Seed cycling is a gentle way to balance hormones, but with fibroids many women hesitate to start. Uterine fibroids, or leiomyomas, affect millions of women, causing heavy bleeding and often pain. They are space-occupying lesions that can interfere with fertility, with urination, with digestion and also cause severe pain and pressure in the pelvis. Seed cycling could be a gentle way to limit fibroid growth and manage symptoms. They are a serious condition and it is important to work closely with your physician when considering any new protocol, including this one.
What Is Seed Cycling or Seed Rotation?
Seed cycling, also called seed rotation, is a nutritional method of regulating women’s hormones. It works by using two different combinations of seeds for the two phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. If you are unfamiliar with the basics of the menstrual cycle or of seed cycling, there is a helpful article here. Typically, 1 Tablespoon of flax seeds and 1 Tablespoon of pumpkin seeds are taken for the first half of the cycle (from day one of bleeding to ovulation, or the first 14 days) which is the follicular phase. 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds and 1 Tablespoon of sesame seeds are taken for the second half of the cycle (from ovulation, or day 15 to the end,) which is the luteal phase. The basic protocol, however, isn’t appropriate for women with estrogen dominance so severe that it has led to fibroids. Seed cycling for fibroids should be a different protocol.
Days 1 – 14; The Follicular Phase
The first fourteen days of a woman’s cycle are dominated by the effects of estrogen. Estrogen is the strongest known contributor to the growth of uterine fibroids, and so it is important to modulate this time of the month. Flax seeds work in two ways to REDUCE the effects of estrogen on the body. In one aspect, the lignan from flax seeds is a phytoestrogen, meaning a plant-based estrogen which mimics 2-alpha-hydroxyestrone. This type of estrogen is biologically far less active than other estrogens (it is often compared to the biologically overactive 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone in research). Here is a great research article that goes into far more detail about this process. Also, the fiber in flax seeds acts as a natural detoxifier, helping your body to trap and eliminate estrogens from the gut (humans tend to reabsorb estrogens from the gut so that they are never fully eliminated). Here’s more on fiber. Here’s more about estrogen dominance and the reabsorption of estrogens from the gut. The overall effect of the flax seeds is one of lowering estrogen. For a fibroid, lowering your estrogen levels will help to keep growth to a minimum. It probably won’t be strong enough to shrink the fibroid, but it may help slow or prevent growth. Seed cycling for fibroids should use only flax seeds for the first 14 days.
Seed cycling for fibroids should include the flax and sesame seeds in rotation, without the testosterone boosting effects of pumpkin seeds or the progesterone boosting effects of sunflower seeds.
Days 1-14: 1-2 Tbsp ground flax seeds.
Days 15 – 28 (or the end of your cycle): 1-2 Tbsp sesame seeds.
As always, check with your physician to make sure this is appropriate for you before you start anything new. Also, be sure you are monitoring the size of your fibroids to make sure that their growth is actually slowing and that you are not putting yourself in any danger. As always, listen to your body in everything that you do for your health.
Losing weight is a modern obsession. As we become more in-tune with our bodies and what is good – and not good – for us, change becomes essential. Finding out if you are healthy weight or not can be tough. For years, the Body Mass Index (BMI) was the go-to solution to see if we were in proportion with our body weight.
Using a formula that calculates your body height with your weight, you can quickly learn how “healthy” you are under BMI grounds. However, please note that BMI is probably not the one-size-fits-all tool that we had once assumed. Let’s take a look at the BMI, why it was such a useful force for good and why, today, you might do well to look at BMI in a different light.
Why Should I Measure BMI?
Many people use BMI to determine their ideal weight. For example, according to conventional use for BMI, staying within 18.5-24.9 indicates a healthy weight. If you fall outside of either 18.5 (underweight) or 25 (overweight) then according to your BMI, change needs to happen.
Is 18.5-24.9 REALLY Ideal?
I recommend that you look to measure your BMI more intelligently. Many people will look to use this number to help determine every part of their lifestyle, but it’s vital to note that there are some serious limitations in the way that BMI operates. BMI use in weight loss is not always the most valuable metric. BMI alone is not enough.
Limitations of the Body Mass Index
Muscle Mass is Not Fat Mass.
One of the most common reasons why you need to take a look at BMI with a skeptical view is that BMI does not take into account the importance of fat and muscle. Naturally, this means that someone who has more muscle may be in the wrong category. It also means that you might be in an ideal BMI range, but have too much fat and not enough muscle.
It’s an often used example, but super athletes in the past like Michael Jordan would have been in the wrong BMI count. They would have been ‘overweight’ as the average person is not cut to shreds with muscle and physical power.
Fat Distribution Matters
Not all fat is created equal. Many poeple with a “normal” BMI still carry a dangerous amount of belly fat. We all know someone with skinny arms and legs but a round belly. Belly fat is among the most dangerous fats and is far more important to deal with than other type.
