Managing your hormone levels

What About Your Hormones?

Hormones are tricky. Levels increase and decrease over the course of a day, a week, a month—and your hormones all influence each other. Change one hormone level and they ALL change. It’s crazy town!

This is why achieving hormonal balance—whether you’re trying to manage your estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, insulin, or your cortisol (stress hormone) levels—is an uphill battle. And, unfortunately, those hormone pills, patches, and creams that promise to make symptoms more bearable in the short term don’t actually solve the problem.

So where do we start on the path to achieving true, sustainable hormone harmony? With the adrenals and the thyroid!

As women enter perimenopause—the time prior to menopause when the greatest hormonal fluctuations occur—the ovaries start to take a back seat, in terms of hormone-production. That’s exactly when our adrenals and thyroid should rally to sustain us. But, too often, our overly stressful lives have left our adrenals and thyroid gasping and in no shape to pull us out of the choppy seas of perimenopause.

Then, in menopause, when the ovaries take a permanent vacation, if our adrenals and thyroid aren’t working properly, instead of enjoying the hormonal balance they should provide us, we’re likely to experience many difficult mid-life symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, memory loss, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

And, all too often, even much younger women experience hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms because the stress of our modern lives creates so much hormone imbalance.

Ideally, support of the adrenals and thyroid should begin in the 30s and 40s, so by the time a woman reaches menopause, these glands are ready to pick up the slack and create balance in the body. Never fear, however! Even if you are already in the throes of menopause, it is never too late to balance your hormones!

Yes, hormone balance is tricky business, but even simple dietary changes can be key. Cutting out refined foods, especially sugars and flours, can make a hugely positive impact on hormones. Incorporating leafy greens, lean proteins, and healthy fats (like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado), every day, can create hormone-harmony magic. Finally, cutting out—or reducing—caffeine and alcohol can offer extra support for hormone balance. (And, no, wine does NOT help you sleep better!)

Read More
A variety of food choices (including chocolate)

My Journey to My Perfect Diet

I know it says “diet” in the title, but I’m actually not going to talk about weight loss. I’m just using the term “diet” to refer to what I ingest each day. I learned a long time ago to separate the foods I eat from a goal of shedding pounds!

During the early years of my health journey, I got a lot of advice about what to eat. I tried it all, hoping that the next eating plan would swiftly resolve my health issues. I cycled though vegetarian, vegan, raw-foods, blood-type, food-combining, and macrobiotic diets. I began each one with high hopes and new cookbooks, purging and refilling my pantry with foods acceptable on each new eating plan.

I lost and gained many pounds over the course of my dietary explorations—but none of them “worked.” Finally, I realized I had to find the diet that was right for me, rather than just adopting a plan espoused by some cookbook author or celebrity. But figuring out what worked for me was a challenge. It required I be honest with myself about how food affected my body—how I felt when I ate too much sugar or too few vegetables. I also had to give up my obsession with weight because when I was very thin, I didn’t feel as well.

To tell the truth, my very favorite food is chocolate. But when I eat sugar, I crave more and more, and I’ve learned that cravings, as opposed to real hunger, control our minds. So, when I finally got tired of being controlled by my sugar cravings, I gave up sugar, entirely. It was hard work! But I learned I actually like the bitter taste of chocolate better than the sugary sweetness. In fact, I enjoy 100% chocolate more than the sweeter dark chocolate I had been eating. And I don’t need to eat much of that 100% chocolate to get the kick I like.

So, do I still eat sugar? Yes, once in a while. But after getting it out of my system for a while, the cravings are gone. I still have chocolate every day, but now it’s a small piece of 100% chocolate or a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder stirred in hot water for my favorite hot cocoa drink. Try it. You might like it!


Dr. Jennifer’s Blended MochaDr. Jennifer's Favorite Homemade Chocolate Drink Recipe

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, ghee, or coconut oil
  • Blend for 20 seconds until frothy

 

Read More
illustration of neurons and pathways

Nervous System Overload

Stressed? Of course you are. We all are. Our nervous systems are still living in the stone age, when stress was a very different animal. Back in the days before cell phones, mechanized transit, and artificial light at night, our nervous systems evolved to keep us alive. Our fight or flight response was developed to kick in and make us run from threats. When the fight or flight response is triggered, our blood flow is directed to our skeletal muscles so that we can flee the threat. Our digestion halts, our pupils dilate to let in more light, and our body is charged with endorphins that give us extra energy (sympathetic response). This response is very helpful for a quick getaway, and once we are safe, the response dissipates and our resting nervous system takes over (parasympathetic response).

Enter modern life, with constant input to our nervous systems. Driving a car, checking email, answering cell phone calls and messages – all of this combines to give repeated stress to our overtaxed nervous systems, keeping us in sympathetic nervous system mode. When we feel attacked, upset, or simply overwhelmed by these stresses, our nervous system gets stuck in reaction mode. Sometimes, we can’t turn that off, which results in poor sleep, fatigue, anxiety, or depression. Sound familiar?

