Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pumpkin Puff

I love eggs for breakfast.  I love eggs for snacks.  I love eggs on my salad at lunch.  I even love eggs for   second supper at night after teaching.  But sometimes.... I don't want to eat another EGG!  And yet, they are so quick and easy to cook.  So here is my non-eggy yet eggy fall breakfast.  I call it a pumpkin puff.  But you could use cooked sweet potato, butternut squash, or banana.

1 cup canned pumpkin (or roasted squash, sweet potato, or 1 large banana)
5 eggs
1/4 cup almond flour or coconut flour
2-4 Tbs cream
1 tsp vanilla

1-2 Tbs fat of choice butter/coconut oil/lard

1. Preheat broiler
2. Melt your fat of choice over medium high heat in a medium non-stick skillet.
3. When skillet is hot, pour in batter and cook until small bubbles form around the edges
4. Place skillet under broiler for 3-5 minutes or until top begins to puff up and brown just slightly.
5. Remove from oven and cut in half to serve.
6. Top with your choice of cream cheese, sour cream, real maple syrup, almond butter, whipped cream...Whatever floats your boat!

Serves 2-4 depending upon appetites and if you are serving extra protein with the meal.

topped with almond butter, maple syrup, and cream cheese
This is great the next day, even cold.  I took my other half with me to the radio station cut into small triangles so I could eat it afterwards while driving to work.  Toddlers and kids will love it too!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Insomnia Sucks

Let me start this post by saying, I have never been a great sleeper.  I remember my mom reading to me at night, and she was the one falling asleep mid-sentence.  She would then turn on a cassette tape of Suzuki violin music; which I could listen all the way through some nights before falling asleep.  Even as a kid I would get into weird sleeping patterns; be it not falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night.  I don't remember too many issues in high school.  I was probably too tired from running cross country and trying to fuel myself on skim milk, nutri-grain bars, and hummus sandwiches.

But then college came.  During my freshman year I had severe tendonitis in my right knee.  It got to the point that my leg ached from mid-thigh to mid-calf.  Before bed I would slather on icy-hot trying to dull the throb.  In the middle of the night I would wake up with a racing mind worried about my injury and how annoyed my coach and athletic trainer were at me for not healing faster.  (I wasn't even one of the better runners...)  Ultimately I ended up red shirting, that helped ease some of the stress, and stopped the 2AM crazy brain.  Again, it didn't help that I was still living on processed carbs, fat free milk, and trail mix leaving me depleted in the necessary sleep neurotransmitters seratonin and melatonin.

I've known for years that I like a pitch black room for sleeping.  Even an excessively bright alarm clock will disrupt my sleep.  This spring the birds started chirping and the sun started shining through our blackout curtains at about 4:30, and guess who was awake with them?  Me.  For the rest of the summer it seemed like I was still waking up between 4:15 and 4:45 and simply couldn't fall back asleep.  The strange thing was, that while we camped on the North Shore, I slept great.  While visiting my family in Iowa for two days, I slept great.  Occasionally I'd have mornings here at home, where I slept in a bit more 5:30 to 6.  I felt like I tried everything.  Increasing my magnesium, taking magnesium when I wake up, using amino acids to help calm my mind, practicing a mantra or deep breathing, nothing seemed to help.

Three weeks ago one of my co-workers (Kara) mentioned that my weightlifting routine might have something to do with it.  She said that when she lifts weights frequently it throws off her sleep.  I did a little "research," and it does appear that many people complain of poor sleep when their exercise routine becomes too intense.  Apparently it has something to do with an extended endorphin release after the workout.  So I took two weeks off.  No weight lifting, only walking in the morning sun-shune.  At first I thought maybe it was working, but didn't noticed a consistent improvement.

During another phone conferences with my co-workers (we're all in different offices),  Dar suggested taking more calcium at night.  I had really cut back on it, and then stopped all together; for no real good reason.  Calcium + Magnesium works really well for women in menopause with insomnia.  I've been using NeuroCalm for a while now too, but am now more consistent with it before bed.  Another co-worker (Jennifer) said to added tyrosine in the morning to support thyroid function and help reset my circadian rhythm.  On my own I added 1 tsp of Maca powder in the morning.  Maca is an adaptogenic herb which helps the body balance progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol.  I've felt for a while now that my progesterone is a little low, and my obscure sleep patterns and lengthy menstrual cycle seem to confirm this.  Kara also recommended Bach's Rescue Remedy for sleep.  If I wake up in the middle of the night I spritz 2-4 pumps onto my tongue.  It helps prevent my mind from racing, and is easier than trying to take more neuro calm, GABA, or any other mind calming supplement.

I also started using a sleep tracker on my phone.  It's the free one in the app store.  While I don't like having it by my head at night, it's helping me be more confident in the amount of sleep I'm actually getting at night.

So after 4 nights of different supplements, tracking my sleep, and 1 acupuncture appointment...yup I started acupuncture too.  I'm sleeping better.  Using my sleep tracker I can see that maybe I did wake up at 4:15, but hey! I fell back asleep! for another 2 hours!!!!  Or like this morning, even though my sleep was much lighter from 4:15-4:45, I didn't actually wake up till 5:30, and then fell back asleep till 6:20.  Something is changing, and 8 hours of sleep feels soooooo good.  I don't know if it was one thing, or all the different things, and I don't care.  I'm sleeping, and waking up feeling refreshed instead of frustrated.
Here's to many more nights of good shut-eye.

So here are some tips to help you sleep:
1. Get blackout curtains
2. If you need an alarm clock, choose one with red lighting, or put a cloth over it to block out the light.
3. Take 400-800+mg of Magnesium glycinate or mixed magnesium before bed.
4. Take 500+mg of Calcium citrate before bed.  It works best taken with magnesium.
5. Try amino acid supplementation.  Theanin, GABA, 5HTP or Trytophan work well for most people.
6. If you travel frequently or do shift work, try 1-5mg of Melatonin.
7. Move/Clean/Exercise...expend some energy, or cut back if you participate in high intensity exercise most days of the week.
8. Drink sleepy time tea with Valerian root if you have trouble falling asleep.  I'm partial to Yogi brand.  This stuff will seriously knock you out.
9. Get outside in the sunshine, or use a light therapy box to re-set your circadian rhythm.
10. Maintain adequate vitamin D levels.  50-80 is optimal
11. No electronics 1-2hr. before bed.  Kindles for reading are ok since they do not use blue light.
12. Eat animal protein throughout the day to support your body's own ability to make seratonin, dopamine, and melatonin.
13. Eat a bedtime snack of fat and possibly some carbohydrate. (berries + Cream, Cream Cheese + Apple, Honey in warm Coconut milk, or 1/2 an avocado with sea salt)
14. Try a sleep app on your smart phone.  You might be surprised by how much sleep you're actually getting.
15. Create a calming mantra to think of when you wake up.  It can be anything, even counting star-fish.

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.