So, Is BMI Useful For Weight Loss?
BMI is useful in that it’s quick, easy, free and gives you a broad guideline. However, for the reasons we mentioned until now, it is by no means a catch-all solution. Context is key, and knowing your BMI alone is not enough.
Other Ways To Track Weight Loss
Numbers on a scale have just as many limitations as the BMI – different people are built differently and the numbers can’t tell you that. For example, I’m built like a bird and am actually overweight at 115 lbs. My husband, who has a big frame, is underweight at 175 lbs. So here are some other things to consider:
Energy level. Being over or underweight is a stressor, so energy level can be a great indicator of your body’s overall health.
Strength. If you feel strong in your body then you’re doing something right. This doesn’t have anything to do with how much you bench press, it has to do with how well your body holds up to your everyday stressors.
Tone. If you can see changes in your muscles when you use them, then you’re doing something right.
Weight Distribution. Very few of us are lucky enough to have our weight distributed evenly over our whole bodies. Most of us have a place that fat collects (think belly, hips, thighs, butt). Use your problem area as a benchmark for weight loss. If that area is becoming more proportional to the rest of you, you’re doing great.
Fit of Clothing. I know that if I go through a sedentary period and then start working out again or re-connect with my focus on health, the first thing I notice is that my clothes fit better. This happens before the numbers on the scale change (and sometimes I gain weight at first but my clothes fit better). This matters.
BMI is great as a tracking tool or a rough guideline, but there are so many more important factors in weight loss that this shouldn’t be your only guide.
Taurine is used for many things, but taurine for gallbladder sludge doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s well known for energy, of course, hence every energy drink out there. While increased energy is a *really* great side-effect, anyone with gallbladder sludge can tell you that getting rid of that is pretty good too.
Why Does Taurine Help With Gallbladder Sludge and Stones?
So, why does Taurine help with gallbladder sludge and also help to decrease gallstone formation? Great question. The substance we generally call “bile” in the gallbladder is actually a conjugated bile salt. Primary bile acids are made in your liver, then conjugated (which means bonded to) either taurine or glycine to become active bile salts. Meaning, without the taurine or glycine, they don’t do anything at all. If you want more detail about this process, there is a great article here. Taurine and glycine are both common in the Standard American Diet, especially from meat and fish sources and also can be made by our bodies if we’re low. So, what is the problem?
MSG. Dietary MSG requires taurine for metabolism and excretion.
High Estrogen. People with high estrogen use so many of their methyl donors trying to deal with estrogen, that there are none left to help their bodies make taurine (especially methionine). High estrogen, you will recall, is also one of the primary risk factors for gallstones and gallbladder sludge.
MTHFR Mutation. Sorry MTHFR folks – I feel your pain. MTHFR mutations also mean there are fewer methyl donors, hence lower taurine production and also lower estrogen clearance. Healthy bile is methylation-dependent.
Diabetes. There is a link between diabetes and low taurine (and also taurine has been shown to reduce blood sugars).
The Best Way to Supplement Taurine
While energy drinks are fun, these are NOT the best source if you’re trying to prevent gallbladders sludge or stones. See the diabetes thing above? Yeah. Energy drinks typically have a hefty dose of sugar and aren’t going to help your health at all. Food sources of taurine are great in moderation and as part of a healthy diet – meats, dairy products and fish are all high in taurine, but they are also often high in cholesterol, which is best taken in moderation with gallstones or gallbladder sludge. That leaves supplements, which are probably the best option for therapeutic doses of Taurine for gallbladder sludge and stones. Typically suppelements are dosed in 500 or 1000 mg pills and you can take up to 3000 mg daily without harm, even long term. For more information on Taurine or safe dosing, read this.
What Else Should I Be Doing?
While you’re taking your taurine, it’s important to remember to moderate cholesterol in your diet (but not eliminate it – healthy gallbladders need dietary fats to contract and clean themselves out). It’s also incredibly important to remember to get great water intake because, without water, you’re not flushing anything out of anywhere. Also, increase your fiber intake. Fiber not only helps to eliminate fats and bile salts in the intestines but also, helps to pull out estrogens, which decrease taurine. Taurine will help you to be sludge (and pain) free.
