Insulin and Fertility

I have been doing lots of research to back up my presentation slides for the workshop on ‘Hormone Balance’ and it has become very apparent that for this and related issues like infertility and excess weight, which are very common today, there are a couple of key drivers.   By making our lives more and more convenient with convenience foods, transport, labour saving devices etc. we run the risk of losing our natural metabolism and balance, resulting in the many chronic diseases we now suffer.  If the original intention was to make life easier it has not equated to less stress and better health.  What we need are whole foods, fresh air, movement, relaxation, sleep, spending time in a natural environment and doing activities that engage us fully.  Modern life has disconnected us from our human nature and even though it makes perfect sense when we are reminded of the simple and basic needs of the body, we have a hard time believing that addressing these needs can have a significant impact on our health.  We can’t turn back time but we can take more control and make better choices for the sake of our health.

One such example is the overproduction of Insulin produced by the pancreas in response to food we have eaten with a high sugar or (glycaemic load), leading to blood sugar imbalance.  We’re not just talking here about white refined sugar, although it is that too, its also white bread, pasta, potatoes, cakes, processed food containing sugar or flour, sweets, alcohol, sodas and even fruit juices that tend to spike blood sugar and cause excess release of insulin. Historically, people had sugar as an occasional treat.  Today …… it is tempting you everywhere you go!  It’s even hidden in foods you would never have expected to find it in.  And, given that sugar in all its forms is highly addictive, as it fires up (endorphins) the addiction chemicals in the brain, it is little wonder we are hooked and coming back for more!

Dr. Mark Hyman has summed it up in a nutshell in his instagram post below.  I couldn’t have put it better myself so you have it here from the expert!  For the ladies and gentlemen who suffer issues of infertility, take note!

What I love about good nutritional advice is that even if you don’t have these particular issues, lowering the glycaemic load of your diet has health benefits for everyone bar none!  Modern life is set up to encourage us all to lean more towards higher glycaemic load foods and lifestyle factors.

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I don’t believe it’s coincidence that infertility has increased just like diabetes and obesity has. That’s because excess sugar and subsequent belly fat drive hormonal imbalances and create infertility.⠀ ⠀ In women, these imbalances manifest as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is really a nutritional and metabolic problem that adversely affects insulin and other hormones.⠀ ⠀ PCOS symptoms include irregular or heavy periods, acne, facial hair, scalp hair loss, increased belly fat, and increased levels of testosterone. Studies show PCOS affects 8 to 12 percent of all women, which interestingly correlates with the number of couples who suffer infertility.⠀ ⠀ In men, infertility manifests as lower testosterone, which indicates other hormones like insulin are also out of whack. Among the consequences are bellies, breasts (or man boobs), low sperm count, and decreased sex drive.⠀ ⠀ While problems like PCOS and low testosterone need to be properly assessed, diagnosed, and treated to get your metabolism working again, you have far more control over infertility than you might realize.⠀ ⠀ Studies confirm addressing lifestyle factors – including nutrition, weight, exercise, psychological stress, as well as environmental and occupational exposure –could have substantial effects on fertility. ⠀ ⠀ I recommend my patients take a multivitamin and other supplements and eat a whole food, low-glycemic-load, nutrient-rich, plant-based diet. Those strategies alone can have an enormous impact on fertility. ⠀ ⠀ While I ultimately encourage you to work with a Functional Medicine doctor to address and correct these problems, I have found these seven strategies can help anyone (female and male) balance hormones, reverse infertility, and create abundant health.⠀ ⠀ – Go low glycemic. ⠀ – Implement supplements like vitamin D, B vitamins, fish oil L-carnitine, vitamins C and E, N-acetylcysteine, zinc, and coenzyme Q10 ⠀ – Fix your gut by including gut-supporting foods like fermented foods, as well as fiber and probiotics.⠀ – Exercise regularly.⠀ – Control stress.⠀ – Get sufficient sleep.⠀ – Reduce your environmental toxin exposure. ⠀ ⠀ #pcos #hormonalimbalance #insulin #infertility

A post shared by Mark Hyman, M.D. (@drmarkhyman) on

If you click into the post on-line, among the hundreds of comments is one from a woman who states that her 17 year old daughter exists only because she changed her diet and lifestyle after being told she would never have children.  There are many more stories like this in the comments and around us everyday that you don’t hear about.

