In my line of work, it’s a pretty bold claim: resolutions suck. It’s kind of an open secret that “New Year New Me” mentality is like the bread-and-butter of the health and wellness industry.
And, without mincing words, a lot of us went into 2020 with Big Resolutions that were shit-canned by mid-March, for obvious reasons. It’s really easy to feel, then, despite acquiring some skills like learning to bake perfect banana bread and dalgona coffee, like this year was a total write-off when it comes to resolution fulfillment.
But year after year, it’s true that more often than not, resolutions suck.
The holidays are basically synonymous with baking. At least, in my mind it is.
One particular combo that I love at this time of year is oatmeal and cranberries, perhaps with a hint of cinnamon and chocolate. I don’t quite know why – okay, maybe it was the cakes and cookies and loaves laden with these components that my mother and grandmother would bake every year – but that just says “winter holidays are here” to me!
The last few weeks I’ve been talking a little more about stress and anxiety, since so many of us have been experiencing an uptick.
For some of us, anxiety and stress already seem elevated before our periods. If you have PCOS, PMS or PMDD, anxiety is among the symptoms we experience within the 2 weeks leading up to our periods, also known as the luteal phase, which would normally follow ovulation. I know this is true for me, with my symptoms affecting how I work, my image of myself, how I interact – or don’t – with other people.
Eating lots of flax, which is a rich source of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), may still not be enough to convert in adequate amounts to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the forms our bodies most readily use.
I love fall. I love the crunchy leaves underfoot and the more comfortable temperatures (hello again, my beloved hoodie collection!).
What I don’t love… is the spike in stress that often comes with this particular change in seasons. Being a lifelong student as well as a nutrition professional means I see it in myself and those I work with.
September/October ➡️ change in routine ➡️ STRESS!!
My first experiences with camping date back to when I was maybe 4 or 5 years old, at my uncle’s cottage in the country. I remember being carsick on the way there, Sam the stuffed Basset hound in my fists, and my elder cousin, a wise 7-year-old, telling me there were snakes under the bridge and my young mind conjured a full-on hissing snake pit of doom such that my uncle had to carry me screaming across it.
Who’s up for some lunchtime meditation? Take a few moments now (bonus if you’re just sitting down and haven’t started eating yet). Choose one of these mantras to hold in your mind: Continue reading “LoveBites: Meditation”→
Are you feeling tired and yet can’t sleep? Craving sugar and salt to the point of almost passing out or committing a felony? Maybe PMS is kicking your ass this month with incredible irritability, brain fog, and energy fluctuations? Or your period is irregular, heavy, painful, or straight-up absent?
Let’s get real. The holiday season is in full swing. We’re getting swept up in parties, gift-giving, family time, and of course potlucks and holiday feast mode.
Not to mention if you’re the one organizing and hosting and making the food and in charge of the holiday gift budget ON TOP of all that other everyday stuff you still have to get done. <flailing both hands in the air>
You’re positive that you’re not eating more food or “junkier” food but you’re still gaining weight. And you don’t think you just shrunk your clothes, are PMSing, or haven’t taken a good poop. How could this happen?
I’ve written about comfort food before. So you likely know that I’m not opposed to including a handful of favourites in your meal repertoire for those rainy afternoons, those #selfcaresaturdays, those “just ‘cause” moments.
There’s actually a reason I ask every client I see about their poop.
(Totally unrelated aside: my job is so glamourous, peeps.)
You might already know that your poop can reflect your physical – and sometimes even emotional – health.
You may get constipation or have diarrhea when you eat something that “doesn’t agree with you,” or when you’re super-nervous about something. Maybe you even find you need to go 3+ times in the 2 hours before your end-of-semester graded recital with staying in your program on the line. Maybe this accurately describes my own life in university with performance anxiety. Maybe that’s TMI. Maybe we’re moving on now…
Its causes are absolutely everywhere. Would you agree?
Our natural “fight or flight” stress response is supposed to help us escape injury or death in an emergency and then return to normal after we’ve, well, fought or flew. But, in our society, with stressors basically ever-present – it becomes a long-term reaction. It becomes chronic.
You might already be familiar with the main stress hormone, called “cortisol.” It’s released from your adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s also naturally high in the morning to get you going, and slowly fades during the day so you can sleep.
Now did you know that too-high levels of cortisol are associated with belly fat, poor sleep, brain fog, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and even lowers your immunity?
With the warmer weather comes patio season, and that often intertwines with frosty cafe beverages with or without caffeine. While I am no stranger to these cafe offerings (especially on a lovely day out or a little walk amongst the shops), it does get pricey to buy one each time. Not to mention the amount of wasteful packaging that might accumulate in your bins, if you’re like us and try to remember to bring a tumbler but don’t always manage (it’s a work in progress).
