Fired Up Friday #4- Why The Hell Aren’t We Taught About Our Hormones, What’s Normal, And How We Can Impact Them??

This really fires me up.

As a mother of teen girls, a women going through perimenopause myself, and as a women’s health practitioner it blows my mind every day how much we don’t know and are not taught about our hormones.

Can you imagine if we were taught at a young age and throughout life how exactly our hormones change each month, how that impacts our body, our mood, our mind and our soul, what is normal and what is not normal symptom wise, how to understand what our body is saying, and can you imagine if we were taught from the get go how we can impact our hormones every day so we feel and look our best?

This is not rocket science.

This should be basic knowledge.

It is called body literacy or body intelligence and we deserve to know it.

Hormones are meant to fluctuate but we should not be suffering endlessly. Not monthly, not in puberty, not postpartum, not as we transition in perimenopause around our 40s, and Menopause to our wise years around our 50s on. There is so much we can do to impact these shifts, so we can lean into the rhythm and wisdom of these powerful hormones. And if we do not listen to symptoms or imbalances in our monthly cycle when we are younger, they will likely talk louder and louder as we make hormonal transitions as we age.

Our hormones are like canaries in the coal mine, they are the first to falter if something is off in our body. If we are having symptoms that are debilitating like cramping, heavy periods, headaches, aches, fatigue, insomnia, brain fog, anxiety, infertility, stubborn weight gain, low libido, skin issues, skipped periods, or other hormone related symptoms- these are messages that we need to pay attention to not just symptoms to cover up. Those symptoms might be common but they are not normal and they are telling you something, and they will talk louder if we do not listen.

Yes, of course there is a place for covering up symptoms so we don’t suffer but getting to the underlying root of what is driving those symptoms is typically not mysterious or out of our control. It is knowledge we all deserve to have. And it is something we can impact every day. If we listen to these messages and respond, they will not have to talk louder and louder (aka worse symptoms).

First, we need to understand how our hormones work monthly. Then we need to understand how they change as we get older. After we understand what is going on in our own body, and we learn what we can do to impact that, then we can choose to take clear and methodical steps to optimize how we feel and age at any age. We are in the driver’s seat of our hormone health and can take control of how we feel.

But we don’t have that choice if we are not taught this.

Why aren’t we taught this?

I am hell bent on helping women understand their body better and helping them to feel their best. I want to bridge the gap that is so sorely missing between women, their doctors, and their health (aka how they feel every day). That is why I am teaching the Women’s Hormone Club and why I am working with my daughters on a hormone project that I am stoked to release soon (stay tuned!!).

Our hormones are powerful. When they are not fluctuating optimally we likely feel like crap at different times of the month, depending what is off. When they are functioning optimally, and we can align with their different energies, our month can flow in ways that feel incredible. When functioning optimally, we can lean into estrogen, as it climbs during the first half of our cycle and we feel driven, social, and sharp. And then, when ovulation occurs, we can lean into progesterone, as it climbs during the second half of our cycle, and we might feel more creative, reflective, and internal at that time. As they both drop right before our period we might have cravings and feel a bit low as progesterone and estrogen are tied to brain neurotransmitters and insulin, our blood sugar hormone. As these hormones rise and fall our mood is impacted, our body, our brain, every part of us. It is empowering to feel these shifts and understand them. Choices we make everyday impact how these fluctuate and how we feel.

Chart from Functional Nutrition Alliance FXNA

The time to focus on your hormones is now, no matter how old you are. But it is definitely time in your late 30s and 40s to get things dialed so as you transition into menopause things go as smoothly as possible. You do have control over this and you don’t have to suffer. We can’t remove all the sensations but we can turn the dial. Body Literacy is power.

As we move through our 40s progesterone starts to decline first, automatically putting us at risk to all the symptoms that happen in estrogen dominance. Because it is largely about the relationship of these two hormones. So it is even more important than ever that things are functioning optimally. Following a drop in progesterone, estrogen starts to go all over the place before it settles at a lower level. Again, we want an optimal environment in our body as these shifts occur so we ease from one phase to another as much as possible. There is so much we can do to ease this transition. Again, knowledge is power and small efforts are everything.

This chart is from Lara Briden’s Brilliant book Hormone Repair Manual

Your gut matters. Food matters. Detox matters. Stress matters. Blood sugar matters. Poop matters. Muscles matter. Sleep matters. Inflammation matters.

What do you think? Have we been taught enough about our body? What it is saying? Are we trained to listen to it? And then know what steps to take to feel our best? No way. Not yet, but I am hopeful this is changing and hell bent on making this happen. I encourage you to join me in this effort. Stay tuned for more!

