I was recently interviewed by the Miller Middle School 8th grade language arts class for their journalism project, investigating Is All Fast Food Truly Unhealthy? I was happy to be a part of their project, and so proud of the great job they did. Hooray for these future wellness warriors! You can check out their investigative article here:
Every year in May we celebrate Women’s Health Month, which helps raise awareness about the unique health needs of women. It turns out, we aren’t just small men! Our health concerns and nutritional needs are different, due to a wide variety of genetic, social, and anatomical reasons. This month I’m highlighting some of the most important nutrients for women’s health.
The B vitamin group is made up of eight water-soluble vitamins that help regulate metabolism, prevent fatigue, and support mood and cognitive function. Older women, those with anemia, and vegans and vegetarians have the highest risk of deficiency. Lower levels of B6, B12, and folate have also been observed in women taking oral contraceptives. Vitamin B9, commonly known as folate or folic acid, is an essential nutrient for the development of a fetus’s spinal cord and brain during pregnancy. Over 30% of your vitamin B6 is actually made by the beneficial bacteria in your gut! Eating lots of plant-based fiber keeps those bacteria thriving. High amounts of B vitamins are found primarily in animal products, such as meat, eggs, fish, and dairy products. Folate specifically may be found in spinach and other leafy greens, beans, asparagus, and brussels sprouts. Supplementation with a high-quality B complex can help with fatigue and energy concerns.
Magnesium, one of the most ubiquitous minerals in the body, is involved in hundreds of different biochemical functions. Magnesium deficiency is also one of the more common nutrient deficiencies. Signs of magnesium deficiency are widespread and include anxiety, muscle cramps or spasms, constipation, headaches, and insomnia. Magnesium deficiency may also cause PMS symptoms, and when taken with vitamin B6, may be effective in improving symptoms of PMS. Magnesium is also critical for good adrenal function, which can suffer due to our high stress lives. Magnesium-rich foods include almonds, spinach, cashews, peanuts, and black beans. However, due to soil depletion, most food contains far less magnesium today than it did 50 years ago. It’s recommended that women over 30 consume 320 mg of magnesium daily. For most women, a daily magnesium supplement is a great idea.
Iron is an essential mineral, necessary for the production of hemoglobin and oxygen transport within the body. Low iron levels and iron deficiency anemia are particularly common in female athletes, women with heavy menstruation, pregnant women, and women who do not consume animal products. Low iron can also be due to undetected gut pathogens. The RDA for women under 50 is 18 mg per day. As women age, 8 mg per day is recommended due to the cessation of menstruation. Of note, you should not supplement with iron unless you have had a blood test that showed a significant need, as too much iron can be dangerous.
Omega Fatty Acids
Omega fatty acids support cardiovascular, immune, and cognitive function. They are also critical to the formation of healthy hormones and neurotransmitters. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to increase the growth of brain cells, improve mood, enhance memory, and boost blood flow as you age. Because autoimmune diseases are becoming so common in women, immune-boosting omegas are a critical part of maintaining a low inflammation lifestyle and keeping the immune system in check. Dietary sources of omega fatty acids include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts for omega-3; and whole grains, nuts, and seeds for omega-6. Since omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids should be in relative balance, and due to modern diets being dominated by omega-6 containing foods like grains, it’s typically recommended to consume an abundance of omega-3 containing foods or take an omega-3 supplement. About 2000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids daily is a good baseline for most women; more may be indicated with acute inflammation or immune issues.
Addressing the unique health needs of women is key to my practice. Contact me if you are concerned about your nutritional needs, or feel that your hormones may be behind your health issues. Let’s get to the bottom of it!
April is National Stress Awareness Month! We have all undoubtedly experienced some sort of physical or emotional stress in our lives. While short-term stress is normal, long-term, chronic stress has been associated with numerous stress-related health conditions, such as anxiety, hypertension, chronic fatigue syndrome, endocrine dysfunction, and metabolic syndrome.
Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and utilizing relaxation techniques can help you manage your stress levels and keep you feeling your best. Vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements can also help to improve your resilience to stress and support healthy adrenal gland function.
Below is some useful information about top recommended supplements, including popular products available through my dispensary, that may reduce the effects of stress.
One of the highest concentrations of vitamin C in the body is found in the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands play a key role in the stress response, secreting the hormones adrenaline, aldosterone, and cortisol. The adrenal glands also secrete vitamin C as a response to stress. Research has shown that individuals supplementing with vitamin C demonstrate lower blood pressure, faster salivary cortisol recovery, and better subjective stress responses. Ascorbic acid alone is not recommended for long-term supplementation—far better to choose a formulation that includes mixed ascorbates and bioflavonoids.
Top Vitamin C supplements:
Innate Response C Complete Powder
L-theanine, an amino acid commonly found in green tea, is well-known for promoting relaxation and improving sleep. Research has shown that L-theanine supplementation improves subjective stress and salivary cortisol responses when individuals are confronted with a stressor. L-theanine supplementation also decreases anxiety, depressive symptoms, and sleep disturbances in individuals with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD).
Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha)
Adaptogens refer to a group of plants or herbs that help your body adapt to stress, normalize body functions, and maintain homeostasis. Withania somnifera, commonly known as ashwagandha, “Indian Winter Cherry”, or “Indian Ginseng”, is well-known for its adaptogenic, antioxidant, and immune-supportive properties. Studies have shown that ashwagandha supplementation improves serum cortisol levels, perceived stress and happiness, food cravings, body weight, and body mass index.
Rhodiola rosea (Rhodiola)
Historically used in traditional Chinese medicine, the adaptogen Rhodiola rosea is known for its ability to reduce stress, decrease cortisol levels, and improve physical endurance. Several studies have also shown that rhodiola supplementation improves mental performance, concentration, and energy levels.
Top Rhodiola rosea supplements:
Rhodiola Rosea by Gaia Herbs
Rhodiola by Integrative Therapeutics
Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng)
Eleutherococcus senticosus, or Siberian ginseng, is a wild shrub of the Araliaceae family. Similar to ashwagandha and rhodiola, Siberian ginseng is known primarily for its adaptogenic effects. Siberian ginseng has been associated with reductions in heart rate and systolic blood pressure in women. Studies have also shown that supplementation with Siberian ginseng reduces severity and duration of fatigue.
Top Eleutherococcus senticosus supplements:
Eleuthero Root Capsules by Gaia Herbs (Professional Solutions)
Eleuthero Solid Extract by Wise Woman Herbals
Log in to your Fullscript account now to explore these supplements! Don’t have one yet? It’s free to create one, and you’ll get access to my favorite supplements, at less than retail pricing, and with free shipping over $50.
While supplementation can provide your body with extra support during periods of stress, it’s essential to understand your personal stress response and address the factors contributing to your stress. Also, incorporating stress management and relaxation techniques into your life needs to become part of your daily habits. Apps like Headspace and Calm can be great for helping to promote mindfulness and relaxation. One of my favorite tips is to set an alarm on your phone for 5 x 5 minute walks outside a day. It’s amazing what a little sunshine and fresh air can do!
If you want to get a deeper look at how stress is affecting your endocrine system and adrenal function in particular, reach out, and let’s talk about testing options.
I hope you found this informative and helpful, and am wishing you a very happy and healthy National Stress Awareness Month!
- skin issues like eczema or psoriasis
- puffiness and unwanted weight, especially in the midsection
- gum disease
- joint pain or arthritis
- chronic headaches
- chronic digestive upset
- recurrent urinary tract infections
- enlarged prostate
- feeling tired, anxious, depressed
As my clients know all too well, I’m pretty down on wine drinking. The reality is, a glass of wine is just a big old glass of sugar. And almost every single client comes to me in a huge state of off-kilter blood sugar regulation. When you’re riding that blood sugar roller-coaster, with spikes and crashes all day long due to a diet full of refined carbs and sugars, the last thing you need to is to sit down and drink a glass (or 3!) of fermented grape sugars. Sleep issues, hormone issues, inflammation, weight gain, brain fog, gut dysbiosis…..the list of things that blood sugar dysregulation leads to is long and painful.
And let’s be real: no one likes it when I tell them this. No. One.
People love their wine. Most people love it too much, and, I think, use it as a crutch to try to de-stress from their hectic lives. (Pro tip: meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and walks in the sunshine are all WAY better choices for stress management!) So, I’ve always thought to myself, when blood sugar regulation is restored, most people can likely go back to having A GLASS of wine and handle it ok. (More than that, not something I recommend, for anyone.)
But that’s just not what I see happen in practice. Nor what happens to me.
I love bubbly. Champagne has always been my drink of choice. But a few years ago, as I wrestled with gut and hormone and autoimmune issues, I realized I just didn’t handle it well. I was always a 1-glass drinker anyway–I’m a real lightweight!–but I started realizing that, within a few sips of that one glass, my head hurt and I felt nasty. And this is what my clients find happens to them, as well. They do the hard work. They move to a diet of whole nourishing foods. They get their blood sugar swings under control. Their inflammation and brain fog gets so much better. And then they try to have a glass of wine, and they just feel horrid. We’re not talking Two Buck Chuck here–this happens with even the highest-end wines and champagnes.
So, for my clients who want to feel their best, and for me, wine and bubbly are basically off the table.
Then, earlier this month, something pretty huge happened.
I went to a functional wellness industry retreat weekend, where the wine was being provided by Dry Farm Wines. And my world was rocked, both by what I learned and what I drank.
Dry Farm Wines isn’t a grower, but rather a buyer of the highest quality natural wines in the world. They are the world’s only health-conscious and lab tested Natural Wine Club.
Dry Farm Wines curates high quality Natural Wines from small, organic family farms around the world. This is real wine (not like commercial shelf wines), grown with respect for Nature, sustainability, and human health.