Missing out on sleep can do a lot more than leave you feeling drowsy the next day. Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to both your mental and physical health. Lack of sleep affects your judgment, coordination, and reaction times the next morning, but over time people who are sleep deprived become more and more at risk for certain health conditions and illnesses. ● Memory loss and brain fog, even Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia ● High blood pressure ● Weakened immune system ● Delayed reflexes, impaired coordination ● Mood swings, depression, anxiety, and paranoia ● High blood sugar ● Weight gain ● Low testosterone, decreased libido ● Inflammation ● Heart disease
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
The amount of sleep a person needs depends on their age. Children need the most sleep. Newborns need as many as 14 to 17 hours of rest a day. Up until five years, young children need no less than 10 hours of sleep each and every night. Young kids from six up to 13 years old should get about nine to 11 hours of sleep, while adolescents 14 to 17 need eight to 10 hours of quality shut-eye. Generally, adults should get about seven to nine hours of sleep, especially busy parents who want to keep up with their kids. When it comes to sleep, it’s not all about quantity — quality plays a big role, as well. Even if a person stays in bed a good nine hours each night, if they are tossing, turning, and waking up throughout the night they will still wake up feeling sick and disoriented. These helpful tips promote better sleep for optimal performance the next day and beyond. What’s more: all of the tips are both budget-friendly and easy to execute.
Curate Coziness in Your Bedroom
While some rooms in the house can have several different functions, your bedroom should only be for rest and relaxation. Find new areas of your home for working, eating or watching television. When you designate the bedroom as a space for rest, you create a soothing atmosphere. Walking across the threshold, the brain and body recognize that they are in an environment for rest and they begin their nightly reboot. Decluttering or rearranging what you already have can make it more inviting.
Invest in high-quality linens, pillows, and blankets for the most comfortable bed imaginable. People with anxiety and sleep disorders like periodic limb movements should also look into adding a weighted blanket into the repertoire. Weighted blankets provide a sense of comfort and reduce levels of cortisol in the body, making it easier to feel relaxed and eventually drift to sleep.
Better Sleep With Magnesium
The average adult doesn’t need supplements as long as they eat a varied and healthy diet. However, one nutrient a lot of us could use more of is magnesium. Studies suggest about half of adult men and women in the United States are not getting enough magnesium in their diet. Magnesium is vital when it comes to regulating the body’s many functions. Healthy levels of magnesium contribute to heart and bone health, protect metabolism, stabilize mood, reduce stress, and promote better sleep.
While the best way to balance magnesium levels is through a healthy diet, there is also research indicating that supplemental magnesium can improve overall sleep quality. You should always double-check with a doctor before incorporating supplements into your diet, but magnesium is generally considered safe for consumption. Some people even drink magnesium before bed as a way to wind the brain and body down for a restful night’s sleep.
Sleep deprivation can lead to physical and mental health conditions including a heightened risk of depression, heart disease, and dementia. To get better sleep, make your room a sanctuary where the brain and body can unwind and relax. For those who have trouble relaxing, a soothing magnesium drink can correct an imbalance that contributes to insomnia. With a few extra budget-friendly steps, you can tackle sleep deprivation and get the rest your body needs.
Healthy Habits to Maintain Sobriety and Truly Live in Recovery from MTHFR and Alcohol.
Article by Michelle Peterson at recoverypride.org, in honor of April – Alcohol Awareness Month
Making the decision to get clean and sober is only the first step to a healthier life. Once you are in recovery for addiction, you may find that you still lack energy or emotional balance, or the original issue that you were self-medicating is still present. The reality is that it takes more than quitting substances to feel your best. Replacing the unhealthy habits of substance abuse with new healthy habits will not only help you get back to your true self, but it also helps maintain sobriety. If you, like many others seeking recovery, have an MTHFR mutation, then addressing this issue will help in your overall progress. After all, MTHFR and alcohol are linked.
Set a Fitness Goal
It’s no secret that regular exercise is essential for good health, and for someone in recovery, it is one of the absolute best ways to get stronger, both physically and mentally. Addiction takes a toll on your body, which can lead to poor health and a general lack of energy. Simply being active on a regular basis counteracts these feelings, builds strength, and can even reverse poor health. Start out slow, and for the best success in making exercise a habit that sticks, try different activities to find something you really enjoy.
Exercise, especially exercise involving the great outdoors, can help boost health in MTHFR and alcohol abuse or recovery. Thanks for the lovely picture by Hoang Nguyen Xuan from Pexels
Getting in the habit of regular exercise packs a one-two punch in helping contribute to recovery. Along with the physical effects you see and feel, being active also improves your mental health, and mental health is key in both MTHFR and alcohol issues. Managing emotions is crucial for maintaining sobriety, and exercise has been shown to increase the feel-good chemicals in your brain and give you an amazing boost in self-confidence. Look to other inspiring people who have found exercise to help in recovery, such as this Ironman athlete, who was featured by CNN. You don’t have to do an Ironman race, but set a goal to work toward, which will help keep you on track and give you a sense of accomplishment.
Fuel Your Body and Mind
Having a balanced, healthy diet helps you feel better both physically and mentally throughout recovery. It’s common for those in recovery to have nutritional deficiencies, so focus your diet on eating plenty of foods packed with nutrients you need. A good general rule is to eat the rainbow, which means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables of all colors in order to get a full variety of nutrients. While good nutrition makes you stronger and boosts energy, Harvard Health Publishing explains how a diet high in unhealthy fats and sugar can impair brain function and make symptoms of anxiety and depression worse. One of your primary goals in recovery should be to manage stressors and overall mental health to avoid relapse, so the emotional effects of a poor diet are the opposite of what you need.
