Exercise during pregnancy has been a controversial topic. Doctors advice some women to not exercise due to medical conditions and complications. For other women, it is the free advice or family and friends that makes them stop working out as soon as they know they are pregnant. What does research and science tell us about prenatal and postnatal workout?
We have seen advertisements and posters of happy babies with their moms in media and hospitals. Every mother knows pregnancy and motherhood is not easy as the pictures and posters portray. Nevertheless, it is still a truly rewarding experience.
This post is meant to bust some myths and to make moms understand the reality and facts around motherhood and pregnancy.
Things may not always go as per your plan while having a baby. The more you focus/stress on this deadline, higher the chance of not achieving it.
Remember, the baby will form when the nature knows you are happy, healthy and ready to receive and nourish a life.
Your tummy is too high/low/small/big.
Reality – These comments will be heard by most moms. Each one’s body and each baby is different.
Someone’s tummy might be high, some low, some moms have smaller bumps and some have it big. The shape of the tummy and how it looks cannot be decided or controlled by the mom or anyone around. It is what it is.
People comment about tummy size and body shapes because they don’t realise how foolish it is to comment on a pregnant woman/new mom.
Do not feel bad when people comment on tummy size and body shape. Just smile at their stupidity and move on. What matters for the child inside is to have a happy, healthy and confident mom. The shape of the tummy doesn’t matter.
I am anyway going to gain a lot of weight, so I can indulge in whatever I want now.
Reality – You are going to gain a lot of fat – and it is for a reason, But do it the right way.
The body will store fat in the breasts and hips for a reason – To protect and nourish the baby while it is inside and once it is born.
Eating junk /processed /packaged food during pregnancy will not only make it harder to lose weight later, but also not provide nourishment to the baby and your body. It will also put you at a higher risk for gestational diabetes and thyroid disorders during or post pregnancy. Moreover, your food habits during pregnancy will decide the baby’s eating habits too.
If you are craving for processed/packaged food it is a sign that you are deficient in micronutrients and not getting enough nourishment. Pregnancy and postpartum are the time one should focus more on eating fresh nourishing, nutritious and balanced food. You need to have enough nutrients to nourish the baby for ten months, feed them for a year after that and then take care of them for several years.
Eating fresh and nourishing food during pregnancy will make it easy for you to burn all the fat that you will gained. The nourishing nutritious pregnancy foods will also help you produce more breast milk.
I haven’t lost the pregnancy weight yet.
Reality- You won’t go back to your pre pregnancy shape immediately after the baby is born.
Don’t try and squeeze yourself into your old/pre pregnancy dresses soon after delivery. It took ten months for a baby to grow inside you. Your body and internal organs have gone through a lot of changes to adapt to that situation. It cannot be reversed within a few days post-delivery.
Be patient and also be careful and mindful about what you eat. More importantly, don’t let the thoughts of weight loss eat you.
I need to lose weight by my baby’s first birthday.
Reality – No one is going to make you stand on a weighing scale on your baby’s birthday party and reward you accordingly.
Do not look for a diet plan that can shrink you to fit into your old clothes. Just like life post baby is not the same as pre baby, your body is not the same as what it was in pre pregnancy. Accept and embrace the changes you go through.
Focus on eating balanced food, start working out three months post-delivery.
Exercise will soon become your best friend when you realise you can focus on just yourself for 45 minutes a day. It will ensure you will regain your core strength and muscle mass that is lost with a baby birth. Workout will also make you strong mentally and physically so that you can deal with the chores without complaining about back pain and tiredness. It will also help you be a happy and healthy mom.
So either people will be in awe that you look young and amazing on your baby’s first birthday or you will have the confidence to reply to them if they happen to make any hurtful comments.
I want to be a Supermom
Reality – There is no supermom in this world !!!
Motherhood makes us mentally and physically strong. However, it also burdens us with all unrealistic societal expectations that most moms feel they are obliged to fulfil.
Balancing career, family, and finances, volunteering for the child’s school projects, keeping up with everyone in family and social media, traveling, household chores and the list of things that are expected from mothers now are endless. While fulfilling all or most of these, what most moms forget is to take care of themselves. The result of that is fatigue, exhaustion , hypothyroidism and health issues closer to menopause.
Remember this – moms can do anything, but not everything.
Prioritize what’s important and essential. Focus on those and learn to delegate or outsource things that doesn’t need your absolute attention.
Pregnancy and motherhood is rewarding and equally taxing. We can make it a pleasurable experience only if we accept the changes in our body and life as it is without the unwanted and unrealistic expectations.
