Tag Archives: vitamin D

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.


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:


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

Hormone Balancing for the Man in Your Life – Is there a Male Menopause??

O-h-h-h yes, whether he thinks so or not! Men are no more immune than are their female counterparts to a drop in hormone production with age. The so-called “male menopause” or “andropause” (in medical speak) signifies the natural midlife retreat of the male hormones (androgens), testosterone and DHEA. Testosterone in particular, is the most potent force driving mental and physical energy in men. But the rate at which these hormones decline and how steep the descent has everything to do with work/life balance, diet, stress levels, sleep and lifestyle.

The 2006 HIM Study found that nearly 40% of US males over 45 years old had low testosterone levels (an estimated 13 million US males), however the majority of men in the study did not recognize that the weight gain, sore muscles, lack of libido, insomnia, and burnout they were experiencing could very well be tied to a hidden hormonal imbalance – instead they put their symptoms down to “just getting old.”


Women get all the attention in menopause…but what about the men in our lives?? They too suffer the slings and arrows of declining hormone levels, but don’t always know what’s hit them!


 What causes declining hormones in men?

In his prime, 95% of a man’s testosterone is formed in the testes. The balance, along with DHEA, the precursor of testosterone, is supplied by the adrenal glands. As he ages, brain signals to the testes to ‘make more testosterone’ start to weaken, hence the signal is not picked up and hormone levels start to downsize. By the time the average Joe hits his 40’s, testosterone levels are down forty to 50 percent and the adrenal glands are having to pick up the slack. Sidenote: this is when it becomes more important than ever at midlife to reduce stress so that the adrenals do not become overwhelmed and unable to provide sufficient hormone supplies. Weight gain, poor diet, and lack of exercise on top of high stress demands further lower testosterone, impacting the stamina, competitive drive, and virility we commonly associate with the male of the species.

How’s a Guy to Know?

The first thing a man entering andropause generally notices is a subtle downward shift in strength and energy as hormone levels taper off.   Muscle tone and stamina are the first to go and he starts to gain weight and that “spare tire”.  He may also develop a voracious appetite and food cravings he never had before. As symptoms kick in, hormone testing can identify hidden imbalances that complicate symptoms of andropause and contribute to rapid aging . 

Got symptoms of Andropause?

–       Weight gain in the hips, thighs, waist, and/or breasts

–       Decreased muscle mass/sore muscles

–       Increased body fat

–       Decreased strength/stamina/endurance

–       Poor recovery from exercise

–       Burnout and fatigue

–       Lack of mental clarity

–       Decreased sex drive and/or competitive drive

–       Prostate problems


Muscle tone and stamina are the first to go when male hormones are out of balance….it gets tougher to win at arm wrestling….and those six-pack abs start to slide into a “spare tire” of fat around the middle.

Men with symptoms need to test these hormones for imbalances:

Testosterone –  an anabolic hormone that builds and maintains muscle mass, bone density, strength and stamina. It is also linked to libido, mental clarity, memory and energy.  Low or suboptimal levels are a strong indicator of andropause; deficiencies are linked with loss of lean muscle, increased weight, body fat, and BMI with a corresponding drop in metabolic rate.

DHEA –  the primary source of testosterone and other hormones in the body; DHEA partners with testosterone to build and maintain lean muscle and bone mass, increase metabolism and reduce body fat. Deficiencies are linked with decreased lean muscle mass and increased adipose tissue or body fat. Low DHEA is also linked with adrenal imbalances of cortisol and adrenal fatigue.

Estrogen – promotes growth and healthy cell division; protects the heart, brain, reproductive organs and glandular function.  High estrogen hormone imbalance promotes a female pattern of fat gain in men; it also depletes testosterone levels, and inhibits thyroid to slow metabolism way down. 

Cortisol –  secreted by the adrenal glands, it has a variety of functions including: regulating the stress response, energy, blood sugar levels, and the immune system. High or low cortisol levels disrupt blood sugar and insulin levels which decreases metabolism and increases fat storage.


How hormone imbalances trigger weight gain in men

 Undetected hormonal imbalances can cause unwanted pounds that are difficult to shed especially as men get older. When testosterone or DHEA levels decline below optimal levels, men start to lose lean muscle mass, which is readily replaced by body fat, and those much vaunted six-pack abs start to slide into a spare tire of fat. The more body fat, the more estrogen is produced – a vicious cycle that depletes male testosterone by actually converting it to estrogen in fat cells. And it doesn’t end there. Imbalances of estrogen and related hormones like cortisol (the master stress hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels) not only suppress available testosterone, but also slow down thyroid metabolism…. while the pounds pile on.