Janel Ferrin Anderson FNLP, NC, DNM

I am determined to help people understand their body better and help them make changes to impact their health. I see people one-on-one and in group settings both in Truckee and online. I practice truly holistic healthcare and team up with people who want to function their best.

https://mountainrebalance.com/?p=1366 Women’s Hormone CLub

Fighting The Coronanvirus (or ANY Virus) With Food And…….

I am not into all the fear and frantically grabbing for a miracle supplement but I am into staying updated on the current situation and taking practical everyday science based action steps where I can to boost the resilience and immune function of my family, no matter what is going on.

What simple things can we do everyday to help boost our immune system and shift the terrain in our body towards resilience and health? Well, as it turns out, a lot. And don’t wait to get sick, start these now!

  1. Eat brightly colored fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack (yes, every one). They contain many important vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants to support our immune system. For example bell peppers, strawberries and oranges contain vitamin C which is antiviral, antibacterial and boosts antibody production. Camu Camu, inca berries, acerola cherries, and gogi berries are awesome sources of vitamin C also!! Vitamin E, vitamin A (also found in fermented cod liver oil and liver) and B vitamins are important too and many come from all those brightly colored foods.
  2. Reduce consumption of processed sugar. Sugar consumption robs our body of minerals such as zinc which is crucial for our immune system, it reduces the ability of our white blood cells to fight invaders such as viruses, Dr. Sears teaches that 1 tsp of sugar suppresses the immune system for 5 hours, high blood sugar is an immune suppressant, and glucose competes with vitamin C. Yuck!
  3. Reduce the overall inflammation in our body so our immune system can focus on what is important. Eliminate or reduce dairy, gluten, sugar, soy, all processed foods, toxins, pesticides, food coloring, and any foods you are personally sensitive to. Add foods like turmeric and omega 3 fats to reduce inflammation. These changes, as well as healing a ‘leaky gut’ (think bone broth) and optimizing your microbiome (think probiotics and fermented foods) will help your immune system focus on fighting invaders like viruses and bacteria instead of dealing with hard to digest foods and unnecessary inflammation.
  4. Make sure you are getting enough sleep (Shoot for 7-9 hours) every night and do what you need to support this. Ideas include reducing caffeine, eliminating screen time before bed, using calming herbs such as camomile, passionflower, valerian and lemon balm, getting blood sugar under control, taking magnesium before bed, or taking a magnesium and lavender bath. Ahhh. My family has a pre-bed tea time ritual around the fire, which I love.
  5. Vitamin D is important for immune function because it activates monocytes (an immune cell) to kill viruses. We get Vitamin D from the sunshine, fatty fish, grass fed butter, egg yolks, and fermented cod liver oil. Eat up or supplement if needed with D3.
  6. Consume important immune minerals, including zinc and selenium. Foods rich in immune boosting minerals include pumpkin seeds, oysters, brazil nuts, lentils, cashews, shrimp, salmon, sesame seeds, and lamb. Eat some of these foods every day.
  7. Super Immune Plants- Other plants to include that are supportive to our immune function include elderberry, garlic, ginger, turmeric, astragalus, mushrooms (chaga, shiitake, reishi- I like these in tincture form), echinacea, goldenseal and more! Any and all herbs and spices will help too. Eat, drink, or supplement when desired for an extra immune boost.
  8. Laugh, rest, relax and get some playful exercise outside everyday. Stress depletes B vitamins, vitamin A and zinc and lowers immune response. I love guided imagery, breath work, or restorative yoga to chillax at home too.
  9. Stay hydrated. Drink 1/2 your weight in ounces of water every day. Bone broths, mineral broths, and herbal teas all help.
  10. And off course, wash your hands with soap and water often!

Functional Nutrition is all about taking steps towards optimal overall function, in this case immune function. I consider the terrain as important as the virus. These are the things we can do to impact the terrain that health or sickness take root in. Stressing out over the situation is certainly not going to help, so we are all about action steps instead of stress.

Take a deep breath and eat up (but wash your hands first, did I already say that?)! Happy Optimizing, Janel Ferrin Anderson

Kicking the coffee habit….or just reducing it… ok, at least optimizing it;)

 

We all respond differently to coffee and caffeine.  Some people metabolize it better than others, some of us are addicted to it, some people replace eating food with it, for some of us it is destroying our blood sugar balance for the day causing huge ups and then downs, for some of us it is having too big of an impact on cortisol and our adrenals, and for some of us a cup is just fine. There are some health benefits to drinking a small amount of high quality  coffee but many of us overuse it or misuse it.

