Tag Archives: sleep

Now what was I coming into this room for???(musings on keeping your memory sharp)

What I am doing here? who is this???(compliments of "Menopaws"

What I am doing here? who is this???(compliments of “Menopaws”)

I would bet that most of you have experienced at least one moment of wondering why the heck you wandered into a room…..and then just stood there looking around in hopes that some sort of message would magically appear reminding you of your purpose. I cannot tell you how many times that has happened to me but I can say it has happened far too often.  I am also going to assume that most of you are concerned with memory loss and the possibility of dementia and/or Alzheimers as you age.  As many of us are destined to live longer lives, it becomes more likely that our minds will age along with our bodies: a scary thought indeed. Ah, but there are many strategies available to us in our quest to keep our minds and memories sharp as we age. Gracefuly aging in all aspects of our lives is the key to living a higher quality and quantity of life.

So let’s review some of the strategies that we have at our disposal to keep our minds sharp and our memories intact as we do begin to age.  I heard a wonderful piece this morning on NPR that talks about some of the latest research re: memory and the best ways to make sure that we stretch and grow new neuronal connections as we get older, which will enhance our ability to keep learning, stay vibrant and store new memories as well.

http://www.npr.org/2014/05/05/309006780/learning-a-new-skill-works-best-to-keep-your-brain-sharp?ft=1&f=3

Learning a new skill can help your brain be sharper and improve your memory

Learning a new skill can help your brain be sharper and improve your memory

In addition, getting regular exercise is another pillar of memory strength. I have always loved to work out in some form or another(running in my 20’s and 30’s, walking regularly since then, swimming, pretending to play golf(seriously that is one fun but frustrating sport!), hiking, and skiing.  I took up tennis almost 2 years ago and it has been a blast. There is quite a learning curve involved and I am definitely still climbing up that curve but it has forced me to think while I build new muscle memory. There have been some studies that promote this kind of thinking while exercising as one of the better ways to build memory, but any aerobic and active type of exercise enhances the brain’s potential for learning and storing new information. The most important thing is to just get out there and get active. Here is a link to the importance  between exercise and brain health:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110

Exercise is not only great for your body: it is also essential for your brain and memory…find something you love to do….another essential of balance

Exercise is not only great for your body: it is also essential for your brain and memory…find something you love to do….another essential of balance

Vitamin D also plays a role in brain health and cognitive strength. According to Dr. Oz, “Scientists hypothesize that improved cognition may be linked to the sun’s effect on the body’s internal clock; exposure to daylight(natural vitamin D) may boost the production of the neurotransmitter seritonin, which in turn spurs growth of the hippocampus, that part of the brain crucial to forming and storing memories.” He recommends( as do I) that every day we should go outside and spend between 15-20 minutes  before applying sunscreen so that our bodies can make Vitamin D ourselves. In general, we still do need to take additional vitamin D: more on that in a future blogpost. Bottomline, make sure you get outside every day possible as this will help both your brain and your mood.

Adequate sleep also clearly has an effect on our memory. Most of us(myself included, far too: often, mea culpa) get far too little of this precious activity most days.  In general, 7-8 hours of sleep is recommended to help our bodies and our brain to restore and rejuvenate. Think of sleep as time to recharge your battery. I imagine you have the same reaction that I do when I see that dreaded message on my cell phone: “less than 20% battery” and I have left my cord at home: panic! I usually feel the same way towards the end of a busy work day when I stayed up and out too late the night before and I am dragging, just not as sharp as usual. Note to self: get more sleep.

A baby seal taking a 'catnip' on the beach: ah, the bliss of a deep sleep…..

A baby seal taking a ‘catnip’ on the beach: ah, the bliss of a deep sleep…..

One more memory/brain potential robber: STRESS!!! We have touched on this in previous blogposts but briefly, when we are under stress(prolonged, frequent, unrelenting stress), cortisol is released to help our body fight “the attacker”, real or perceived.  Unfortunately, this adaptive response often leads to a maladaptive state, leaving our mind and body depleted. The result: poorer learning capability and difficulty storing new memories. Studies of inner city children, faced with the stresses of poverty, crime, poor nutrition and inadequate social support, have shown over and over how difficult it is to try to learn in school when under chronic stress. The same concept applies to all of us, whatever our stresses may be.  So managing your stress is something each of us must learn to do.  Think exercise, meditation, eating whole foods, making time for yourself, your family, your friends, take regular vacations, prayer…more work is not usually the answer…

Meditation, exercise, quiet time…all ways to manage your stress.  Be sure to find time each day for activities like these.