How can men balance their hormones naturally to boost energy, stamina, libido, and lose that “spare tire” for good?

As aging and bad health habits put the brakes on hormone production,  the decline can be more precipitous in some men than others. Testing male hormone levels is the first step to understanding why, and what you can do about it. My first suggestion is to order either a Male Hormone Test kit, the new Weight Management Profile, or Advanced Plus profile (all of these comprehensive home collection kits test levels in saliva and or bloodspot) from Canary Club at www.canaryclub.org. When you get your hormone results back, (usually within 3-5 days from the time the lab receives your hormone samples) you can book a  consult with your physician (go to Find A Provider at http://www.zrtlab.com) of if you prefer a phone consult, you can book one with me, Candace at www.yourhormonebalance.com  In an hour coaching session we will review and discuss your results, and your what next options. You will also receive a follow-up personal hormone balance plan within a week of our consult.


Back on track – Men just as much as women need to balance their hormones to maintain their moods, memory, mental clarity and mojo!


Men in balance do this:

-Determine their symptoms of hormone imbalance from the list above. Two or more moderate to severe persistent symptoms indicate a problem. 

– Test their hormone levels to detect and correct imbalances linked to symptoms.

– Followup with a physician or health coach.

-Losing weight is key to rebalancing hormones. Fat cells contain aromatase, an enzyme that robs available testosterone by converting it to estrogen. That is when men start to get a female pattern of fat distribution in the hips, thighs, bottom and breasts (anyone heard the term “moobs”)!

-Stick with a program!  A Mediterranean style diet that is  low glycemic, low carbohydrate, low fat, high protein, high fiber (whole grains, cruciferous vegetables, legumes, seeds, etc.)  can go a long way towards balancing your hormones to balance your weight.

-Throw out testosterone robbers like caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, and unnecessary stressors like overbooking yourself, etc.

-Take up strength training or weight bearing exercise to boost testosterone and DHEA levels naturally by building up lean muscle mass.

-Counteract stress (the higher the stress levels, the lower the testosterone) with regular exercise – 45 minutes is optimal but even 10 mins. 3x a day adds up to 30 minutes and that is GOOD.

-St-r-e-t-c-h and breathe deep to release tension held in the muscles and lower stress hormones

-Hit the sack earlier – less than 7 hours sleep disrupts appetite hormones to increase cravings and feelings of hunger

-Take time to do the things you enjoy! Stress reduction is the key to normalizing cortisol levels.  


Consider these hormone support supplements to rebalance your levels: 

  • Bioidentical* forms of testosterone (gel, patch,pellets or injections) in appropriate amounts as prescribed by a physician and/or Progesterone in low doses to keep estrogen levels in check, thereby increasing active and available testosterone supplies. NOTE: progesterone inhibits the action of “bad estrogens” as well as testosterone by-products that can lead to enlargement of the prostate gland. Note: men use less than women and should discuss dosage with a doctor.
  • DIM (an extract of cruciferous vegetables) – promotes “good estrogen” metabolism and rids the body of excess/or toxic xenoestrogens to free up available testosterone and correct imbalance
  • DHEA the precursor of male testosterone boosts levels through natural conversion in the body. It is best used along with DIM and a men’s multi-vitamin with trace minerals like zinc, selenium, etc. to promote active thyroid hormone production, and inhibit loss of testosterone through conversion in fat cells
  • 7-Keto DHEAa metabolite of DHEA acts upon lean muscle mass to reduce body fat and rev up your metabolism
  •  Chromium and adaptogenic herbs (e.g. garcinia cambogia, banaba leaf, gymnema slyvestre) formulations –  help normalize cortisol levels, regulate glucose and insulin levels, tame appetite, sugar cravings, and deflate that spare tire
  • 5HTP (the natural precursor of melatonin) – at bedtime if you have trouble sleeping
  • Cal-Mag and Vitamin Ddeficiencies are linked with increased body fat
  • EFAs (essential fatty acids, like Omega 3) and Ubiquinol (spark plugs of cellular energy) – support hormone production, reduce inflammation and protect the heart
  • Vitamins C and B-Complex (B1-12) – to boost energy, and strengthen/support adrenal function and adaptation to stressors.

