Support Your Hormones For A More Peaceful Period

The week before your period, it’s not unusual for many women to experience an unwanted transformation from Doctor Jekyll to Ms. Hyde. As our hormones shift, some of us will fall apart into sensitive sleep-deprived puddles. Other simmering souls will find themselves raging without warning. Then there are the mopey bloated hermits who will choose to wrap themselves in a blanket and binge-watch Netflix until Aunt Flow takes a hike. Whoever your PMS alter-ego might be, it’s hard not to feel out of control. But it’s just a part of womanhood we all have to accept, right? Wrong.

Sure, hormones will always shuffle, but we don’t have to be held hostage by their fluctuations. You have the power to overcome many common PMS symptoms and maybe even prevent them from happening!

What Are The Phases Of The Menstrual Cycle?

First, let’s take a moment to revisit Sex Ed 101 to understand the different phases of your menstrual cycle. Once you get to know your natural rhythm, you can begin to accommodate a few healthy habits that will help each phase go more smoothly. In a standard 28-day menstrual cycle, our bodies go through four different phases:

  • Release
  • This begins the first full day of your period when your womb lining is released. During this phase take time to slow down, keep workouts short and be kind to yourself, your body needs it and deserves it!

  • Rise
  • Days 8 to 14. As the title suggests, estrogen levels rise during his stage to continue the cascade of hormonal triggers. This is the time of the month ovulation usually happens, and is accompanied by good moods, energy and feeling powerful.

  • Plateau
  • Days 15 to 21. Estrogen stops surging now and is naturally flushed out of the body as your hormone levels begin to shift. This is a good time to start supporting your body as it detoxes by drinking plenty of water and eating your veggies.

  • Pause
  • Days 22 – 28. During this final stage just before the next period some women experience cravings, cramps and irritability. You are still detoxing, and adding a little cardio into your exercise routine here can help your body to cope better.

    Seed Cycling for Balanced Hormones

    Seed cycling is just as it sounds. It is a way to optimize your health by ingesting seeds that contain the right hormone-helping oils for each part of your cycle. Because the length of the moon’s lunar cycle perfectly aligns with an ideal monthly menstrual cycle, women with irregular periods, postpartum moms and postmenopausal women can also benefit from the hormone supporting powers of seed cycling to help bring balance and regularity. Simply initiate the practice on the first day of the new moon, then switch to the second phase on the first day of the full moon (day 15), and repeat.

    Follicular Phase – Pumpkin & Flaxseed

    The first half of your cycle, the Release and Rise phases (Days 1 – 14), fall into what is known as the Follicular phase. This is when your estrogen increases and an egg is prepared for ovulation. During this time, you will want to help boost your estrogen levels by incorporating pumpkin and flaxseed into your diet. Rich in fatty acids, 1 – 2 tbsp of freshly ground flaxseed or pumpkin seeds a day can help improve your estrogen to progesterone ratio. Other benefits of these seeds include a healthier metabolism, reduced breast tenderness, and a decreased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.

    Luteal Phase – Sunflower & Sesame Seeds

    The second half of your cycle, the Plateau and Pause phases (Days 15 – 28), are grouped together into the Luteal phase. During this time of your cycle, progesterone levels rise and peak. Adding 1 – 2 tbsp of freshly ground sunflower and sesame seeds to your diet each day can support your progesterone levels and help to ease PMS symptoms that may occur during this time. Full of lignans and essential fatty acids, these seeds are beneficial for helping hormones even beyond our reproductive years.

    Tips For Balancing Your Hormones the Week Before Your Period

    During the last week of your cycle, assuming no egg was implanted, estrogen dwindles and is flushed out of your body while progesterone goes up. It is possible to explore short-term strategies on top of the long game of seed cycling during this phase to help reduce some of the symptoms that accompany the dramatic hormonal shift. By supporting your hormones with the following natural strategies, you should be able to have a happy – or at least happier – period.

