Women’s Health

  • What happens to your Hormones in your Forties?

    What happens hormonally in your forties (or even late thirties)

    When you get near or enter your forties, you may notice a shift in your hormones.  Maybe your cycle hasn’t changed much but your moods have or you are suddenly getting PMS symptoms? 

    You are not alone!

    Perimenopause is not widely heard of, yet can bring with it a hormonal roller coaster.  It is a very different time to Menopause, as menopause is a time of low estrogen, Perimenopause is often a time of an estrogen roller coaster.  Perimenopause is the 2-12 years prior to menopause when you start to feel symptoms – Menopause is the years after you have had no period for a year and symptoms settle down for most Women.

    Perimenopause Symptoms include:

    1. New onset heavy/and or longer flow
    2. Shorter menstrual cycles (less time between cycles)
    3. New sore, lumpy of swollen breasts
    4. New mid sleep waking
    5. Increased menstrual cramps
    6. Onset of night sweats, particularly in the premenstrual period
    7. New or increased migraine headaches
    8. New or increased premenstrual mood swings, anxiety, or depression
    9. Weight gain without changes in exercise of eating

    You are likely to be in perimenopause if you have 3 of the above symptoms despite regular menstrual cycles.  The symptoms of perimenopause can come on quite quickly and can have quite a major effect on your life and can make you feel like you are suddenly not your normal self.

    Many Women are lead to believe that estrogen slowly declines in your forties.  You only need to look at the menopause relief supplements to see that most are focused on supporting estrogen levels.  However, the truth is, estrogen is often soaring to levels twice what it was before, and then crashing to almost nothing.  At the same time progesterone is actually declining.  This is an issue as progesterone counteracts estrogen, preventing estrogen excess symptoms. So now we are experiencing hormone imbalance.  

    Progesterone is a calming hormone, so when it declines, you have less stress tolerance.  This unfortunately comes along at a time when you probably have more stress then other times in your life, with family, career etc.  This means you can be more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and insomnia. 

    The good news is that this stage won’t last forever, and there are things we can do to lessen symptoms and build hormonal resilience.

    Part 2 will talk about what you can do to support progesterone production, help your body clear excess estrogen, reduce inflammation and restore your energy.

    If you feel like you need one on one advice, I love helping Women at this stage of life with the things above and more.  Please reach out if you would like to work with me.  You can book a discovery call to see if we would be a good fit to work together.  

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  • Stress and the Adrenals

    Stress impacts include:

    A decrease of:

    Magnesium and other electrolytes

    B vitamins

    Sleep and therefore the restorative processes that occur during sleep

    An increase in:

    Blood lipids and cholesterol

    Liver Load

    Belly Fat

    I get a lot of Women connect with me who basically have no energy reserves left, they are flatlined. They have generally been through a long period of chronic stress and were running off stress hormones, which worked for them. Until it didn’t. Depletion hits.  Our bodies don’t have the reserves to continue at that pace and we crash. We always associate stress with outside factors – emotional stress for example but stress can also come from within.  I always look at the full picture and take a full health history, to put together a timeline of events, which helps me understand how they got to where they are. We can also test the diurnal cortisol pattern and other stress hormones with a saliva test (samples collected throughout the day/evening to look at the 24 hour pattern). Surgeries, nutrient depletions, food allergies and intolerances and basically all health conditions are a stress on the body also.

    Stress starts in the brain, which sends a signal to the adrenal glands, to create stress hormones.  Our adrenals are little grape sized glands which sit on top of our kidneys and are the producers of our stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol.  Sometimes the signals are also picked up by our other glands as well, such as our thyroid and ovaries. This is why stress has such a systemic effect interrupting many body processes.