Manage Your MTHFR
Not only does MTHFR mutation increase the likelihood of alcohol overconsumption, it also makes the nutritional impact of alcohol worse. Alcohol is known to deplete several B vitamins in the body including folate (this is us, MTHFR folks), thiamine, Riboflavin, B6, B12 and vitamins A, E, D and K. In addition to a healthy diet with a rainbow of colors, it is a good idea to supplement B vitamins and methylfolate to bring those levels up to par. This is doubly important if you have a known or suspected MTHFR mutation. Because MTHFR mutations often affect neurotransmitter levels, it is important to start supplementing methylfolate the right way, because taking too much can cause negative symptoms.
Discover a Passion
Exercise and nutrition are the foundations for a healthy body and mind, but you need more in your life to truly thrive. Now is the perfect time to start a new hobby or rediscover a passion from your past. When you’re no longer being controlled by substances, your mind is freed up to discover creativity. Learning a new skill and throwing yourself into a creative endeavor can be incredibly rewarding in recovery. You may enjoy making something with your hands, such as knitting, pottery, or woodworking. This type of hobby adds value to life and can also be a strategy for coping with stressors and triggers.
You may want to find a hobby that involves getting outdoors. This can be anything from taking regular walks in your neighborhood, perhaps with a friend, to outdoor adventures like hiking, mountain biking, or kayaking. Being outdoors, especially if you’re doing something active, is a habit that benefits your health in multiple ways. The vitamin D from the sun is great for your mood, and connecting with nature is grounding.
Finding a new hobby and making that part of your daily life is like icing on the cake when it comes to new healthy habits. When you’re in the throes of substance abuse, caring for yourself is the last thing on your mind, and it’s easy to get away from doing things you really love. Staying committed to recovery requires caring for your physical and mental well-being, and starting these healthy habits helps you accomplish that goal while giving life meaning.
If you’re struggling with gallbladder sludge and stones you may also be struggling to find your triggers, and one of those triggers might just be drugs – drugs and gallbladder can be linked. Certain foods, stress, times of day – lots of things can trigger an attack or give you twinges. Sadly, the effects of pharmaceutical drugs are often overlooked, even by your doctor so be sure to check your medicine cabinet, and use the tips below to write your own health timeline. This can give you the valuable information you need to find your own personal gallbladder triggers.
Pills! Have you checked to see if your drugs and gallbladder are linked? Photo by Slashme at English Language Wikipedia.
Pharmaceutical Drugs and Gallbladder – What Drugs Can Cause Problems
Birth Control Pills – Just like high levels of your natural estrogens are implicated in gallbladder trouble, so too are external estrogens. Even more so because these synthetic estrogens can be difficult for your body to process and eliminate.
Hormone Replacement Therapy – Much the same as birth control pills.
Lipid Lowering Drugs – Especially Clofibrate, but other drugs haven’t been studied as widely so it’s best to have some caution with the whole group.
Thiazide diuretics – There is conflicting research about this group of drugs, but many studies suggest they do cause problems. This includes Chlorothiazide (Diuril), Chlorothalidone, Hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide), Indapamide, Metolazone.
Ceftriaxone – This antibiotic can cause gallbladder sludge and stones fairly quickly, but the problems should also resolve after the drug is discontinued.
Octreotide – Long term use of this injectable synthetic hormone (synthetic somatostatin) is linked to gallbladder stasis and gallstone formation.
Hepatic Artery Infusion Chemotherapy – This is linked to such severe problems your doctor will typically suggest that you remove your gallbladder before starting treatment.
Erythromycin and Ampicillin – Both of these antibiotics are linked with hypersensitivity-induced cholecystitis. That means that your body’s reaction to becoming sensitive to the drug includes inflammation of the gallbladder.
Cyclosporine – This immunosupressive drug, which is often used for psoriasis has had mixed reports of causing trouble for your gallbladder.
Dapsone – This antibiotic has also seen patchy reports of gallbladder issues.
Anticoagulant treatment – This link is unclear, but it seems that people with gallbladder inflammation are at increased risk of emergency gallbladder removal after starting anticoagulants.
Narcotics – These drugs are well known in slowing down the motion of your bowels, and that slowing can have a profound impact on your gallbladder function.
Cisapride – Research has shown that in squirrels fed a high-cholesterol diet, Cisapride helped prevent the formation of crystals in the gallbladder, which are the precursors of gallstones. Sadly, this drug has been removed from the market due to side-effects.