    1. Drink Less Coffee & More Green Tea
    2. Do you ever feel irritable or anxious after drinking too much coffee? That’s because caffeine raises cortisol levels, which can worsen those types of symptoms. Too much caffeine can also cause sleep issues, inflammation and breast tenderness, as well as lower your progesterone levels. Progesterone is an important feel-good hormone, responsible for your overall sense of well-being. It boosts the metabolism and supports thyroid function. Because you want to raise progesterone the week before your period, not lower it, consider switching your caffeine to green tea.

      Instead of increasing irritability, green tea is thought to help reduce anxiety. High in antioxidants, it also reduces inflammation, helps to balance estrogen levels, and reduces bloating and water retention.

    3. Avoid Alcohol
    4. Alcohol has a way of quickly increasing estrogen levels which can trigger a storm of PMS symptoms like anxiety, mood problems, headaches, and disrupted sleep patterns. Not to mention, too much estrogen also reduces your ability to burn fat by more than half — which isn’t something anyone wants!

      The week before your period, swap your cocktail for a mocktail. Kombucha is a refreshing alternative that you can make at home or find in an increasing number of restaurants. Made from tea fermented to produce healthy probiotics, kombucha offers many similar health benefits to green tea and is also great for promoting gut bacteria to assist in the estrogen detox.

    5. Reduce Sodium
    6. It may seem like a no-brainer that foods high in salt will increase water retention and bloating, prime PMS symptoms you would likely happily live without. But did you know that sodium can affect breast tenderness as well? Reducing your sodium intake will help to ease these types of annoying symptoms so you can still manage to feel comfortable in your favourite clothes.

    7. Increase Magnesium
    8. Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps keep your progesterone levels balanced by regulating the master-hormone gland, the pituitary. And magnesium also helps your muscles to relax, easing crampy symptoms. The week before your period, add more high-Magnesium foods to your diet such as spinach, beans, nuts and seeds.

      This is also the best time of the month to indulge in some delicious dark chocolate! Not only is dark chocolate rich in Magnesium and Iron, it is also packed with powerful antioxidants. Aim for the highest cacao content available, starting with at least 70%. Explore higher levels of cacao and discover how your taste gradually adjusts. Challenge yourself to see if you can get your buds to brave a pure 100%. Even if you find it to be beyond bitter, your body will reap the rewards of your valiant effort.

    9. Remember to Wind Down
    10. It’s easy to get wound tight by life’s demands. The thing is, most of us don’t take the time we need to really effectively wind down. So many of us regularly operate in a hyper mental state, fueled by an unhealthy balance of stress and restless energy. We rush through the day, our minds constantly jumping onto the next thing. When we experience continuous levels of stress, we overwork our adrenal glands’ fight-or-flight response causing our cortisol to elevate and our progesterone to drop. When progesterone is low, it can lead to a variety of problems including PMS, bloating, breast tenderness, sleep issues, and anxiety.

      To keep your cortisol and progesterone levels in healthy balance, give yourself more time to rest by going to sleep a little earlier or reducing the intensity of your workout routine. Limiting screen time and cutting down on social media are also good ways to clear your mind from potentially toxic sources. And of course, meditation is one of the most effective ways to slow down and get yourself grounded.

      Other Factors That Can Contribute To Hormonal Imbalances

      While the above suggestions are helpful for women with healthy hormone levels, there are a number of other factors that can impact hormonal imbalances. Many cosmetics and hygiene products contain a barrage of chemicals that can toxify our systems. Gut health is also connected to a wide number of problems in our body beyond digestive concerns, including hormone imbalance, mental health issues and more.

      If you find yourself suffering from PMS-type symptoms all the time, bigger hormonal imbalances might at play. Our hormones naturally shift throughout our lives, so it is a smart decision to have your levels checked by a healthcare professional from time to time. The sooner you can identify any potential issues, the sooner you can get your body back to normal.

      Don’t let your hormones ruin your life — or even just the week before your period. You have more control than you think!

      References:
      https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article-abstract/77/5/1215/2649961
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4859868/
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22792003
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3208934/
      https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/prior-stress-could-worsen-premenstrual-symptoms-nih-study-finds
      https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/3/e019490

What You Need to Know About Proper Hydration

A Holistic Perspective On Water And Hydration

Water, the lifeblood of Mother Earth. That free flowing H20 is crucial for the survival of every organic species on the planet. Our earth is made up of 71% water – just a little more than the human brain which floats at 70%. In fact, water comprises up to 55-60% of our entire bodies. With over half our bodies composed of water, it’s clear to see why staying well hydrated is one of the most important (and easiest) things you can do for your health.