Meditation, exercise, quiet time…all ways to manage your stress. Be sure to find time each day for activities like these.

I haven’t touched on everything that can impact your memory but these are some of the more powerful things that you can work on.  Obviously eating whole foods diet and balancing your hormones are both essential for brain health as well. Hopefully that goes without saying if you have been reading our blog for awhile.

As always, we welcome your comments, thoughts and ideas . Stay tuned as Candace and I are getting ready to do some webinars together starting in July. We will provide the links for these so that you can log in and listen.

To building  great memories…..and remembering them, LOL.

 

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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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This year is ‘the year’ that I am going to….

Happy 2014 to all of our wonderful readers and followers. Candace and I have been blogging together for 2 years and this is the year that we are hoping to take a synopsis of our book, with several chapters written  up in the format we think will be the most readable and visually lovely, to a perspective publisher and see what happens. We realize that there are scores of books written on the top of hormone balance but we think we have a unique perspective and style that is not only accessible, but that resonates with our readers. We have punted around many ideas(you have no idea how many!!) from publishing an e-book, to self-publishing, to throwing in the towel(gasp) ….But we keep coming back to the idea of a real, hold in your hand, prop on your shelf, cuddle up in your bed, kind of book as that is what WE like and what most of our friends/family members/patients/colleagues/acquaintance turn to for the kind of content we are offering. So we would like to hear from YOU: what do you like about our blog, what have been some of your favorite topics, what haven’t we covered that you want to know more about?? Of course we value your honesty as that will help us write a better book so please give us your ‘from the heart’ feedback. We will keep you posted as to our progress, but that is MP’s overriding goal for this year.

Oh no, we admitted our goal OUT LOUD…now that should motivate us(one technique towards reaching one's goals….)

Oh no, we admitted our goal OUT LOUD…now that should motivate us(one technique towards reaching one’s goals….)

What have YOU been saying that you hope to do, to change, to re-invent, to re-consider, to move towards or perhaps away from, in this coming year?  Every newspaper and magazine that I have opened this past week had something about weight loss, exercising more, eating cleaner, etc but one thing I did notice that was different this year was the wording of the articles. Almost every one alluded to the concept that our goals should be towards making sustainable changes, not radical ones. To do that , it helps to make small changes, ones that you can stick to (like our 10 day ‘consciousness cleanses’, something anyone can do and benefit from): not saying , “I will NEVER eat potato chips and sour cream again after work(one of my personal favorite guilty pleasures…)” because that is just never going to happen. It is so much more realistic to write down what you hope to accomplish and then identify the obstacles, your strengths, a timeline and then formulate a plan. We will keep coming back to this topic in the upcoming weeks and months but I just want to leave you with a few simple thoughts as you think about the year ahead.

1. It DOES matter what you eat. This is probably the single most important thing that you do each day in terms of supporting or hurting your body. You can exercise until the cows come home, but if you are eating a diet high in processed foods, sugary beverages, calorie dense/nutrient poor foods(most of these come in a box/can/or a wrapper, by the way), you will gain weight in all the wrong places and you will not achieve optimal fitness….or fit into those favorite pair of jeans.

Eat whole pieces of fruit every day, loaded with nutrients and full of fiber

Eat whole pieces of fruit every day, loaded with nutrients and full of fiber

2.Follow the wise words of Michael Pollan: “Eat food(WHOLE food), not too much, mostly plants”. Do this and you will see results, sustainable ones.

3. Spend a few minutes each day being grateful for the wonders of your body. Focus more on how your body feels and how it does whatever you ask it to do day after day, a miracle in and of itself.  Take care of your body: feed it whole foods, clean water, take it out for a walk, a jog, a hike, expose it to natural vitamin D and the elements like the wind, the rain, the snow. Take note of how alive you feel when you have spent some time outside or just being active. Your body will thank you by continuing to do what you ask of it and by sticking around for awhile.

