Tag Archives: sugar cravings

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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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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Re-woman Returns to Confess and Re-balance Her Hormone Resolutions for 2013

A scant year ago in this blog I declared my New Years aspirations to remake my post-menopausal self into a more serene, cleansed, and hormonally balanced version of me. I believe I gave myself the first 30 days of 2012 to become a new woman, a re-woman if you will. Hah! 352 plus days later I am here to report back on the past years’ effort to live up to my aspirations and practice what I preach, followed by an honest as I know how to be, no BS commentary on how I did last year with readjusted expectations for 2013.

2013  Inauguration day

Rewoman and great friend Pamela Bateman (left), founder of the Seventh Woman Foundation (www.theseventhwoman.org) for breast cancer prevention, reinaugurate their pledge to stay (warm) and  balanced at the reinauguration of our 44th President in D.C.!

1) Get into that bed one hour earlier every single night.

Ooops! Well maybe not a total flop …. if you’re a night owl like me you know that getting to bed before midnight is a major feat.  Rewoman confession: I did not live up to the every night part of the aspiration, but did manage to get in bed with a book around 11ish a couple nights of the week. Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Lights out by midnight every other night of the week. The earlier bedtimes will lower my cortisol stress hormones to resting levels sooner rather than later, leading to that much coveted deeper sleep and satisfied appetite hormones, thus reducing overeating, cravings and the dreaded result – belly fat!

2) Rise one hour earlier to a cup of green tea instead of coffee.

Green tea is one of the best alternatives to coffee, get to know the different brands….Joy is introducing the Genmaicha powdered version and sharing a cuppa’ with a friend…what could be more healing or stress reducing?

Small triumph: My typical waking time before I made this resolution was 9ish…I now get up about 30 minutes earlier most days, without an alarm clock, now that is progress.  Rewoman confession: I did not convert to the green tea in the morning until just last month when following Kyle’s group cleanse. Good thing I did stop the coffee a week before I went on to do my annual ‘master cleanse’ a detox that can bring on killer headaches, but I never suffered a single one. Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Aim for the full hour earlier each day in concert with at least 8 hours of sleep the night before. Studies at Stanford and U. of Chicago observe that “short sleepers,” (defined as 7 hours a night or less) have stress-related hormone imbalances linked to weight gain and higher body fat, a raging appetite, mood swings, memory lapse and low libido.

3) Spend at least 15 to 20 mns. morning and/or evening in stillness: no talking, no electronic stimuli, no nothing – just breathing. (This practice will help me to calm down, FOCUS, and eventually become the most serene woman I have ever met.) Thumbs up: I certainly feel more focused and balanced throughout the day when I spend that first 30 minutes stretching, breathing, sipping or gazing into the distance. Rewoman confession: Well I’m not going to claim I’m the most serene woman I know … but then I have to ask myself how many women I know who describe themselves as serene…perhaps it is the difference between feeling half-crazy and stressed-out when your hormones are out of balance, and the feeling of calm that descends once balance is restored. Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Learn to meditate for once and for all, and study up on more deep breathing techniques. Make cultivating stillness my mantra for finding balance within. Also, read: QUIET: the Power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.

gaing out

Gaze into the distance, quiet your mind and find balance in silence some part of every day.

4) Rev up my 40-minute walk to 1 hour a day – and walk faster. No lollygagging and no excuses, even if I have to walk in the rain and the dark.  (This will help to humidify my skin and oxygenate my brain and body so that I will live forever, or at least look and feel like I can!) Getting there! I am up to an hour every other day… and exercising on average 6 days a week; it’s become so normal now that I feel completely out of sorts if I miss a day….have so far invested in warm, absolutely waterproof (don’t settle for water resistant especially in wintry climes) pants, gloves, hat with flaps, and am so far so good, perfectly warm and dry. Not only that, by deciding to take all my exercise outdoors I’m saving 160 bucks a month in athletic club dues. Rewoman confession: I have not done strength training or weight bearing exercises consistently enough to build lean muscle, the key to reviving strength stamina and natural hormone supplies as we age. Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Join the Sierra Club to get in more hill walking and hikes that will boost my muscle and bone mass, metabolism, mood, memory and even libido. Always room for improvement there!

CandaceRainGearWeb

Re-woman aspires to walking not 6 but 7 days a week, every day in the great outdoors AND stay completely warm and dry…the key is waterPROOF (as opposed to water resistant …it isn’t protective enough if you’re walking in all weather) gear: windbreaker, vest, overalls, gloves, and boots, a warm hoodie and your favorite hat with a brim (essential for rewomen who wear glasses! ) …45 minutes to an hour a day boosts natural hormone levels, mood and muscle!

