I spent most of my life under the impression that my body contents all lived and operated on separate islands: Boy, was I mistaken! Let me explain, before my training in anatomy and hormone health with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) along with my yoga training programs I assumed if something was going on in my body it was isolated to that particular area in my body. For example, leading up to my menstrual cycle my breasts were almost always tender; therefore, I would assume there was something up with my breasts; when my digestion would fluctuate month-to-month, I would assume it was solely my gut to blame (which was partially the problem, that’s another blog); when I had pelvic pain during my menstrual cycle, I would assume it was isolated in my pelvis; and once I began trying to conceive a child, I assume it was solely my uterus to blame, but learned there was much more to it!
In other words, I had no understanding on how the body functioned and what can trigger these symptoms that I was having. Many years later, I’ve learned how the endocrine system the glands that comprise it and produce the hormones in our bodies play an intricate role in how we feel.
Quick anatomy lesson in case you were like me and unaware of the endocrine system: the endocrine system is a collection of glands and a few glandular organs (pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, adrenal, pancreas, ovaries in women, testes in men and pineal – see picture – being a yogini I shared the picture where it shows our 7 main Chakras. It’s said that these energy centers pair with an endocrine gland and govern it’s function) that produce hormones that control our metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep and mood. Woah! These hormones release messages via our bloodstream to carry to our organs and tissues to perform their job.
Our hormones are not loners; instead they work together like the conductor and the orchestra to create a harmony in our bodies. So, if one hormone is out of tune, it throws off your other hormones and even other body systems.
Below I have shared the eight major hormones in the body and a very brief description of their roles:
Estrogen – plays an important role in sexual reproductive health – there’s more than 15 forms of it that have been identified!;
Progesterone – health of our nervous system, prepares the lining of the uterus for potential pregnancy, protects the brain from damage, breast health and cardiovascular health;
Cortisol – mobilizing energy from the body, reduces inflammation and allergies, helps maintain mood and emotional stability to name a few;
Thyroid hormones – T3 and T4 work together as a team, T3 is the active form. Together they help regulate metabolism, heart function, digestion, and brain development;
Pregnenolone – known as the master hormone because it’s the precursor from which almost all other steroid hormones are made, including progesterone, testosterone, the estrogens, DHEA, and cortisol;
Testosterone – known as the male hormone typically, but it plays a critical role in having a healthy libido in women, turns fat into muscle, keeps skin supple, increases bone density to name a few;
DHEA – used in the body to make sex hormones; and
Androstenedione – is a precursor of testosterone and other androgens, as well as estrogens in the body.
So what’s a gal to do to be sure their hormones are in check so we can feel our best? First, I would recommend speaking with your doctor (a functional medical doctor, if possible) to get your hormones tested. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms I described above, or if you’re not feeling well in your body, which include: lack of energy, not sleeping well majority of the time, not maintaining a desired weight, poor digestion, PMS symptoms, dull hair, problematic skin, and a poor sex drive to name a few.
In the meantime, you can benefit from cleaning up your diet a bit. Poor nutrition is often a big culprit to our hormone imbalances which can be a great place for most of us to start.
Clean protein: grass-fed meats, wild-caught fish, Non-GMO fed, organic, cage free free-range eggs (certified humane raised and handled is my preference), organic lentils and beans
Healthy Fats: Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Grass-Fed Organic Ghee, Animal fats from grass-fed meats; Avocado, Nuts and Seeds
Organic Fruit: Berries, Pomegranate, Pears and Melons
Organic Vegetables: Greens of all kinds; Cruciferous vegetables , Beets and Carrots.
When you’re working on making changes to your eating habits to support fertility, it’s important to set yourself up for success by making sure you’ve got healthy foods on hand. Often the best of intentions can awry, because we’re short on time or mental space or energy for planning. Stocking your kitchen with healthy nutrient dense foods helps ensure you have healthy options on hand. No need to overhaul everything at once, but pick your step to take to help you move forward. Here are some tips for getting started:
Keep only fruits and vegetables out on the counter. Everything else should be put in the fridge, freezer, or cupboards. We tend to reach for what we see. Have you ever walked past a cookie sitting out and been tempted to eat it? Of course! We all have. Out of sight, at least helps to keep it out of mind. Conversely, when you see fruit and veggies out, you’re more likely to reach for them for snacks or when planning a meal.