3 Common Hydration Myths Busted

Myth: Water Is The Best Way To Hydrate
The truth is, it depends. For most of the year, water on its own should be enough. However when we sweat on particularly hot days or after a lot of exertion, we don’t only sweat out water. We sweat out minerals such as sodium and potassium. These are electrolytes and are vital in keeping the body balanced and hydrated, and the muscles working effectively.

Adding a pinch of Himalayan salt and a splash of apple or lemon juice to your water on days like these will go a long way towards replenishing your electrolytes, helping to prevent muscle cramps and other symptoms of electrolyte imbalance.

Myth: Store-Bought Electrolyte Drinks Are Healthy
Brightly coloured electrolyte sports drinks are readily available in every corner store, but what are you really drinking?

While over the past few years most brands of sports drinks have changed their ingredients to remove brominated vegetable oil (BVO), an additive used to emulsify the ingredients which comes with a long list of unfortunate side effects, other problematic ingredients still remain. Always read the label and avoid drinks that have very long ingredient lists, are very high in sugar or contain artificial food dyes. Reach for coconut water as a naturally electrolyte-rich alternative.

Myth: Coffee & Tea Are Dehydrating.
Recent research shows that while the diuretic effects of drinking 1-2 cups of coffee minimally increase urine output for about three hours after consumption, exercise seems to negate those effects altogether.

If you’re a tea drinker, research shows that drinking 4-6 cups of tea can actually be more beneficial than water consumption alone as teas can provide antioxidant and herbal benefits as well.

This does not take into account caffeine’s effects on your adrenal glands however, so if you’re avoiding coffee in order to get a good night’s sleep, by all means keep it up!

Dehydration And Chronic Dehydration: Know the Signs

Dehydration happens when you don’t drink enough water for your body’s needs. Even being just a half litre under-hydrated can lead to an increase in cortisol levels – the stress hormone – which can put a real strain on your overall well-being. In the summer months, common culprits for dehydration include extreme temperatures, excessive physical activity in the heat, and let’s be honest, too much alcohol consumption. Fortunately, these triggers are all preventable by maintaining a healthy balance of water, rest and shade.

The Warning Signs Of Chronic Dehydration

When the body is constantly forced to function without enough water over days and weeks, chronic dehydration can begin to set in. Chronic dehydration can cause a variety of health complications from high blood pressure to kidney stones.

You may already be familiar with the most common signs of dehydration, which include:

● Extreme thirst
● Tired muscles
● Dizziness and disorientation
● Dark-coloured urine (deep yellow, brown or maroon)

However, chronic dehydration reacts a bit differently.
As the body kicks into survival mode, it gets creative by sucking moisture from other sources.

Chronic dehydration may present itself in a variety of ongoing symptoms, such as:

● Constipation
● Fatigue
● Muscle weakness
● Headaches
● Dry or flaky skin

If you suspect you might be suffering from chronic dehydration, increasing your intake of water may not be enough to get you back on track. It is important to make an appointment with your healthcare practitioner so they can properly assess your concentrated blood volume, electrolyte levels, and kidney function to help get you back on the path to optimum health.

Beyond staying hydrated, how do we know what type of water is best? Must we wet our lips only with melted artisanal ice chipped by hand from Alpine glaciers — or are bottled brands no better than the backyard hose?

What’s In Your Tap Water And Is It Always Safe?

With upwards of 90,000 cases of illness and 90 deaths a year due to waterborne illnesses, it’s no surprise that we have become skeptical about the quality of our tap water. Who knows what variety of microorganisms, pollutants, and other foreign disruptors might be flowing from our faucets, or not? While municipal tap water is generally considered to be safe, and in areas with a modern water supply system tap water still remains better for you than allowing yourself to become dehydrated, there are a few potential contaminators that can, and sometimes do, leech their way into our water sources:

Pathogens
Bacteria and parasites can easily enter water sources such as private wells from human or animal fecal matter. Some of the most common bacterial gastrointestinal diseases transmitted through water include salmonella, shigella and in some parts of the world even cholera. While cholera may not be a current concern in North American waterways, parasites like cryptosporidium can be, causing diarrhea and leading to potentially fatal illness if not immediately treated.