The world is going through an unprecedented phase and no one is certain about how and when this pandemic and crisis will end. Nothing is the same as it was a few months ago. Lives, outlooks, routines and many other things have changed drastically.
With no end in sight, we have to get on with life and remain sane. Lot’s of people have asked me how can we remain healthy during this insane period? Here are a few points that we should do.
A strict NO to ultra-processed and junk food in the house.
You can’t let a rat in and then complain about it damaging the house. Since everyone is home and the tendency to raid kitchen and fridge is more than normal, the easiest way to stay healthy is to not allow any processed food ino the house.
Articles of bread, chips, instant noodles and other processed food flying off the grocery store shelves tells us how ignorant and negligent we have become about our immunity and health. Keep healthy , wholesome and homemade snacks reachable. Fruits, nuts and seeds, lime juice, buttermilk etc are simple and healthy options.
Don’t try any new- name diet
Let’s ditch fancy diets all together and stick to a balanced traditional diet that consists of grains/millets, pulses/legumes, veggies and good fat. Any traditional Indian meal will comply with this. Sambar rice, khichdi, Pongal, roti/dal/sabzi etc are all balanced and easy to cook.
Trying out new diets now and stressing yourself out if you are not able to stick with it (because of the limited grocery supply that we have during this pandemic ), is not worth it.
Just because the gym is closed doesn’t mean you need to skip the workout. Physical activity and workout are equally important to improve and maintain immunity and energy levels.
Burpees, climbing stairs, squats, lunges, leg raises, pushups, pull ups, wall sit, planks, tricep dips, bear crawl, suryanamaskar , yoga and the list of body weight workouts that you can do are endless.
You can try breathing deeply even when you are reading this article.
Improve your immunity
Stick to wholesome, fresh and home made food that also includes spices like ginger, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric , pepper and the other Indian spices. Sipping warm water through the day, avoiding food that is cold and old, having a spoon of chavanaprash in the morning, getting atleast 30 minutes of direct sunlight everyday are all good ways of improving immunity.
Blending everything into a smoothie doesn’t give the same benefit or serve the purpose.
Routine – most important and most neglected
Since there is no real hurry to wake up early and rush to office or school due to the sleep cycles have started getting distorted.
Bedtime, sleep quality and quantity are as important to immunity, mood and metabolism as food. 7-8 hours of sleep is essential for optimal performance of our body and health. However, sleeping for 7 hours from 1am – 8 am is not the same as sleeping from 10pm- 5am. Try and stick to a regular routine and bedtime closer to 10PM.
If you are interested in binge watching at night , remind yourself that the same series is available in the day time too.
Ditch the scale
There is already so much chaos in this period and you don’t have to add fuel to the fire by checking your weight often. Besides, body weight and BMI are not accurate parameters of health.
Your energy level, body composition/body fat, sleep quality, and skin clarity can talk a lot about your health than your weighing scale
Ask for help from family
This is a good time to teach cooking to children and spouse, and share your chores. Not only will you get help and respect for what you are doing on a regular basis, but it will also reduce their screen time and increase happiness in the family. Cooking is a lifeskill. This is a great time to learn it.
Your Child/their spouse will be grateful about it when they grow up.
Most nutritionists, doctors and food companies come up with
their own diet making one nutrient popular and another nutrient the villain. Being
desperate to lose weight, we try all possible fads and diets just to realise it
doesn’t work in the long term.
We shunned good fats like coconut, ghee , butter for a few decades, and embraced fat-free foods and refined oils. This resulted in a generation of people with issues like Vitamin D deficiency, cardiovascular diseases, Diabetes, PCOS, Thyroid and many other chronic lifestyle diseases.
Now we know that good fats like coconut, ghee, butter,
avocado etc are extremely important for health and doctors are recommending it
The current fad is shunning carbs. Will we become a
generation that is cranky , depressed and devoid of peace?
No unprocessed food that we term as ‘Carbs’ are made up of
only carbohydrates or starch. They also contain some amount of amino
acids/protein. Carb sources also contain the amino acid Tryptophan which helps
in the production of neurotransmitter Serotonin.
Serotonin is the hormone that regulates our appetite, mood, anxiety, happiness, mental well-being , sexual desire and sleep. Tryptophan is the amino acid that is a precursor to the feel-good hormone serotonin.
Most protein sources also have tryptophan though only when there is release of insulin can this amino acid reach our brain. Wholesome carbs and nuts like cashews are the easiest way to get tryptophan and make serotonin.