    I treat everyone individually, but these are some of the factors I look out for and address with clients when working on adrenal recovery:

    Symptoms of B vitamin deficiency

    Symptoms of Magnesium deficiency

    Electrolyte Imbalance

    Blood Sugar Balance

    Cognition and Mental function

    Cortisol dysfunction (typically low energy in the morning then completely crashing in the afternoon, maybe even getting a second wind in the evening and not sleeping)

    Healing the adrenals

    I may be a Nutritionist but I want you to understand that you can not underestimate the importance of lifestyle practices in recovery from chronic stress.  I can guide you on restoring physically and replenishing nutrients, to help you build physical resilience to stress, but you will need to work on finding balance in all aspects of life. Identifying all the contributing factors like I have mentioned doing with my clients above will help you understand how you got to where you are. If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got. Time to make some changes!

    • You do not have to  be superwoman.  If you are continuously running yourself ragged then you will keep going around in circles here.  You are healing and you need boundaries.  Sure if people are used to you always saying yes some won’t like it when you suddenly start saying no. Often they have not seen healthy boundaries expressed, maybe their parents also lacked boundaries. It is your job to look after yourself.
    • You are probably going to have to slow down a lot more then you want to.  You would not walk non stop on a broken leg and expect it to heal. You can’t expect to recover from chronic stress when you are constantly pumping out stress hormones. Relying on caffeine or sugar to get through the day will only make things worse in the long run. What goes up must come down right? Normally with a big crash.
    • Restorative exercise – Yes you can and should exercise, but it’s really not a great time for you to be signing up for marathons.  Walking in nature and yoga are my top choices.  Check out the Naturopathic Yoga which I have partnered with.  You will get access to a whole series of adrenal specific yoga (and other health conditions) and she will talk you through the science of what you are actually achieving, while you are doing it.  If your current exercise regime is not leaving you feeling amazing and giving you the results you expect, then it is time to reassess.
    • Breathe baby.  Our body’s have not really fully adapted to modern stress in many ways.  When we start pumping out stress hormones in our normal day to day lives, from sitting in traffic or whatever sets off our stress hormones, our body basically starts to prepare us to run from danger.  When our physical existence is under threat our body’s will do what they can to protect us.  This is the fight or flight response.  Our body’s are clever, they don’t want to be focusing on reproduction or digestion when in danger.  The problem is with chronic daily stress we are not in danger, and we may actually want to relax, digest our food and have normal hormonal function.  One of the fastest ways we can communicate to our bodies that we are ok, and the ‘danger’ has passed is to breathe deeply.  This is why I love yoga. Yoga incorporates movement (including resistance exercise) and breathwork.  It is your daily reminder to take that time to down regulate your stress response.

    Stress is not in itself an entirely bad thing.  A bit of stress helps us meet deadlines and get stuff done.  The problems occur when our bodies do not have the resources (vitamins and minerals for example) to call upon or when we get stuck in that state, and do not make the effort to ‘switch off’ and replenish.

    I hope this has helped.  I love working with Women, one on one to restore their mojo, and help them thrive in all aspects of life.  If you are ready to feel better, then check out the ways we can work together here.

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  • Magnesium For Proven Stress Relief

    Magnesium is a Calming Mineral for Women’s Health and Wellbeing

    Magnesium is perhaps the most important mineral in the body and is crucial to Women’s health and wellbeing. It is also the most important nutrient for stress relief. A simple way of describing why we need Magnesium so much during, and after stress, is to consider that our bodies still have the same stress response as we did in Prehistoric times.  We obviously have much different stressors now though.  In the past if we were stressed, it was likely our life was in danger.  Now we might just be sitting in traffic or experiencing chronic daily stress over matters beyond our control. 

    When our life was in danger in the prehistoric times, our clever body’s wanted us to survive, so the best way to help us to respond to stress effectively (fight or flight – run for your life), was to dump our most calming mineral reserves – our precious reserves of magnesium. Our bodies are often entering fight or flight (aka sympathetic nervous system dominance) mode multiple times a day. When we are in fight or flight mode we are unable to enter rest and digest (parasympathetic nervous system) mode. We are chronically stressed and not taking the time to recover in between bouts.  Couple that with low levels of magnesium and other minerals in foods, due to low levels in the soil, and you have a recipe for deficiency.  To top it off, many of us do not have adequate gut function to absorb vitamins and minerals effectively.