What I learned is that the wine we’ve all been drinking is full of additives, chemicals, GMOs, and added sugars. And this is why it makes us feel like garbage. Turns out, there’s a better way. A side-effect-free way to enjoy wine!
Dry Farm Wines is fanatical about health. They lab test every wine to ensure they meet their strict standards of purity. (In fact, there isn’t a single US-produced organic wine that meets their standards!) That means these wines are quantifiably clean, free of negative side effects, and friendly to every diet, including Paleo, Low-Carb, and Ketogenic.
Every bottle is…
Sugar-Free (< 1g/L)
Low Sulfites (< 75ppm)
Low Alcohol (< 12.5%)
Dry-Farmed (No Irrigation)
Organically or Biodynamically Grown
Fermented with Wild Native Yeast
Made in Small Productions
Let’s talk about just a few of these important points!
Additives: In the United States, wine producers can use 76 different additives in wine, without disclosing any of them on the bottle. Commercial wine producers use additives for consistency – they’re making millions of bottles, and they want them all to look and taste the same. That means adding defoaming agents, artificial coloring (virtually every red wine under $20 has the colorant “mega purple”), extra sugar, high fructose corn syrup, ammonia (part of the reason low-quality wine makes you nauseous the next morning), and genetically modified bacteria and yeasts. There is literally nothing in Dry Farm Wines bottles besides grapes and the wild yeasts that live on them!
Sugar: Most commercial wines are bottled before they fully ferment to speed up production and maximize profits. Some producers also add sugar or high fructose corn syrup to their wine. DFW wines ferment at their natural pace, which allows yeasts and bacteria to convert the natural sugar into alcohol, and the alcohol into other compounds. They lab-test their wines to make sure they have statistically insignificant amounts of sugar and carbs (<1g/L for each). That means DFW wines can be enjoyed on a Paleo or Keto diet. Sugar is also a main culprit in hangovers. Testing for it is part of what makes DFW wines hangover-free.
Low alcohol: Commercial winemaking favors higher-alcohol wines. Average alcohol content in wine is currently sitting around 14% ABV. DFW wines are, at most, 12.5% ABV, and many are lower. Alcohol drowns out the finer notes in wine. Studies find casual drinkers enjoy low-alcohol wine more. A glass of wine a day may also help you live longer: in nearly all Blue Zones – parts of the world where people live longest – moderate alcohol consumption is part of the culture. But any more than a drink or two (of any wine) and alcohol becomes a toxin.
Biodynamic, organic, sustainable farms: Glyphosate, aka Roundup, has been found in almost every US wine tested, even organic ones, because our soil is so contaminated. Not so on a European Natural wine farm. Biodynamic farms are wild organic ecosystems. The farmers who make DFW wines balance grapevines with trees, flowers, herbs, vegetables, chickens, sheep, and so on. The biodiversity strengthens soil bacteria, leading to healthier, polyphenol-rich wines with thoughtful complexity of flavor. All the wines come from sustainable winemakers whose practices return nutrients and bacteria to the soil.
Fermented: Natural wine is a living product, which means it’s rich with precious bacteria and compounds that enhance your microbiome. Probiotic bacteria are present in natural, unfiltered wine. These bacteria protect your gut from pathogens, decrease inflammation, and have other similar probiotic benefits as fermented foods like kimchi. Commercially-made wines have sulfites added to them to kill the GMO yeast, so the wine is dead by the time it reaches you.
Taste: So by now you’re thinking, OK great Ellen, but how do they TASTE? Flipping fantastic. I had glasses of sparking Spanish Cava and Italian pink Prosecco that were both delightful. I tasted a French red that made me want to curl up inside the glass. Natural wine crafted according to DFW health criteria tastes clean and fresh. Without heavy additives and artificial flavoring, the wine goes down smoothly.
And best of all? No headache. No weird feelings. No puffiness. Nothing. Nada. I slept great (because, no sugar!) and woke up the next morning feeling 100% normal (because, no chemicals or garbage!) I’m not going to become a nightly wine drinker, but what a joy to be able to have a glass on a special occasion or with friends (because if you invite me over, you know what I’m bringing!).
I’m really excited to have partnered with Dry Farm Wines to bring healthy Natural wine to my clients, readers, and friends. Click here to grab a bottle for just ONE PENNY, with any wine club order. They have a 100% happiness guarantee, so you really have nothing to lose. If they ever send you a bottle you don’t like, let them know, and they’ll send you something else for free. You can cancel anytime. You can choose how often you get shipments. Basically, these are the nicest guys in the world, and they want you to be happy and fall in love with Natural wine.
As for the final word on wine, from this nutritionist? We need to think of alcohol as a recreational treat. If you drink wine, I suggest you drink Dry Farms Wine, and limit consumption to one 5-ounce glass, up to three times a week.
In My Kitchen: my healthy cereal substitute (video blog link)