In other words, Serotonin is the reason why we feel nice after a bowl of yogurt rice/pongal/pulao/idly or khichdi and in some worst cases a piece of cake or pastry.
Any South Indian who has tried losing weight or controlling blood sugar levels, would have tried giving up rice totally or switched to brown rice, only to realise that they are attached to rice more than they realised.
Most women who have PMS also have refined carb sources to make them feel good before and during their periods. Blame serotonin , as your brain knows the quickest way to feel good is to load with refined carbs. However, the serotonin secreted quickly this way goes down quickly too.
Are carbohydrates bad?
Yes, if they are from ultra processed refined sources like
bread, bagels, breakfast cereal, burgers( even if its plant based ), noodles,
pizza, biscuits , cookies, chips, soft drinks, bottles juices and fruit bars.
No, if they are from wholesome sources like wheat, rice ,
millets, fruits , yams, tubers, and other vegetables.
What makes the wholesome carb sources different?
The wholesome carb sources contain resistant starch. These resistant starches are fermented in our large intestine by gut bacteria and produce Short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) like butyric acid. Short chain fatty acids are also known to boost intestinal and brain health. By the way, butyric acid is one of the main ingredients in keto foods and fat burners.
Resistant starch in diets are known to reduce risk of Irritable bowel syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer, lower triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and improve insulin sensitivity.
There are populations that live in the blue zones of the
world, who have some of the longest lifespan on earth like Okinawans(Japan)
whose diets are made up to 80% by rice
Prebiotocs/Resistant starch , Probiotics and Vitamin B12
Prebiotics, also known as resistant starch are the favourite food for our gut bacteria – probiotics.
Probiotics is the latest in the nutraceutical industry . Its marketed now in supplements, bottled juices, breakfast cereals, flavoured yogurts, fruits bars and the list goes on.
Good bacteria can survive in our intestine only if we feed them with their favourite food Resistant starch/prebiotics. The wholesome carbs mentioned earlier are rich sources of prebiotics and they support varying species of probiotic bacteria.
Probiotics are the good bacteria that our body needs to keep
us healthy and help us produce vitamin B12.
Poor memory, dementia, depression, and neurological symptoms
like numbness and tingling sensations can be symptoms of vitamin B12
How to improve Vitamin B12 levels in body?
If you have heard or read that you might be deficient in Vit
B12 if you are a vegetarian, its not true. Most meat eaters are also equally
deficient or even worse in B12 levels.
B12 can be produced in your own body by your gut bacteria if you have a
healthy digestive system. What is needed to improve B12 is different species of
gut bacteria and food to support them – Wholesome carb sources.
In other words, just by gobbling juices/drinks/supplements of probiotics, we cannot improve gut health or B12 levels in a long term.
If a food can make us happy, calm and feel nice along with improve the health of our gut and brain , assist in burning fat in addiion to optimizing other health parameters, how can it ever be called as a villain? Above all, why should we avoid it?
The first thing that comes to our mind when we talk about immunity is flu shots. However, the best way to build immunity is natural immunizations with the help of microorganisms / microbes . We have all heard of one such kind of microbe. Probiotics which are the beneficial organisms that we get from food. They help us improve our digestive and gut health.
This microbiome reside in all parts of our body and are affected by our lifestyle, environment, food, sleep and medications. Microbes and their number, the species and balance of good and bad ones decide our immunity and health. For the microbiome to thrive, we need to maintain a ratio of good and bad bacteria in our body at 85:15.
How do we improve our child’s microbiome and thus their immunity, health and growth?
The vaginal secretions inoculate the baby with microbiome while they pass through the birth canal. This is also why babies born via vaginal delivery have better immunity than those via C section. Experts recommend smearing vaginal secretions from the mother on the baby if it is a C – section. Mother’s microbiome also passes to the baby via breast milk which is crucial for the baby’s immunity, growth and health.
Eating the Right Food
Eat according to season and consume different kinds of organic and local vegetables, fruits, tubers, pulses and grains. This will help repopulate all the different species of beneficial bacteria. When local, organic and seasonal whole foods are included in diet, the need for prebiotic and probiotic supplements doesn’t arise.
Parent tip : A teaspoon of chavanprash every morning and a fruit as a school snack is a very good start.
Honey is one of the most delicious medicine and a prebiotic. Eating honey from your local farm or beekeeper gives your child microexposure to the dirt and pollen from your area. This will strengthen their immune system and reduce flare up of allergies . The pasteurised store bought honey will not give the same effect.
