Ask Alicia | Q&A with Dr. Alicia Stanton
Researching the benefits of hormone treatment? Starting a hormone treatment plan? Learn more about the dramatic benefits of hormone treatment with questions from patients of Dr. Stanton and answers from Dr. Stanton herself.
What are toxins, and what are they doing to my hormones? How can I reduce the amount of toxins in my body?
The body produces extra cortisol when experiencing stress. If stress (and producing extra cortisol) becomes an ongoing situation, hormonal imbalance is likely to result. In addition, adrenal fatigue is likely to occur when the cortisol-producing adrenal gland becomes overworked. Low energy levels, especially in the morning, are a result of the adrenal gland becoming unable to produce cortisol. Other symptoms may include weight gain or loss, respiratory problems or a predisposition to other illnesses. The metabolism-driving thyroid gland also becomes impaired when the adrenal gland is not functioning properly.
Stress management is a necessity to reach hormonal balance and overall health. In chapter six of Hormone Harmony, we discuss some helpful ways to create stress relief and reduce the number of opportunities for stressful situations. Here are some examples:
- Use the wet towel approach. When something irritates you, try to react in a rational, calm manner. Think before you act. This may avoid an explosive situation.
- Set boundaries. Does your mom call you too much to talk about nothing? Tell her you only have time for two thirty-minute conversations a week. This way, your talks will probably be much more productive and enjoyable.
- Have an utterly toxic relationship with someone? If possible, distance yourself. If not, try a combination of the wet towel and boundary approach at least for the short term. Joy is contagious. Surround yourself with happy people.
- Learn the difference between being productive and being stressed. Start prioritizing.
- Learn that putting yourself first does not always mean that you are being selfish.
- Make time for yourself.
Find the exercise that’s right for you (learn more about this in Hormone Harmony).
People are generally surprised to learn what a huge impact their everyday lifestyle choices have on their hormone levels. A key topic discussed throughout Hormone Harmony is which lifestyle factors cause hormonal imbalance, and what simple changes can be made to improve hormonal health. Living a healthy lifestyle is obviously important for anyone at any age, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle becomes particularly intriguing to a middle-aged woman experiencing the symptoms of peri-menopause or menopause. Most women will tell you that it is well worth it to make a few sacrifices in order to lessen the symptoms of this stage of life.
Some examples of poor lifestyle choices that cause an imbalance in hormones include:
- Eating the wrong foods.
- Being overweight, especially with excess fat around the abdomen.
- Living in a state of chronic stress.
- Being exposed to too many toxins in food and widely used consumer products.
- Getting too little or too much exercise, or doing the wrong type of activity.
- Lacking optimum amounts of essential nutrients.
The Hormone Foundation provides these tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle to promote balanced hormones:
- Eat a healthy diet, including 1,500 mg of calcium daily
- Lower the amount of fat in your diet
- Maintain the right balance of calories to support an active lifestyle
- Quit or try to cut down on smoking
- Drink alcohol moderately, if at all
- Exercise for 30 minutes at least three times a week
- Avoid stressful situations
- Have a yearly mammogram and breast examination by a health professional
- Prevent bone loss and osteoporosis symptoms with calcium tablets and Vitamin D
What are toxins, and what are they doing to my hormones? How can I reduce the amount of toxins in my body?
Believe it or not, hormones are disrupted by the chemicals that we ingest with our food, absorb in our skin and breathe in through our respiratory system. Obviously, we can not eliminate all of the outside toxins we take in. However, we can reduce the amount of toxins we are exposed to by eating the correct food and using the correct products.
It’s important to reduce our exposure to chemicals and toxins as much as possible because “Some toxins can mimic the action of hormones, such as estrogen and thyroid hormone, preventing our bodies from being able to use our own hormones and disrupting balance. In addition, toxic chemicals accumulate in tissues of glands and interfere with our ability to make hormones.”
An easy first step to reduce exposure to toxins is to avoid pesticides by buying organic foods. The Environmental Working Group identified the 12 plant foods with the highest levels of pesticides. These are especially important to buy organic: Peaches, celery, apples, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, strawberries, cherries, pears, lettuce, spinach, imported grapes and potatoes. Remember the term “organic” used on packages is regulated, but it does not guarantee that everything in the package is organic. However, the term “natural” is not regulated at all. Be careful when buying water. Tests have shown that some bottled waters have more bacteria than tap water, while others are simply tap water. Instead, use filtered water and a re-usable bottle.
Be weary of plastics. Chapter 7 of Hormone Harmony has a plethora of information on this topic. Plastic should not be heated. Heat can trigger the release of chemicals. Plastic storage containers are marked to identify if they are re-usable or not. “Containers marked #2, #4 or #5 are designed to be re-used and do not leach chemicals. Those marked #1 are for one-time use and should not be re-used but otherwise, they are safe. However, containers marked #3, #6 or #7 can leach chemicals and should be avoided.”
The best way to eat more fresh food and avoid processed, refined foods is to steer clear of that alluring packaging that makes food items so desirable to consumers. Fresh foods should make up the majority of your grocery load, packaged foods making up the minority.