 Note: all supplements to be taken as directed.  Talk to your physician or pharmacist about appropriate dosages. Retest hormone levels in 3 months to track progress.

*bioidenticals are hormones made from plant based compounds that duplicate natural hormone structure and function without the side effects of synthetic versions.

For more on this heady subject see my April 8, 2013 post on Low T ads- boosting testosterone boils down to balance





Filed under Women's Health & Happiness

Summertime….and the living is easy

If you are like those of us who live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, you will understand the urge to be outside as much as possible during these days of summer, where the days are sunny and bright(and rarely much hotter than 85-90 degrees) and the evenings cool to perfect sleeping temperatures of 55 degrees. Our days are particularly long in Oregon between mid May and late August(of course we pay back for this during the darker days of winter….when daylight starts at 7:30 and ends at 5:00) and everywhere you go, crowds of people are outside walking, biking, jogging, rowing, playing tennis, frisbee, softball or just perched on a chair soaking up the rays of summer.

Perhaps you wonder where Candace and I have been these past few weeks: well, now you know: outside instead of blogging, trying to soak up every ounce of natural vitamin D(when not at work or busy with the usual chores of daily living!) and getting as much exercise as possible outside of the gym. There is something very magical about this time of year: it brings out the best in everyone.  My biggest challenge during the longer daylight hours is finding a way to get enough sleep! Ah, but no complaints: power naps are a great solution and I take them as needed.

My colorful garden, filled with kale, edamame, peppers, corn , tomatoes and herbs: so inspiring

My colorful garden, filled with kale, edamame, peppers, corn , tomatoes and herbs: so inspiring

Ah, and then there is the food: grilled vegetables, fish, chicken, kebobs, lovely salads, shopping at local farmers markets for dinner, which makes it so easy to eat a rainbow of brightly colored fruits and vegetables everyday. I love to make fresh berry and peach pies each week: the combinations are endless for baking up yummy desserts. Just last week I was making a bunch of pies for a dinner party and I had a wonderful time playing with different spices to enhance the various fruits: cardamon, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice in various ratios. It is such a pleasure to peruse the stalls of the markets and get inspired for dinner. I love carting home my various treasures and then deciding how to marinate the meats, season up the veggies, mix together fresh herbs from the garden, like basil and oregano, and serving up a delicious, locally grown and nutritious meal for my family and friends.  Everyone can become a cook of sorts when the choices are so available and tantalizing.

It is important to take extra time in the warm summer months to appreciate the natural rhythms of the seasons. In just 6 short weeks,  the days will shorten, the temperatures will cool and soon we will be putting the soup pots back on the stove to cook up rich and hearty foods that suit the rhythm of autumn. For now, savor the days, shop the markets, walk outside, get some natural vitamin D, spend time with loved ones, dance under the stars(we did last weekend at my birthday party), explore a new place, read a summer novel: in short, pause and enjoy these summer days. This is what balanced living is all about.

Dinner al fresco: so easy to make healthy fresh foods when the farmers markets are open

Dinner al fresco: so easy to make healthy fresh foods when the farmers markets are open

We look forward to catching up with all of you. Please feel free to share the things you love to do when ‘the living is easy’. And stay tuned: we will be writing more often during these next few months.  One of  our goals for the fall is to launch an e-book, designed to inspire you as you find ways to balance your hormones and your life. Happy summer!

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Filed under Essentials, Kyle Bell McAvoy, Whole Eating, Women's Health & Happiness

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.


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

Report from Austin, TX: notes on the road

I dropped in for a quick visit to Austin this past weekend(my husband Joe is working from there for now so we are turning this into an adventure…)and I want to report that this is ONE FIT CITY!! Barely 100 feet from the front door of his apartment complex is a beautiful pedestrian bridge, complete with wood inlaid railings, that drops you into an incredible matrix of walking, jogging and cycling trails. I headed out on a January morning, the weather a balmy 60 degrees(Nirvana to a Portland girl like me). And although Joe had given me basic instructions for the 3.1 mile loop, I promptly got lost trying to navigate between the many choices in front of me. I ended up walking at least 5 miles but I was in good company. There were hundreds of Austinites walking, jogging, sprinting, biking, young mothers pushing massive strollers, others with panting dogs in tow~a wonderful sight indeed.