    Symptoms of Deficiency

    Magnesium deficiency causes fatigue, anxiety, agitation, irritability, restlessness, panic attacks, vertigo, unrefreshed sleep, poor concentration, daytime sleepiness, cramps, twitches and shakes. Magnesium relaxes the whole nervous system.  As mentioned above it is lost rapidly during stress. Magnesium helps with depression and plays so many roles in the body. It is essential for Women’s health.

    Am I low?

    You won’t know if you are low in magnesium from standard blood tests as we store 25,000mg of magnesium in our body and only 1% of it is in the blood. Magnesium blood tests are also not commonly run by doctors unless specifically requested. The best way to assess if you are low in magnesium is to look at the symptoms above and consider how affected by stress you have been over the last few years.  If you are depleted you will need a supplement, food is ok to maintain levels if you have a very well balanced diet, but you will not reverse deficiency with food alone. I will also sometimes use an HTMA – Hair mineral tissue analysis to test mineral reserves and heavy metals in the body.

    Magnesium Supplements

    Not all magnesium supplements are the same. Yes magnesium is magnesium, but it is what the supplement producer’s bind the mineral to, that effects absorption.  Of course if you have any form of gut disorder your absorption will also be compromised. Some poor forms will cause gastric upset, and those forms are even marketed as laxative’s in different areas of the health store.  Also we have to consider what the capsule is made of, and whether fillers are added as some additives block absorption.

    Glycinate and Citrate are two of the better forms. If you have some of the more severe symptoms above, I would highly recommend working with me to look at all factors involved. I take a holistic and individual approach. I don’t just prescribe one magnesium supplement to everyone. Magnesium deficiency is only one of the possible nutrient deficiencies that you may have in some of the above conditions. In my practice I prescribe practitioner only forms of magnesium, some of which can cross the brain blood barrier rapidly, like Magnesium Threonate, so are really great for mental health support or when you need rapid, acute support.

    I would avoid buying the cheapest magnesium supplement you can find. For all of the reasons stated above. You are not really saving money if you are not absorbing the magnesium in the supplement.  The dose should be considered of course. In the case of deficiency I use researched therapeutic doses.

    This post may seem comprehensive, but I have barely even scratched the surface, that is how important magnesium is. I’ve talked about how it helps with PMS and perimenopause in the past, but it also helps many more conditions. So many of our body processes rely on magnesium and it is so important for both energy and sleep.

    Magnesium is only one of the minerals that you may need to restore your health.  If magnesium alone is not providing relief with any of the symptoms or conditions listed above, then it is a good time for a consultation with me so I can get to the root of the issue. As a Holistic Nutritionist I am an expert in mineral deficiencies and getting to the root of why they exist. Most of my clients are busy A type Women who are suffering the ill effects of stress. It is also very important to address lifestyle issues to help you reduce stress, and protect your precious reserves of magnesium.  Read more about working with me here.

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  • Hormone Testing-Why, When & How

    The Why, When and How of Testing your Hormones
    Why and When
    Testing takes out the guess work when it comes to hormones.  Since I started testing hormones, I have found that often the results are not what you would expect.  Natural treatment for hormonal dysfunction can be powerful and is quite specific.  It is important to get it right. 
    When we test sex hormones we do not just test on any given day.  We test mid luteal phase.  This is due to the fact that we only make progesterone during the days following ovulation. The 10-14 days before your period or your luteal phase. We want to see your progesterone levels when they are at their highest.  This is  halfway through your luteal phase or 5-7 days after ovulation and 5-7 days before your period.  This is easy if your cycles are regular.  For example if you have a 21 day cycle we would test on day 14, 28 day cycle we would test on day 21 and 35 day cycle we would test on day 28.  If your cycle is not regular then we would either test 5-7 days after ovulation or look into the DUTCH cycle mapping test below. 