Hiking with my wonderful black lab Riley: sitting at the top of the world and feeling like it

Hiking with my wonderful black lab Riley: sitting at the top of the world and feeling like it

4. Take time to sleep, to rest and to restore yourself. You need this more than you know(see Candace’s last post).

5. Make time for play, for love, for friendship, for prayer and meditation, for doing the things you love to do, for visiting someone who needs you to be there. Life often goes by in a blur so paying attention each day to the moments that matter and making time for the things that matter to you is crucial for living a life that has meaning.

Our conversation will continue. We look forward to writing to you and hearing from you in the upcoming year. Thank you for sharing your time and thoughts with us. We so appreciate all of you.

Take time to see and smell the flowers and other small wonders

Take time to see and smell the flowers and other small wonders

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Can’t Sleep? You Could Have an Undetected Hormone Imbalance!

A century ago most people slept nine to 10 hours a night, a healthy normal for rest and replenishment, but these days we tend to live by the You snooze, you lose maxim. Now most of us are working ten hours a day and getting by on half that much sleep – not nearly enough to recharge our batteries, much less replenish hormone levels. In fact, researchers have a name for those of us who get by on less than five to six hours of sleep a night – “short sleepers” – who not only have a serious fatigue problem but may also suffer from anxiety, food cravings, “stress eating”, AND, get this, higher body fat.
A number of studies out of Stanford and the U. of Chicago attest to the strong association between sleep deprivation and weight gain – particularly belly fat!

Can't sleep at night and can't stay awake during the day? It could be your hormones...

Can’t sleep at night and can’t stay awake during the day? It could be your hormones…

A major cause of our chronic lack of sleep is the fast track stressful culture we live in which leads to overstimulation of the hormones that govern all physiological activities, including sleep. Hormones are meant to follow their own rhythm and diurnal curve. Take for example cortisol, the master stress hormone. It should be at its highest level in the morning to get us up and attam, and decline gradually over the course of the day to lowest levels at night – right before sleep. But what we often observe in the test results of those who list sleep disturbances as moderate or severe, is the absolute reverse where cortisol is low in the morning when it should be high, and high at night when it should be low.

Cortisol levels that are elevated at night seriously interfere with the body’s natural production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. So we toss and turn all night then drag ourselves out of bed in the morning relying on alarm clocks, caffeine, and chocolate to get through the day. By the time bedtime rolls around again, we find ourselves too wired to fall asleep and stay asleep – a classic case of hormone imbalance that has probably been overlooked for years.

Living on a caffeine drip...have you tested your hormones lately?

Living on a caffeine drip…have you tested your hormones lately?

Given that hormones work in tandem with one another to maintain balance, shifting levels of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA can also negatively impact the nature and quality of sleep, particularly at midlife.
For example, women in menopause who no longer ovulate have plummeting levels of progesterone and thus become low in this natural sleeporific hormone. Deficiencies of estrogen can cause hot flashes that wake us up in the night, and low testosterone in both men and women can cause muscles aches and pain that make it hard to get to sleep in the first place.

Testing for hormone imbalances that sabotage our slumber is easy enough to do. A convenient home collection kit combines non-invasive (no-needles) saliva testing of steroid/sex and adrenal hormones with dried blood spot testing for thyroid hormones. Results can identify specific hormone imbalances linked to sleep disturbance, chronic fatigue, sugar cravings, stress and other health issues related to a healthy sleep.

To sleep is to be balanced in all ways

To sleep is to be balanced in all ways

You can order a test kit at http://www.canaryclub.org for easy at home collection and return of hormone samples (by regular mail) to the lab for analysis. Test results are not a diagnosis, but can be used by practitioners to facilitate correction of sleep specific hormone imbalances. Always partner with a provider. If you need one, go to ZRT Laboratory’s website:www.zrtlab.com and click on Find a Provider, OR, if you live in or around Portland, Oregon, book an appointment with Kyle at Pearl Women’s Center, www.pearlwomenscenter.com, or if you prefer phone consult/coaching you can book with me at http://www.yourhormonebalance.com to review your test resuts, connect the dots to your symptoms, and design a personal rebalancing plan.

A good nights restorative sleep is waiting in the wings for you – what greater gift can we give ourselves in this season of giftgiving, than that… AND how better to start the New Year than with a long winters nap!
P.S. No cellphones or Ipads allowed by the bedside – the blue light that emits from electronic devices is a serious disruptor of natural sleep hormones!!