Erythromycin – This drug can also be given to increase gastric motility (this is called a prokinetic, like Cisapride), and in spite of the fact that people with hypersensitivity reactions can have gallbladder issues from the drug, it can also solve gallbladder issues.
What About Drugs Not On This List? Write Your Health Timeline.
Every person can have a unique reaction to any drug or substance, which is part of what makes medicine so challenging. It’s a good idea to do a timeline of your gallbladder symptoms. What were the stressors in your life at the time symptoms started? Were there major emotional stressors? New drugs? Diet changes? Other conditions? This will help you to pin point the factors that might be contributing to your own issues and may indeed reveal a link to a pharmaceutical drug. Even if that drug is not known for causing gallbladder issues, it can be worth investigating. Talk with your doctor to see if there is a different type of drug that might address the same issue or if there is a way you can discontinue for a while to see if your gallbladder issues change at all. After all, your body is always unique.
Naturally, MTHFR and birth control pills interact – it’s not like this is an easy mutation to live with in other senses, why would it leave our contraceptive options untouched? Complaining aside, I could have saved myself years of miserable experiences with the pill if I had known this.
MTHFR and birth control pills is a bad combination. Photo by Bryancalabro.
Birth Control Pills Deplete Folate in Your Body
If you’re familiar with MTHFR mutations, then you’ve probably already figured out why this is a no-win situation for us MTHFR gals, but if you’re not then read on. Birth Control Pills are known to deplete folate levels in women and have been known to do so since the ’80s. This is a problem for all women, but especially those who have compromised folate metabolism in the first place (ahem, that’s us MTHFR folks). This folate depletion is part of the reason for some of the most common side effects of birth control pills – fatigue, mild depression, even acne. It’s also linked to an increased risk of neural tube defects in babies born to women who have recently stopped using birth control pills.
If you don’t tolerate birth control pills and can’t figure out why, it could be because you have an MTHFR mutation – especially if you have signs of a folate deficiency even though you’re taking your birth control pills WITH a multivitamin or folate supplement.
Birth Control Pills also deplete B12, Magnesium and other nutrients
Of course for MTHFR folks the folate is the biggest factor, but folate always works in tandem with other B vitamins so make sure you’re getting a good B complex supplement if you do choose to take birth control pills.
Birth Control Pills May Also Affect Serotonin Metabolism
In related bad news, Birth control pills may also affect your Serotonin metabolism (which might also be compromised in MTHFR folks because of this.) This study, published in the Journal of Ayub Medical College, showed that there was a difference in serotonin levels between non-contraceptive users and oral contraceptive users that was statistically significant in pre-analysis but not statistically significant in post-analysis. That means that although there was a difference in the two groups, it wasn’t large enough that we can say with confidence that it wasn’t chance. There was, however, a significant difference in serotonin levels for those using injectable contraceptives. Injectable contraceptives are a bad idea on so many levels, but let’s add this as another reason not to use them.
What Type of Contraceptive is Best for MTHFR Mutants?
Completely safe relative to MTHFR mutation types (other risks though – do your research!):
Condoms, Female Condoms
Copper IUD (non-progesterone secreting)
Vasectomy or tubal ligation
If you feel you must take hormonal contraception:
Use the lowest dose of hormone possible and make sure you’re adding extra supplements to counteract nutritional deficiencies. Consider Beyaz® but remember if you’re an MTHFR mutant you might still need additional active folate, and it doesn’t supplement any of the other nutrients it depletes so you’ll also need those.
Avoid using injections, pellets or implants simply because once they’re in you can’t get them out. That means if your body doesn’t tolerate it you’re stuck with the side effects until the dose wears off.
If you’re considering getting pregnant, please stop all oral contraceptives at least a year before you start to try and make sure you work diligently during that year to boost your levels of all of the nutrients that may have been depleted.
This article is by Travis White of Learnfit.org. Thanks Travis!
Everybody wants to look and feel their best when the spring and summer seasons hit – after all, we all want to wear that bathing suit in public. Making the effort to improve both your mental physical health can go a long way toward reducing stress and increasing energy. Of course, the hardest part is getting started. There are plenty of easy tips that you can incorporate to improve your nutrition and up your physical activity that will have you ready for the warmer months in no time.
Boost your mental and physical health by getting outside and doing something you love.
Planning is the key to boosting Mental and Physical Health.
The best way to ensure success when it comes to improving your mental and physical health is to put together a detailed plan. When you start making changes to your diet or activity levels without a clear strategy, you are setting yourself up to fail. Writing down your goals, plans, and progress can be a very effective strategy for improving your health. Keep a journal of what you eat and what activity you do, and be honest so that you can look back at your successes and pinpoint areas of trouble as you move forward.
The spring and summer seasons are ideal for trying to make modifications to your diet to improve your health. Be sure to check out farmers markets that start in the spring, as these are a great resource for fresh, whole foods that are packed with nutrition. Focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats to keep you energized and satisfied throughout the day. Be sure to work on cutting out or cutting back on unhealthy choices such as sugary treats and fast food.