Buy versatile vegetables. If you have trouble with vegetables rotting in your fridge, you’re not alone. To combat this, focus on vegetables that you can use for a variety of recipes. For example, organic power greens are a combo of baby kale, chard, and spinach. These greens work for salads, adding to smoothies, and for cooking. For cooking, add to a veggie egg scramble, stirfry, chili, or sauté with mushrooms.
Stock your freezer with organic frozen fruits and vegetables. Of course, fresh fruits and vegetables are great, but we all get busy and frozen are super convenient and nutritious. Pick your favorite vegetable blends. Alternatively, broccoli and cauliflower rice are always good options when you need to add a quick veggie to a meal. Thaw out frozen fruit, and add to plain yogurt or to a smoothie for breakfast or a snack.
Stock your freezer with high quality meats and fish, like wild salmon, grassfed beef, and organic chicken. A common barrier to preparing dinner is not having a protein source on hand. It’s so helpful to just be able to open the freezer and have something to cook.
Keep nuts and seeds on hand for snack, smoothies, and salads. Choose raw or dry roasted nuts and seeds, but skip those roasted in oil. Great choices include walnuts, almonds, hemp hearts, and pumpkin seeds, but most nuts/seeds are nutrient dense and contain healthy fats, so you can’t go wrong.
Keep eggs on hand. A veggie omelet/scramble works great for breakfast or for dinner on a busy night. Boil some eggs on the weekends that you can grab for snacks or breakfast during the week.
Keep beans on hand for a nutrient dense protein source. Beans are packed with fiber, iron, and folate. In order to avoid BPA in canned beans, either buy beans in BPA free cans, glass jars, or cartons, or make your own from dried. You can freeze portions of cooked beans, so that you have them on hand when you need them.
Now that you have gotten started, schedule a nutrition consult for the next steps! Schedule in October and save with an Initial Nutrition Consult for only $49! Use promo code PCOS49 and book today!
So many of us struggle with having a “sweet tooth,” reaching for sweets automatically after meals or struggling to say no to any sweets that happen to be in the break room at work or at events. When we rely on willpower in these situations, it’s very difficult to be successful. Instead, set yourself up for success by making sure to have healthy snacks on hand and managing your appetite. Anytime we become overly hungry, we’re much more likely to overeat, and it’s more difficult to make healthy food choices.
It’s helpful to first determine the time of day that you’re working on cutting back on sweets. If it’s after dinner, get in the habit of having fruit for dessert after dinner. Don’t make having a real dessert off limits, since that sometimes makes us obsess about it more. Just add the fruit or a fruit smoothie as an experiment and see what happens. Sometimes you just might find that it’s enough, and you don’t need a “real” dessert afterward. The key is to pick fruits that you really enjoy and feel like a treat to you. Here’s a delicious and nutrient-rich smoothie to try, especially right now when peaches and blueberries are in season.
Peach Blueberry Smoothie
1 peach, peeled and pitted
1 cup blueberries
½ cup water or amount to achieve desired consistency.
Add all ingredients to blender or food processor.
Blend until smooth.
Want to learn more? Call us for a Nutrition Consult for fertility, pregnancy, postpartum, as well as, health/wellness support at: 312-321-0004.
Now that late summer is here, the local produce is abundant. Visit your local farmer’s market for the best tomatoes of the year, and stock up on some raspberries and zucchini. These summer fruits and vegetables can help support your overall health and fertility. Check out some specific items to emphasize below:
Summer Fruit: Berries pack a strong antioxidant punch and tend to be high on the priority list of farmer’s market shoppers. Watermelon, cherries, and peaches also grow here in the Midwest, and the juicy summer sweetness makes for great desserts without the added sugar.
Broccoli and Kale: These cruciferous vegetables may help balance estrogen levels and contain important nutrients like calcium, folate, and vitamin C.
Zucchini: Zucchini tends to be abundant and cheap at the farmer’s market. Use a spiralizer to make zoodles (zucchini “noodles”) and top with chicken or white beans, pesto, fresh tomatoes, and sautéed kale for a nutrient-rich summer meal.