I have seen for myself in clinic, on a number of occasions, the very real success of balancing hormones for fertility.  It does require dedicated compliance to dietary and lifestyle changes but these are not beyond anyone’s capabilities.

The other driver of hormonal imbalances including infertility is excess ‘cortisol‘ levels in the body.  Cortisol is the stress hormone.  Eating a lower glycaemic load diet will help with overproduction of cortisol too.  Getting some moderate exercise, managing stress levels with mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing or finding a hobby that is engaging enough to reduce stress levels.    Also, getting adequate shut eye (sleep), will really help.

Conditions are more favourable for fertility when the body is in ‘relaxed mode’ or parasympathetic nervous system mode, and not in ‘fight or flight’ or sympathetic nervous system mode.  Our modern high stimulation diet and a lifestyle which is fast paced, indulgent, highly stressful and busy busy busy, sends a message to the body…… “this is not a good time to have a baby, I’m way too busy just surviving”.  The dietary and nutrition suggestions in the post are right on point to aid fertility.  Also, to bring your body into parasympathetic mode instantly, practice deep breathing or tuning in to your breathing on a regular basis.  Start by doing some long exhales (10 in succession) and soon you will be breathing deeply.  Another easy technique to switch your body into parasympathetic mode is to elevate your legs above the level of your heart.  Lying flat on the floor use a chair, the bed or the wall to elevate your legs and relax for 5 minutes in this position.  A daily practice will impact over time and the body will get the message “life is good, I am calm and capable, all is well, I have plenty of resources to reproduce”!

You can follow Dr Mark Hyman on instagram or by searching for ‘Dr Mark Hyman Instagram’ on line.

These strategies are not rocket science but are shown to bring about positive results for those that implement them.   The view that there needs to be a pill for every ill, as if we are machines that need a screw here and a drop of oil there, is being replaced with an integrative approach to restoring health to the body that recognizes us as individual beings, affected by our unique genetics, environment, food, movement, sleep, thoughts, emotions and beliefs.

 

Further reading recommendations:

  • The Low-GL Diet Bible, Patrick Holford
  • The Low- GL Diet Cookbook, Patrick Holford
  • Fat Around the Middle, Marilyn Glenville, PhD
  • The 4 Pillar Plan, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee [Balanced Living]
  • The Hormone Cure, Dr. Sara Gottfried M.D. [Hormone Balance]

 

© Limelight Nutrition 2019

Perfectly Fluffy Basmati Rice

I pull these instructions out every time I need to make Basmati Rice.  I have it many years.  It’s printed and stored with some other old reliables.  In December I posted a recipe for Turkey Curry to use up the left overs.  I had friends over Stephen’s Day and made Turkey Curry, and Cashew Curry for my vegetarian guest.  What could be better with any curry than fluffy Basmati rice.  I haven’t mastered the art of making Naan bread…. yet, so that had to be bought.  I just added heaps more garlic and butter.  All in all it was a very tasty meal, (says I) 🙂 ….. well no one complained!  I even had a request for the instructions on how to make the rice fluffy, so here it is for one and all.   I just made the plain version but you can jazz it up.