Plenty of free play time
Most developed nations and the WHO insist on a minimum of 180 minutes of physical activity a day for children under 2 years of age. It also recomends 120 minutes of free play time a day for pre-schoolers and atleast 60 minutes for children above 5. Outdoor activity is essential for:
Getting more Sunlight which helps them build their immunity and improve their sleep.
Improving personality traits like creativity, imagination, emotional stability, socializing skills and attentiveness.
Researchers have evidence that spending time in green spaces provide protection against ADHD, depression, diabetes, obesity and reduces anxiety. There are about 21 ways through which being out in nature can improve health.
Studies and research also prove that children who spend more time in nature tend to be happier adults.
Get hands dirty –.
Children by nature love to play with dirt, mud and soil. It is fine as long as it is with good dirt like the soil in your garden or sand in the backyard, beaches or parks.
Soil based organisms (SBO) as they are called are the most important and easiest way of getting our probiotics. It is an important way humans got their probiotics and immunizations long before nutraceutical industry flourished. Our skin absorbs the necessary microbes when we are in contact with nature (walking barefoot, working on a farm or garden, playing in mud and soil).
Stop running behind children with sanitizers or anti bacterial soaps/wipes. Don’t prevent them from getting dirty or keep them sterile and clean all the time. Regular soap with warm water is good enough to wash away the bad bacteria and to keep the good ones.
While the above-mentioned points help us build the microbiome, one of the biggest disrupters are the use of OTC drugs and antibiotics. When a normally healthy adult has one round of antibiotics, it takes upto six months to get back the gut bacteria destroyed (by the antibiotics).
Poor diet with refined and processed foods, poor sleep , frequent travel, chronic stress, inactivity, smoking , alcohol and certain medications(read most OTC medicines and antibiotics) destroy upto 40% of the good microbe species in as little as 10 days.
Organizations like WHO have been reminding medical and healthcare professionals to reduce the use of antibiotics. Not only are we having too much of antibiotics in the form of medicines, we also have antibacterial chemicals added to personal care products. They are added to toothpaste, floor cleaners, deodorants, handwash and body soaps. The personal care products also have endocrine disruptors that cause hormonal imbalance. Antibiotics are also there in most of the food that we consume on a daily basis like dairy, eggs and meat and ( animals injected with antibiotics).
When we ensure that our kids have the right microbes in their body, they will automatically have a robust immune system .
The questions that I have been asked often is how do we improve the quality of sleep? How to fall asleep fast, stay asleep and wake up fresh?
Following a peaceful bedtime routine or rituals for sleep hygiene will help you getting there.
Have a happy and peaceful day.
Happy hormone – Serotonin is converted in to sleep hormone Melatonin at night. A happy , peaceful and active day is a pre-requisite for sound sleep.
Have 20 min of Sun exposure in the morning or by noon
Bright light from the Sun in morning or early noon will set our circadian/body clock. This will help us fall asleep naturally post sunset.
Remember the happy hormone Serotonin? 80% of that hormone is produced in our intestine. Hence eating right food at the right time will not only make us fit, but also help us sleep better.
Workout at least 5 hours before bedtime.
The core temperature and energy of our body will be high for 5 hours post workout. If the bedtime is within that time, we will struggle to fall asleep. Workout in the morning or early evening to get the sleep benefits of exercise.
Have a nourishing light dinner
Heavy party food, Friday night dinners etc are taxing for not only our intestines, but also our sleep. Post sunset, the body is ready to wind down and the metabolism slows down. Light nourishing dinner can be a combination of a grain with a lentil (rice and moong is the best) with some vegetables (not raw). Sambar rice, kanji payaru , roti dal sabji, khichdi, etc are some of the delicious, nourishing and light dinners.
Use a home-made sleep aid if needed.
Have a glass of warm milk with a pinch of nutmeg powder, turmeric powder, sugar with some crushed cashews 60 min before bed.
This is not needed on a regular basis, but is highly recommended after a tiring day of travel, if you are jet lagged or if you had a long stressful day . This is the most delicious and safest sleep aid. Cashews (most nuts) contain an amino acid called tryptophan which is needed to convert serotonin to melatonin. Nutmeg is also a mild sedative.
Stay away from gadgets 60-30 minutes before bed.
Some sleep experts also advocate staying away from gadgets 2 hours before bed. Artificial lights known as ‘blue light’ include light from lamps, devices like TV, Laptop, mobiles and other gadgets. The sleep hormone melatonin is produced only during darkness. Exposing ourselves to such gadgets and devices closer to bedtime will block the secretion of this hormone.