Herbs: Don’t forget the herbs like chives, cilantro, oregano, basil, and dill. Herbs are antioxidant-rich and thus may help to prevent free radical damage to eggs and sperm. Add any of these herbs to salads, salad dressings, or eggs for extra flavor. Use basil to make pesto or in Thai dishes with cilantro. Use cilantro in tacos or other Mexican dishes.
Eggs: You can get some of the best eggs at the farmer’s market – the kind of eggs that come from chickens that have been running around eating bugs and vegetable scraps. These eggs have a deep orange yolk, due to higher levels of beta-carotene. Eggs are a healthy and nutrient-rich protein source and are great way to ensure you get enough protein at breakfast.
It’s both easier and harder to eat healthy during the summer. Local fruits and vegetables are abundant, especially leafy and greens and berries, which are nutritional powerhouses. On the other hand, there are also lots of opportunities for less healthy options due to eating more meals out on vacations and attending more parties and barbecues.
The key is not to take the enjoyment of these events, but to make choices that are consistent with your goals with the knowledge that there is no such thing as the perfect diet, and that it’s perfectly fine and normal to indulge sometimes. That being said, what’s the best way to handle events during the summer? Follow these tips, and see what you can apply to your life:
Have a plan in mind for events or meals out. Often when we’ve decided ahead of time what we plan to eat, it goes better than when we make decisions in the moment. When eating out at restaurant, check the menu online ahead of time. At other events, try to load up your half your plate with vegetables.
Bring a healthy dish. Potlucks tend to be light on the veggies, so bring a veggie dish if you can. Alternatively, bring fruit or a healthy protein.
Manage your appetite. Make sure you don’t arrive to restaurants, parties, or events ravenously hungry. When we’re overly hungry, it’s SO much harder to make healthier food choices, and it’s much easier to overeat.
When you’re on vacation, rent a place with a kitchen. That way, you can prepare some of your own meals. Seek out a local farmers market for fruits and vegetables, and pick up some local fresh fish if you’re somewhere on the water. Make a point of prepping 1-2 meals per day where you’re staying, so that you can have healthier options and feel your best.
On road trips, you use apps to find restaurants nearby. Using the signs on the freeway pretty much ensures you’ll be eating at fast food restaurants. Apps like Yelp will show you what restaurants are nearby, and you can even peruse menu from the car (not while you’re driving, of course) and get directions.
Remember to keep it all in perspective. What you eat most of the time is what matters the most to your health and fertility. Eating also shouldn’t be a source of stress in our already stressful lives, so do your best and let the rest go. It’s ok and totally normal to indulge and eat more meals at restaurants on vacation. Choose healthier options most of the time, indulge sometimes, and eat until your satisfied, but not overly full, and make peace with your decisions without guilt.
Looking for more ways to use your diet to positively impact your fertility or to fit healthy eating into your busy life, book a nutrition appointment today!
A recent study looked at women’s diets while they were trying to conceive and found that certain aspects of their diet impacted their fertility. 5628 women with no previous pregnancies recalled their intake of certain foods leading up to conception when they were 14-16 weeks pregnant. The two factors that were found to impact time to pregnancy (how long it took to get pregnant) were fast food intake and fruit intake.
Eating fruit 1-3 times per month as compared to 1-6 times per week was associated with an 11% increase in time to pregnancy. Eating fruit 1-3 times per month compared to 3 times daily was associated with 19% longer time to pregnancy.
Eating fast food at least 4 times per week was associated with a 24% increase in time to pregnancy as compared to women who eat no fast food. Risk of infertility was 41% higher in the group of women who ate fast food at least 4 times per week compared to those who ate no fast food.
It’s important to keep these results in perspective, as the time to pregnancy increase with high fast food intake or low fruit consumption was only about 0.6-0.9 months, which isn’t a huge difference. The increase in risk of infertility is definitely concerning. The bottom line is that we already know that fast food is harmful to our overall health, but it is also seems to impact fertility, which could be through the intake of unhealthy fats in fried foods and just a generally nutrient poor diet high in refined carbs and added sugars.
It’s important not to stress when you read these studies! Fertility is affected by many factors, so worrying about your fast food intake or lack of fruit intake is definitely counterproductive. Instead look forward and work on small changes that that will improve your overall health and potentially your fertility moving forward.