Exercise or Activity is a MUST for boosting Mental and Physical Health
Any plan for improving your physical and mental health needs to include regular, moderate exercise. If you don’t like the “E” word, then let’s call it “activity” instead. AZ Central recommends planning for at least 30 active minutes a day, at least five days a week. Add it to your calendar to help you commit to it. The time of day that you exercise is far less important than getting it done consistently, so consider whether your lifestyle best accommodates a morning, noon, late afternoon, or evening time slot.
Embrace activities that motivate you for the spring and summer seasons, things that you love to do. Focus on walking, running, swimming, biking, or playing in the surf. Experts also recommend incorporating some strength training at least a couple of times a week into your routine. You don’t necessarily need a gym membership or fancy equipment to do this. You can focus on exercises that use your own body-weight such as lunges, pushups, crunches and other similar activities to help you build your strength, adding in dumbbells for additional exercises if you’d like.
Small Lifestyle Changes will Greatly Improve Mental and Physical Health
To a large degree, improving your physical health will significantly improve your mental health as well. Focusing on quality nutrition in your diet will help to reduce stress and increase your energy, and the University of Michigan University Health Service notes that helps to improve your mood and decrease anxiety and depression.
The spring and summer months are the ideal time to focus on improving your physical and mental health. Working on improving your health doesn’t have to be overwhelming, as there are plenty of easy ways to incorporate moderate changes that ultimately will have a significant, positive impact. Create a plan of attack with measurable goals and focus on quality nutrition and regular exercise to boost your fitness and reduce your stress levels. Once you commit to lifestyle changes and see some success, you’ll be motivated to keep going and reap the rewards of your hard work as you embrace the warm months.
As promised, I want to give you some simple things to try for the fatigue and lack of energy that can be a big part of parenting – the mommy burnout. There is no doubt that parenting is the biggest fullest time full-time job there is, and to be clear I’m talking about daddy burnout too. You are the bottom line of responsibility and that can be a difficult weight to carry – especially when you’re up at 4:00 am for the fourth night in a row with a coughing child and you know you have to be functional at 7:30 for work. There are some things that you can do to help maintain your energy level and bolster the reserves. Too many parents forget to care for themselves while they are busy caring for baby.
It sounds too simple to be effective but B vitamin deficiencies are very common, especially in women. There are several B vitamins, but I think the easiest way to get them is in a B-complex, simply because the deficiency symptoms overlap and the functions overlap, so if you’re low in one you are likely to be low in others too. Make sure you’re getting a B-complex with 5-MTHF instead of folic acid because some of us (the MTHFR mutants) can’t convert the folic acid into the active form. Symptoms of B vitamin deficiencies include:
Fatigue, low energy, weakness
Depression, memory loss, difficulty thinking or brain fog
Rashes, cracking skin, seborrheic dermatitis
Anemia and elevated homocysteine in the blood.
If you are already taking a B complex but you’re still having fatigue one of the quickest pick-me-ups out there is B12 liquid or B12 sublingual. They can make a world of difference and give you an immediate energy boost. Again with the mutant problem – if you have an MTHFR issue or the related MTRR that changes the way you methylate B12 then look for the hydroxycobalamin or methylcobalamin forms.
Surprisingly, up to 75% of Americans are deficient in this common vitamin. In theory, we are able to manufacture vitamin D from our body’s cholesterol in response to sunlight. In reality, we just don’t get enough sunlight. Between skin cancer awareness, which has increased the use of sunscreens, sunglasses, and hats; and demanding schedules that don’t allow for outdoor time we are starved for this vital nutrient. Your doctor can test your blood levels and suggest a therapeutic dose based on those results. Generally, 2000IU per day is a good starting place. Vitamin D helps you with fatigue, depression, maintaining healthy bones, protecting against cancer and boosting your immune system in general.
Hormone Balance and Rebuilding
Pregnancy is one of those life events that literally takes everything you have and then some.
In terms of priority, your body will give your developing fetus nutrients instead of saving them for you in order to make sure that the next generation has a good start. This is a great system, just as long as you are taking care of yourself and working to get those nutrients built back up. It is best to work with your practitioner on this one because every woman is different. Some women notice declining thyroid function, some women develop blood sugar issues, for some women the adrenals bottom out and some women’s sex hormones never seem to recover. It is best to have a whole protocol specifically for you, but here are some basic ideas to get you started:
Shatavari – this ayurvedic herb is an adaptogen for female sex hormones. We spoke about adaptogens in a recent post, but this one helps to normalize estrogen and progesterone. So if you’re low, it boosts you up and if you’re excessive it calms things down. Amazing.
