Hey Bridget, I just wanted to say that I absolutely love your posts on food and nutrition and think you should become a health coach and definitely do more in this field! You have such a balanced approach on eating and lifestyle and I really admire your non-judgmental and refreshing words of wisdom and advice. I have two questions and I hope this is okay:
Firstly, it is related to hormones and menses- I have not been getting regular periods recently (there is nothing medically or gynecologically wrong with me I have had all the tests!) - and all the doctor advises is to eat more junk food and to gain more fat/weight but I have a healthy bmi and eat a balanced diet. A lot of models have healthy pregnancies and they are slim and healthy! From your nutrition studies or personal experience are there any natural ways to encourage it? Is there anything I could eat more of or any supplements I could take? It is very confusing out there as some people advise to eat more carbs whilst others advise more fat!
My second question is related to digestive issues- from your blog I can see that you also suffer from gastro distress and I am wondering how you manage to follow a whole plant based high fibre diet. I actually find that vegetables and certainly fruits and fibre really make my ibs and pain worse and that it is often the more processed foods such as white breads and white rice and limited veggies and less healthy foods that sit better. However, I do not feel this is necessarily healthy. Any advice on how to follow a plant based vegan diet with chronic digestive issues would be much appreciated!
Hi! Thank you so much!! That means so much to me, I am really glad you find this helpful. And funny you should mention that, I am a newly certified health coach 😃
First off, I am definitely not a doctor. But I am a woman, and I have struggled with hormone issue, so I can at least guide you with what helped me. At the end of the day, if we don’t have enough fat, our periods suffer. BMI is not a great indicator of weight and health, as it doesn’t take into account body percentage. Muscle weighs more than fat, and so you could have a very high BMI but be at a much lower body fat percentage. Or the inverse; you could have a very low BMI but have a high body fat percentage. So I wouldn’t go by that as an indicator of health and weight.
The two things that have helped me in the past is changing the workouts I do and tweaking my diet. When I would grind out hours of cardio my period was not regular. It is very taxing on our bodies, and in small doses very good for you! But when cardio it is all you do, it does more harm than good. I swapped out seven day HIT sessions for twice weekly chilled runs, and walking everywhere. I never run more than five miles at a time, and I focus my running more on cruising and stress relief than hitting time goals. The rest of my workouts I spend doing muscle building exercises; things like Pilates, ballet, body by simone or yoga (if that is your thing!). I always make sure to include a couple of rest days a week, and I never push myself if I don’t feel up to it.
As far as diet is concerned, our hormones live in our fat tissue. If there is not enough fat, we do not create and store enough hormones. So I would advise you to eat more healthy fats. I have never been the person advocating for high levels of carbs – although it works for some people – due to my digestive issues (the second part of your question!). But I have found including an avocado a day, a handful of nuts and cooking in high quality olive oil to be the way to bring balance back to my hormones. Maybe give this a go!
Finally I would make sure that you aren’t taxing your adrenals too much. Try not to have coffee (sorry), take up meditation for stress relief, get enough sleep, and take time out for yourself. The jury is out on soy foods – some people say they are good for women’s hormones due to the phytoestrogens in them, some people say no. Soy upsets my digestion so I don’t have it regularly anymore. Use your instinct there, but if you do have it, don’t have more than a serving a day. And make sure it is all organic, non-GMO soybeans etc. In fact make sure all your food is as organic as possible, pesticides are nasty and can lead to endocrine disruption. Again, the last two points are contentious, but I am just saying what works for me 😃
Final note – ask your gyno to do a full thyroid check. Your symptoms could be signs of an imbalance there and you would be surprised at the amount of women who struggle with this unknowingly.
Onto your second question! My digestion sucks. It is the bane of my existence, and I am currently in another round of doctor’s appointments. I don’t have a huge amount of hope, because no healthcare professional has ever been able to tell me what is actually wrong. I am pretty sure the issue is emotional. It has been a tough month for me; I have made some huge decisions with regards to toxic people in my life, and am currently processing this change. My stomach plays up when I am dealing with trauma (this much I know at least) and so I am focusing on self-care during this period. Maybe try meditation, acupuncture, massage or yoga – anything that provides some stress relief.
What diet has helped a lot is the low-fodmap diet. It isn’t a cure all, and it can be tough to stick out, but if you can it provides a huge amount of relief. I now know what vegetables I cannot ever eat, and it usually isn’t what you would expect! Maybe give that one a go and see what happens. I would also look into soy and corn products and make sure they don’t upset your guts. When it comes to eating greens, nuts, grains and beans make sure you prepare them correctly. Steam your greens, and soak and properly cook your grains, nuts and beans. This can help with digestion. Papaya is great for your guts. And try looking into a macrobiotic diet – it focuses on whole grains which maybe you need more than most people!
And, if none of that works, then I would say start including some wild caught salmon or fish. These are all very real signals from your body that what you are doing is not working, and you owe it to yourself to listen. Life is too short to mess with your system so much that you can’t have kids, or spend every night in agony after eating, or have such a limited diet that you miss out on nutrition and happiness. Some people do not thrive on a vegan diet, and that doesn’t make you a bad person. So be truthful to yourself, be kind to yourself and honestly look at how your life is going. If there is nothing else to do, eat some fish and see how you go. You know enough about the planet to make the right choices as to the source of fish, and the planet needs you to be thriving, not just getting by 😃
I hope this helps!