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Exercise to Improve Your Mood

If you’re not a fan of exercise, getting started can seem like a huge obstacle. However, to achieve hormone harmony, exercise is vital. It is also a big help to improve your mood and overcome some of those other annoying symptoms you may be experiencing.

Physical activity plays a key role in reversing insulin resistance, the main trigger in creating a hormone imbalance. Cells tend to shut down when hit with an overdose of blood sugar from too many sugary and starchy foods. Exercise helps the body build new muscle cells and wakes up older ones and opens their doors for more fuel. To reap the full benefits, you need a combination of strength training for your muscles and aerobic exercise for your heart.

More on the physical pros of exercise in a later post, for this one I want to focus on how physical activity can boost your energy and mood. If you’re a woman, or a man, approaching midlife or experiencing a hormonal imbalance, some of the main symptoms you might be experiencing are depression and mood swings. You might also feel like you have lost your “edge” or don’t have as much zest for life. Sound familiar?

Exercise triggers the production of endorphins, feel good chemicals. And, research shows that it both prevents and alleviates depression at any age and also stabilizes mood swings. Aerobic exercise also helps our bodies to take in and use oxygen, which generates more energy for us.  And let’s face it, when we start to lose weight and feel better, our self confidence improves, along with our mood.

Mood Boosting Foods

High-quality fats, such as those found in fish, nuts and flax seed, hold many health benefits and support many functions of the body; from reducing inflammation to reducing the risk for heart disease and diabetes to supporting function of the brain and nervous system.

These healthy fats are also known to protect against mood swings and depression.  Here is a list of some of the top mood-boosting foods and how you can incorporate them into your diet:

Fish – coldwater fish especially is the richest source of omega-3 fats to help improve mood. Think wild salmon, sardines and tuna. See a recipe for a healthy salmon salad below; great to pack for lunch.

Flax – the oil in flaxseed is the richest plant source of omega-3 fats, and the seeds are a great source of fiber. Add toasted flax seeds to salads, soups and sandwiches, and ground seeds are great in smoothies. Flaxseed oil can also be found and used for salad dressings or in smoothies.

Olive oil – although not a source of omega-3 fats, olive oil contains other healthy fats beneficial to stabilizing blood sugar and mood swings. Extra-virgin olive oil is a good substitute for butter on bread and vegetables and makes a great salad dressing.

Healthified Salmon Salad
2-cans canned salmon, drained or packaged salmon
1 cup Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well if using canned
1 Tbsp. Capers
1 cup Artichoke hearts, roughly chopped or quartered (can buy jarred or frozen)
¼ cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
Season with fresh ground black pepper and Kosher salt

In a bowl, mix all of the ingredients together.

This recipe doesn’t have to follow exact measurements. You can eyeball the ingredients according to your likes and dislikes. I like to scoop the salmon salad into a hollowed out tomato or on top of a bed of mixed greens.

This recipe is a healthier and delicious alternative to a mayonnaise-based salad. Benefits this recipe provides include: healthy fat from the olive oil; Omega-3 fat and protein from the salmon; fiber from the beans; and the vinegar and oil helps curb spikes in blood-sugar levels.

Answer to a Reader’s Question about Keeping Estrogen Levels Low and the Importance of Vitamin D

I recently received a question from a woman in Wisconsin and I thought my response would be helpful to other women out there. This particular individual is a breast cancer survivor and estrogen receptor positive, so she was seeking ways to lower her estrogen levels.

There are a few different ways that you can naturally lower your estrogen levels. First of all, make sure you’re getting at least 25 grams of fiber per day in your diet because extra fiber helps you excrete (remove) excess estrogen through your intestines.

Secondly, the more fat you have (especially belly fat), the more estrogen you make. Therefore, it’s important to eat a diet that limits refined carbohydrates and saturated fats so your weight can stay at an optimal level. Exercise also helps you build lean muscle mass and will reduce the amount of fat you have.

Lastly, it is important to support your liver so your body is better able to metabolize (break down) your estrogen. You can do that with an herb called milk thistle and a supplement called indole-3-carbinol. Limiting your alcohol intake will also support your liver by allowing it to focus on metabolizing other things like estrogen.

Additionally, I shared with this reader the importance of vitamin D as she continues to stay in remission from her cancer. Studies show that low vitamin D is associated with a higher risk of many cancers including breast cancer. I recommend having your physician test your vitamin D levels regularly and make sure your level is between 60 and 100, and this goes for all women, not just cancer survivors. I also suggest taking a pharmaceutical grade vitamin. You should be on at least 2000IU per day and could go as high as 10,000IU per day if your levels remain low.

I hope you find this information helpful.

Top Foods and Traps to Avoid

To continue from yesterday’s post on the Hormone Harmony diet plan, here are some top DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to your nutritional choices.

Top foods to incorporate into your diet to balance hormones, include:

  • fish for healthy omega-3 fats,
  • flax also for omega-3 fats,
  • nuts for healthy fats and fiber,
  • lean protein to benefit blood sugar and reverse or prevent insulin resistance,
  • vegetables – variety rules,
  • moderate amounts of fruit –particularly apples and berries for their high fiber and less impact on blood sugar,
  • legumes and whole grains for fiber that slows down digestion and stabilizes blood sugar levels,
  • extra-virgin olive oil and vinegars.

Food Traps to Avoid:

  • Consume saturated fats from dairy and meat in moderation
  • Avoid trans fats completely, the human body has no physiological need for it and it’s deadly
  • Watch for hidden trans fat – partially hydrogenated oil or shortening
  • High fructose corn syrup, which is found in almost any type of processed food – sodas, breads, ketchup, sauces, soups, cookies, pastries and almost  any type of packaged food
  • Liquid sugar and zero-calorie sweeteners

Hormone Harmony Habits Checklist

You can take back control of your hormones and restore harmony with these habits.