Iodine – this vital nutrient is often deficient in the modern diet, especially since a lot of people no longer use iodized salt because sea salt is generally healthier. It is found in high concentration in sea vegetables, but if you’re not getting a lot of those then it might be a good idea to supplement because pregnancy uses a lot of it – it’s vital to your baby for brain development – and women are often left deficient. Iodine is necessary for your own brain and also for healthy thyroid functioning so boosting your iodine can boost your energy too.
Magnesium – this mineral helps your body relax for a restful sleep and also helps your adrenals – your main get-up-and-go glands – to function. If you’re lacking it might show up as restless legs, restless sleep or muscle cramps.
Yes, I know. It sounds too simple to help, but mild dehydration is the biggest cause of fatigue, headache and the afternoon slump. If you’re trying to lose weight it’s good to remember that it’s also the number one cause of the “hunger” signal. Also, if you’re still nursing, then your body is using more than normal. Just remember to drink 8-16 oz of water every time you pass through the kitchen. It’s a small change that adds up to big benefits. Water is easy to forget to drink when you’re running errands, running around after toddlers, or just running in general. Take a bottle of water with you everywhere (please no BPAs and no plastic water bottles if you can avoid them – plastics release hormone disruptors which are the last things your body needs. I use a glass bottle, but there are great options in ceramics and stainless steel as well.) Drinking eight 8oz glasses per day is the general rule of thumb but always try for more.
Melatonin has to be one of my favorite things. This is the hormone in your body that makes you feel sleepy at the end of the day. It is also the hormone in your body that opposes cortisol (your wake up/stress hormone). For parents, this can be a godsend. I have seen so many parents in the clinic who seem to lose the ability to fall asleep easily because they are stressed, overwhelmed, thinking about problems or just can’t wind down for the day in spite of the exhaustion. Melatonin is a simple, safe quick fix that will help your body get into that sleepy place simply by taking it before bed. It also acts as an antioxidant for brain tissue, which is a great bonus effect. After all, protecting the brain is always a good idea. The standard dose is 3mg and if this isn’t enough it’s safe to double or even triple. Also if your baby wakes up at night and needs you, you will still be able to get up and respond (although you may be a little groggy). It’s a great alternative to sleeping pills and can really help you to maximize whatever sleep time you have.
We want parenting to look like this, but often it looks just like the woman in the video above. “They want everything you have “. Just remember that when you’re battling your own mommy burnout.
Homeopathy isn’t generally a one-size-fits-all type of medicine. It’s tiny doses of something that would cause the same symptoms if you took it in a toxic dose, which then helps your body to understand and move through that process. In a perfect world the remedy should be matched perfectly to your symptoms, but in the case of post-partum depression and typical mommy burnout stress and anxiety, this one is a pretty reliable win. Sepia helps with the irritability that comes with constant caretaking. The feeling that if everyone would just leave you alone for 20 minutes you might be able to function without snapping at them. The urge to cry, or run, or lash out because your kiddo is quite literally hanging on you and you really just need a minute. Those are pretty reliable parent feelings and sepia is a lovely, gentle aid. The 30C strength is sold commonly in health food stores and 3 pellets can be taken under your tongue as needed.
I know nothing fixes the overwhelming schedule, demands and stress of being a parent, but I’m hoping this will at least give you a little bit of help and support. It’s also a great reminder to me to remember that even though I’m busy being mom I get to have needs too. 🙂 Feel free to leave comments on how this is working for you, or if there are any areas that you really need support that I didn’t address.
I have a confession to make about this mommy burnout thing. It’s happening. It’s me. I’m writing this to myself, as much as anyone, simply because I’m the fortunate mom of a hilarious, joyful, loud, energetic 18-month-old who is teaching me all about mommy burnout. Historically I’m a workaholic and know all about other kinds of burnout, but I could always retreat if needed. Stop and regroup and rest because I was always choosing to work so hard. Now, not so much. Just like every other parent out there, the choice is no longer mine. I am often reminded of my childhood best friend and her family when I think of mommy burnout, mostly because she has three high-energy kiddos and I have learned a lot by watching her parent – um… especially on a group camping trip. Believe me, I can’t think of anything more vivid than three swimming, singing, climbing, jumping campfire-roasting kids and two dogs who follow them through all the muck that entails.
I am honestly awe-struck by how well some people, like Laura, juggle the responsibility of a full-time career and three busy kiddos at home, and I’d like to share some of the things that I observed in her that I think would be useful for the other moms I see (myself included). Don’t worry, my next post will also be health-related things you can try, not just parenting things. Mostly I want to say as long as your kiddo is fed and loved, you’re doing an awesome job. The rest really is mostly details. Just don’t forget to take care of you too. Also, to clarify, mommy burnout isn’t confined to mommies. It’s really parenting burnout. Lots of this is obvious, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing it so pause and take a minute to remind yourself how to be nice to yourself too. Here is what I’m going to call “Laura’s List for Avoiding Mommy Burn-Out.”
