Hormones: How to Restore Balance in your Life

Hormones have profound effects on the body. They help regulate metabolism and appetite, steer our energy levels, make fertility possible, manage body temperature and control the body’s ability to lose weight or even gain muscle.

Effects of hormone imbalance on the body

When someone is experiencing hormonal imbalances, it can feel as if the world is crashing down on you. Many people go through unintentional weight gain despite following a healthy diet. Others feel sluggish all day and still have difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep. These symptoms, among many others, can wreak havoc on emotions and temperament. Hormonal imbalances can be caused by excessive stress and poor lifestyle choices but can also occur naturally with age, including when women reach menopause.

As women age, production of two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, declines. It may seem like you have absolutely no control over this, but there are ways to continue to keep these levels balanced, even though overall hormone production is lower.

Bring balance back to hormones through healthy eating 

Eating healthfully is important throughout a person’s life, and it’s no different for women going through menopause. Many women experience weight gain—especially around the belly—mood swings, hot flashes and night sweats, loss of libido and vaginal dryness. They are also more at risk for developing osteoporosis.

You don’t have to be a slave to your changing hormones. Try to bring them back into balance with these dietary tweaks.

What to eat more of: 

  • Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage (Try to have at least one serving of these hormone-balancing veggies every day.)
  • Dietary fiber: oats, berries, avocados, beans, lentils, broccoli, apples, pears, ground flaxseed, chia seeds, sweet potatoes, squash (Dietary fiber helps with liver clearance of estrogen.)
  • Healthy fats: avocados, olives, coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, eggs, all nuts and seeds including chia seeds and flaxseed, grass-fed beef, salmon, quinoa

Also increase sleep and exercise. Both help reduce stress. Weight training can also have further benefits on improving metabolism.

What to eat less of:

  • Processed foods: boxed meals, pre-packaged shelf-stable or frozen entrees, frozen pizza, premade breads and bread products, pre-packaged meats such as sausage, bacon and hotdogs, artificial sweeteners, fake cheese, excessive condiment use, Pop-Tarts®, snack mixes such as pretzels, crackers, chips
  • Added sugars: cereals, packaged sweets like Twinkies and Cinna-Buns, regular and some Greek yogurt varieties, sweetened milks, soda, juice, sweetened tea, granola bars
  • Drive-thru meals: Processed meats, refined grains and fried menu items can cause inflammation in the gut. They also are poor nutrient sources of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
  • Alcohol: One alcoholic beverage is processed as 29 grams of sugar or one serving of M&Ms.
  • Caffeine: For some, caffeine can be a source of inflammation.
  • Foods associated with inflammation such as gluten and lactose. Foods made from or using ingredients with wheat, barley and rye contain gluten. Milk and ice cream are two high-lactose containing dairy products.

Remember, you don’t have to make drastic changes to your diet all at once. But by increasing the good and decreasing the bad, even slowly, you can bring balance to your hormones and improve your quality of life.

 

First Day of Spring brings…Spring Cleaning!

Is clutter in your space preventing you from living a healthy lifestyle? Believe it or not, disorganization can do more than just make it hard to find daily things. Spring cleaning can actually help you live more healthfully.

Set a goal to declutter

This spring, set a health goal for yourself to start decluttering little parts of your life one at a time. You can use my “non-resolution” method from previous posts if you don’t have a favorite goal-setting method.

Remember to be specific with your decluttering goal, just like any health goal you have set. Here are some examples:

1) Organize your container cabinet.
You want to set a goal to take your lunch to work twice a week (or once a week or every day—tailor your goal to your life) but your Tupperware® or plastic container cabinet is a mess. Decluttering this space will make it more feasible to pack and take a lunch to work. Once this cabinet is tidy, packing leftovers directly from the dinner table into containers in the fridge is easy. Lunch for the next day is ready to go!

2) Organize your pantry.
Do you ever find yourself overbuying food because you can’t remember what you have in stock? Pull everything out of your cabinets, wipe down the shelves and strategically organize your food. You may be surprised how much you have, and this may be a good time to take a box or can to your local food bank. Put items that are due to expire in the front and work them into your meal plans.

3) Organize your refrigerator.
Your refrigerator can get dirty very quickly, so it’s time to deep clean it. Go through everything: I bet half of those condiments are expired! Store produce and other healthier foods in see-through containers at eye level in your fridge or in a pretty bowl visible on the counter. We typically eat more of what we can see, and if it looks good, it can be one less barrier to making healthy choices happen.