Goto bed at the same time every day (including weekends)
Nature and our body does not know the difference between weekends and weekdays. It works the same every day. Practicing sleep hygiene from Sunday to Thursday and derailing it on Friday and Saturday with night out or a late-night movie will only confuse and upset the biological clock. On weekends, go to bed within 90 minutes of normal weekday bedtime.
Make bedroom a gadget free zone
Bedroom is meant for two things – to unwind and sleep, and to make love.
Laptop, TV, mobile phones and the numerous other gadgets should not enter bedroom. If you need an alarm, use an alarm clock (like how humans lived 20 years ago i.e. before mobile phones invaded us). An even better idea is to not use an alarm and wake up to natural light.
If its winter where you live and day doesn’t break early, use a light alarm clock which will emit light to wake you up and not the irritating beep sound of the normal alarm clock.
Practice positive affirmations before bed.
Note down the top 3 or 5 positive things that happened during the day. This will help us have a more positive outlook towards life and secrete more happy hormones. This will also improve hormonal balance, conditions like Hypothyroid, PCOS , PMS and our brain chemistry.
Light up tea light candle in an essential oil diffuser with lavender+ rosemary essential oil
Lavender and rosemary oil are excellent for calming. Use that in a tea light essential oil diffuser or mix a few drop of these in an oil wick lamp .
Deep breathe and massage feet when on bed
Massage the sole and toes of the feet with coconut oil( summer) or sesame oil(fall, winter). Even the thought of massaging the feet after a long day , feels so soothing. Mixing lavender or rosemary oil in the massage oil will help in relaxing . Deep breathe and you will not know when you fell asleep.Do you struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep? Let us know in comments.
Yes, it is totally possible to make or break your hormone balance over a weekend.
Hormones are chemical messengers that will tell your body and its organs to function in a specific way. When hormones go out of balance, we end up with issues like hypothyroidism, obesity, PCOS, insomnia, Diabetes , endometriosis, low sperm count, fibroid. While treating these issues, doctors focus on the specific hormone that is causing the issue. They do not treat the core issue of hormonal imbalance in the body. No hormone can carry out its function optimally without interacting with or influencing other hormones .
What majority of people focus on are the major hormones namely:
Estrogen(women) or Testoserone(men)
Some of the other hormones that often get neglected but are responsible for keeping us happy, calm, and energetic are
Serotonin – Happy hormone that stabilizes mood
Dopamine – Pleasure hormone responsible for motivation and focus
GABA – induces calm, sleep , reduces anxiety and fear .
Cortisol –stress hormone and affects insulin sensitivity and sleep
Melatonin –hormone responsible for sound sleep
Growth hormone – GH Improves muscles mass and heart health
DHEA – Fights fat accumulation and essential to produce sex hormones
Overlooking these lesser known hormones are also the reason for us becoming moody, having mood swings and low energy levels, suffering from depression , being unable to sleep well, and having high levels of stress. These issues will not get better with medication for hormonal imbalances.
What does a weekend mean for many?
We have created a norm of struggling and stressing ourselves through the week and pushing ourselves just to relax over the weekend.
What most of us aim to do over the weekend is enjoy, relax, rejuvenate/energize ourselves for the week ahead. Many people do this by sleeping late, watching movies or television series late at night, binge eating, drinking alcoholic drinks, waking up late, eating out or ordering food from outside.
While we believe that doing all or some of the things listed above is what is bliss and relaxation, what we are actually doing is disrupting our circadian /biological clock and thus the hormonal balance in our body.
Doing any of these, could also increase inflammation, toxins, stress hormones, insulin resistance and interfere with the production of serotonin, melatonin, thyroid, DHEA, GABA and dopamine Progesterone in women and testosterone is men.
How can we make a weekend work towards our hormonal harmony?
Do what you really want the weekend to do to you – Relax, rejuvenate and energize.
Relax – By listening to your favourite music, by meditating, by having a full body massage and deep conditioning hair and skin with herbal oil or any oil + essential oil of your choice. (Remember the weekly ceremonial oil bath that we used to have a few decades ago?) This will increase your serotonin, melatonin, GABA , reduce cortisol and ofcourse improve your skin and hair.
Rejuvenate – By sleeping on time, waking up by sunrise and getting a morning workout, be it a beach run or a hike will set your circadian clock. This will increase your dopamine, serotonin , insulin sensitivity and also help you detox.