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At the finish line: day 10

Wow, well that went by pretty fast,  in retrospect anyway. Here it is, day 10 of the fall consciousness cleanse and I made it: phew! There were some challenges, some moments, when I almost caved in….. but just knowing that I am accountable to all of you kept me going when my own will/wantpower wasn’t quite enough.

This last weekend was probably the hardest for me in terms of not having that evening glass of wine so I purposely kept my days(evenings) clear of extra social gatherings. I did go to one party last week and then out with my friend Chris(who also successfully has made it through: today is her day 11!). Instead of wine, I had some perrier and water and it felt great.

So what have I noticed after 10 days without caffeine, alcohol, sugar and the whites? First of all,  my sleep was deep, filled with dreams and I woke up refreshed each morning(sometimes I was wide awake 20 minutes before my alarm clock and could just enjoy those last stolen minutes before getting out of bed). Second, my energy was more even throughout the day and particularly in the early and late afternoon. Previously, I often would reach for a cup of coffee at around 2 pm to fight the urge to take a nap, which doesn’t fit into my work schedule, imagine that! Third, I felt more satisfied and full after a meal filled with clean foods, each one a bundle of powerful nutrients. I stopped craving anything sweet after a few days, although by day seven I could have snarfed down some lovely rich chocolate. Instead I tried a new fruit, a persimmon: wow, is that one sweet and yummy fruit. Fourth, although I consider myself somewhat of a foodie, I pushed myself to try new things: quince, persimmons, carrot chips for starters. I also discovered some new teas for my collection:  sugar cookie sleigh ride(sounds decadent: it’s not!),sugar plum spice, pumpkin spice and several new green teas.  Fifth, my clothes are looser as my weight dropped between 3 and 4 pounds, which I really noticed around my middle: that dreaded menopot!

Overall, my mood was even, my energy great and my body feels strong and ready to gear up for the holidays. Most of all, I feel empowered in knowing that I CAN DO THIS when I set my mind and soul to it. I have heard from quite a few of you who went all for the ride, some of you the entire way, some for just a portion. However much you did, congratulations for even thinking about it, as thoughts become words, words become actions, and actions lead to results. Remember that small changes cause big shifts, in your thinking, in your eating and drinking patterns, in your hormone balance, in you and in your life.  Thanks for all of your feedback(sometimes people prefer to email rather than comment on the blog: soon we will have a Facebook page which many find easier to communicate through). We love hearing from you and sharing our knowledge and experiences back and forth.

Wishing you a Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, delicious food and beverages, relaxation and much to be grateful for. Take a few minutes to think of all that you are grateful for: the list is often endless and it helps to remember all of the blessings in our lives and to be present and grateful. That is the magic of Thanksgiving: a day with no gifts, no cards, just a day to share and enjoy one another.

My beautiful family: of whom I am most grateful

My beautiful family: of whom I am most grateful

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4 days til our “Fall Consciousness Cleanse” starts : are you ready???

As many of our faithful readers know, I have been trying to set aside two separate times each year during which I turn my attention more fully to the things that I eat and drink for 10 days.  I have called these time periods  ‘ a consciousness cleanse’ as opposed to a true cleanse (or a detox), which is usually quite a bit more entailed and rigorous.  The goal of setting aside 10 days each fall and spring for cleaner eating and drinking is more aimed towards increasing our awareness of what we consume,  in hopes that by doing so, we can slowly change our habits in the long term.

The rules for OUR cleanse are simple: eat whole foods, avoid alcohol, the whites(see end of post for link to specifics), and caffeine for 10 days. Benefits? Decreased belly fat, improved sleep, increased energy,clearer thinking, balanced mood and the satisfaction of doing something absolutely incredible for your body!! One more thing: there is something so satisfying of sticking to a wellness program for the entire duration, just knowing that you CAN.

Some healthy and delicious food choices, packed with powerful nutrients

Some healthy and delicious food choices, packed with powerful nutrients

This fall the kick-off begins Sunday , November 17th and runs through Tuesday, November 26th and is designed to increase our consciousness right before the superbowl of holiday feasting(Thanksgiving day) arrives, with all of the subsequent festivities that occur between that day and the coming of the new year. Did you know that the average American gains up to 12 # during said famed holiday season? That is an alarming thought indeed, as anyone watching the news knows how the epidemic of obesity is causing a plethora of chronic health problems in our country(see some of our previous blogposts on this subject).

