By Robyn Srigley, BA, PTS, CNP, NNCP
I’m here to help women with hormonal dysfunction who are living in a state of overwhelm and anxiety to live harmoniously with the rhythms of their bodies. I do this so these women can stand in their power and use self-love as a catalyst for lasting change and Happy Hormones.
Listen, I’ve been through it all.
When I started nutrition school at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition, I was on Cloud 9. I changed my diet up big time (who knew vegetarianism wasn’t going to be popular!) and studied hard.
After months of making changes, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I was constantly moody and always hungry. I felt like a failure and knew I was missing the boat.
Taking an extremely targeted approach to managing my health was born out of necessity. During my failed attempts to not feel absolutely crazy with natural methods, my partner Kyle told me something he’d been holding back for a long time.
As I was about to drive home one evening, he stopped me and said “I love you but. . .”
“I never know which Robyn I’m with from one moment to the next. Your moods are so unpredictable that you seem bipolar at times.”
After becoming a sobbing and blubbering mess in front of him, I knew that I would do anything to save my relationship, and that meant digging deeper into my health.
Shortly after this during one school lecture, I learned about the negative effects of birth control- which I had been on for 7 years at this time.
I thought maybe this was the cause of my issues!
After stopping the pill, I got worse. Like, 15 pounds weight gain, cystic acne, hair loss and was more moody. My periods only came every 90 days. A year later, after much heated discussion in doctors’ offices, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS.
My mission today is to provide you with some actionable and easy-to-implement nutritional tips to support healthy menstrual cycles. Let’s do it!
Tip #1: Balance Blood Sugar
Insulin is the major hormone in balancing our blood sugar. When we eat a food that has carbs, our body breaks it down into simple sugars or glucose through digestion. All our cells need glucose for energy, and food is where we get the majority of the glucose. Once glucose has been released into the blood, the pancreas will produce insulin. Insulin then comes to the rescue and helps the glucose get into the body cells by “unlocking” the cell door. Once the majority of glucose has been brought into the cells, blood glucose levels will decline, and this is a good thing.
Now, here’s what goes on in insulin resistance. For various reasons (like a diet high in carbs, long-term stress, and others) many women experience high blood glucose levels. So, the pancreas will create more and more insulin to get all that excess glucose into the cells. The problem starts when the “key” that insulin has to the cells stops working- like your body hired a locksmith behind insulin’s back.
This causes levels of blood glucose to stay high, and insulin stays high as well. This can contribute to issues such as PMS, mood swings, weight gain (especially in the belly area), irregular cycles, infertility and so much more.
There’s 3 things you need to balance your blood sugar:
Protein: 20-30g good quality protein with every meal and 5-10g with every snack.
Fat: 1-3 tbsp of added healthy fasts with every meal, and 1 tbsp with every snack.
Fibre: Aim for 35-45g daily, shooting for the lower end if you aren’t ovulating.
Tip #2: De-Stress
The main stress hormone the adrenals produce is called cortisol, and you may have heard of this hormone before. Cortisol is released both in acute and long-term stress. This means that every time you get angry at a dumb driver on the road, or internalize family drama that’s been going on for years, you’re telling your body you’re in a stressful and life or death situation (even if your life isn’t in danger). This is called the fight or flight response.
While this situation is awesome short term when your life is in danger, your body can’t tell the difference between that lion chasing you and your irritation over piles of dirty laundry or a crappy boss. So, every time you feel on high alert, stressed, tight, snappy- your body is in this fight or flight mode. Generally, this is happening to us several times per day, as we have little stress episodes like this many times throughout the day.
If this happens over a period of months or years, your adrenals begin to give up or go crazy and you can experience something called adrenal insufficiency or adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is a little-known root cause or contributor to sex hormone imbalances, which is why I’m highlighting it here.
There are so many things you can do to reduce stress, PMS, and other period problems, as long as you do it consistently. You might enjoy:
Spending time in nature
Cooking and baking
Reading a good book
Taking a hot bath
Enjoying some dark chocolate or other healthy treat
Watching a funny movie or TV show
Tip #3: Use Herbs
Bloating, crazy mood swings, fatigue, acne and headaches are just a few of the up to 150 symptoms of PMS or premenstrual syndrome. PMS effects upwards of 90% of women at some time during their life and 30%-40% of women have PMS severe enough that it interferes with their daily activities. This is why I often refer to PMS as Pissy Mood Syndrome!
Herbal medicine has a very strong place as a natural PMS helper. Below I’m sharing my favorite medicinal herbs for PMS. Remember: always consult a qualified natural healthcare practitioner before starting any supplement or herbal regime.
Herbs can be used as tincture, tea, or capsules. All the herbs I’m suggesting below work well in all formats.
Vitex: irregular cycles, post-pill recovery and low progesterone
Red raspberry leaf: painful, heavy or irregular cycles, general reproductive system toning
Dandelion root: liver and estrogen detoxifier
Dong Quai: mild mood balanced, cycle regulator
Cinnamon: blood sugar balancer, cycle regulator, increases progesterone
Tip #4: Eat More Veggies
Nutrients, phytochemicals, and general good ju-ju comes from eating fresh foods that comes from the ground- aka plants.
If you’re not eating any (or enough) then you’re not going to feel so good. Here’s why.
Veggies contain a whole laundry list of vitamins. Each veg has a whole bunch, and when you eat a variety, you can be sure that you’re getting what your body needs to make and balance hormones.
Vitamin C found in bell peppers, broccoli, swiss chard and spinach is anti-inflammatory, can help to increase progesterone and support your adrenals glands to manage stress more effectively.
Like vitamins, minerals are abundant to veggies. We need a wide variety of minerals to help us balance hormones, improve our emotional state and increase our energy. I find clinically that minerals are often an afterthought- we focus on the vitamins the proteins, fats and carbs and forget about minerals. Regardless, we need them in droves for our hormones!
Magnesium, a super abundant mineral found in spinach, swiss chard, collard greens and beets is used in over 300 body processes, including balancing blood sugar, supporting the adrenal glands, relaxing muscle contraction (think cramps and tense muscles) and regulates mood.
Sometimes carbs get a bad wrap. True, if you eat too many of the wrong types of carbs, you’ll likely gain weight or experience some other type of health issue. However, the right types of carbs (and any food, really) can be enjoyed without guilt. Specifically, I’m talking about veggie-based carbs.
You’ll want to eat as many non-starchy veggies as you possibly can, as they’ll fill you up with fibre and loads of nutrients. Here’s some good examples of non-starchy veggies:
* Leafy greens of all types
* Onions and garlic
* Green beans
Robyn Srigley is The Hormone Diva, Holistic Nutritionist and Women’s Health and Nutrition Coach. Robyn’s own journey with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) jumpstarted her passion for helping women replace their anxieties with joy to open possibility in their lives and break free of hormonal imbalance. Robyn runs a successful 1-1 coaching and online program practice where she uses diet, movement, botanicals and a self-love lifestyle to transform the lives of women with PCOS, Endometriosis, PMS, Painful Periods and much more. You can find out more about her work at www.thehormonediva.com