongs to Kyle and Candace. In the next week I’ll meet with them separately and write again to let you know what they found…and what they each think is the way to approach this. It should be interesting! As united as they are about hormone balance, I’m expecting their backgrounds, careers and experience will give me at least two paths to choose from.  Far from presenting a quandary, I am really happy that I will have the option to choose what I think will work best, or change the course if something doesn’t work for me…a “Personal Balance Plan”, a chance to stay in control of some aspect of my seemingly out-of-control life.  –MTA

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