Beat PMS Symptoms Naturally

I’ve received several requests now for a post on PMS and how to naturally deal with unwelcomed period bullshit.  You know, the bloating, the unhealthy cravings, the cramps, the mood swings… It can be a total downer, although I’ve learned to view my period as a cleansing process for the body to make the whole situation a more pleasant experience.  A positive attitude is everything in life, but sometimes you also need a little help to minimize symptoms.  Here are some of my top recommendations for reducing PMS discomfort:

Diet

When I was younger, a friend and I used to have a “fuck you, period!” ritual every month where we’d pig out on burgers, chili cheese fries and milkshakes at a local diner.  Why is it that when we get our periods we often crave the foods that feel good in the moment, but actually make our symptoms worse?

It wasn’t until I replaced the crap for nutritious, wholesome, REAL food that I really noticed a big reduction in my PMS symptoms.  Eating nutritious foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is what the body thrives on, especially during that time of the month.  Fill up on alkalizing foods like leafy green vegetables and fruit, healthy fats high in omega-3s like salmon, nuts or chia seeds, and unprocessed whole grains, like quinoa or rice.  Eating foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium will help reduce cramps, so eat bananas, dark chocolate (the darker the better), and spinach.  If you’re craving meat, eat some red meat (preferably grass-fed organic).  It’ll help restore depleted iron levels. Feeling bloated?  Drink plenty of water, but also eat foods that are natural diuretics (aka, foods that make you pee more).   Parsley, pineapple, lemon, celery, ginger, cabbage, and apple cider vinegar are all examples. I like to start the morning off with my Daily Green Smoothie which is packed full of nutrients and will typically drink warm lemon water with ginger throughout the day.

Light Exercise

While some people feel like being sedentary during their periods, I’ve found that light exercise can be quite beneficial.  Exercise helps reduce stress and when I’m feeling depressed and irritable, exercise makes me feel relaxed.  Try exercises like walking, running, swimming, biking, or some gentle yoga poses like these ones here:

Essential Oils

Aromatherapy  has been used for many thousands of years as a way to lower stress levels, relieve pain, improve mood, and suppress cravings and nausea. Essential oils have even been demonstrated in lab studies to kill flu, E. coli, and cancer cells (source: Women’s Health Magazine, Cancer Tutor).  Different oils initiate different responses in the brain, which in turn, directs your nervous system to say, “relax” or “spring into action.” During or before menstruation, I recommend clary sage, lavender, chamomile, ylang-ylang, grapefruit, jasmine, or cedarwood to ease symptoms and lift your mood.  I personally like to mix a couple drops of oil with some coconut oil and rub it on my stomach if I’m experiencing discomfort.

Cannabis

Finally, more people are publicly acknowledging the wide-ranging medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant.  For period-related struggles, cannabis can be amazing, and a great alternative to pharmaceutical pain medications that may be harsher on the body. Cannabis rich in the compound CBD is gaining popularity due to its ability to greatly (and in most cases relatively instantly) reduce pain and inflammation while lifting your mood.   In fact, Queen Victoria, as well as many other recognizable, historical women, used CBD-rich cannabis in the 19th century to reduce her menstrual cramps (source: Project CBD).  CBD differs from THC-rich cannabis in that CBD-rich cannabis has little to no psychoactive effects or the “high” most people associate with cannabis.  It’s for this reason that strains high in CBD make it a premier choice for many users.

Remember to Breathe

This tip is for everyone, but especially for those women who get anxious, crampy, depressed, or tired during their periods.  So much can be controlled not only by the brain but by the breath.  Start by taking deep, even breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.  If you can, incorporate some of the yoga poses from above.  Focus on your breath and remind yourself that everything will be ok!

 

Have comments, questions or suggestions?  Have additional methods for relieving cramps or PMS symptoms? Leave a message below, or reach me through my website.

Thanks for reading!

How To Naturally Treat ADHD

Not unlike most children, when I was younger, paying attention in class and sitting still was difficult for me. When I was 15, I diagnosed myself with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and had a much easier time getting my prescription for Adderall (a medication commonly used to treat ADHD) from my doctor then I think I probably should have. “You want Adderall? No problem, I’ll prescribe you Adderall,” I clearly remember my pediatrician saying. Although my mom ended up taking me to a different doctor who diagnosed me with ADHD before prescribing the medication, for the next four years after that, I took Adderall daily, believing that I wouldn’t be as productive or successful without it. While I did have insanely sharp focus, I hated the side effects. The medication made it so that I didn’t want to eat, I couldn’t comfortably socialize, and I couldn’t sleep. But my grades in school improved dramatically enough that I convinced myself Adderall made me smarter and better at school.