If you are eating fast food regularly, focus on one step you could make towards healthier eating. It could be cooking up 1 one-pot meal with leftovers per week, such as soup or chili that you could eat for multiple meals during the week. Alternatively, it could be choosing healthier fast food options with more whole foods such as tacos, a salad with protein, or a burrito bowls that include vegetables and omits fried foods. Adding some fruit can be as simple as taking the step of bringing an easy fruit with you to work or adding a fruit after dinner in the evening. Clementines, bananas, and apples are all pretty easy and portable. Berries pack a good antioxidant punch and would also make a great addition.
Need help making changes to your diet to maximize your fertility? Schedule a nutrition appointment today! Get outside this summer with others TTC and learn more about nutrition for fertility with Mia Zarlengo at the FREE Two Week Walk event in Chicago on July 21st!
With the quickly approaching summer, and Chicago’s humid tendencies already underway, some people may be getting concerned about staying cool. One such population would be women with a tendency towards hot flashes. While we most often associate hot flashes with menopause and ladies over 45, there are other reasons for this bothersome temperature dysregulation. Pregnancy, menstruation, premature menopause and anxiety can all be causes of hot flashes, and some individuals are just heat intolerant overall. Interestingly, Traditional Chinese Medicine pays particular attention to your body’s internal and external temperature, and you may find that your acupuncturist often asks about temperature even when you don’t have any complaints associated with it.
The best way to balance temperature and clear heat is the integration of acupuncture into your health care routine. Your acupuncturist can determine the root cause of the fluctuations you are experiencing and bring your body back into balance. If you want to carry on the heat clearing outside of the treatment room- you can also eat foods that are “cooling” in nature.
Alfalfa sprouts Apple
Bamboo Shoots Banana
Bok Choy Cantaloupe
Snow Pea Barley
Try a Nutrition Consultation in June AND a follow-up session for only $99! It is great for general health, your fertility treatment plan, during pregnancy, and postpartum. Learn more here.
Don’t miss the opportunity to meet Helena in Sept for our FREE Points to Ponder: Acupuncture, Community, and Stress Reduction session in Chicago! Have more questions about how acupuncture can help you or want to schedule an initial consultation? Call us today at: 312-321-0004.
Do you know the different types of healthy fats that support a diet that fights off inflammation in the body ? Since science has begun to debunk the myth that a “low-fat diet” is the healthiest diet, we can look to focus more on which fats are actually healthy that we should include in our daily intake.
One of the key components of a diet that supports reproductive health is being anti-inflammatory. Many sources of fats can support fighting inflammation, while some are actually pro-inflammatory. Navigating these different choices is a great first step in adopting a more anti-inflammatory, fertility friendly diet.
Fats to avoid that can cause inflammation:
Trans-fats: Luckily, trans-fats for the most part have been taken out of our food system in America. However, it’s still important to always check your food labels and be sure there are 0 grams of trans fats!
Corn and Soybean oil: These oils are often used as cheap fillers in processed foods. However, these processed vegetables oils are heavy in omega-6 fatty acids; when our omega-6 levels exceed omega-3’s, the result is an increase in inflammation. Swap out processed vegetable oils with some of the healthy options below!
Healthy fats that support an anti-inflammatory diet:
Avocados: One of the easiest anti-inflammatory foods I tell patients to add to their plate are avocados! They are easy to pack on the go, go well with all sorts of meals, and are a nutrient-dense source of healthy fats to help fight off inflammation! They also provide fiber, potassium, and many other micronutrients essential for health.
Olive oil: Olive oil, especially in its raw state, is a great source of healthy fats. I suggest using this as a salad dressing or a finishing sauce, to avoid burning off the healthy properties of the oil that can happen at high temperatures.
Salmon: This fish is packed with omega-3’s, great for fighting off inflammation in the body. This is a great source of protein that will also add a healthy dose of good fats to your plate!
Walnuts: Walnuts are especially high in omega-3’s for a nut, and a great addition to salads, snacks, and smoothies! They also provide fiber, another essential nutrient for a fertility-friendly diet.
Chia Seeds: These tiny little seeds pack a mean punch of nutrients! They are high in healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Try adding these to your smoothie, oatmeal, or yogurt to create a more nutrient-dense meal!