My classic ice-cold bev tip for when you want that cafe taste but not the expense or the trash OR the questionable additives:
I have been dairy-free for over 10 years. Before I broke up with milk products, for the sake of animals as well as my skin and immune system, a favourite food while living at home and eventually on my own was cream of mushroom soup.
You know the kind – condensed and canned, that you need to add however much milk to it to make it “edible”. (And not remotely healthy.)
Do you love your breakfast? Do you have a short list of “go-to” recipes? Do you need a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again?
Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, metabolism and weight loss. This is because protein helps you feel fuller longer and uses up a bunch of calories to absorb and metabolize it. So I’m going to show you how to get the protein, as well as some veggies and healthy fats for your soon-to-be favourite new “go-to” breakfasts. Continue reading “My 3 Favourite Plant-Power Breakfast Foods + A Savoury Recipe to Try”→
You either love, love, LOVE it (I do!), tolerate it as a means to get through the day, or flat-out hate it. You know if you actually like the taste, or if it’s just a thinly-veiled excuse/vehicle to deliver mounds of sugar and cream to your bloodstream. You know how it makes you feel (i.e. your digestion, your appetite, your mental acuity, etc.).
But then you have all the crazy headlines sending you mixed signals, with some that say coffee is great, and the next day that you should avoid it!
And even more confusing, some people can manage to consume coffee on the regular with seeming ease, citing that it’s their super-power elixir that carries them effortlessly through errands, workouts, homework, and more; while there are others who experience a plethora of not-so-super symptoms ranging from jitters, restlessness, anxiety, digestive distress, and counter-intuitive energy lows and sleepiness after one cup.
Navigating holiday food can be hard enough when you’re making a lifestyle change, as those of us who are vegan know intimately well. The same goes for anyone taking on a change for their own health reasons, whether it’s gluten-free, keto, paleo/pegan, anti-candida, etc., etc., etc….
Then there’s the challenge of potlucks and worrying if you’ll find anything to eat that falls within the parameters of your new habits. Cue filling up on grocery-store veggie platters (sans dip), fruit trays, and steamed veggie sides… and when things get dire, lots of chips. It can be pretty easy to fall off the health-wagon in the face of both temptation and minimal “safe” offerings.
Let’s face it: healthy sex, whatever that looks like in your intimate relationships, is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle – as much as a clean diet, regular exercise, and stress reduction. Nothing puts a kink in the works (or takes the kink out, as it were) like a slumping sex drive. Fortunately, a lower sex-drive than your normal may be nourished back to a more desirable level by adding some delicious libido-boosting foods into your everyday diet. Continue reading “A Nutritionist’s 5 Favourite Foods for a Healthy Sex Drive (and a Sexy Smoothie Recipe)”→
Last week, I shared a #nofilter selfie on Instagram. I’ve been receiving compliments on my skin for some time now, including from strangers who speculate that I must use X skin product or Y supplement and that’s why it’s so nice. Having grown up with teasing for my skin problems (as well as my general weirdness and smartness, but I digress); having tried conventional OTC pharmaceutical products ranging from Cetaphil and Noxzema to benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid; having tried prescription Differin gel, minocycline, and hormonal birth control… it’s been dumbfounding to me that what was once my bane is now my banner, displaying my own glowing health. Compliments gladly taken! Here I’ll share what I’m actually doing, so that you can get glowing too. Continue reading “Skin Illuminated: 7 Health Hacks”→
Thyroid Thursday Week 1 – Facebook Live Replay Jan 7 2021
Welcome to the first week of Thyroid Thursdays!
As we get started on this first broadcast of the New Year, if you’re watching live, or even later on the replay, please feel free to comment and let me know if increasing your energy, reducing stress, or balancing your hormones are among your January health goals! (You can just put energy, stress, or hormones real quick).
So for those who are new to my world, I’m Sara Galipeau, nutritionist and owner of Love Plants for Life, with a focus on plant-powered strategies for hormone health – especially conditions affecting and affected by the menstrual cycle, including PCOS.
And since January is Thyroid Awareness Month, I wanted to kick it off by talking about the connection between PCOS and the thyroid.
So first of all, the thyroid is basically the master gland, controlling most of your metabolism through thyroid hormones – mainly TSH, T3, and T4. And there are disorders of the thyroid that can also contribute to metabolic disorders (and vice versa). I don’t want to get super technical on these talks for brevity, but in a nutshell:
PCOS – polycystic ovary syndrome – is actually more of a metabolic disorder, affecting insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health, and overall endocrine balance, which includes the thyroid.