Energize – Nourish your body and soul , with home-made food and family. Cook and eat as a family, meet and spend time with real people (in person not via Whatsapp or Messenger)
Doing these will also help us in calming down and improving energy levels, sleep , productivity , fat burn and metabolism.
Spending weekends like this often will make you enjoy life, and also weekdays , so you don’t have Monday morning blues
Premenstrual Syndrome(PMS) is something that affects 80 % of women. Even though it is experienced by women, it is also ‘suffered’ by most men (who have a wife or girl-friend).
What is PMS?
It is that set of physical and emotional changes in a woman 2 weeks prior to her menstrual period. PMS symptoms include:
Muscle pain or cramps
Anxiety and Depressed mood
Mood swings and irritability or anger
Appetite changes and food cravings
Headache and Fatigue
Weight gain related to fluid retention
Constipation or diarrhea
Prior to understanding why we get PMS , let us acknowledge a few facts about PMS and painful periods.
PMS is not normal
It is not inevitable
Ladies do not need sick leave or work from home option every month
It is not a girl thing and we don’t need to put up with for a lifetime
It is a clear sign of hormonal imbalance
Can a lady menstruate with no PMS, no bloating, no cramping and feel completely normal through out your cycle?
It’s totally possible if we understand our body, lifestyle, habits, environmental toxins and how they affect hormones.
A complex controlled network of hormones are needed to menstruate and ovulate perfectly. Let us understand what happens to the two hormones: oestrogen and progesterone. For the ease of understanding, this article will focus only on these two important hormones (even though they are not the only ones).
During the first and second week of the menstrual cycle (Follicular Phase), Oestrogen levels are higher. This is why ladies look more radiant, pain tolerance is higher and can work-out well and feel very good during this time.
During the second and third week (Luteal Phase), Oestrogen level, should ideally, slowly start falling and progesterone levels should start increasing. However, for those who have PMS, one of this does not happen.
This imbalance is what leads to PMS, breaking out/acne, irritability, depression, mood swings, breast tenderness etc. This also gives rise to Oestrogen dominance if continued and not intervened.
Progesterone – our much-needed saviour hero is also an anti inflammatory hormone and the lack of which obviously increases or doesn’t curb inflammation.
What causes or worsens this imbalance?
There are many factors, that are within our control to avoid PMS.
Environmental toxins: Certain toxins act as synthetic estrogen and disrupt hormonal balance. These toxins are found in all forms of plastics (including BPA free containers and Styrofoam take away boxes), fertilizers, cosmetics and personal care products.
Avoiding plastic in all possible ways of your life: GO GREEN. We are all informed about how plastic pollutes the earth around Earth day, but most of us are unaware that plastic pollutes the hormones in our body too, as xenostrogens found in plastic mimics the action of estrogen.
Identify natural alternatives to cosmetics: Skin is our largest organ and whatever we apply on that gets absorbed. Most people have detox tea and smoothies (say something like to cleanse the body or something), but never think about that Lipcolor, shampoo, serum and conditioner on hair and lotions on our skin. The harsh truth is that they all have hormone disruptors and the skin easily absorbs whatever is applied on it.
Poor digestive/gut health : Excess estrogen in the body does not get eliminated and is reabsorbed due to gut dysbiosis or poor gut health. gut Bacteria regulates circulating estrogen using an enzyme known as beta-glucuronidase and when your microbiome/bacteria is out of balance, these enzymes can’t properly metabolize estrogens, which leads to estrogen dominance.
Avoid inflammatory foods such as refined vegetable oils, or those that might cause food intolerance or sensitivity like corn and soy.
Avoid laxatives , PPI or medicines for acidity and heart burn, pain killers, antibiotics as they are known to have negative impact on gut lining and gut bacteria.
Supplement with herbs, whole foods or natural sources of probiotics to improve your gut health.
Nutritional deficiency and Unregulated blood sugar levels : when we don’t get sufficient Protein, good dietary fat, cholesterol( essential to make all hormones) and other micronutrients like Vitamin B6, Vitamin E , Magnesium(read about this miracle mineral here), Potassium , Zinc and Copper , production of most reproductive hormones including progesterone is compromised. Apart from this high insulin levels also interfere with the production of hormones.
Nourish each and every cell in your body with good food rich in nutrients. Add in supplements to fill in the gaps if needed.
Avoid Refined sugary food, processed and packeted junk food that harm your digestive health , deplete your mineral and vitamin stores and increase inflammation ( Snack bars are included in this too).
