Growing up, I was significantly influenced by the diet culture of the 80s. The message was to eat a low-fat diet and exercise like crazy, so I mostly followed this advice. Like so many women, I had a conflicting relationship with food, especially around how much I should be eating. I had stomach issues as a child, specifically an undiagnosed overabundance of H. pylori bacteria, and never seemed to get proper help. As I got older, I realized that I was being given a band-aid solution to my problems and took the initiative by booking a health coach.
My Healthy Healing Journey
I started my journey with my health coach at 23 and began cooking more for myself. Every couple of weeks, I would talk to her about what kinds of foods I should be experimenting with within the kitchen. Our conversations together launched me into genuine interest and curiosity for nutrition and that is where my career journey began. Through my health coach, my nutrition studies at Bauman College, and my apprenticeship at Three Stone Hearth; I learned so much—about blood sugar regulation, the importance of combining macronutrients for blood sugar balance, the bioavailability of nutrients, the world of food sensitivities and so much more. I even found out that I had food sensitivities that were utterly new to me! I also learned fun tricks like how to soak nuts and grains, make fantastic bone broth, and build beautiful meals. After this experience, I came out feeling more confident and open to new ways of cooking and healing. I thought, “Wow!,” having a job where you can advise people about living a healthy life was real. Most importantly, I realized that healthy food is delicious, nourishing, and a priority for healthy living.
Nutrition & TTC
The process of trying to conceive (TTC) and get pregnant has been really interesting; it made me dive deeper into my own hormones and my menstrual cycle and remember that our bodies are HUNGRY. It needs nutrients and healthy habits to function correctly. Hormones are quite sensitive, and many things can throw them off. It was helpful to learn what my menstrual cycle should be doing and how to track my cycle beyond just counting days.
I learned I had to support my luteal phase (the phase after ovulation), which was too short. For me, that means that it was likely my progesterone was low, which may hinder my chance of maintaining pregnancy if I happened to conceive. Fertility is a sign of health, and your body needs everything to be healthy. Eating a variety of whole foods and eating with the seasons can help.
To support my luteal phase, I wanted to make sure that I could detox any excess estrogen. This means lots of fiber! I eat lots of long-cooked beans and lentils made with bone broth, which also doubles as providing folate. I drink liver-supportive teas with burdock, dandelion root, and chicory since excess estrogen is eliminated through the liver. I’m also eating healthy fats, including olive oil, fish, and avocado. Additionally, I’m eating lots of veggies, both for fiber and antioxidants. For all of my meals, I aim to have vegetables on half of my plate, even for breakfast! I have also been taking a whole foods-based prenatal vitamin to make sure my bases are covered.
Recently I had blood labs that tested my thyroid, and there was evidence that my thyroid hormones were low functioning, and I tested positive, although low, for thyroid antibodies. That means that my body is creating antibodies to my thyroid tissue, and I’m at risk for hypothyroidism in the future. As a result, I’ve gone gluten-free for the last six months and have seen my thyroid antibodies decrease. Thyroid hormones and sex hormones are intricately linked. Progesterone enhances thyroid hormone sensitivity while estrogen blunts it. Going gluten-free forced me to start eating more nutrient-dense foods, which was a great repercussion. Not having bread forces me to eat more nutrient-dense carbohydrates, like brown rice, legumes, or sweet potatoes. To eat less sugar, I try to substitute with more fruits or dried fruits, but there’s also nothing wrong with a treat now and then! We want to keep an eye on sugar, partly because overeating sugary foods will crowd out more healthful ones.
Be Kind to Yourself
Stress has been a major factor in this pandemic, and TTC can add another layer. One way that we can help counteract the effects of stress and aid our absorption of nutrients is to eat mindfully. The more we blast through our meals while we are distracted, the worse we digest, the less we absorb, and the worse we feel. We want to chew our food carefully to absorb all our nutrients and be relaxed when we eat to be able to digest properly. Making sure we tap into our parasympathetic mode (the rest and digest mode) throughout the day is helpful not only for digesting but also for conceiving. It’s great practice.
Sleep is another aspect of my life that has changed, partly due to the pandemic. I fall asleep and rise much earlier than in the past, and it’s been fantastic. Sleep is so incredibly vital. I have also found that acupuncture has been beneficial for my stress levels and I’ve enjoyed going on a weekly basis. I have been working with an acupuncturist who specializes in fertility since it has been recently documented as helpful for fertility.
TTC can be an emotional roller coaster, and it’s hard not to want more from your own body. Being compassionate and gentle is helpful, and it’s important to remind yourself that this year has been especially challenging. I encourage women everywhere to truly listen to their bodies and most importantly, be kind to it.