By the age of 20, I decided I was done with the drug and the uncomfortable, anxious way it made me feel. When I went off it, my goal wasn’t necessarily to go cold turkey, but I wanted to test myself and see how I did in school without the drug while implementing some natural methods for concentrating. It took a little time, and I know this wouldn’t be the case for all people with an attention disorder, but I’ve found that I can absolutely be productive without medication. I believe that the following natural remedies can truly help with concentration and that either on their own or in conjunction with medication, can greatly benefit those struggling with ADHD.

Understanding the Power of the Gut

Our intestines contain a population of microbes known as gut microbiota. Microbiota contains tens of trillions of microorganisms, with at least 1000 different species of bacteria with more than 3 million genes (source: Gut Microbiota). A baby born vaginally gets her first dose of these microorganisms as soon as she exits her mother’s vagina. Children born through C-sections miss some of the bacteria that children born vaginally get.  Instead, a C-section baby gets her first bacteria from her mother’s skin and the skin of the doctors and nurses in the delivery room (source: heathline).  In either situation, from that moment on, everything affects the babies microbiota; the food she eats, the water she drinks, her environment, and the air she breathes. Although the baby can adapt to change, a loss of balance in the gut microbiota may result in dysbiosis (the opposite of symbiosis). Dysbiosis may be linked to a number of health problems such as functional bowel disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, obesity, and diabetes, to name some. According to author and doctor, Natasha Campbell-McBride, 84 percent of your immunity is located in your gut wall. And if you don’t have healthy gut flora, your immune system simply can’t function optimally (Source: GAPS Diet).

 

TN_Lede_Probiotics_0911

Happy gut microbes

 

Gut dysbiosis is also commonly found in children with ADD/ADHD and other mental health illnesses and disorders like depression, or bipolar disorder.  (source: Epidemic Answers). In my own experience, I have found that by treating the gut, I could get by without medication. Another thing I found while researching is that children with ADHD typically have low levels of dopamine, which is an important neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of calm and well-being. This is why kids with ADHD, while not typically being able to sit still for too long, have been found to sit very calmly for hours on end while playing video games, since playing video games releases dopamine. With all of this knowledge, I now have recommendations for ways to balance dopamine levels and improve gut health to naturally achieve laser sharp focus.

Diet

gfg_root-veggies-cropped-300x241

Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, healthy fats, and purified water will play a huge role in curbing ADHD symptoms. Eat organic whenever possible, take probiotics regularly, and check in with yourself to see how your body feels after you eat certain foods. There are a number of foods that can typically cause food allergies or sensitivities in people, such as: gluten, sugar, processed and fried foods, food colorings, dairy, alcohol, red meat, caffeine, soy, corn, and nightshade vegetables. An allergy or sensitivity to a particular food may cause symptoms of ADHD. Experiment by eliminating foods from these food groups then add them back into your diet one by one.  During this process, I recommend taking notes of your concentration, energy, digestion, and sleep before and after eating and you may just find some foods work better for your body and concentration levels than others.

Lifestyle

Quality sleep and healthy lifestyle choices will also impact your ability to focus during the day. Most people need at least eight solid hours of sleep, which means you should begin winding down and turning off the computer, television, or any devices with a blue light at least an hour before bed. Try to steer clear of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol, as these will impact sleep quality too.

 

SUP

Yoga on a stand up paddle board requires a quiet, focused mind…

 

For both children and adults with ADHD, exercise is like medicine. It helps to get rid of excess energy, and in my own experience, I’ve found that exercise is the only time where I can pretty much turn off my mind. Exercise stimulates cognitive thinking and increases levels of dopamine, thus improving levels of concentration for hours after completion. Switching up forms of exercise, and learning new ones, have actually been found to improve organization skills, and when you combine mind-body exercises with a deep mental focus, you may even get more positive results (source: health.com). I have to switch up my exercises just to stay interested, so I like to rotate between pilates, yoga, barre, running, dance, and weight training.

Massage

Like exercise, massage also increases levels of dopamine, which is the hormone lacking in people with ADHD. The benefits of regular massage for people with ADHD have been found to result in more restful sleep, improved mood, improved social function, improved focus, and anger control. If you can’t go out and get a massage regularly, then try giving yourself a massage. You can even incorporate essential oils like lavender, frankincense, or mandarin into your massages for greater results since aromatherapy can also be a powerful tool for aiding in focus and calmness.

Work Breaks

When focusing for long periods of time is a challenge, try breaking up your workload. I’ll set a timer for myself for 20-minute periods where I power through work, followed by a brief break. During this break, I’ll do anything from stretching to browsing Pinterest, but after about five minutes I have to get back into work mode. I find these frequent and shorter work periods actually make me more productive in the long run.