But First Some Nutrition Facts
Source: Google Images

Just so that you can enjoy it even more, here are a few nutritional positives about Basmati rice.  Brown Basmati has about 150 calories per 60g uncooked.  It contain 2g fibre and 1.5 of healthy fats (oil).  Brown Basmati has a small amount of iron and B vitamins.   The white version has 160 calories per 60g uncooked but with the fibre and oil removed this makes it less nutritious.  Both provide 3-4g of protein.  Combined with eggs or other animal protein this provides a complete amino acids profile.  Brown Basmati rice is lowest on the glycaemic index of all types of rice.  With the removal of the fibre and oil white Basmati is higher but is still on a glycaemic par with long grain brown rice and rates lower than ordinary white rice, making it a better choice for diabetics or anyone trying to control blood sugar levels.

Here’s what to do:
  • Rinse the rice in fresh cold water until the water runs clear
  • Put 750ml of water in a pot and bring to the boil
  • Add the rice and simmer rapidly, uncovered for 8 minutes
  • Stir occasionally to stop the rice from sticking
  • After 8 minutes drain the rice in a colander or sieve
  • Pour a half inch of boiling water (from the kettle) into the pot and place the sieve on the pot, ensuring that it isn’t in contact with the water (this would result in soggy bottomed rice).
  • Cover the pot and rice with aluminium foil, return to the heat and simmer for 10 minutes after which time, you’ve got it…… perfectly fluffy rice.

Note:  I just used a stacking pot with a steaming section and the lid on for steaming.

Options to Jazz it up:  
  1. At the stage the rice is added to the pot of boiling water – add 4 cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.  The cloves add an lovely aromatic flavour while the turmeric gives white Basmati a vibrant yellow appearance.
  2. Add 1 cinnamon stick and 3 bay leaves.
  3. At the steaming stage add some finely chopped already sautéed onion and toasted almonds.
References:

Original instructions came from a website called Suite101.com   The website is still there but I can’t find these instructions.  Its been a while 🙂

You can download my pdf of the instructions here.

You can download my pdf of Turkey Bone Broth and Turkey Curry in previous post ‘Gobble Gobble’

Santa, You Better Watch Out

When Santa got stuck up the chimney he began to shout … “you girls and boys won’t get any toys if you don’t pull me out”!  How, how, how… did Santa get stuck up there?  Hmmm.. it looks like he could have Syndrome X.

All grown up now, I can take an objective view of this Jolly ol’ fella who may have added some magic to my childhood memories.  Although I sometimes wonder at the scale of psychological damage inflicted in the name of Santa, on the innocent, who offer only pure belief and love in return.  I know that my own mother made a conscious effort to play down the character of ‘Santa’ with us kids because she was so devastated to find out in her own childhood that he wasn’t real.  And, at our office Christmas celebrations one year, a colleague recalled how, at age 12 and being the oldest child in her family, she got ‘the truth’ along with her Christmas present.  In one swift and traumatic moment she was handed a new pair of gloves and leveled with an instruction to grow up, as she watched her younger siblings open their Christmas toys.  “You better watch out, you better not cry”, even though you’ve been snookered by a lie!   I thank my mother for having the wisdom to save us from at least falling hook, line and sinker for the phantom that is Santa.  Anyway, I digress!

What is Syndrome X ?

There is no direct connection between Syndrome X and Santa or Xmas, the season of stress and over-indulgence, but indirectly it seems like the perfect occasion to talk about this health condition.  Syndrome X is also called ‘Metabolic Syndrome’ [MetS].  MetS is a metabolic imbalance.  This means that how your body metabolizes and stores energy is off balance.  The physical manifestation of MetS is ‘fat around the middle’, also called visceral fat.   Scientists now know that storing fat around the middle of your body rather than anywhere else, has major health implications, and studies show that it increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and cancer.  But, you don’t even have to be overweight to carry fat around the middle.  And, it’s not only about what you eat, your diet is just one contributing factor.

Continue reading “Santa, You Better Watch Out”

Healthy Halloween Horrors!!