If your taste buds have become accustomed to fatty fast foods, it is very possible that they have become somewhat deadened by large amounts of salt, fat and artificial flavors. Healthy foods may not make your taste buds happy. Here are some tips to pleasing your taste buds in a healthy way, and to get started buying and preparing fresher, healthier food:
- Buy the freshest produce you can find. Think local. Farmer’s markets are a great place to start.
- Buy fresh fish. Never buy fish that smells fishy; the odor indicates that it is not fresh. Ask for fish that was never frozen, preferably that came in that day.
- Buy the highest quality lean meat you can afford.
- Use kosher salt rather than ordinary table salt; it brings more flavor and less sodium.
- Try freshly ground pepper and different herbs and spices.
- Try using a low-sodium marinade on lean meats and fish before grilling or baking them.
- Use non-stick pans and grills to avoid using more fat.
- Don’t overcook vegetables
More helpful diet tips on eating fresh, as well as which foods are best and which to avoid for balancing your hormone levels, can be found in chapter five of Hormone Harmony. There are also plenty of books available to help you start a healthier, fresh diet plan.
One of the most dreaded symptoms of aging is memory loss, and it can occur in both the short and long term at a much faster rate than expected. Fortunately, there are diet and lifestyle techniques that you can adopt to improve memory. For example, according to a recent article on NaturalHealth.com, studies have revealed that a combination of ginseng and ginkgo biloba was the most effective formula of herbal remedies for increasing brain power, a preparation of 60% ginseng and 40% ginkgo being the most effective in a group of volunteers in one particular study.
Certain foods can also have memory boosting, or at least loss-preventing power. Some memory improving ingredients include:
Olive Oil – A recent study found that an ingredient in olive oil, oleocanthal, protects the brain against damage from toxins that leads to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.
Folate & B Vitamins – patients with a deficiency in these demonstrated forgetfulness, memory loss, confusion, dementia, and depression.
Honey – raw honey calms nerves, therefore promoting relaxation and rest. “One to two teaspoons per day is recommended.”
Rosemary – rosemary acts as a decongestant and astringent, is good for digestion and circulation, relaxes the stomach, can relieve headaches and menstrual cramps, and regulates blood pressure.
Ginger – ginger has not only been said to remedy hot flashes, morning sickness, and motion sickness, it has also long been used as a remedy for stomach distress, as it relieves inflammation, nausea, vomiting and pain, and it increases circulation.
Here are a couple of memory-boosting recipes from NaturalHealth.com to aid you in making good use of these ingredients:
Memory Zest Blend
1 part ginkgo
1 part gotu kola and peppermint leaves
1 part red clover tops
1 part rosemary leaves
1 part ginger root Honey
Bring a cup of water (or an entire tea pot) to a boil and add the herbs. Allow the tea to steep for at least ten minutes, strain and drink. Honey can be added after the tea is strained. According to HerbalSolutions.com, this is “a mentally refreshing beverage [that will] give you feelings of clarity and precision.”
Yogurt and Rosemary Drink
1 cup of raw yogurt
1 twig of rosemary or 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
1 tablespoon of olive oil
Place the ingredients in a jar and seal overnight. In the morning, place the mixture in a blender and blend until smooth. Drink this daily to feel refreshed.
Everyone remarks on the dreaded “holiday weight gain” with all of the parties, large meals and all of the gift sweets. What many people don’t realize is that there is much more cause for concern than weight gain when it comes to holiday eating. Recent studies have shown that consuming too many sweets and refined carbohydrates – staples of holiday fare – can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance has been shown to cause inflammation in the body and worsen the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes.
In addition, excess weight itself, especially around the abdomen, also causes insulin resistance. It becomes easy to see how a vicious cycle occurs here. This is why it is so important to incorporate healthy habits in our daily lives, and maintain them – even during the holidays. If bad habits continue, it can lead to obesity and more serious health issues.
Here are my tips on how to maintain your weight (and who knows, maybe even lose some) during this holiday season.
- Before you grab that piece of candy or make a beeline for the cookie tray, eat a few heart-healthy nuts. The protein and healthy fats in the nuts will stabilize blood sugar and reduce cravings.
- Load up your plate with lean proteins like turkey, and steamed or lightly sautéed vegetable side dishes at holiday dinners. Avoid vegetable dishes drowning in fat and cheese, and limit yourself to only one starchy side. Skip the rolls all together.
- Prior to heading to a holiday party, eat a little protein, such as lean turkey, chicken or a hard-boiled egg. This will prevent that first drink from going straight to your head and weaken your resolve not to eat everything in sight.
- Limit alcoholic beverages. Substitute a glass of red wine instead of high-fat eggnog or that high-caloric mixed drink. Drink sparkling water with lemon between each drink.
- When out at the mall holiday shopping, take an extra lap or two around the mall to burn extra calories. Park as far away as possible from the store (you’ll find a parking spot sooner, too!).
If you want to maintain good health, these simple tips should be used not only during the holiday season, but every day.