Austin activity on a January morning

The trails meander along the lovely and serene Colorado River, known fondly as Lady Bird Lake by those in the know. And this lake is full of life! I saw great blue herons, graceful white swans, swooping cormorants, ducks, birds I’d never seen before, fishermen, kayakers, canoers, crewteams and paddleboarders. I was inspired by the energy and the level of commitment to fitness here, truly an amazing sight.

A lone fisherman on a January morning in Austin

Of course Austin is renowned for its sunny weather(300 days of natural vitamin D each year) and I imagine the summer heat is a bit brutal for outdoor enthusiasts. But this reminded me of the challenges many of us face living in colder climates: how do we all stay motivated to be active when the weather outside is dreary, cold and wet?
I was hoping to link to an article that I was recently interviewed for in a local publication, Explore the Pearl(Jan/Feb issue) but unfortunately they are not set up with that feature yet. If you do live in the area, pick up a copy and read “Chasing Away the Winter Blahs” for some suggestions from myself and other health related professionals in the Pearl district of Portland.
For those of you in other regions, here are a few “pearls from The Pearl” to help keep you motivated when the weather is just not calling you outside!
1. Get outside every day, even if it’s just for 20 minutes/day. The fresh air is invigorating.
2. There are no days too bad to be outside, just bad clothing! Whenever I think it is too cold/rainy/wet here, I think of those who live in places like Sweden and I remind myself it really isn’t that bad. Find some functional and even stylish clothes that will keep you warm and dry and it will make getting outside more of a pleasure than a chore.
3. Okay, so maybe it is just too miserable to work out in the elements. Try a new indoor activity: Zumba, yoga, Pilates, stair stepper, treadmill. It is so important to have variety in your routine to get the benefits of cross training as well as avoiding boredom.
4. Find a pool: swim some laps, take a water exercise class.
5. Try a winter sport: cross country or downhill skiing, snowshoeing(major calorie burner!), sledding.
6. Find an exercise buddy or two, someone who will hold you accountable when you just aren’t feeling it…..
7. Walk your dog, walk your friend’s dog. Make the canine world a happier place(my dog LOVES the wind, the rain, the snow: she gets me out on even the stormiest of days and I am always so happy afterwards).

Another example of staying fit while outside

The sky is the limit when it comes to exercise, even when the skies are not as perfect as those January days I just experienced in Austin. Find a way to stay active. The benefits of exercise(increased strength, more energy, better mood, improved sleep and flexibility, enhanced immune system) far outweigh the excuses not to exercise.
Staying active is an essential component of living a balanced life. See you on the trail!


Filed under Kyle Bell McAvoy, Women's Health & Happiness

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

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

Another 4th of July in Manzanita with the family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rocket and Riley: having a blast on the beach!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you soon.



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

Aging in Place: Brittle Bones on the Streets of Seoul Beg the Question of a Balanced Diet

My daughter "teacher Jess" and me at the old palace in Seoul

My family and I were recently in South Korea visiting my daughter Jessica who is teaching K-12 English in a private school outside of Seoul. In eight days Jess showed us what she’s discovered in the eight months she’s been there – from the high-tech towers, designer galleries, and uber-trendy coffee houses of this booming city, to it’s gorgeous ancient palaces and thousand-year-old temples.

We all slept and ate on the floor of a traditional Korean ‘hanok’ for seven nights, spent another in a hotel with our own private karaoke ‘singing room’,   explored the old villages, visited the Buddha in his temple late at night and drank plum tea in the ‘garden of morning calm.’  It was a trip.

But of the many images I came away with, one that stands out in my mind was the sight of so many older women on the sidewalks of Seoul hobbling hunch-backed over their canes. It seemed to me that nearly every one of them, old, and not so much older than me had bent spines, bowlegs or both! It was painful to watch these frail figures picking their way across the crowded streets and intersections: How is she going to make it to the other side??  OMG what a difference a few supplements could make!

Bent and bowlegged - my postmenopausal Asian counterpart

Evidently the traditional Korean diet of fish, rice, seaweed and fermented ‘kimchi’ cabbage of every sort

Calcium-free 'Kimchi'

though healthy in many respects (and I never saw an obese person the whole time I was there) has also been seriously lacking in a few basic nutrients: like calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin D for starters.  But as greater affluence creates greater awareness of healthy living the situation is improving.