In addition to a diet filled with antioxidants from vibrant, colorful vegetables and fruits, fiber from vegetables and whole grains, and foods low in added sugars, healthy fats are a great addition to your diet to help support reproductive health and fight off any internal inflammation. Trying adding a healthy fat source to all of your meals today and notice how you feel!
Book a nutrition appointment today to learn more ways to adopt an anti-inflammatory lifestyle through diet and supplementation to support hormonal health! Don’t miss your chance to meet Mia in-person at our Chicago office for the FREE Two Week Walk event July 21st!
Did you know there a number of nutrients required for your thyroid to function properly? At Pulling Down the Moon, we’re interested in helping you ensure your thyroid is functioning optimally, because thyroid health is integral to fertility. Here are some of the key nutrients to focus on to support thyroid health:
Iodine is an essential mineral for thyroid hormone production, and 30% of women of childbearing age are iodine deficient. A recent study also noted that women with sub-optimal iodine levels had reduced fertility. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women who are pregnant take a prenatal vitamin with 150 mcg iodine. To learn more about the impact of iodine on fertility, read this post . Food sources of iodine include seafood, seaweed, meat, eggs, dairy, grains, and iodized salt.
Selenium is another essential mineral required for the conversion of T4 to T3. T3 is the active form of thyroid hormone. In addition, a few studies have shown that supplementation with selenium reduced the levels of antibodies in people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune cause of hypothyroidism. Food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, meat, and seafood.
Iron is also essential for thyroid hormone production. Iron requirements for women of childbearing age are quite high at 18 mg and even higher at 27 mg during pregnancy. Given iron needs are so high, it’s not that difficult for iron stores to become depleted, especially if you are a vegetarian or vegan, because iron isn’t as well-absorbed from plant sources as from animal sources. In addition, heavy periods can make it more likely that your iron stores become depleted. Food sources of iron include meat, poultry, fish, legumes, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
It can be difficult to make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients on a daily basis, thus it’s important to take a prenatal vitamin while trying to conceive and during pregnanct that covers your bases. The Pulling Down the Moon prenatal vitamins ( Supplement Pack while trying to conceive and the Prenatal Pack once pregnant) contain 175 mcg iodine, 200 mcg selenium, and 30 mg of iron to help support your thyroid along with a healthy diet.
Looking for more ways to support your thyroid with nutrition? Make a nutrition appointment today!
A recent study, the first of its kind, investigated the impact of iodine deficiency on fertility. Iodine isn’t a nutrient that you hear very much about, but it’s essential for proper thyroid function. The thyroid is the master regulator in the body, governing metabolism in all the body’s cells. In addition, during pregnancy, adequate iodine is essential for baby’s brain development. About 30% of women of childbearing age (who aren’t pregnant) aren’t getting enough iodine. This study measured levels of iodine in the urine of more than 450 women as they were starting to try to conceive and looked at how long it took these women to conceive. (Iodine in the urine is considered to be reflective of the iodine status of the body.)
The results: A whopping 44% of women had iodine levels below sufficiency and 23% where moderately or severely iodine deficient. Women who were moderately or severely iodine deficient were 46% less likely to get pregnant per cycle than when with sufficient iodine levels. This is a striking result and definitely points to a need to ensure you’re getting enough iodine while trying to conceive. Iodine deficiency may cause your thyroid to not function optimally, which impairs fertility.
Iodine is in a variety of foods including seafood, seaweed, meat, eggs, dairy, grains, and iodized salt. Vegetarians and vegans are most at risk for iodine deficiency. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women who are pregnant and breastfeeding take a prenatal vitamin with 150 mcg iodine in order prevent iodine deficiency. Both Pulling Down the Moon prenatal vitamins contain 175 mcg of iodine, so either would be a great choice to ensure adequate iodine intake. It’s important to note that certain types of seaweed are very high in iodine, and people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis should avoid high iodine intake, as it may make Hashimoto’s worse.
Are you wondering if you’re getting enough iodine and other nutrients in your diet to support optimal fertility? Book an appointment today with one of our nutritionists.
Reference: Mills JL, et al. Delayed conception in women with low urinary iodine concentrations: a population-based prospective cohort study. Human Reproduction. 33(3): 426-433.