5) Learn how to make Brussels sprouts taste good! (Adding way more cruciferous vegetables: kale, chard, spinach, cauliflower, cabbage) to my daily diet will help to metabolize excess and/or toxic, i.e. ‘xeno’ estrogens from my body, thus clearing my onward path to natural hormone balance.) Done! was this ever a success thanks especially to all the great recipes YOU readers sent (see Jan. 15, 2012 blog comments for recipes!) Rewoman confession: I have become addicted to Brussels Sprouts.  Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Learn how to make cauliflower mouthwatering…any recipes for this one ladies?

6) Tune out talking heads before bedtime. (This will stop the overstimulation of the 24/7 news cycles and rid my tired brain of useless chatter AND prevent me from becoming one of those people who develops ADHD in her 60s, heaven forbid!) FLOP: Pre-election addiction to the latest news from the campaign trail made me a liar on this aspiration HOWEVER I did find that after following the cleansing fast this past month (and of course after the election was finally over) I did not feel like watching the news much at all. Rewoman Confession: I still watch Washington Week in Review on Friday nights and Meet the Press on Sundays, but I follow it up with Downton Abbey, a real escape from the here and now… makes me wonder how women stuck in the British class system at the turn of the century dealt with their symptoms of menopause? Readjusted aspiration for 2013: No-TV-at-all-nights, at least twice a week. Continue to beat husband at scrabble. Learn Bananagrams. And Chess!

Mind/body balance: part of the equation for all of us

Tune out to practice  balance

7) Reject all foods that are genetically modified and/or any household or personal care products  that contain  pesticides, synthetic hormones, xenoestrogens, antibiotics, or empty calories. (This will significantly reduce my risk of getting indigestion, a fat belly, and a leaky gut, gluten-intolerance, insomnia and hormone imbalance, not to mention diseases of aging like breast cancer!) Challenge: This one is tough since we health care consumers cannot be sure what we are getting…witness the failure of Californians to pass a ballot for GMO modified foods to be labeled as such (in the face of enormous pressure from the likes of Monsanto…but that’s another blog).  At the very least we can inform ourselves to choose foods raised without (make sure the label reads that way) synthetic hormones, RBST, or antibiotics. If you do nothing else, do this! Rewoman Confession: I have on more than one occasion had my hair colored in salons that do not use plant-based dyes and products. In my defense there are not many hair colorists who do use completely non-toxic hair products. Nevertheless this cannot be an excuse. These are toxic chemicals that once slathered on my head, sink into my very tissues, putting me at risk for gawd knows what, hormone imbalance at the very least, and I let it happen! Why? because the color lasts longer. So who is gonna’ last longer if I get cancer after all these years of allowing toxic chemicals to seep into my brain, just because I am not ready to go gray!  Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Never again upon pain of bladder cancer risks, use harsh ‘endocrine disrupting’ (e.g. man-made toxins lethal to normal hormone operating systems) chemicals on my hair; seek out more hair salons that offer organic, ammonia-free, plant-based hair dyes (Google: Aveda and local colorists that use organic hair dyes, bleaches and styling products.)

8) Cancel at least one appointment a week and banish anything, anyone, and everything else in my life that is an unnecessary stressor. (This will enable me to become more authentic and the most stress-free person I could ever hope to meet!) Score: I averaged 2 cancelled appointments a week, have erased at least 3 high-maintenance soul-draining so-called ‘friends’ from my contact list, and changed jobs! Rewoman Confession: I’d been carrying a few dysfunctional relationships  against my better judgment for far too long.  Shedding them at long last feels good, a liberation! Readjusted aspiration for 2013: Choose friends who nourish one’s strengths vs. one’s weaknesses; do not allow what I do to become who I am; and for goodness sake, stop overbooking however well-intentioned!

9) Re-testing my hormones was also on the list for 2012: Check! Rewoman confession: found out through testing that I’d been over-supplementing a bit, so made the necessary adjustments – this  by the way is one of the most important benefits of testing your hormone levels at least once or twice a year, especially when using supplementation, its’ essential to get the dose right!

10) Last but not least, I aspired to redouble my efforts to educate more women and I just might get the chance as I’ve been invited to travel to China to give a talk on hormone balance this March. Evidently this is a topic of interest to women around the world! If YOU have a Re-balance plan you’d like to share, or for that matter, a great mouthwatering cauliflower recipe you can pass on PLEASE sign up to become a follower and comment right here on the blog!! We’re all ears!

Masking the menopause madness

Rewoman behind the scenes:  getting your hormones back in sync can’t be a rehearsal, its a balancing act we practice every day.

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