 If you are ready to get curious, or kick the habit for good, or even just for a bit here are some steps to making it a bit easier. I even included ways to work with coffee if you don’t want to give it up. Remember, we are all unique so what works for one person might not work for you.   Find what works for YOU and what your body needs to function its best

Possible Benefits of cutting coffee

Since we are all genetically and metabolically unique with different life stressors, digestion, and immune function, coffee affects us all differently.  For some people drinking a cup a day works just fine.  For other people, taking a break from coffee may help with sleep, digestion, hormone balance, liver detoxification,  blood sugar regulation, anxiety, and more. 

Drinking a cup of coffee can cause a rise in cortisol and epinephrine, our stress hormones, for some people (1).  This starts a cascade of events that cause a spike in blood sugar, which is the king of the endocrine system and affects all of our hormones.  This is especially  relevant at midlife for women as hormones drop (3).   

If you find yourself needing more than up cup a day, or getting headaches if you don’t have it, having a hard time sleeping, feeling fatigued, experiencing highs/lows throughout the day,  it might be a good idea to try a break or reduce your dependence for a bit and see what your body is actually asking for.   

Who might want to consider giving coffee a break? 

You may want to consider giving coffee a break if you-

  • feel like you need it to get going in the morning (maybe what you need is better sleep or improved circadian rhythm?)
  • feel wired and tired
  • are trying to balance your sex hormones (estrogen/progesterone) or dealing with midlife hormone issues (3)
  • if you have been stressed out for a long time and are in overdrive (go go go mode) or exhaustion (fatigue mode)
  • if you get revved up by caffeine more than others (depending on specific genetic variations you may process caffeine more poorly than others (2)
  • if you have any sleep problems (including falling to sleep, staying asleep, waking refreshed)
  • if you experience fatigue
  • if you experience anxiety
  • if you drink more than 2 cups in a day
  • if you depend on it to get through the day
  • if you have energy crashes or are curious about blood sugar
  • if you are curious what your body would be like without the dependence on this powerful medicine

If you want to try life with out coffee for a bit…………….

First off consider why you drink coffee, spend some time here first.  I think this is the most important part of successfully cutting back and is often overlooked.

Some people drink coffee for the caffeine, some people enjoy the morning ritual, or the flavor and smell,  some people feel comforted by the warm morning wake up drink, some people love going into the coffee shop for social reasons, or perhaps your cup of joe helps you poop, or ….. fill in the blank for you.  Is there a story around your coffee habit?

From there you can consider your exit strategy with the help of a proper replacement for YOU.

Experiment with different replacements. Be playful and open minded!

  1. If caffeine is your reason for drinking coffee you can slowly start cutting back on fully caffeinated coffee by adding in organic decaf or try reducing the number of cups each day.  Either way working gradually can prevent or reduce headaches. From there you can transition to a healthier option or even green tea which has many health benefits if you can tolerate some caffeine.   By breaking up with your dependency on caffeine you can listen to what your body needs and that might be rest, more sleep, better nutrition, less stress, better blood sugar balance, or a number of other things as your body shifts, your hormones adjust, and you go back to not needing it. 
  2. If it’s the morning ritual of making a cup of coffee you might want to start trying different kinds of  teas. Loose leaf tea is fun as you still get to scoop, pour, brew, smell, and enjoy. Most health food stores sell good quality loose leaf tea or it can be ordered online through Mountain Rose Herbs, for example.  Some bitter favorites for replacing coffee are roasted dandelion root, roasted chicory root, or reishi mushroom powder.  I love loose leaf green tea and love the morning ritual of making this.  Matcha involves a fun process while you whisk it that might feel good.  Each of these offers offer many additional health benefits and hit the spot.  Try some out and see.   
  3. If it is the flavor you love you can either try organic high quality decaf right away, go through the gradual decaf transition (start with a 1/4  decaf and move to full decaf), or try one of the herbal coffee replacements that are still super bitter like Ayurvedic Roast organic herbal coffee substitute , Four Stigmata, dandelion tea, or Rasa Koffee organic herbal coffee substitute.  
  4. If it’s the coffee shop you love, you are in luck.  Most coffee shops today sell many other great options. Most offer peppermint tea or even cinnamon or  rooibos which are naturally sweet, rich, and satisfying. Just steer clear of the “latte” teas (even Matcha lattes) as they are loaded with sugar when purchased at the coffee shop.
  5. If you are just looking for a hot drink in the morning there are endless options.  Some of my favorite morning tea options are raspberry leaf, nettles, rooibos, alfalfa, ginger, and peppermint.  Consider  organic to reduce toxins and increase flavor. Even a good quality loose leaf green tea or matcha tea have amazing health benefits if you can tolerate some caffeine. Golden Milk is another fabulous alternative and  You can find my recipes for that here.  Here you will find my recipe for a rich warming and spicy chai tea that my family loves, especially in the colder months.  And here is a favorite hot cacao elixir.   There are so many yummy options outside of coffee. 
  6. Drinking your coffee at 3pm to avoid an afternoon slump?  First off pay heed to your blood sugar and try having a protein rich snack just before that normal bonk time.  Tuning into blood sugar swings can be profound. And remember that it is not sugar that impacts blood sugar, it is stress, skipped meals, food sensitivities, toxins, insomnia, anything that your body perceives as stressful.  One afternoon alternative I enjoy is my cocoa elixir with a couple of brazil nuts, or a matcha latte with kale chips, water with cider vinegar, soda water with lemon, water with minerals, or a chunk of salmon with rice crackers.  Start being creative and thinking outside of the coffee bean.  