Some of my favorite herbal teas and sweetener to enjoy during the cleanse

Some of my favorite herbal teas and sweetener to enjoy during the cleanse

The best part of doing the ‘cleanse’ at this time of year is that you will have some excellent company. This year both Candace and I will be doing it together, along with at least 10 others.  It really is so much easier(and fun) to take on a challenge like this with some support. As an extra added incentive, if you sign up as a follower AND post at least 2 comments during the 10 days about YOUR experience on the cleanse, we will enter your name into a drawing for a copy of the wonderful book, “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.  She offers some wonderful ways to take inventory of your life and make changes, all designed to bring more happiness and balance to your life.

Here are some more specifics about the cleanse from a previous post that I wrote:

http://menopausibilities.com/2013/01/05/preparations-for-our-cleanse/

Please refer back to that post and the several that follow it as you get ready to join us. And don’t forget to sign up as a follower(if you haven’t already done so) and comment along the way: you might just win that book for some terrific fall and winter reading. Plus we love to hear from you….

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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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Hormones: The Hidden Truth About Weight Gain

What’s the hormone weight gain connection?

 Well, for starters hormones are f-u-n-d-a-m-e-n-t-a-l when it comes to women and weight, key players in regulating how many pounds we put on and where, our rate of metabolism, blood sugar, insulin, AND whether or not the body decides to burn fat or store it.  Thus it can be notoriously difficult to maintain a normal healthy ideal weight if an undetected hormone imbalance is silently sabotaging your best efforts to stay slim.

 As we age, shifting hormone levels trigger imbalances that cause numerous symptoms, chief among them increased fat deposition in the hips, thighs, bottom and belly ( the kind that won’t budge no matter how many crunches we kill ourselves doing), not to mention sugar cravings and/or a raging appetite that induce one to overeat of all the wrong foods leading inevitably to weight gain in all the wrong places. Maddening! So it is no coincidence that the highest prevalence of obesity (as reported by the Centers for Disease Control) is found among midlife men and women over 40, those folks in the very throes of the hormonal woes.

 The Typical Symptom Picture

Women in  perimenopause, (the transitional years starting in our late 30s, early 4Os that end with the end of  periods at menopause)  are the first to notice the encroachment of surplus adipose  and may be WAY frustrated that they can’t shed pounds as easily as they used to. These are the women who simply can’t abide the stubborn belly fat they never had before and will do just about anything to get rid of it. Trouble is doing anything and everything if it does not include detecting and correcting a hidden hormone imbalance will ultimately prove fruitless. These are the women who say that since they hit menopause they can put on pounds just looking at a sweet roll.

Image

 Men over 40 whose hormones are downsizing as they move into andropause (a.ka. the male menopause) may notice a drop in strength stamina and the slow slide of ‘six-pack abs’ into an abdominal ‘spare tire’ of fat.

 Younger women and adolescents, particularly those whose dietary and sleeping habits are seriously lacking, are also  at risk for hormone imbalances that encourage excess weight gain or obesity. The CDC tells us that obesity rates among teens and adolescents are also at epidemic levels.

 Can’t Lose Weight? Blame it on your Hormones!

 Do the following symptoms sound familiar?

  • weight gain in hips, thighs, breast (known as gynecomastia in men)
  • belly fat
  • water retention or bloating
  • premenstrual weight gain
  • PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
  • increased appetite/hunger/a sense of never feeling full
  • sugar cravings
  • decreasing lean muscle being replaced by increased body fat
  •  low thyroid symptoms: can’t lose weight, stalled weight loss, sluggish metabolism,
  • tend to regain weight once lost (sometimes more)
  • can’t get to sleep/stay asleep

 Got two or more (troubling or persistent) symptoms? These are hallmarks of weight linked hormone imbalances that could be thwarting your ability to lose weight, and/or control your weight over time. There is no better approach to avoiding serious obesity-related diseases such as Type2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer, than maintaining a healthy weight.