Glyphosate
Used in pesticides, glyphosate can enter our waterways from farmland runoff. It can also be found throughout our food chain and is regularly detected in human urine. Research suggests that glyphosate-based herbicides may be endocrine disruptors and can also have an impact on kidney and liver function.

Lead, Aluminum & Heavy metals
When plumbing pipes grow old and begin to corrode, lead, aluminum and other heavy metals can leak their way into our tap water. Lead consumption can lead to severe developmental challenges and learning disorders in children. Meanwhile, aluminum and other metals have been shown to cause nerve, brain and kidney damage.

Hormones & Pharmaceuticals
We now know that staying properly hydrated is necessary for helping to manage hormones like cortisol; however, tap water can also be responsible for causing hormone imbalances. This is due to a variety of hormone disruptors and pharmaceuticals found in many municipal water supplies such as birth control pills, antibiotics, painkillers, antidepressants, among a cocktail of other micropollutants. Even small amounts of hormones can shift our chemistry in unwanted ways.

Chlorine
A disinfectant used in water treatment facilities; chlorine is effective for killing microorganisms. Unfortunately, it also poses toxic effects to our bodies, destroying healthy gut bacteria, which can cause all kinds of issues. Chlorine has been identified as the number one cause of bladder cancer. It is also connected to rectal and breast cancers, as well as other conditions including asthma, birth defects and premature skin aging.

Fluoride
For years, our government has pumped fluoride into our water supplies, while many European countries have banned its use altogether. Current research suggests that fluoride in our tap water may do more harm than good. Some studies have linked fluoride suppressed immune system and thyroid function, disruption of the pineal gland, and an increased risk for fractures and even cancer. Furthermore, fluoride may contain arsenic and also leaches lead from piping at much greater rates.

Now, who wants any of that in their water?!

So, Is Bottled Water Any Better?

Sadly, bottled water comes with its own baggage. First of all, the bottled water (or rather the plastic bottle) industry is not sustainable. Much like the disposable plastic straws we hear so much about, the majority of plastic bottles do not get recycled and end up in landfills – or back into our oceans with heartbreaking irony. This doesn’t even take into consideration the energy it takes to produce and distribute bottled water to every corner store and hot dog stand around the world. When you add it all up, a lot of unnecessary pollution goes into every last drop.

As for the quality of water itself, a lot of bottled water is simply glorified tap water hiked to an exorbitant cost. Mold, microbes, benzenes, phthalates, trihalomethanes, and yes, even arsenic have all been found in bottled water. And then there are the harmful plastic chemicals from the bottle itself, such as BPA among other elements, that can also be found floating in your drink.

Overhyped and overpriced, simply put – bottled water is bad for the planet and not so great for you either. So, what’s a person to do?

What Is The Best Possible Water Source?

Your very best option for clean, pure water is to invest in a good quality filtration system for your kitchen. For an added vote of confidence, be sure your filtration system is certified by NSF International or the Water Quality Association. And of course, you should set a reminder to change your filters on schedule to ensure your drinking and cooking water is always the best possible quality.

Are you always on the go? That’s easy solution. Get yourself a BPA-free reusable water bottle (look for glass water bottles) and keep it with you at all times. That way you are sure to keep your body healthy and hydrated, looking out for your own best interest and the health of our planet, which is in everyone’s best interest.
Not a huge fan of drinking water no matter where it comes from? You aren’t alone but there are options; try adding in cucumbers, mint, orange or lemon slices to flavour it up a bit and remember water is crucial to not just hydrate our bodies but also to flush out all the toxins we are exposed to.

References:

http://www.cwwa.ca/pdf_files/2016Katarina%20Pintar.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3886980/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996186/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=PMC3690253
https://detoxproject.org/glyphosate-in-food-water/
https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/water-stress-reduction
http://fluoridealert.org/content/europe-statements/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/089203629400070T?via%3Dihub
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16895092