  1. Give yourself a recess at least once a day.
  2. Drink filtered water and green or other herbal teas instead of soda.
  3. Stay away from sugary and/or starchy foods, especially in the mornings and after dinner.
  4. Eat small meals frequently, with ample vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and legumes, and some raw nuts and fresh fruit.
  5. Choose organic versions of your staple foods and beverages, and others as much as possible.
  6. Keep your home well ventilated and avoid air fresheners with “fragrance.”
  7. Avoid synthetic fragrance and antibacterial ingredients in soaps, beauty, grooming, laundry and household cleaning products.
  8. Engage in enough physical activity, of the right type, for your body.
  9. Take a good quality multivitamin, CoQ10 and fish oil.
  10. If necessary, take additional supplements for specific situations.

Increasing Brain Power

A lot of my patients come to me with symptoms like foggy thinking, brain fog, memory lapses and trouble concentrating. They feel like they’re losing their minds and don’t know who they are anymore. So here are some tips to help increase brain power and overall function of the brain.

Among other things, the brain requires glucose to function, so it is important to keep glucose levels stable. If we experience spikes and crashes in glucose, cortisol will step in to convert stored protein into glucose to make sure our brains don’t experience starvation and can continue to function properly. However, overproduction of cortisol can lead to imbalances among other hormones like progesterone. So it is best to keep glucose stable by avoiding too many starchy or sugary foods and eating small meals high in protein every 2-3 hours.

Another way to support healthy function of the brain is to consume healthy fats like DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil. Overall fitness keeps the brain in good shape as well and reduces risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

l-carnitine, a nutrient used to sustain energy production and found chiefly in red meat, has also been found to improve brain function. Just remember to stick with a lean red meat, and if you can, go for grass-fed beef as it has less saturated fat.

The role of thyroid hormone

Thyroid hormone is important for our metabolism and energy levels. If you have a deficiency in thyroid you may experience fatigue, foggy thinking and weight gain. Some estimates say one in seven adults have a thyroid deficiency, yet they are often missed. Treatment for low thyroid involves nutrition, including adequate selenium, vitamin A and iodine, and hormone therapy if needed.

You also need to make sure the adrenal glands are functioning properly; otherwise treating the thyroid without addressing an adrenal problem will make you feel worse. Adrenal fatigue results from a long period of stress, which depletes the adrenals of normal cortisol production. Treatment for adrenal fatigue includes getting enough sleep, getting back on track nutritionally, decreasing sources of stress, and for extreme cases, bioidentical cortisol in the short term.

5 Ways to Sleep Better

Getting enough restful sleep each night is required to maintain optimum testosterone production, preventing cortisol levels from rising too high and supporting efficient burning of food as fuel. Plus our bodies need the rest to support its functioning and adequate sleep is needed so our minds can work at their best.

Here are some tips for getting not only more sleep each night, but better sleep each night.

  1. Try to be in bed by 10 p.m.
  2. Unplug from the digital world – limit use of computers and television shortly before bed as they increase stress levels
  3. Get right nutritionally – limit sugars, white flour and caffeine, incorporate more lean proteins and complex carbohydrates into your diet
  4. Decrease sources of stress – personal relationships, at work, other situations
  5. Exercise in the morning so you have energy for the day, but by nighttime your body and mind are tired, so you can sleep better. Exercise also helps reduce stress, but be careful not to overdo it as pushing your body too hard can lead to adrenal fatigue.

Top 10 Signs You Might Be Menopausal

September is National Menopause Awareness Month, so my blog posts this month will provide tips for navigating menopause and how to make this transition an easier one. But, first how do you know if what you’re going through is menopause? Here are 10 signs that you might be going through menopause:

1. Weight Gain
2. Irritable
3. Mood Swings
4. Fatigue
5. Trouble Sleeping
6. Loss of Sex Drive
7. Vaginal Dryness
8. Hot Flashes and/or Night Sweats
9. Foggy Memory
10. Depression

Check back often for some tips and remedies addressing these symptoms so you can enjoy a better quality of life and put an end to the suffering.

Postmenopausal Women at Risk for Cataracts?

NHIOnDemand, a health and wellness trade site, recently posted an article citing a study published in the journal Ophthalmology claiming that postmenopausal woman are at risk for cataracts after HRT – Hormone Replacement Therapy. The study said it determined the risk of cataract removal was increased by 14 percent in women who had ever used HRT and by 18 percent in current HRT users, compared with women who never used HRT. Current HRT users who reported having more than one alcoholic drink per day had a 42 percent increased risk compared with women who used neither HRT nor alcohol.

This certainly sounds alarming, but when you dig deeper there are two important points to note about the women who experienced a higher incidence of cataracts following HRT therapy.

The first point is that the women in the study were taking synthetic hormones, such as progestin, and not bioidentical hormones. My book, Hormone Harmony, discusses the difference between synthetic and bioidentical hormones at length, and specifically addresses some of the dangers associated with progestin.

The second point relates to alcohol consumption.  Daily alcohol consumption has long been recognized as a contributing factor in a woman’s increased risk of developing cataracts.  The correlation between alcohol and HRT in this report does not result in a smoking gun in my opinion, since the alcohol is a major cataract contributor on its own.  However, women of all ages who wish to maintain optimal health should limit alcohol consumption to no more than 2 – 3 drinks per week.

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