Thyroid hormones and testosterone have a kind of feedback on each other and the ovaries, both affecting ovarian function and follicle stimulating hormone, which in turn contributes to how the follicles, or cysts, form on the ovaries prior to ovulation. When thyroid function is low or testosterone is high or both, multiple follicles may form (thus the name polycystic ovary), but without enough of the right hormones, they may not be released properly and this is why ovulation and periods may be irregular or may not even occur.
And the symptoms of PCOS and hypothyroid can overlap, so it can be easy to misdiagnose as one without the other. Symptoms like anxiety, depression, insulin resistance, problem skin, hair loss, excess visceral fat, and so on. It’s also part of why it can take a long time to get a confirmed PCOS diagnosis, since regular blood tests don’t always measure hormones outside of, like, TSH unless specifically ordered or referred out.
Anyway, because of this overlap I like to support and nourish the thyroid as part of my approach to PCOS.
As you likely know, I take a whole-food plant-based approach to this, so let me tell you about 4 plant-powered ways to support them at the same time that you can get started with right now.
Include raw nuts and seeds, even better if soaked or sprouted. These provide omega fatty acids, which are building blocks of various hormones and are anti-inflammatory. Nuts and seeds like Brazil nuts and sunflower seeds, particularly, are quite rich in the mineral selenium, which acts as a counterpart to iodine, the main thyroid-supportive mineral. Brazil nuts in particular are extremely rich in selenium, to the point where just 1 a day (or 2 or 3 once every 2 or 3 days) provides your full day’s amount. Walnuts are also great for omega 3s, and some research indicates including them regularly may reduce testosterone by raising sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). As a bonus practice you can also get into seed cycling, which involves eating 1 Tbsp. of each flax seeds and pumpkin seeds daily during your follicular phase, and 1 Tbsp. of each sunflower and sesame seeds daily during your luteal phase. You can find a post about seed cycling on my blog.
Include sea vegetables, like nori, wakame, dulse, and kelp. These are rich in iodine, which helps give your thyroid the resources it needs to convert T4 to T3. So if you love sushi and miso soup, you’re in luck! And if you don’t, seaweed flakes are also easy to sneak into your cooking and can give a bit of a salty taste. I also like sprinkling some into smoothies!
Include lots of sources of B vitamins, like whole grains, dark leafy greens, legumes, and nuts and seeds. Your endocrine system, including thyroid, uses a lot of B vitamins to keep running smoothly, so keeping your intake up is very important. There is a caveat to be aware of when it comes to plant foods, the absorption of nutrients, and thyroid function, and I’ll cover that more in next week’s broadcast. For now, just focusing on getting more of those B-rich foods is a great place to start.
And one more strategy you can try right now (or rather, tomorrow morning) is a macronutrient-balanced breakfast. As I mentioned earlier, insulin resistance can be both a symptom and contributor of thyroid disorder. Making sure to short-circuit the morning cortisol cascade that feeds into imbalances of other hormones like insulin is another key tactic for supporting thyroid and overall endocrine balance. If you’re stuck for thyroid and PCOS-friendly breakfast ideas to get started on that, I have a free PCOS Breakfast Bundle up for download.
This will wrap us up for now!
Nuts and seeds – such as Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and walnuts for omega-3s and selenium; for supporting thyroid and testosterone balance
Sea vegetables – such as nori, wakame, dulse, and kelp for iodine to help provide the resources that serve conversion of T4 to T3
B vitamin-rich foods – such as whole grains, legumes, dark leafy veggies, and nuts and seeds, to help nourish the thyroid, nervous/adrenal system, and provide cofactors for hormone metabolism
Macronutrient balanced breakfasts, to help short-circuit the cortisol cascade that can affect thyroid, sex hormones, and blood sugar balance
How can you integrate these strategies starting today?
Remember, this isn’t to replace your doctor’s advice; if you suspect you may have thyroid disorder or PCOS symptoms or both, be sure to check in with your primary care practitioner.
Next week, since it’s also Veganuary, we’ll be talking about special considerations for the thyroid and vegan nutrition. Hope to see you then!
I just knew I loved cheese and enjoyed a tall glass of milk with every meal. I got BabyBels and CheeseStrings in my school lunches and Kraft Dinner that I dressed up with a LOT of extra cheese at home. I grew up with the slogans “Milk Does a Body Good” and “Got Milk?” so of course I assumed I was, well, doing my body good because I got milk! My love for all things dairy was in fact the last hurdle to going vegan, and ultimately my love of animals won.
So I chucked cheddar, had it out with havarti, said goodbye to gouda…