 

Are you or is someone you know struggling with symptoms of ADHD?  Then let’s talk!  I am a Certified Integrative Nutritionist with a background in holistic health who would love to help you.

 

 

 

Is Gluten the New Fat?

For the past 40 years, Americans have been lead to believe that any form of fat and all types of cholesterol were bad for us.  New studies have proven that this idea is outdated, but today, the new “evil” is gluten.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are by now you’ve at least heard the word gluten.  There are entire sections at the grocery store devoted to gluten-free products and I don’t know about you all, but out of the blue everyone I know is suddenly gluten intolerant.

What is gluten?

Gluten, Latin for “glue,” is a name for proteins that act as an adhesive glue, keeping together foods like breads, pastas, flour, etc.  Gluten exists in wheat, barley, and rye and can be found in many products, whether it’s our food or personal care products, like toothpaste or shampoo.  The “sticky” nature of gluten makes it hard to breakdown and absorb nutrients.

t1larg.gluten.foods.gi

What are some symptoms of gluten sensitivity? 

Depression, inflammation, joint problems, gastrointestinal problems, or fatigue, ADHD, anxiety, hives/rashes, miscarriages, nausea/vomiting, sugar cravings, brain fog, malabsorption of food, dairy intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or infertility.

Inflammation can also cause “leaky gut,”which makes us more susceptible to future food sensitivities and puts us at risk for developing autoimmune diseases or neurological disorders in the future.  Some of these diseases linked to inflammation include: Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroidtis, arthritis, or schizophrenia. People with Celiacs disease share these same symptoms but on a more extreme level.  It’s also possible that some people just don’t show symptoms, but are fighting the attack elsewhere in their body, like in the nervous system.

But didn’t we always eat gluten? 

Our diet has changed drastically from what our ancestors ate. We used to thrive off of high-fat diet, low-carb diets, but now our diet consists of mainly carbs and significantly less fat.

Ancestors                                  Modern Diet

-Fat 75% of diet                            -Carbs 60% of diet

-Protein 20% of diet                     -Fat 20%

-Carbs 5% of diet                          -Protein 20%

evolution_of_man

We have far more disease today and different types of diseases than we ever did before.  The majority of our great-grandparents and generations older than them died from old age, but today many of us are plagued by cancer, heart disease, brain disease, obesity, or diabetes.  The answer to this conundrum exists not just in genes, but in our food.

As you can see from the numbers above, most of us eat an unbalanced diet.  Our percentage of carbohydrate intake are at unnaturally high levels, which takes a toll on our bodies. The first sign of celiacs, however, traces all the back to the first century AD, when a Greek doctor named Aretaeus of Cappadocia wrote about the symptoms and used the word “celiac” to name the illness in a medical textbook.  Gluten has always been a part of our diets since our ancestors learned to farm and mill wheat.  The gluten we eat today, though, hardly resembles the gluten in our diet ten thousand years ago.  Today our food is far more processed and bio-engineering has us growing structurally-modified grains containing gluten that’s less tolerable.

So is a gluten-free diet for me?

Although I know people have healed themselves of ailments by removing gluten from the diet and although I’ve read the research on the links between gluten and neurodegenerative conditions, I full-heartedly believe in the idea of everything in moderation. I personally have not given up my bread products yet, but I eat much less of it and not every day, because a little bread every now and then probably won’t kill you.  The problem is, carbs, like sugar, can be addicting, so some people have a much harder time removing gluten from the diet.

One way to cut back on carbs, processed foods, or sugar is to fill up on proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats.  By adding in these other foods, it’s easier to naturally crowd out carbohydrates, processed foods, and sugar.  I highly encourage everyone to do research for themselves, rather than hopping on the bandwagon without really knowing why.  There are probably way more products containing gluten than you know, some which may be surprising, and I’ve listed some of these products below.  I highly recommend the book Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD if you’re looking for more research and information.

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Autism, Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), or diabetes, or if it runs in your family, then I would think it best to stay away from gluten.  If you’re eating gluten and finding yourself suffering from headaches, abdominal pains, or any of the other symptoms previously mentioned, then try at least one week of cutting out gluten and see if you can notice any improvements.

Which grains are gluten-free?

Amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn, millet, potato, quinoa, rice, sorghum, soy, tapioca, and tee.

gluten-free-grains

Which gains contain gluten?

Barley, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale, wheat, and wheat germ.

Random things that contain gluten:

Cosmetics, lipsticks/lip balm, medications, non-self-adhesive stamps and envelopes, play-doh, shampoos and conditioners, toothpaste, some vitamins and supplements.

There are lots of other foods and ingredients that contain gluten, so do some research if you’re planning on going gluten-free.

Sources:

Perlmutter, David, MD. Grain Brain. New York, NY.  Little, Brown and Company.