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!

Instant Pot®: Yay or nay?

Last Black Friday, I jumped on the bandwagon and bought an Instant Pot®. Yes, I had to find out for myself what the craze was all about, so I actually bought in. And Instant Pot® is a programmable pressure cooker that is supposed to speed up cooking considerably. This week, I want to share what I’ve done with my Instant Pot® and how I’ve made it work for my family.

What’s the best part about an Instant Pot®?

First and foremost, what I absolutely love to make in my Instant Pot® is hard-boiled eggs. You may be asking, aren’t eggs bad for you? Despite their occasional negative portrayal, eggs are a fantastic protein source, as long as you aren’t going overboard with the number you eat.

I typically hard-boil about eight to 12 eggs a week for our family of five. The Instant Pot® makes it super-duper easy to do so. Here are the instructions:

Megan’s Hard-boiled Eggs

  1. Put one cup of water and however many eggs you want into the pot.
  2. Program five minutes of pressure, followed by five minutes natural release, followed by 5 minutes cold water bath.

I don’t shell them right away, but put them in a bowl in the fridge to stay fresher for longer. We shell them as we eat them.  

What else can you use the Instant Pot® for?

I also have made a whole chicken with my Instant Pot®, although this is not something new to me. I usually buy whole chickens when they are on sale and freeze them. Typically, I’ll thaw the chicken and put it in the crockpot with all the seasonings I want—by the evening, we’ve got chicken. I’ll shred the leftover chicken and freeze into patches so we can use it for subsequent meals, such as chicken spaghetti, chicken tacos, white chicken chili and BBQ chicken.

How does the Instant Pot come into play? One time, I forgot to thaw the chicken the night before. I placed the whole frozen chicken in the Instant Pot® with the seasonings and a little water. In no time, the chicken was cooked. This is a definite plus of having the Instant Pot® around.

What are some of the lesser-known features of the Instant Pot®?

My last favorite I’m going to talk about today is burrito bowls. When making this recipe, I use more than just the pressure cook feature. You can make the whole burrito bowl meal in the Instant Pot® and not dirty another dish, thanks to the fabulous sauté feature.

Megan’s Burrito Bowl for the Instant Pot®

  1. Put oil, peppers, onion and garlic into the pot.
  2. Use the saute feature to cook, and then add beans, salsa, chicken, rice and low-sodium chicken stock.
  3. Close the lid and pressure cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Quick release and ladle out. Add some fresh cilantro, cheese and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and serve.

This is always a fun, full meal for my family, and it leaves behind great leftovers.

Instant Pot®: Yay or nay?

There are some great features for the Instant Pot® outside of pressure cooking. It has a learning curve, and it’s a little difficult to use and get used to. Sometimes when recipes say “10 minutes,” it’s actually longer because it takes time for the pressure to build. And, I will be honest, it takes up a lot of space if you don’t have much in your kitchen. All that being said, the Instant Pot® can be right for a lot of people and would be a good addition in your kitchen. Happy Instant Potting!!

Instant Pot image from https://instantpot.com/

 

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?

Breakfast: It Really IS the Most Important Meal of the Day

Mornings are busy. Whether you’re headed off to work, trying to get the kids to school or both at the same time—trying to start your day can be hectic and stressful. Something that often suffers when mornings get too busy is breakfast. But there are some very good reasons why you shouldn’t skip the most important meal of the day.

The key to starting the morning off right—and giving you enough energy and focus to get you to lunch—is eating within one to two hours of waking up. Eat your breakfast!

What’s the Deal with Breakfast?

Eating breakfast is important because your body has gone the longest it does in a 24-hour period without eating. The key to starting the morning off right—and giving you enough energy and focus to get you to lunch—is eating within one to two hours of waking up.

Eating breakfast helps stave off illness (including serious ones like heart disease or diabetes), improves brain function and is an important step in healthy weight loss. And, it’s easier to pull off than you may think. Try this breakfast burrito recipe below: It’s good for eating right away or making on a Sunday and freezing for the whole week!

Breakfast Burrito
Yields 1
The egg and sausage in this burrito are good sources of protein. A high-protein breakfast will fill you up and give you plenty of energy to start your day!
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 chicken sausage link
  2. 1 whole wheat flour tortilla
  3. 1 egg
  4. a dash of milk
  5. cheddar cheese
  6. 1 tablespoon of salsa
  7. a drizzle of salsa picante or hot sauce (if desired)
Instructions
  1. Shred a tablespoon-size amount of cheese. Set aside.
  2. Crack the egg into a bowl, and then add the dash of milk. Whisk until mixed thoroughly.
  3. In a small skillet, pour the egg mixture and cook until fluffy.
  4. Add sausage and salsa to the eggs. Stir until all the ingredients are warm.
  5. Lay a tortilla out on a plate, fill with the egg mixture, sprinkle cheese, drizzle hot sauce and roll up burrito.
  6. Serve immediately or freeze for later.
Notes
  1. If freezing, place in a plastic freezer bag, and then stick in the freezer. Store for up to one month.
  2. To thaw: Remove from plastic bag, wrap burrito in a paper towel, and then microwave for 1.5–2 minutes or until warm.
Something to Chew http://somethingtochew.com/