Part 2: NUTRITION and your HORMONES:
This is the second part of three blogs discussing all things hormonal. You can read part 1 here
Firstly, I want to say a big thank you to my friend, colleague and acupuncturist, Sally Varley for the fascinating insights into the Chinese Medicine view of hormonal health.
“Good nutrition is key. In Chinese Medicine, the stomach and spleen are responsible for digestion. Good digestion is described as a pot containing food (substances and fluids are considered ‘Yin’) with a fire underneath to break down the food properly (fire is Yang – energy and the catalyst for change). If our digestive fire is weak, we can’t break down nutrients effectively for our body and have to draw extra energy from the Kidney system, which in turn weakens that system.”
The statistics for heart disease and diabetes are going up because we are a nation that is overfed but undernourished. We have access to lots of ‘food’ but this food is nutrient deficient. For example;
Today you’d have to eat 8 oranges to get the same amount of Vitamin A as you’d have got from just 1 orange 50 years ago.
There is only 12% the amount of iron in watercress today than there was 30 years ago.
You’d have to eat 4 cauliflowers today to get the same amount of Vitamin C as you would from just one 30 years ago.
It is known that it is best to eat organic whenever possible. Supermarket food, especially out of season, has been covered in herbicides and pesticides and has probably been stored for months. An apple from the supermarket might look and taste ok but it probably has a total lack of nutrients compared to one you’ve just picked off the tree (i.e organically grown).
“In Chinese Medicine, when people have Liver Qi Stagnation (irritability etc from overworked Liver) this gives rise to heat and inflammation. Heat can cause constipation and acupuncture treatments often focus on making sure the intestines are functioning properly. Physiologically this makes sense because excess oestrogen is excreted through the bowel. When a patient is constipated and the stool remains in the intestines for a longer time, oestrogen is reabsorbed. Studies have shown that women with a high fibre diet have lower levels of circulating oestrogen than women with a low fibre diet.”
We all need certain Vitamins and minerals to be healthy:
This is an antioxidant which counteracts the effects of free radical damage in our cells and tissues. Just by being alive, we get free radical damage, which gives us wrinkles, damages our joints and our systems and left unchecked, can eventually lead to cancer. What’s happening on the outside is also what’s happening on the inside. So the more antioxidants you can put into your system, the more opportunity you’ve got to counteract the free radical damage.
The Government reports that 10 million people in the UK are Vitamin D3 deficient and recently recommended that every single person should supplement with it. Vitamin D3 is very important for balanced hormones and the heart. You need 15 minutes sunshine a day on your bare skin (no sun cream). Slight issue: October – April the sun is too low for us to absorb any sunlight at all. Dark skin people (Asian or African) are particularly vulnerable and of course we don’t always have the best weather even from April to October!
Especially B6 are essential for production of the sex hormones. B vitamins are water soluble so they are peed out every day and get quickly depleted during times of stress. If you have anxiety, insomnia, restlessness and hypersensitivity you need to up your B vitamins.
We also need some folate and some Vitamin K2 to stop our blood from becoming sticky.
It’s also very important to alkalise your body.
Why is this important?
Because cancer, autoimmune conditions and many other diseases thrive in an acidic environment.
Sugar creates an acidic body. Remember there is a LOT of sugar hidden in everyday foods (eg bread, fruit) so it’s not just adding refined sugar to your tea that ups the acidity. Red meat, coffee, dairy products – all create an acidic system.
The more you can alkalise, the more your liver can do its job, the more balanced your hormones will be and the less likely you are to develop acidity which leads to inflammation and ultimately to cancer.
A body that is nutrient deficient will hold onto fat because it feels like it’s starving even though it’s being fed.
You can buy PH testing strips online to test how alkaline/acidic you are. The optimum reading for saliva is 7 and for your urine is 6.8 or above. Test your urine or saliva on waking as once you have eaten or drunk, the results can be skewed. It’s important not to lick or absorb the chemicals from the test strip into your body, so either spit on the strip or onto a spoon and then dip the strip into it. When testing urine, you should ensure that the flow of urine is not strong as the chemicals in the test strip should not be washed out.
An acidic PH can be caused by stress, toxic overload and immune reactions, but mostly by diet. You should aim for a 60/40 balance towards alkaline foods in your diet.
Major alkalizing foods:
Lemons, watermelon, figs, limes, mango, melon, papaya, watercress, asparagus, pears, pineapple, raisins, sweet apples, alfalfa sprouts, bananas, lettuce, peaches, pears, peas, beans, broccoli, cabbage, oranges, raspberries, strawberries and turnip.
Major acidic foods:
Artificial sweeteners, beef, beer, breads, carbonated drinks, processed breakfast cereals, chocolate, coffee, white flour, sugared fruit juices, alcohol, pastries, cakes from white flour, pork, poultry, seafood and wine.
look out for part III – where we examine the part that STRESS plays on hormonal health.