Declutter for better health

Add decluttering to the goals you already have to be healthy in order to make them easier to obtain and maintain. After you have met your goal for a significant amount of time, make sure you reward yourself (NOT with food!) to help you keep going. Happy First Day of Spring and spring cleaning!

Considering Diet to Help Prevent Cancer

March is colorectal cancer awareness month, and many health care organizations are promoting scheduling regular screening for colorectal cancer, such as getting a colonoscopy.

Colorectal cancer screening targets everyone over the age of 50. Your doctor might even recommend getting screened earlier if you are at higher risk or have a family history of colorectal cancer. While you should still count on regular screenings as your best bet to prevent colorectal cancer, there are some things you can do diet-wise to help prevent colorectal cancer.

Prevent Colorectal Cancer: Diet Do’s

The best things to eat—and this applies to really everyone, not just someone trying to prevent cancer—are high-fiber whole grains, green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables. The following are lists of types of these foods, so you can get an idea.

High-fiber whole grains

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Barley

Green leafy vegetables

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Romaine lettuce

Cruciferous vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts

Green leafy vegetables are important because they contain carotenoids. Carotenoids help prevent cancer by acting as antioxidants. Folate, also contained in these veggies, may offer protection against colorectal cancer, breast cancer and lung cancer.

Prevent Colorectal Cancer: Diet Don’ts

You might see a little repeat of information here from other blog posts, but only because these “diet don’ts” are pretty applicable for anyone wanting to live a healthier lifestyle. Limiting foods rich in animal fats, red meat and alcohol help prevent colorectal cancer.

Diets high in red meat have been associated with an increased risk for colon cancer. To eat less meat, think of fruits, vegetables and whole grains as the entrée at meals, with meat as the side dish. And you can drink a little, but it would be better to not drink at all. Alcohol has also been associated with an increased risk for colon cancer.

Looking for more information on colorectal cancer?

The Springfield Clinic web page for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month has a lot of information about colorectal cancer and colonoscopies, including an article written by one of our Colon & Rectal Surgery doctors, James Thiele, MD, FACS, FASCRS, about the importance of getting screened regularly for colorectal cancer and how the colonoscopy procedure works. Check out this information and schedule your colonoscopy today!

Gas it Up: Give your body the energy it wants

Let’s talk about how the body gets energy. “Glucose” is a fancy word for sugar, and it’s best known as a fuel for our body. All food is broken down into our bodies for fuel, but glucose is the body’s main energy source. Just like we need to put gas in our cars to go, we need to put gas in our bodies too. And just like we have different octanes of fuel for our cars, we have different octanes of fuel for our bodies.

Beneficial glucose

The best source of glucose is found in a macronutrient known as “carbohydrate.” And when you think of carbohydrate, you’re probably thinking about bread, rice or pasta. But in addition to these foods, fruits and a few vegetables are also carbohydrate sources.

These fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and lean proteins, are the best fuel to nourish our bodies instead of depleting our energy levels. These foods are permissible AND beneficial.

Less beneficial glucose

Processed foods, such as cake, doughnuts, cookies, sugary liquids and some white foods are among the types of foods that may be permissible but are not always beneficial. These carbohydrate sources are most often found in the center aisles of the grocery store. Let’s break down two of these foods/ingredients.

Enriched white flour

You see the word “enriched,” and you’d think this would be better for you. Bogus! Enriching means stripping the grain, removing most of its natural nutrients, then replacing some of those nutrients during processing.

When enriched foods came to the market, there were good motives. This food processing technique came about to better preserve foods for longer periods in order to prevent food famines. But now, when you see “enriched” on a food label, know that this will give you some quick energy, but your gas tank will quickly be on empty.

White sugar

Yummy in my tummy!—is what I always think when I think about foods made from white sugar or sucrose. Sucrose provides an immediate blood sugar surge. Your metabolic system lights up, and the body produces insulin and raises your serotonin levels (happy hormones).

Raised insulin levels can cause you to overeat while also causing you to be as hungry as you were before you started eating. In addition, your body will become more resistant to the sugar, causing you to feel the need for MORE sugar and unnecessary calories to elevate your mood while emptying your gas tank and causing you to crash just as quickly. What a vicious cycle.

How can we get more “good” fuel?

Focus on retraining your taste buds. Yes, you can retrain your taste buds! Try to remove or at least limit these permissible but not beneficial foods and then replace them with foods that will provide you with more clarity and energy, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Your body will thank you!

Recap: Try a “Non-Resolution”

It’s Throwback Thursday and the first anniversary of making a “non-resolution.” You may or may not be anxious to hear how my January went, but I’m going to share anyway. So here’s a little recap about my non-resolution.

