Thursday, September 4, 2014

Hormone Cure Review

I'm finally getting around to writing my review of The Hormone Cure by Dr. Sara Gottfried.  I read and  reviewed Woman Code by Alisa Vitti earlier this spring with some surprising push-back from people saying I was too critical.  But that's the point, to critically review and analyze the book.  If I just said "Yup, it was great...good info... go read it..." that wouldn't be much of a review and would involve no critical thinking skills.  With that said, The Hormone Cure is like the big sister to Woman Code.  Dr. Gottfried goes deeper into the different hormone systems and helps link how one hormone imbalance can lead to another.

After taking her hormone balance questionnaire I was surprised by some of my symptoms.  I expected to have more symptoms of low progesterone, but in actuality the hormones most out of balance for me are High Cortisol, High Estrogen, and Low Thyroid.  The low thyroid I've been wondering about for a while now and will be having that checked in the next month.  While I haven't made huge changes to my diet I have started to switch to either 1/2 caff or decaff coffee in the morning to support adrenal function; as well as to cut back on wine consumption on the weekends.  Not that I was drinking a lot, but instead of two glasses on friday and saturday, I'm limiting my self to 1 or 2 two very small glasses, or none at all.  To address the high estrogen I've started taking Estrofactors, and after only 30 days am noticing improvements in my cycle.

Lets just start with my dislikes so I can end with the positives.

1. Being a nutritionist, I would have liked to see a more diet recommendations.  However, I'm also glad she didn't include much of that, other than telling the reader to go eat real foods (Paleo-ista style), and to increase real fats.  If she had, I think it would have been info overload, and her explanations of the hormones and lifestyle changes would have been lost.

2.  Some people may be turned off or intimidated by Dr. Gottfried's Mind/Body practices to help regulate hormones.  Depending upon the hormone imbalance someone may need to do yoga, practice diaphragmatic breathing, take up HeartMath, practice forgiveness, chant, try acupuncture or get a massage.  Some of these activities (HeartMath/Massage) might be too expensive for certain people.  And others might be intimidated to try a yoga class.  The main message of these recommendations are to RELAX!  This is something I'm trying to work on for myself.  Mostly I'm learning to deep breath when I'm feeling stressed, and working on not sweating the small stuff.  I would love to take a yoga class even 1x week, but at $17 a class, that adds up quickly.  Not to mention that Ryan and I are already paying for a gym membership.  I'm not saying these are bad suggestions; actually they are great suggestions.  I just know some people may find some of them hard to adopt.

3. It's so comprehensive that some people might get overwhelmed.  If that sounds like you, skip any sections (hormone imbalances) that don't apply to you.  Only the sections that apply to you, then follow steps 1, 2, and 3 as prescribed.  Find one or two things in each step that seem do-able and tackle those.  Example: if you have high cortisol, start with step 1. by weaning off caffeine and limiting alcohol (if you drink either).  As you develop new habits, maybe you buy yourself a heart rate monitor (amazon for $35-100) and learn a little HeartMath.  If it's in your budget, get a massage as frequently as possible.

4. I do wish some of these "sub steps" were categorized by importance. Playing off the previous example, is including 40grams of dark chocolate daily as important as me weaning off caffeine or adding a B vitamin complex?  If not, why is it listed first?

What I liked:

1. The Hormone questionnaire.  It's very thorough and can really help direct people to their personal imbalances.  Instead of starting out with expensive hormone testing, which isn't always accurate, take the questionnaire and see if you can address your imbalances that way.  Even if they can't fix it on their own through diet/lifestyle/supplement, it gives them more direction to have a frank conversation with their MD.  And then move on to saliva/blood testing.

2. This book is very comprehensive.  I'm not sure you could get more information out of a grad school textbook.  I never did.

3. I really enjoyed her case studies of patients.  I believe these will help people relate their experiences to those of others and give them hope that yes, their health can improve.  I would have liked a few more examples of younger patients, most of the stories were of middle aged women to post menopause.  I realize that's when most hormone imbalances are occurring, but us younger ladies have issues too.

4. There wasn't an excessive amount of self promotion.  Yes it's a self help book, but Sara did a great job of focussing on the reader, not herself.

5. Sara discusses not only the research behind her supplement recommendations, but also gives recommended doses!  Also, at the end of the book she provides a chart with each hormone imbalance and the recommended supplements.

6. Nothing conflicts.

Ultimately, if you think you have a hormone imbalance, read this book.  If your MD isn't listening to you, or taking your symptoms seriously, read this book then go back to them armed with information.  If you just have a general interest in healthy and physiology, read this book.

Monday, September 1, 2014

No Chocolate Experiment

I spent the month of August sans chocolate.  This was a self imposed deprivation motivated by the fact that I was eating "too much" of it.  By "too much," I mean after lunch and supper I was justifying the consumption of a little dark chocolate.  Many days I would enjoy a small piece (1/4-1/2 oz) after lunch at work, or perhaps have a few chocolate covered espresso beans from Caribou with my snack; or as my snack.  Then, once I got home many nights I found myself having a square or two of Lindt 85% dark chocolate with a spoonful of almond butter or cream cheese on top.  Then another spoonful or two of AB or CC would find its way into my mouth via the spoon.

Why all this chocolate I asked myself?  I knew why...I wasn't packing enough for lunch, and many days I would neglect to bring a large enough afternoon snack or supper.  I often work from 12-8pm and eat lunch at 11 and supper at 4pm, on those days I don't snack, except for when I get home and I don't think I'm hungry, but really...I am. Thus the almond butter and chocolate mini feast by the fridge.  On days when I work 10-6, I do eat a snack around 4 so that by supper at 7pm I'm not HANGRY!