So when I was growing up it wasn’t “trick or treat” it was “any apples or nuts”?  And, this is literally what we got when we knocked at neighbourhood doors.  Apples, grapes, oranges, bananas, peanuts in their shells and if you were unlucky some nuts in rock hard shells that my Da had to take the hammer to.  We suspected sinister motives from the contributors of the hard shelled nuts, but it was better than getting a bucket of cold water over you, which we feared, but never actually experienced.  Now that’s giving my vintage away.  At Halloween my mother made ‘Colcannon’ for dinner.  A traditional Irish dish made of curly kale and mashed potato.  I think she added sauteed onion and butter.  I loved it!  Back then Kale only appeared in the shops around Halloween.  Then there was the traditional ‘barmbrack’ with the prized ring in it.  You’d wish and pray, against considerable odds (large family) that you would be the lucky one.  Cue the violins, I don’t recall ever getting the ring.  Boo Hoo!!  Dress up was what you could find or borrow or make.  In hindsight this was a time of year where nutritious food was part of a celebration that children eagerly participated in.

I’m not sure when “any apples or nuts” turned into “trick or treat”, or when the collection of fruit and nuts turned into the collection of sweet, sweets and more sweets.  Probably right about when the word ‘obesity’ started making an unexpected entrance into our everyday conversations.

I passed some children on their way to school this morning, all dressed up in some fantastic looking Halloween costumes.  Last day at school before mid-term.  The enjoyment of Halloween for the 21st century kid is no less than it was for us.  The fun and excitement was palpable.  It is just such a shame that we feel compelled to offer these beauties sugary sweets instead of healthy treats.   When I give out healthy treats at the door I suspect the offering is not appreciated by today’s kids who are wondering about my sinister motives!!

I was inspired to write this little blog after seeing this fun instagram post by NTOI.  Check out @healthyhalloween and @prep_over_fail on instagram if you are a follower, for some really fun Halloween ideas that kids will love.  Have a Happy & Healthy Halloween!!

 

 

The Magic Pill

The Magic Pill:  A Film Review

 

Source: Google Images

This film is about an hour and a half long.  The producer Pete Evans may be better known as one of the judges on the Australian ‘My Kitchen Rules’  series.  The film looks at the merits of the ketogenic diet. Ketogenic basically means eating a diet that is high-fat, adequate-protein and low-carbohydrate.  The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates.  The ketogenic diet was originally used by physicians in the 1920s to treat epilepsy but was largely abandoned in favour of new anticonvulsant drugs.  It is proposed that as a species this diet may better suit our biochemistry and, if done correctly, could be one way of alleviating or preventing chronic diseases and brain conditions.  Our brains are made up of 60% fat.  However, this turns the whole low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet on its head.  It pretty much turns the food pyramid up-side-down.  Governing health bodies believe the diet to be controversial, unscientific and a threat to public health.  The Health Professions Council of South Africa spent three years and hundreds of thousands of dollars prosecuting Tim Noakes, emeritus professor and scientist, with a charge of misconduct after he gave low-carbohydrate, high-fat dietary advice to a weening mother on twitter.

The film follows the progress of a group of indigenous people, the Yolngu, on a 10 day ‘Hope for Health’ retreat.   All the participants suffer from diabetes and other chronic diseases, unheard of among these people before their introduction to the western diet.  It also follows the progress of a young family with an autistic 5 year old girl, Abigail, an autistic boy, an asthmatic singer and two women moving fearfully into later life.  All the participants are on a cocktail of medications to keep their chronic conditions under control and all are ready to try the ketogenic diet. Could embracing good fats and drastically reducing carbs be the key to better health?  Is a radical re-think needed?  One woman featured, says the disappearance of her breast cancer tumour is due to the ketogenic diet.  A brave lady to declare this to a world that might not want to listen.

Easy viewing with no high-pitched drama, the film gently opens us up to the idea that perhaps we have moved away from our connection with the land, the nature of food and even our own natural instincts when it comes to eating.  Lost!!   But there is ‘Hope for Health’.  You will see that it is not easy to begin making dietary changes and that this particular approach really goes against the ‘grain’ 🙂 and the tide. You will be inspired by the results these brave people achieved in a relatively short time.  They share their personal stories to show others that they have found a way back to better health.