 The Missing Link: Hormone Testing

 Attempting to maintain a healthy weight without taking hormone levels into account, is like starting a weight loss program without ever stepping on a scale or measuring your waist line. Sidebar: for the average women, a waist circumference over 35″  (in men, over 40″) is an important marker of insulin resistance* /metabolic syndrome**  harbingers of Type 2 diabetes.

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*when muscle cells become desensitized to the actions of insulin they shut down and resist taking up glucose for energy and calorie burning. So what happens instead is that sugar is shunted into fat, particularly around the waist! Mon dieu!!
**that cluster of metabolic mishaps that include: high blood pressure, high Triglycerides, low HDL,  insulin resistance, and abdominal obesity as the primary determining factors.

Your Best Efforts to Control Your Weight  can be derailed by undetected imbalances of:

Estrogen

-Progesterone

-Testosterone

-DHEAs

-Cortisol

-Vitamin D

-Thyroid hormones

-Insulin

Eating whole, hormone- free foods, exercising, reducing stress and exposure to environmental toxins, getting enough sleep, and using natural hormone therapies and supplements as needed can help you raise the bar to ultimate weight control.

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So ……IF:

  • You’ve tried every diet
  • You eat healthy, whole foods for the most part
  • You workout or get regular exercise
  • You weigh yourself every morning
  • For gawd’s sake you even ran a marathon last week….and STILL cannot lose weight !!!

Have you considered testing your hormones?

I trust that by now you are all ears,  and if so I encourage you to keep them perked, listening and  learning at our webinar, “The Hidden Truth About Weight Gain and Hormones”, coming up this Wednesday, the 16th of October, at 9am. ZRT Laboratory will be hosting the webinar as they have recently developed a special hormone test collection (a.k.a. The Weight Management Profile), that detects hormone imbalances linked to weight gain as well as major risk markers for insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. As the past director of education at ZRT and now a consultant, yours truly will be presenting. Join me for some life changing edutainment. The webinar is of course free to all comers (and who knows we might just give away a hormone test kit).  Here is the link to sign up for the webinar, coming up very soon, this wednesday in fact, Oct. 16th, just a week away: http://www.zrtlab.com/specialty-profiles/weight-management

 

 

 

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How do Hormone Imbalances Make us Gain Weight ? Let’s Count the Ways!

In my last post I talked about the hormonal links to unwanted weight gain and immovable belly fat. If you simply cannot figure out why you can no longer shed pounds easily like you used to even though you try to eat right, exercise, and take your vitamins every morning, you might be walking around with an undetected hormone imbalance that is sabotaging your best efforts. How does hormone imbalance contribute to weight gain? Let me count the ways!  Better still I’ll let naturopathic Dr. Amy Shah, boil it down for you here (with a few italicized notes from me in there)….read on:
These are the top areas women neglect, even when they think they’re being healthy.
1. You have an estrogen to progesterone imbalance.

Many women — especially those of child-bearing age — have an estrogen dominance problem. If you exercise daily, it’s likely that you’re using up your progesterone and estrogen is dominating. Other causes of estrogen dominance include environmental factors such as pesticides, plastics, industrial waste products, car exhaust, meat, soaps, furniture and carpet.

Diet, most importantly making sure you eat “hormone-free” (the label should clearly read “these animals were raised without hormones or antibiotics) environmental avoidance of xenoestrogens, and taking supplements can bolster your progesterone and decrease estrogen dominance. Check out the Environmental Working Group on line (www.ewg.org) for the full revelations and actions you can take!

2. You’re not getting enough vitamin D.

Possibly due to our awareness of skin cancer and the use of sunscreen, our levels of vitamin D are lower than they were decades ago. Not to mention that we are spending more time working indoors in front of computers, or exercising inside vs. in the great outdoors. Vitamin D in that is it synthesized by the action of sunlight upon the skin acts like a hormone in our bodies, and deficiency has been linked to allergies, asthma, weight gain, fatigue, food allergies and even cancer. Vitamin D levels can be tested by your healthcare provider, and supplemental vitamin D can be found in various forms.

3. You have high cortisol.

High levels of cortisol (our “stress hormone”) is another big reason we tend to store fat and keep weight on our abdominal area until the stressor is minimized or resolved.. I used to wake up very early to do a spin class or intense run, then race home to get ready for work, then deal with my young kids and chores. That increased my cortisol levels and working against my goals of having a lean body.