Meanwhile, dismaying as it was to witness the stark effects of malnutrition  among my post-menopausal Asian counterparts, the ravages of osteoporosis are by no means a Korean problem; indeed it is still an all too common, and preventable, disease of aging in the US, not only in women (just the other day here in Portland, a friend’s mom, a woman in her mid-fifties, fell at the airport and broke her femur) but in men as well.  Roughly a third of hip fractures occur in midlife men (but I’ll leave that one for the MENopause blog)….

Candace and #2 daughter Ryan, with the emperors' food stores: keepers of the traditional diet of rice, fish, seaweed/greens and the famous 'kimchi'. Healthy in many ways, but not necessarily a balanced diet.

Blame it on  poor diet, sedentary living, chronic stress,  hormone imbalance, or menopause,  the cause of brittle bones on the streets of Seoul or at home in my own neighborhood boils down to a lack of the essential ingredients of balance. Take vitamin D-deficiency for example. Some experts say it’s epidemic especially in gray, rainy climates like the Pacific Northwest where I live, or for that matter anywhere people don’t get enough  sunlight. That’s significant because a lack of vitamin D is not  just about childhood rickets but is now known to be a major risk factor for obesity, heart disease, and breast cancer.

Apparently most people can’t get enough of this vital vitamin (which isn’t really a vitamin at all but a hormone made by the action of sunlight upon chemicals in the skin) either because we’re afraid of getting skin cancer

Wary of skin cancer: a billboard in Korea plugs sunglasses as big as your face, but covering up to the eyeballs against the sun can lead to vitamin D deficiency.

or, let’s face it,  because we  don’t get outside much – by some estimates we spend about 90% of our lives indoors. Fewer and fewer elementary or middle schools have recess or playgrounds anymore, and most of us work or play inside in front of  laptops, I-pads, I-pods, smart phones,  gameboys and Facebook. In the winter months the sun’s rays aren’t strong enough to provide sufficient D anyway, and even in the ‘sunshine state’ where the so-called sunshine vitamin should be readily available,  Florida physicians say patients are surprisingly deficient. Clearly it doesn’t matter where you live but how you live that makes the difference.

Turning awareness into action is a work in progress but progress is being made. I would be remiss not to mention that younger Koreans are undoubtedly taller and straighter-legged than their elders as food and supplemental sources of calcium, vitamin D and other necessary nutrients (though still pretty expensive) have become more widely available.

Balance begins early - younger generation Koreans know their nutrients

Balance starts early with 'Jess teacher" students

One woman I met even revealed  that her mother takes estrogen “for her bones”. That really pricked up my ears and I couldn’t resist asking if she was also taking natural progesterone…. but, alas, that question was met with a blank stare. Should I have been surprised? No, probably not. The concept of hormone balance vs. imbalance and the growing preference for bioidentical, natural hormones in this country only began to shift less than 10 years ago now when the Women’s Health Initiative reported its major findings in 2003 ( JAMA 2002 Jul 17;288(3):321-33.) about the definitive dangers of HRT.

High-tech buildings don't show signs of structural weakness like bones do

Pleasurable pursuits. Plum tea with the family in the garden of morning calm.

Sometimes we have to learn the slow, hard way from those who have gone before us – the women with the bent spines and flaking bones are the lesson – and we are learning from them. You can’t push the river, but you can learn to practice balance one day at a time.

If you are a woman in the menopause zone, your hormone levels are fluctuating and your nutritional needs are increasing with each passing day. Now is when the adrenal glands have to take over all hormone production from aging ovaries.  Now more than ever we need to practice the essentials of balance: adequate nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress relief (with emphasis upon the people, places, and pursuits that give us pleasure in life) and, last but not least, bio-identical hormones when and as needed. As the days get shorter and darker one of the first steps you can take is to test your vitamin D and hormone levels (www.zrtlab.com) to detect and correct imbalances that impact not only the health of your bones but of your whole body, heart, and mind. Want to jump in and join the conversation? Please do, leave us a comment!

This is our number one essential truth: Hormones in harmony and living in balance is an attainable goal.

Balance in being in the garden of morning calm (www.davidburchphotography.com)


Filed under Bioidentical Hormones, Candace Burch, Menopause Symptoms, Women's Health & Happiness, Women's Work/Life Balance