Abigail stole the show.  If you want to keep up with how she is doing now her dad made a blog to share their story.    You can find it by clicking here.

© AoS2018

Magnesium ‘Miracle Mineral’

In my first blog about Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, I explained that it is unusual for Nutritional Therapists to recommend a single nutrient supplement, but that Vitamin D could be the exception.  Why?   Over many years, science has shown how insufficient vitamin D levels contribute to health concerns on virtually every level and many have responded by boosting levels with supplementation or quality time in the sun.   But here is another nutrient which has a similarly wide-reaching effect in the body, which is also largely deficient in the population and could benefit from supplementation.  Magnesium!  Every known illness is associated with magnesium deficiency.  Like vitamin D, magnesium supports seemingly endless functions and bodily systems.   It is a macro-mineral, the fourth most abundant in the body and a co-factor (a molecule that assists in chemical processes in the body) for the proper functioning of 325 enzymes.  Ongoing magnesium deficiency has been linked to numbness and tingling, muscle cramps and twitches, headaches and migraines, constipation, insomnia, irregular heart rhythms, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, premenstrual syndrome, personality changes, anxiety, fatigue and weakness, fibromyalgia, vertigo, and seizures…. and that’s just for a start!   But why such widespread lack?  Historically humans met their needs for magnesium through clean spring, river or lake mineral rich water and ate food grown in mineral rich soil.  Magnesium is much more plentiful in the diet than vitamin D, provided you are including magnesium rich foods.  Even so, mineral depleted soil produces a much lower mineral content in natural foods as compared to the beginning of the last century.  Other modern day factors also contribute to its depletion in the body such as stress, alcohol, caffeine, processed foods and sugar.  In this context, deficiency is easier to fathom!  Like vitamin D, having sufficient levels of magnesium could stack the potential for many more health benefits in your favour.  If you are interested in knowing more about magnesium, the best dietary and other sources, and the best type of magnesium to supplement with, then read on!   Q. Prefer to watch a video?  I have posted a link at the end of the blog.

Continue reading “Magnesium ‘Miracle Mineral’”

Spice Aid Cabinet

Mankind has sought out plants with medicinal properties since time immemorial.  Even today when there have been great developments in the field of chemistry, pharmaceuticals and medicine, these medicinal plants have lost none of their importance.  Botanical drugs are at the birth place of the current pharmaceutical industry, for example, the ancient Egyptians used the bark of the Willow tree for the relief of aches and pains.  The willow tree yields ‘salicylic acid’ which is the active pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory component that is used to make the aspirin of today.  Probably because big pharma don’t really want you to know that some of your inexpensive household herbs and spices could be the answer to your aches, pains and other health conditions, this information has become generally suppressed and instead we are encouraged by media advertising to believe that pharmaceutical drugs are the only solution.  The general public has consequently lost trust in natural remedies while big pharma secretly know their benefits.  Plant based medical practices like traditional Chinese herbal medicine, Ayurvedic and Naturopathic medicine, for example, are often viewed as a last resort when conventional medicine offers us no solution.  Ideally the reverse would be the case, where natural remedies are used first and pharmaceutical drugs, with their known side-effects, are a last resort.  In this blog I am sharing my knowledge of some of the spices that are ‘hot’ in the world of nutrition.  You may already have them in your spice cabinet.  They offer a relatively inexpensive way of stacking some health benefits in your favour with little effort!   Mother Nature’s flavour favours. Many spices have health benefits, too many to cover here, so I have narrowed them down to some of the most popular and widely used today in the prevention and treatment of the chronic diseases.  I have checked each spice for known interactions {A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions}. There are none for those mentioned and so they are completely safe to use.  So, what are these little pots of magic dust??  Read on to find out!

Continue reading “Spice Aid Cabinet”