I knew this was getting to be a bad habit.  Instead I took a month off from chocolate.  This forced me to bring more food to work.  Common additions to the lunchbox included: hard boiled eggs, an apple, almonds, deli meat, sugar snap peas, olives, and/or leftover chicken.  There were days when I still didn't pack quite enough, and would end up eating 1/2 a protein bar at work.  Yes, only half.  As I mentioned in my previous post, protein bars typically come packed with added fiber that does a number on my digestive system.  Most of them don't even taste that good; talk about an un-satisfying snack.

The month of no chocolate wasn't that bad.  I discovered that if I actually ate enough at my meals, I didn't crave it.  AMAZING.  (said sarcastically)  There were several nights when I did get home, and all I really wanted was my chocolate and AB.  Instead I settled for yogurt and flaked coconut or an almond flour muffin with butter and jam, or leftovers from whatever Ryan cooked for supper.  The hardest moment was last week when Ryan made oatmeal monster cookies for his co-workers and I came home to a house smelling of fresh baked cookies.  Uhhhh, and they were still warm!  Alas, I finally had a bite of one today.  Fresh from the freezer, it was delicious.

I still love chocolate, and may or may-not go back to eating it daily.  But now I realize that if I'm eating it because I'm legitimately hungry, I need to go in search of some real food.  Be it more protein, fat, or on days I work out, starchy carbs.

What is your trigger food?  Is there a food that is holding you back from reaching your health goals?
Chips?  Crackers?  Wine?  French Fries?  Cheese?  Peanut butter?  Beer?  Coffee?  Ice Cream?
Ask yourself why you crave it, and when you crave it?  Could you give it up for a week, how about a month...or two?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Protein Powder Farts

If you read my first post of 2014, you know that I have my mind set on squatting 180# for 1 rep by the end of the year.  A few months ago I hit 160# for about 3-4 reps.  Since then, I've joined a kettle bell class 2x week, and am continuing to lift 1-2x week.  Therefore...I took a month or two off from really focusing on my squat, but am back at it now with a 5X5 of 155# this morning.
taking a breather between sets.
The point of that ramble is to say that I've had to really focus on increasing my protein intake (approximately 120g/day) to support my strength gains.  In the past I've used protein powders (whey and soy) during my internship in 2008, later from 2009-2011 Ryan and I were big fans of the Whole Foods 365 whey protein powder.  The past several years we switched over to Optimum Nutrition's natural whey and Nutrikey by NWW.  However, after changing my diet to include a lot less processed carbs, beans, and yogurt I found this past spring that I was getting really really really gassy again.  Typically in the middle of the afternoon.
Protein Stash.
After a while I was able to correlate it to the days when I drank a post workout whey protein shake or smoothie.  I checked the ingredients on both the ON and NK powders and figured it could be the flavoring or stevia, so I switched to the NK unflavored whey protein, nope same problem.  Hmmm.... apparently I've got a serious issue with dairy (which I'm still in denial about).  Next I bought the Jay Robb egg-white protein powder, and it seemed that things were a bit better.  Except that just like before, if I drank it more than 2 days in a row, serious bloating and gas would ensue.  This wouldn't be a huge problem, except that being bloated and gassy while sitting in a small office with a client for 1-2 hours is not fun.  I even tried Vega One, a vegan protein powder and that was the worst of all.

So there went my post workout and occasional mid-afternoon snack.  :-(   Over the past two years I've also figured out that I have a very hard time digesting fiber, added fiber in particular.  So switching to a protein bar, even a high quality one such as Quest, Paleo, or Jay Robb which contain inulin, an indigestible fiber are not an option.

Lets be honest, protein powders are convenient, but for some people they just aren't a good option.  I am one of those people.  During several google searches, I only came up with a few poor explanations as to why these powders cause intestinal distress.

1. You're drinking Whey Protein Concentrate which contains more lactose than the isolate form.  If you are lactose intolerant, that might be an easy swap.

2. You're protein powder contains weird thickeners or fibers which are fermenting in your gut and making you gassy.

3. You're drinking casein protein powder not whey.  Casein protein gels in the stomach, slowing digestion.  It can be much more difficult for some people to digest, and it's the protein most people are sensitive too.  Which is why a lot of people can tolerate whey protein, but not actual dairy products that contain casein (cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese).

4. You have a dairy sensitivity! Sorry, but other than switching to egg white protein, or Pure Paleo Protein which is made from beef, or Pure Pea protein, you're out of options.  Better go eat some real food.

Why does the unflavored egg white protein powder also gives me gas? I'm not sure, especially since eating actual eggs doesn't have any effect on me.  I don't recommend rice protein powders because they are high in carbohydrates.  And I'm not a fan of hemp protein powder since it is notoriously hard to digest.

So if you're like me, you're going to have to JERF: Just Eat Real Food.  (Thank you Sean Croxton for that acronym).  Below are a few post workout meals to help you re-fuel.  You want to focus on protein and carbs, you're meals shouldn't be high in fat which will slow the absorption of the other nutrients.

Salmon Patties and Sauteed Greens
Turkey, Veggie, wild rice soup
4+ oz Deli meat + small fruit and maybe a few nuts
Chicken and mashed sweet potato
Reduced fat yogurt topped with homemade granola and fruit
Turkey burger topped with sauteed greens and onions
Ground beef Hash with root vegetables
Tuna steak + steamed veggies
Oatmeal + leftover pork chop
Wrap + Salmon Salad
If carb backloading or carb-nighting...pie and low fat ice cream  :-)  Or cereal.

This is the best info I could find on protein powder intollerance