Good quality Fats , proteins and carbohydrates are needed for producing hormonesand maintaining it in our body. Focus on sustainable balanced plates and not on crash diets, which can wreak havoc on your hormonal balance.
Lack of exercise and excess body fat : Excess body fat especially that stored in the hips, waist, and thighs acts as a source of inflammation and estrogen. Excess body fat is one of the leading causes of estrogen dominance and thus PMS. Not only does fat tissue absorb and store estrogen circulating in your bloodstream, it also synthesizes estrogen from your other hormones.
Exercise : Workout helps you release mood enhancing chemicals called endorphins which help in combating the physical and emotional effects of PMS. Working out when you get or are about to get your PMS isn’t the way to go with this. Regular workouts, and yoga have been proved to reduce the effects of PMS. Randomized clinical trials have shown that exercise is very effective in reducing PMS.
Chronic Stress and anxiety : They both increase inflammation and also come in the way of making progesterone.
Reduce stress, meditate and find time to indulge in activities that you love. When we feel stressed our bodies release cortisol, and an overabundance of cortisol can increase inflammation, lower our immune function, overwork our adrenal system, and put us at greater risk for depression and mental illness. So it’s no surprise that too much cortisol may also aggravate PMS systems.
Poor sleep : Only during sound sleep can our glands secrete reproductive hormones like progesterone , testosterone etc.
There is no alternative for restorative sleep. As per Ayurveda, Sleep is one of the three basic pillars of life. It is crucial for rejuvenation, repair, improving metabolism and also hormonal balance and also one of the most overlooked factors that affect health.
Consumption of stimulants like Alcohol and caffeine : Alcohol increases the level of natural and synthetic estrogen in body. Studies have proven that Asian women who drink more than 2 cups of coffee a day have increased estrogen levels in their body.
Reduce consumption or give up on stimulants. If you feel the need for a drink or a fag or cup of coffee or tea to feel good/fresh, it is a clear sign that your body is not getting enough nourishment from the food you eat.
The good news is that lifestyle changes mentioned above does not have any side effects, unlike the numerous over the counter medicines available to reduce PMS and period cramps.
However these lifestyle changes require commitment, consistency and discipline.
Thyroid issues and goitre were rarely heard until a few years ago. However, now-a -days, it will be tough to find a person who does not have a friend, cousin or family member having a thyroid issue.
To set things straight, Hypothyroidism is not a disease, but a condition where your thyroid is not able to produce enough thyroid hormones, which might be due to several underlying conditions/triggers like iodine deficiency, high stress, inactivity, environmental toxins, poor sleep , nutrient deficiency and poor gut health. It can be reversed once these triggers and factors cease to exist.
The results of hypothyroidism are known to most people. Hair loss, Weight gain, constipation, Low energy and Mood swings are those that interfere with our daily life. Vitamin D deficiency, muscle / heel pain, high triglyceride levels etc are the other symptoms that we often tend to ignore.
It all starts when the doctor tells you to do a blood test and the report comes with a high level for TSH indicating you have a thyroid that is under active. At that point, your doctor tells you that you need to have a thyroid pill first thing in the morning and also to lose weight. Most patients don’t ask the doctor for how long they need to take the pill. If they do, the reply will mostly be lifelong or till the next blood test when the thyroid numbers are normal.
On your way home, you google about hypothyroidism and diets to lose weight and then start following random diets based on forwards you get on Whatsapp, FB or other social media posts. You cut out all fat, carbs (rice), and most of your staple diet.
You start feeling terrible and very low on energy. You are tired even before you get home after work, or in some cases find it tough to do work past noon.
You want to workout but cannot even imagine going to gym. You start losing hair, sleep, energy, temper, skin clarity (pretty much everything but weight).
Wait… Stop, slow down and think rationally
When the doctor told you to lose weight, they actually meant you need to improve your body composition i.e. reducing your body fat, increasing your muscle mass and enhancing your fitness (which will improve the insulin sensitivity). For that you need to workout and increase your activity. Keep in mind that Not all intense workouts are right for hypothyroid patients.
When your thyroid is already taking the brunt, reducing good carbs and fat will make it worse since your body needs protein and good dietary fat to produce the necessary hormones. You also need good quality slow digesting ( LOW GI ) carbs to improve your energy levels. This is possible only when you time your meals, plan it and eat balanced foods.
Just doing random crash diets that doesn’t focus on your hormonal balance, or take into account your lifestyle, fitness level, routine and genetic make up will only worsen your current condition.
