women's health

  • 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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  • Zinc Deficiency – The signs and Solutions

    Along with magnesium Zinc is probably the mineral that I find most commonly deficient in Clients.  Severe zinc deficiency is rare but marginal zinc deficiency is very common.

    What are the benefits of zinc?

    • Zinc strengthens the immune system
    • Zinc fights inflammation
    • Zinc promotes wound healing
    • Zinc is important for skin health and aging
    • Zinc is really important for adequate stomach acid
    • Zinc helps keep your metabolism healthy
    • Zinc can help improve your sense of taste and smell
    • Zinc helps balance thyroid function
    • Zinc is important for hormone balance
    • Zinc is essential for fertility

    Signs of zinc deficiency:

    • Bleeding gums and gingivitis
    • Loss of appetite
    • Poor growth and fussiness in Children
    • Hair Loss
    • White spots on the nails
    • Poor sense of smell and taste
    • Symptoms of low stomach acid
    • In men – infertility and prostate enlargement
    • Night blindness
    • Acne
    • Poor wound healing
    • Poor immunity
    • Thyroid disease
    • Increased body odor
    • Hormonal imbalance

    Who is most at risk of deficiency?

    Pregnant Women and the Elderly are particularly susceptible to zinc deficiency.  Teenage boys tend to be another at risk group especially around age 13-14 which is the peak time of acne.  Zinc deficiency in pregnant Women is very common and statistics suggest 82% of  pregnant Women are considered zinc deficient.  This is due to the fact that they require almost triple the amount of the daily recommended amount of zinc for fetal growth.  Most of us are not getting enough zinc in our diets anyway, and the amount we require does not decrease as we age.  Vegetarians and Vegans are also at risk of deficiency as animal foods contain the highest levels of zinc.  Even if Vegetarians and Vegans increase their zinc rich plant based foods these foods are less bioavailable as they contain phytates which may bind to zinc and inhibit absorption.  If you are relying on plant based foods for nutrients you need to consider soaking, sprouting and fermenting to reduce phytate levels.

    If you have recently been unwell you are also at risk of zinc deficiency and when your health is not optimal your body becomes depleted easily.

    How much zinc do you need?

    All RDA’s differ but a general amount to prevent deficiency is – 8mg Women, 11mg Men, 3-5 mg Children, 25 mg Pregnant Women

    We should be aiming to get this from our diets.  If this is not possible a supplement is required.  Zinc supplements are generally at a maintenance dose at health stores, or at a higher dose (which is needed for anyone at risk of or with a deficiency) via Practitioners like myself.

    Zinc rich foods include – Meats, Seafood, Poultry, Dairy products, Whole grains and Nuts.

    Can you get too much zinc?

    Yes you do need to be cautious.  Minerals work in balance with one another.  Too much zinc could lead to imbalance in other minerals.  It is unlikely to occur from food, but be aware with supplements.  It is always best to work under the guidance of a qualified health practitioner like myself.  If you experience Nausea, Vomiting, Stomach pain, Fatigue or Lethargy when supplementing you should back off and consult a health professional.  If you experience slight nausea make sure you are taking it with a meal.

    How do you know if you are low in zinc?  Zinc is not routinely tested by GP’s in New Zealand and Australia.  You need to request the test from your doctor or lab, and in some cases you maybe asked to pay for it yourself.  I also offer Hair Mineral Analysis which gives you a very comprehensive look at all of your minerals, their ratios and also heavy metals that maybe present in your body.

    Some References:

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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.

    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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