How to bring balance back to our over-taxed selves? Minimizing nervous system input while eating and before bed is crucial. We do not digest if we are stressed. Sit quietly while eating, enjoy your food, chew well and focus on digestion. 1 hour before bed should be set aside for winding down, and allowing your nervous system to relax into parasympathetic mode. In addition, regular craniosacral therapy can help tonify and re-train your nervous system to maintain a more relaxed state.

Read More
homemade beet juice

Do You Need to Detox?

“Do I need to detox?” I get this question every day, from all different types of folks. It seems, lately, that there is a myth floating around the internet. That myth, in summary, goes something like, “There is something wrong with your body and you better do a detox to correct it.” And even better if you purchase a pre-made detox kit from the website that is informing you that you need to detox. Now, this is not your father’s detox. A generation ago, when we talked about detox, we were talking about someone addicted to a substance such as drugs or alcohol, who had to go to an in-patient program to get clean. Nope, that detox still exists, of course, but the word has been co-opted by folks who want you to think that their juice fasts, fiber kits, etc, are absolutely necessary for optimal health.

Well, that’s not true. You don’t need some fancy kit or program to detox. Because, guess what? Your body detoxes 24/7. Seriously. YOU DETOX EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY. Biochemical detoxification reactions occur at am amazing speed in every area and organ of your body, every day. So, really the question is, can you optimize your body’s own detoxification processes? Yes, you can, and the way to do that is by following these simple steps:

  • Eat Real Food. Not from packages, not with ingredients you can’t pronounce. Simple, real ingredients are best at supporting your body’s detox pathways. Make half your plate at every meal veggies and you are getting a major detox bonus!
  • Drink clean water, store in glass containers. A good 8 glasses a day will keep things hydrated and allow your cells to bathe in clean water. Glass containers will prevent plastic toxins from finding their way into your body.
  • Sweat every day. Allow your heart rate to rise through cardiovascular exercise, and allow your body to sweat out toxins.
  • Get good sleep. Your body rests and repairs itself during sleep, and this is vital to detox. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep EVERY night, in complete darkness.
  • Process your emotions. Stored emotions, especially anger, can create major toxic stress in our bodies. Let ‘em go – though exercise, meditation, counseling – find something that works and make it a regular practice.

For more on detox and how to optimize your body’s own amazing detox pathways, click here.

Read More
woman with flu looking at thermometer

Colds and Flu: What to do?

Fever: The Best Immune System Tune-Up

Fever is our body’s way of fighting illness and improving immune function. When it is suppressed with medication, illness lasts longer. Really! A study published in 2011 showed that children who are allowed to manifest a fever during illness get better more quickly than those who are given fever reducer such as ibuprofen. What is a good, healthy fever? Anything up to 103.5 degrees in children, and up to 102 degrees in adults. In infants under 6 months and adults over 65 years, or anyone who is immune-compromised, special care must be taken to diagnose and manage fever under a doctor’s care. In general, allowing fever to run its course and doing things to manage discomfort without reducing the fever is preferred. When to give fever reducer? When the temperature goes above those listed above, or when the patient is so uncomfortable due to the fever that they can’t sleep. Sleep is essential to healing, and if fever reducer is needed for good restful sleep, I vote for sleep!

Warming Socks: Home Hydrotherapy (for little ones I call these “magic socks”)

This treatment acts to reflexively increase circulation and decrease congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head, and throat. It has a sedating action and many patients report that they sleep much better during the treatment. This treatment is also effective for pain relief and increases the healing response during acute infections. The warming sock treatment is best if repeated for three nights in a row, or as instructed by your physician.

Indications:

Any inflammation or infection of the throat (including simple sore throat), neck pain, ear infections, headaches, migraines, nasal congestion, upper respiratory infections, sinus infections, teething, fever management.

Supplies:

  • 1 pair thin cotton socks
  • 1 pair thick wool socks
  • Warm bath or foot bath

Directions:

  • Warm your feet first. This may be done by taking a hot shower or bath, or by simply soaking them in a tub of hot water for 5-10 minutes. This is very important as the treatment will not be as effective and could be harmful if feet are not warmed first.
  • Take a pair of thin cotton socks and soak them completely in the foot bath water. Wring the socks out thoroughly so they do not drip and set them on the edge of the tub next to you. The socks should be cold by the time you are done warming your feet.
  • When your feet are sufficiently warmed, dry them with a towel.
  • Get into bed.
  • Place wet socks on your feet, cover them with thick wool socks, and immediately get under the covers and go to bed. Avoid getting chilled.
  • Keep the socks on overnight. You will find that not only will the cotton socks be dry by morning, your feet will be as warm as little toasters!

What else to do when you’re sick? Hydrate with broth and herbal tea, use raw honey as cough medicine (in anyone over 1 year old), take baths with Epsom salts to relieve aches and chills, and rest, rest, rest. The life cycle of a virus is 7 days, so expect that it will be at least 7 days before you are feeling well again.

Read More