If you still want your coffee……..

If you still want your 1 cup of coffee a day, there are a few ways to help make it work better for your body.  

  1. The pesticides on coffee can place an extra detox burden on your liver and damage your microbiome.  We need our liver to process everything including estrogen and this is more important at midlife.  Try organic coffee when you can. I love Purity
  2. Another way to keep coffee as an ally in midlife is to make sure you have some fat or protein before having your cup of coffee in the morning.  This will reduce the potential cortisol spike from drinking coffee on an empty stomach and the eventual blood sugar dysregulation that can follow (highs and crashes, what goes up must come down).   Did you know black coffee can cause a blood sugar spike in some people?  Curious if this is you? Try a continuous glucose monitor with me at The Energy Club. 
  3. Another option is turning your coffee into Bulletproof coffee.  This technique adds healthy fat maximizing the benefits of coffee and again helps with blood sugar regulation.  My favorite recipe is here but there are a ton online.
  4. And of course, consider what you are putting in your coffee.  Skip or reduce the sugar and choose a milk that works for your body (cashew, coconut, whole, etc).  And no matter what, avoid artificial sweeteners as these can throw many systems and organs off balance as most are toxic and your body cannot digest.  Stevia works for most people or coconut sugar for a less refined sugar option. 

 

Alternative ways to get an energy boost

There are lots of great ways to get a healthy energy boost during the day.  You may feel more energized just by reducing or eliminating caffeine alone, as your hormonal system will come back into balance.  However, adding booster foods can give you additional sustained energy without the highs and lows of caffeine. Booster foods include greens powders, ground flax and chia seeds, morning minerals and electrolytes, lemon water with cayenne, nutritional yeast, and more.  See my favorite booster here.   Another idea is just getting out for a 10 minute walk or do some invigorating breathing.  Get creative! 

If you are feeling low energy you may need to consider these other factors. 

 

Starting your day off right!

Try starting each day with a glass of lemon water or apple cider vinegar water first thing.  Adding a calming morning ritual such as deep breathing, meditation, or guided imagery can have deeply restorative and grounding affects.  This does not have to be complicated or long: 10 mindful breaths, 5 minutes meditating, focusing on 3 things you are grateful for, setting an intention for your day,  or simply lighting a candle. Sometimes just taking the time in the morning to slow down may be all we need to feel more awake and ready to face our day!

Click here to learn about one of our Seasonal Cleanses or Rebalance Groups and nourish yourself from the inside out!

Join me for THE HORMONE CLUB for women 40+ every winter

Join me for THe Energy Club every fall

Join me for the spring cleanse and liver love for balanced hormones and health

Enjoy your mornings and find what works for YOU!  Janel

Citations

  1. Pubmed. The effect of acute caffeine intake on insulin sensitivity and glycemic control in people with diabetes. PMID: 28935543
  2. Pubmed. Genetics of caffeine consumption and responses to caffeine. PMC4242593
  3. Pubmed. Caffeine and menopausal symptoms: what is the association? PMID: 25051286

Janel Ferrin Anderson Board certified nutrition consultant, Certified Functional nutritionist, Doctor of Natural Medicine

It is my mission to help people understand their body better, how it works, how it changes, how it is impacted by our world and how we can improve symptoms and function while preventing future health issues. I use science, education, food, lifestyle, herbs, and nutrients, to shift the body towards better function. I focus on midlife mountain women but am happy to work with anyone who wants to take charge of their health.

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