Tell us a bit about your journey, what made you so passionate about Naturopathy and Women’s health?
My Mum would have to be my biggest influence and inspiration. Growing up she supported us in living a healthy, balanced life, so naturally I have always had an interest in Natural medicine. I first really discovered the power of Naturopathy when I was 19. I was experiencing Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, and after having just one session with my Naturopath, I regained my period. From here, I realised the huge effect that stress has on your hormones and reproductive health. Whilst studying, I really resonated with all of the Hormonal aspects of life, so naturally I have moved in the direction of working with hormones and fertility. I find nothing more rewarding than helping my clients regain their periods, experience less pain with their bleeds, heal their hormonal acne and support couples in creating beautiful babies!
What are some foods you should try avoiding when experiencing PCOS?
PCOS is a complex condition, however through dietary changes you can see quite substantial changes. Avoiding sugars and refined carbohydrates is the best place to start. These foods aggravate PCOS by causing elevated levels of glucose and insulin. This includes foods such as lollies, chocolate, white breads, cakes, donuts, pastas, chips and high amounts of fruit. Saying this, Carbohydrates aren’t evil, you just need to be eating the right type and portion size. It’s best to focus on Complex Carbohydrates, which have lower amounts of sugar and are higher in protein and fibre. This means they don’t spike your Insulin levels, like refined carbohydrates do. This includes foods such as Quinoa, Sweet potato, low GI fruits, brown rice and oats. It’s also important to ensure your meals are blood sugar balancing. This can be easily be done by ensuring you’re consuming a source of protein and fat with each meal.
Can anxiety and stress have an effect on menstrual cycles? How can consuming the right nutrients help to reduce feelings of anxiety and stress?
Anxiety and stress have such an enormous influence on your menstrual cycle and fertility. If you’re experiencing anxiety and stress, often we can experience anovulatory cycles, or poor Progesterone production within the Luteal phase of your cycle. This can lead to heavy periods, period cramps and pains, mood fluctuations, acne, anxiety, irregular cycles and infertility. Hypothalamic Amenorrhea is additionally a concern with excessive stress and anxiety, although this is often accompanied with undereating and/or over exercising.
Nutrient deficiencies and the foods we eat have a huge influence on our feelings of stress and anxiety. Protein, Magnesium, B group vitamins, Vitamin C and Zinc are most important to help calm down feelings of stress and anxiety. My best tip would be to ensure you’re having a good quality source of protein with each meal. It’s also important to note the impact of gut health and nutrient absorption, in regard to anxiety and stress. If we’re eating in a stressed state, often we won’t be absorbing our nutrients and food effectively, therefore driving up these feelings. Eating mindfully is incredibly helpful in this scenario. This can be as simple as taking three long deep breaths before a meal, focusing on what you’re eating instead of it being a distraction, or even listening to a calming guided meditation before meals.
Tell us a bit more about the relationship between gut health and hormones? What are some diet tips for hormonal health?
Gut microbiome is closely linked to hormonal health. Your gut microbiota produces an enzyme called B-glucuronidase, which turns oestrogen into its active form. If you have poor gut dysbiosis or low microbial diversity, this process doesn’t happen. This causes high amounts of Oestrogen being recirculated. This can result in oestrogen dominance, which can present as symptoms such as mood fluctuations, tender breasts, fluid retention, acne and heavy bleeds. Supporting gut microbiome, diversity and excretion pathways is imperative in avoiding a build-up of excess oestrogen, and therefore hormonal imbalances.
There has also been a link found between endometriosis and gut microbiota. An imbalance has been found to promote inflammation, dysregulate the immune system and increase circulation oestrogen.
Diet recommendations for balanced hormones:
How important is it to consume the right nutrients in order to optimise fertility?
I cannot emphasis just how important it is! What you eat directly influences the quality of an individual’s egg/sperm health. Ultimately, egg and sperm quality can determine fertility outcomes. What you’re putting into your body ideally needs for be a focus for 12 months prior to TTC, however the 3 -4 months prior to conception are most pivotal. It takes 2 -3 months for sperm to regenerate, whilst an oocyte takes 100 days to reach maturation. In Australia, poor sperm quality is one of the leading causes of infertility, so this is just as important for males, as it is for females.
Natal vitamins with methylated folate is a must for females throughout the pre- conception phase as well. Along with nutritional intake, it’s so important to look at what chemicals you’re coming into contact with (think perfumes, feminine hygiene products, skin care, pesticides, deodorant and sprays), the quality of the food you’re eating, stress levels, alcohol consumption, what exercise you’re doing, radiation, weight, smoking and second-hand smoke exposure.
If you could give one piece of advice to those who are on their own personal reproductive health journey what would it be?
Be kind to yourself, investigate, don’t underestimate the power of diet and lifestyle factors and reach out for support.