STEP 1: COME UP WITH THE DEFINING WORD OR PHRASE FOR YOUR YEAR.

I encouraged you to come up with a 2018 goal for yourself—in a word or phrase—and break it into a 12-month SMART goal(s).

MY 2018 word is PEACE. I chose this word as there has been a lot of disorder and mayhem in my life affecting my health.

STEP 2: TRANSLATE YOUR WORD OR PHRASE INTO ACTION.

My January action was to meal plan. My specific meal plan action:

1st week goal: plan three dinners, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

2nd week goal: plan four dinners, Monday through Thursday.

3rd week goal: plan five dinners, Monday through Friday.

4th week goal: plan again for five days.

STEP 3: EVALUATE YOUR GOAL EACH MONTH.

Once the week or month is over, look back at your goal and see how well it did or did not work. Did you achieve this goal?

My mantra is PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. My January did not go as planned. I had set a S = Specific, M = Measurable, A = Achievable, R = Realistic and T = Time-specific goal. Thus, I can look back and see how it went.

1st week of January – my grandfather was in the hospital and passed away, I was hardly home, so no meal planning happened as we didn’t know where we would be when.

2nd week of January – I planned two meals, as once again I was hardly home, helping to take care of my grandmother.

3rd week of January – I planned three meals.

4th week of January – I planned four meals.

STEP 4: START AT A TIME THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU.

So when should you start? Any time that’s right for you. Make sure you have a fresh mind and are more rejuvenated than you may be on the first of the month.

As you can see, I had planned to start the first of January, however life happened and I was not able to begin when planned. But the key is, I didn’t let the month slide by. I picked up when I could with my meal planning. While working on the meal planning I found a tool to better help me.

It is the “Knock Knock What to Eat” pad that I found on Amazon for about seven dollars. Is this something you have to use if you plan to meal plan? Absolutely not. But, this is the tool I found to help me with my goal. You can also use our free printable!

NOW WHAT?

I’m going to continue my meal planning and then focus on my SMART goal for February: REST!!!

For the month of February, my goal is to set a bedtime. The specific goal is to be in bed by 10:30 p.m. four nights out of each week, Sunday through Thursday. This is technically 5 days. So, if one of these days doesn’t make the 10:30 p.m. cut, then I have another day to work with. By setting a bedtime for myself, this should allow for a minimum of seven-ish hours of sleep for myself.

Although my goal didn’t go quite as planned for January, I made it work. And I know you can too if you let your goals slide a little bit. How did your SMART goals go for January?

Jump-start your Metabolism for the New Year

In our impatient society we live in, we want our coffee ready in minutes, our photos developed in less than an hour and grocery shopping to be as easy as the click of a button. So naturally, we all want a quick and simple fix for our metabolism too. The reality is that our metabolisms have been beaten to a pulp over the years from meal skipping, over-eating and poor food choices. Fear not. Your metabolism is not doomed; however, it will take some time and a little (okay a lot) of TLC to get it back to a beautiful fire it once was (or at least should be).

Before I continue, I want to remind you of a few small things.

  • You will make MISTAKES.
  • You will get OFF TRACK.
  • You will MISS THE MARK several times.

And, all that is perfectly OKAY. You are human. You will make mistakes but make sure you take the opportunity to learn from them. Take your focus off avoiding failure (perfection) and turn it towards chasing improvement.

Let us focus on one simple task. By accomplishing this behavior, over time, you will regenerate your metabolism, have more energy and feel better each and every day you achieve it.

Start every day by striking a match. No, not physically rather metaphorically speaking for your metabolism. To do this, you must eat breakfast every day and increase the protein content in it. The average American consumes most of their protein in the latter half of the day. Protein is pivotal to improving satiety, increasing energy levels and controlling hormones. These benefits can be further maximized if protein ingestion begins with the first feeding of the day.

Strive to get at least 15-20 grams of protein with breakfast. This can be easily accomplished by choosing high-protein foods such as eggs, cottage cheese, lean breakfast meats, cheese, Greek yogurt and beans. Protein supplements such as bars, shakes and powders can help create a high-protein smoothie, power-packed oatmeal or can serve as a quick grab-and-go menu item.

It’s okay if you eat the same breakfast every day. It helps build routine and conditions the mind and body to crave real food upon waking. The more consistent you are, the easier it is to incorporate a variety of protein sources and stick to your routine when you are traveling, stressed or just generally off-schedule.

Remember, consistency always trumps rigidity. Let this be the year you kick start yourself towards health!