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If you feel like you need to be on a caffeine drip at all times, it means you’re having too many highs and lows with cortisol as a big culprit. Cortisol is associated with increased appetite, cravings for sugar, and weight gain, belly fat in particular. You need to unwind everyday with whatever it is that shuts off your hypervigilence — even if it’s for 10 minutes per day.

4. You’re eating processed “healthy.”

Excess sodium, GMOs and sugar are all hidden ingredients that are both inflammatory and causes of excess weight gain. Just because it’s at a health food store and it’s “gluten free” or “low fat” or “natural,” DOES NOT mean it’s good for you. It took me a long time to get over this, because packaging with the words “natural” and “healthy” are very enticing.

5. You’re eating too much fat.

Paleo and other higher-fat diets work for some people, but many women, such as myself, don’t do well with them. Our bodies may do well with fat — especially when added to greens — but be careful not to go overboard.

6. You’re skimping on quality sleep.

This still remains tried and true. Your hormones need it. Your muscles need it for repair, and your brain needs it. The two hormones that are key in the relationship between sleep and weight loss are ghrelin and leptin. These hormones operate on the sleep-wake cycle so when you get less than 7 hours a night appetite hormones are disrupted. Put very simply, leptin tells us when to stop eating and when you’re sleep deprived it plummets so you have less. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when to eat, and when you’re sleep-deprived, you have more ghrelin and more appetite but may never feel full.

Often when I am having sleep disturbances or jet lag, I use melatonin and magnesium (an all too common deficiency associated with sleep disturbances AND chocolate cravings) as supplements to get me on the right track.

7. You’re not eating your cruciferous vegetables.

Cruciferous vegetables from the vegetable family Brassicaceae include cabbage, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, broccoli and other similar green vegetables. Not only are they good for you because of the feeling of fullness you get from the fiber, but they’re also good for estrogen metabolism through a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C). It is a natural source of DIM (3,3-Diindolylmethane) that helps promote estrogen balance AND helps clear the body of the toxic xenoestrogens we pick up from the environment. This is the cheapest, easiest way to get your hormones — and your weight — in balance.
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http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10296/why-so-many-healthy-women-cant-lose-weight.html

 

 

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Day 3: feeling great

For those of you who are following along with the 5 day cleanse and started with me on Monday, we are already at midpoint. I just wanted to check in with all of you and share what I have noticed so far.

First of all, knowing that this is ONLY 5 days made starting this one so much easier. Plus I was very ready to clean things up, fresh off 10 days of traveling(airplanes, airports, sitting around more than usual, running around NYC eating more than I usually do, etc) and also very inspired by the integrative health care conference that I went to last week.  

Each morning I have started the day with either licorice spice or ginger tea prior to my workout, then I have rice cakes with hummous for breakfast. Mid morning I snack on either red grapes or an apple. Lunch has been a salad filled with colored peppers(trying to eat a ‘rainbow ‘of colored foods every day), goat cheese, nuts, dried cranberries, mushrooms and a cup of tea. By late afternoon, I reach for something salty usually, like a handful of nuts or falafel chips(chock full of nutrients and even some protein and fiber: these are one of my new favorite snacks, by the way) . For the past 2 nights dinner has consisted of a steamed artichoke, some goat gouda cheese and a grain of sorts. Last night I made some polenta, which was incredibly satisfying and yummy.A quick and wonderful way to make polenta is to take a baking pan and place 1 cup coarse grain polenta, 4 cups of water and  1 tsp of salt( I like pink Himalayan) stir this together and place in preheated oven 350 degrees for 45 minutes; stir in 1-2 Tbsp of butter and bake for another 15 minutes: serve with protein like cheese or chicken and some veggies for a tasty meal. In addition, throughout the day I love to drink an assortment of herbal teas and then of course the elixir(see my posts in January for this recipe): both of these beverages are warming and comforting. 

Let us know how you are feeling and what you are eating throughout the day. Are you finding it easier this time? How is your sleep?mood? And don’t forget to become a fan on Pearl Womens Center Facebook page and enter your name into the drawing for our contest.

More to follow…in the meanwhile, wishing you health and balance in your lives.

My favorite indoor flowers, providing color and inspiration on a dark day

My favorite indoor flowers, providing color and inspiration on a dark day

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