Important things are important – the rest can go hang. So, it is actually important to maintain discipline when your kiddo decides he or she wants to play with the hatchet and to stick to an absolute NO. It isn’t so important when they want to play rock band using a badminton racket instead of a guitar. Firm clear discipline involving action and consequences matters when something is important – like a threat to safety. It isn’t important when it’s just loud and fun. Save the big loud angry reaction for times when it’s necessary. If the kids are just being loud and unruly, like kids are, then don’t worry about it.
Don’t expect kids to be mini-adults – because they’re not. It is easy to fall into the habit of expecting kids to behave like adults, especially in places like restaurants. It’s easy to expect them to be quiet and sit still and have nice table manners, but the fact of the matter is that the things that matter to adults don’t matter to kids. This isn’t carte blanche to allow your kids to rampage through a restaurant, but it is a reminder to keep your expectations realistic – kids are kids and they are going to do kid things (and that’s the way it’s supposed to be).
Take time for you – nobody else will. The thing that impressed me most about Laura and her husband was that they both manage to take time for themselves even in a full-throttle 24 hour kid day. Laura is not (and never has been – I can attest to this) a morning person. She and her husband have worked out a system that involves him handling morning duties while Laura takes time to wake up slowly (usually with the help of a good book) and Laura handling most of the evening stuff while he gets to relax. I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen automatically and at some point, they both had to value themselves enough to establish ground rules. Lots of parents, especially new parents, forget that they matter too, and this is key for sanity.
Happy mommy means happier baby. Just remember that when you’re battling your own mommy burnout.
Nap when you can – whenever you can. Seriously. Lots of people have stigmas about day-time naps equating to laziness, but that idea needs to go right now. No matter how awesome your kids are they are still kids. They wake up in the night and need you, they fall out of bed, they have nightmares, they are just kids. Not only that, they often get up earlier than you do. Parenting means sleep is on short supply so learn to sleep whenever you can – whether it’s a 20-minute cat nap or a 2-hour nap while the kids are gone somewhere, learn to prioritize sleep more than housecleaning, extra work projects, and the like. the better you feel on a daily basis the more you will be able to accomplish, so sleep whenever you can and whenever you need.
Let your kids be kids without your input. This is a hard one for the parents who hover and helicopter around their children (as the child psychology books advocated for smarter kids with higher self-esteem). The point is, your kid doesn’t like it, it is debatable whether this helps them at all, and it will wear you down to the bone faster than anything else in the world. Kids learn and grow by making their own mistakes (even when it means skinned knees and bruised pride), by finding their own solutions to problems (even if there are better solutions out there) and by finding their own way through conflicts (even if that ends in tears and tantrums). You burning yourself out as a parent and micromanaging your child’s environment, relationships and emotions won’t help anyone and it’s the surest way to drive yourself (and your kids) crazy.
Remember your actual responsibilities as a parent and forget the rest. The basic obligations of parenting are the things you absolutely have to provide for your children and these are incredibly important. Make sure you provide these and the rest is just gravy. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to give gravy all the time – you get to be human too. As long as you give your kid the basics – food, safety, shelter, and unconditional love for them exactly as they are. Everything else is extra.
Eat. You need balanced meals too, not just the bites of things the kids leave over or the random items you can shove in your mouth between activities. Take time to eat real food including fruits and vegetables.
Maintain your own life, your own interests, and your own identity. Your kids are the biggest part of your life, but they aren’t your whole life and it puts too much pressure on them if you try to force them into that role. Also I see a lot of parents who end up “blaming” their kids for all of the ways that they themselves don’t feel fulfilled as a human being and for the things they “gave up” (even if the kid never wanted that in the first place) and that isn’t anywhere near fair. Make sure you are maintaining your own identity that isn’t based on your kids – it’s based on you and who you are and what you do as a person.
Get help when you need it. Nobody can do it all alone and you are no exception. Ask for help if you need it, whether that is from a daycare, a babysitter, a school, an after school program, your spouse, your family or whomever. Everyone needs a break every now and then and there is nothing wrong with that. You just have to remember to ask for help.
Support your body just as much as you would support your child’s if they were struggling. Your kid isn’t the only one who needs good medical care, good food, joy and good sleep. You do too. It doesn’t help your kids in any way for you to burn yourself out. Treat yourself just as well as you treat your children and it will all work out great.
Save yourself from mommy burnout (or daddy burnout). Here’s some friendly reminders.
Now – I completely recognize that this is all so much easier to say than to do because we all have a whole lot of real-life to deal with. I also think that when you’re wrapped up in 26 hour days and running on no sleep it’s easy to forget the basics, so this is a friendly reminder to everyone out there who is struggling to be the best parent they can. Just remember sometimes it’s really enough to just be there, keep your kid safe, and allow the chaos to happen.