Eating raw vegetables and salads, with no fats or seasoning will worsen the condition as Sweet potatoes, peanuts, cauliflower, beans, cabbage, turnips, Kale etc when eaten raw have anti nutrients/Goitrogens that affect the absorption of iodine and thus the production of thyroid hormones.
Insulin resistance and inflammation are hallmarks of most metabolic diseases/conditions including Hypothyroid. Apart from workout and nutrition, you need to focus on your sleep and reduce your stress levels to improve insulin sensitivity and energy levels.
Also, the thyroid pill isn’t a miracle. It will not help too much, unless you change your lifestyle.
Most importantly, your mental health, your attitude towards life, stress, depression, relationships and nutrition play a huge role in improving your thyroid. Much more than what the pill can, and with no side effect.
Tip : Start doing something you love – music, dance, painting, cooking, knitting, gardening, yoga, trekking, reading, blogging or your forgotten hobby for 30 minutes thrice a week. It should be something that uses your creativity, brain and should give you happiness and self-satisfaction. This will improve your hormones, energy and stress levels a lot.
Can you reverse this condition and give up the pill and get your thyroid bounce back to normal?
Of-course you can and you don’t have to take the pills lifelong.
We need balancing wheels only when we learn to ride the cycle/bike. Once we learn to balance it by ourselves, we can freely move around on with just two wheels.
Is it not ironical that most of us are deficient in the only vitamin in the world that is available for free? The Internet is flooded with articles about the risks of Vitamin D deficiency and ways to increase Vitamin D levels in your body.
Let’s identify the root cause and figure out the reasons why are we becoming deficient, even when some of us live in places that have more than 300 days of sunshine in a year. The obvious answer is that we are not exposed to sunlight as much as we need to be. This is a no brainer and anyone can guess this. However, insufficient exposure to the sun is not the only reason for the Vitamin D deficiency epidemic.
Even when we are exposed to sunlight, we tend to use sunscreens. Thanks to cosmetics industry and our society, we are more conscious about our beauty and complexion than our health.
We don’t consume sufficient amount of good fats. Since Vitamin D is fat soluble, good fats are essential to absorb the vitamin D from the sunlight. French fries and burgers don’t count as good fats. On the contrary, cheap refined oils like canola, corn, soybean oil etc are proven to be detrimental to health. Since such products are marketed and packaged well, we tend to fall for those products. What is needed is consumption of good fats like ghee , cold pressed traditional oils like coconut, sesame, mustard and groundnut.
In our goal of becoming ‘health conscious’, we follow what our personal trainers and newspapers say, ‘Eat only egg white and not the yolk’. In fact, some of the items deemed to be villains like egg yolks, butter and ghee actually contain the much-needed Vitamin D.
Our unhealthy eating habits causes Bloating, indigestion, constipation and other digestion issues which leads to Vitamin B12 deficiency which subsequently results in Vitamin D deficiency as well.
We are not eating our greens. All green leafy vegetables are rich in Vitamin K. Deficiency in Vitamin K leads to Vitamin D deficiency . Also, anaemia or iron deficiency can lead to Vitamin D deficiency as Iron Is needed to activate enzymes for Vitamin D activation. Drinking green smoothies? Read this.
Most people who are deficient in Vitamin D are actually deficient in Magnesium.
Magnesium and Vitamin D are ‘Made for Each Other‘ and one cannot function without the other .
I get sufficient sunlight when I am in my car and at my desk (in the comfort of Air condition): Sorry , but glass blocks all the UV- B rays that is needed to absorb Vitamin D.
20 minutes of sunshine is enough for me : That depends on your skin colour. Dark skinned people (like me and most Indians) are created that way to ensure we can live safely in places with lots of sunshine. Looking at this the other way, if your skin colour is dark, you NEED to spend more time in the sun to absorb Vitamin D.
I am having Vitamin D fortified milk, orange juice and cereals: The Vitamin D in milk and cereals are in negligible amounts. Furthermore, most of it is synthetic and might aggravate health issues
I am taking Vitamin D supplements – Even scientists don’t know what the ideal amount of Vitamin D supplement should one take to avoid toxicity, leading to calcification of arteries, kidney stones etc. Since it is only fat soluble, consumption of higher amounts tends to get accumulated in the body.
When we are deficient in a Vitamin, supplementing just that vitamin will not help. We need to understand that unlike a mechanical body like a car, where we can fill in oils and fuels whenever needed, there is a delicate balance of nutrients needed for human body to function optimally. Focusing only on weight loss and trying out fancy diets posted in social media and magazines will only hamper the delicate balance.
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