    When we are testing cortisol and stress hormones, we want to look at the pattern throughout the day, not just a single sample. So before we even get started with testing your hormones it is a good idea to start tracking your cycle.  You can get a free Basal Body Temperature chart in my Free E-Book – Is it your thyroid by signing up to my email list here.  While the book is focused on thyroid conditions (these can also effect your cycle) the chart is handy and provides a lot of information including if you are ovulating and when.  Not everyone is going to be a candidate for hormone testing.  I generally do not do the tests below on any Women who is on hormonal birth control or post Menopausal, there are also some instances when we will get nutrition right before testing.  You can book a free call with me (10 mins) to chat to me about your situation or email me julie@nurturenutrition.co.nz to discuss.

    How
    Saliva Testing
    The benefits of saliva testing is that saliva represents the hormones that are actively delivered to the receptors in the body, rather then free hormones in the serum (blood).  Steroid hormones detected in the serum are bound to proteins and in this state they are unable to fit into receptors in the body, and will not be delivered to tissues.  They reflect the current reserves of hormones, rather then the current active hormones.  Cortisol can also not be accurately measured in serum.

    I offer saliva hormone testing which is a simple and non invasive test, easily performed in the comfort of your own home.  Saliva testing generally requires you to spit into a test tube first thing in the morning and freeze until you are ready to send back to my supplier who sends it on to the lab in the US (Labrix).  Labrix only requires 1 ml of saliva per sample. There are also options for testing throughout the day (cortisol patterns).  Saliva testing is very cost effective (from a functional testing perspective) prices range from around  $25.00 for a single hormone up to around $180 for a full comprehensive panel testing 3 different estrogens, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol x 4 (4 samples at different times of the day/night).

    DUTCH test
    DUTCH is an acronym for Dried, Urine, Test for Comprehensive Hormones.  This is another test that I offer and the most comprehensive.  There are a few different versions of the DUTCH test available, all are provided by Precision Analytical in the states.  DUTCH is regarded by practitioners as the most advanced test for sex and adrenal hormones.  The samples are easy to collect in the comfort of your own home (4 dried urine samples collected on filter paper).

    The test is so comprehensive as not only are hormone levels measured, but their metabolites.  The absolute level of your hormones matter – but what can matter more is what your body does with those hormones i.e how they are being metabolised.  Does your body turn testosterone into nasty acne-promoting 5a-DHT? Does your body turn estradiol into DNA damaging 4-OH estrone? Are you healthfully metabolising and eliminating estrogen from your body? The DUTCH test can tell you.

    It is a simple test to complete, but gives unrivaled information.  By having this information, we can get very specific with treatment and get results much quicker.  The tests provide info on hormone levels, metabolism of cortisol, metabolism of progesterone, testosterone and estrogen.  The dinural pattern of free cortisol.  Like the saliva test the DUTCH test gives us not only the total levels of cortisol and cortisone, but also the curve – how those levels change over the day. This is some valuable information for people who are struggling with stress, fatigue, anxiety, decreased libido, trouble sleeping and insomnia. The DUTCH test also looks at melatonin.  

    The options include – DUTCH complete ,DUTCH adrenal, DUTCH cycle mapping and cycle mapping plus.

    The prices for DUTCH testing ranges from around $209 to $555.00.  The best way to know what test will be best for you is to have a full consultation.  During the consultation I can look at all of the factors contributing to your presenting complaint and make recommendations.  Not only will you get a recommendation on what test will be best, you will also get a full holistic treatment plan and supporting information to get you started on your way to balanced menstrual cycles.  You will receive a prescription for any practitioner only supplements needed to get you results faster. 

    It takes 100 days to really see results with hormonal dysfunction.  This is due to the fact that it takes 100 days for ovarian follicles (eggs) to journey all the way to maturity and for you to ovulate.  Please bear this in mind when working toward hormonal balance.  It will take 100 days of being healthy and fully nourished to achieve healthy ovulation and consequently healthy hormonal levels.

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