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.
Every now and then I realize that for all my talk about gallbladder sludge, I haven’t emphasized the MOST IMPORTANT THING, which is water. In terms of getting rid of sludge of any kind in life, water is the key. Can I say this again? If you want to get rid of gallbladder sludge, water is absolutely vital. Let’s review.
Your gallbladder is a small little sac-shaped organ that is connected to both your liver and your intestines by thin tubes. Your liver makes bile, which helps your body to emulsify the fats from your diet in order to absorb them, and also helps you eliminate fat-soluble toxins including excess hormones. Bile is usually very fluid, but once it gets to the gallbladder your body starts to pull out the water and concentrate it, helping it to become more effective. By pulling out this water you make the bile thicker and more goopy. If you pull out too much water or there isn’t enough in there to begin with, then goopy turns into sludgy. This one simple factor can lead to sludge pretty quickly.
Want to get rid of gallbladder sludge? WATER is the biggest key.
Get Rid of Gallbladder Sludge Long-Term:
If you have gallbladder sludge, and the pain that goes with it, you know how important it becomes to eliminate it quickly. Here are some of the quick things you can do to get rid of gallbladder sludge for good:
Boost your water intake quickly and make it a life-habit. The more fluid your bile is, and the more well-hydrated you are, the faster you will flush out that sludge and the less likely your bile will get too thick in the future. Did you know that according to a New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center Survey, 75% of American Adults are chronically dehydrated? Wha????? If you have gallbladder sludge my guess would be that you’re one of the 75%.
Consider a Gallbladder Cleanse: BUT the gallbladder cleanse has it’s own risks so it’s only safe if you know, because a doctor did the appropriate testing, that you don’t have stones. If you only have sludge and you’re not pregnant, then this could be helpful.
Get Rid of Gallbladder Pain Short-Term:
So, if you’re having a gallbladder attack you’re probably not sitting down at the computer to read about it, but hopefully, you’ll google it later and remember it for next time. As soon as you start to feel an attack coming on:
Guzzle The Water: Again, the quickest way to clean out goop is to dilute it and thin it out. Your body will thank me for it. This is especially important if you get nausea or vomiting with your attacks because the vomiting makes dehydration worse quickly, which just makes the sludge worse. Even if you have stones that are causing the pain water will help them to pass if they’re going to.
Add Lemon or Apple Cider Vinegar: Taking a shot of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice at the start of an attack (followed by a BUNCH of water) will help head the attack off before it gets into full swing. Also adding a little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to the vast quantities of water you’re drinking (ahem) will help it to be more effective.
Slather on the Castor Oil: Castor oil is anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving in it’s own right, but it is also especially “lubricating” to the lymphatic flow around the liver and gallbladder, which comes in handy when that whole area is jammed up with pain, inflammation, and sludge.
Consider some Supplements: There are a few things that help in the short term. Water and the acidic juices are the biggest things, but some others include digestive bitters and lecithin.
Doesn’t this look awesome? Don’t be one of the 75% of adults who are dehydrated. And Get rid of the gallbladder pain for good!
So – will water and proper hydration fix the problem permanently? It could, but not if you’re still eating fast food or if you have a major hormone shift contributing (like pregnancy ladies, sorry.) But if your diet is reasonably good and your hormones close to normal, then yup. The water is the key. Simple, right?
Amazing Adaptogens: Powerful Stress Busters from Nature
by Helen Wells
Expensive new treatments promising to turn back the hands of time are constantly on the market, yet often, the most efficient weapons against stress, aging, and disease, can be found in nature. This is the case of ‘adaptogens’, which comprise a number of plants and roots and which have in common one amazing quality – the ability to boost our ‘non-specific resistance’ to aging, illness, and tiredness. They are called ‘adaptogens’ because of their ability to adapt to our body’s specific needs, helping our system counter anxiety and stress gently, without any jolts or sudden changes.
Adaptogens: A Not-So-New Phenomenon
Adaptogens may sound new to us, but they have been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, to boost energy and increase resistance in the face of stressful situations. Today, they are used in many settings, including top drug rehabilitation centers, where an integrated approach to healing is employed. Thus, to battle the anxiety and stress that arises when one attempts to detox or withdraw from harmful addictions, natural remedies are as vital as humanistic remedies. A wide range of therapies are being used, including holistic therapies such as yoga, compassion-based therapies and of course, adaptogens. The fascinating book, Adaptogens. Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, notes, “Adaptogens are important supportive therapies for patients experiencing drug withdrawal regardless of whether they are quitting legal habits such as cigarettes, alcohol or coffee, or illegal drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy or amphetamines…”
Schisandra rubriflora, by Scott Zona at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, UK. This Adaptogen is one of the best natural stress busters out there.
The Unique Synergy of Adaptogens: Natural Stress Busters
Soviet scientist, I.I. Brekham, explained why adaptogens are so powerful: it’s not just the combination of chemicals, vitamins, acids etc. which are present in adaptogenic plants and roots that are important – so, too, is the unique way all these components are combined. Brekham’s research revealed that some of the many benefits of adaptogens include protection from radiation damage, a boost in antibody levels, increased vitality, natural detoxification of the body, enhanced repair of proteins in cells, and greater endurance. Thus, adaptogens are an excellent ally when it comes to battling aging, both on the external level and internally. Brekham and other Soviet scientists noted that when we are young, our body is able to adapt naturally to stressors such as harsh weather, pollution etc. but as we grow older, we lose this ability – this is where adaptogens can help – by enabling us to resist the stressors that cause illness.
Essential Requirements for Adaptogens
To be considered an adaptogen, a plant or herb must demonstrate the following characteristics:
It must be non-toxic when taken at a standard dosage.
It must increase our ability to fight non-specific stressors. (i.e. be natural stress busters)
It must have normalizing abilities (i.e. it should be able to reduce blood pressure in someone with high blood pressure and increase blood pressure in those whose levels are too low).
Some of the most widely researched and lauded adaptogens include:
Panax Ginseng: Health expert and best-selling author, Leslie Kenton, notes that this type of ginseng, which boosts the immunity, should be taken in root form – the most powerful are grown in Korea or China and they are best taken when they are at least six years old. If you are unable to find Panax Ginseng in root form, opt for the supplement form, but bear in mind that supplements often have additives and preservatives.
Siberian Ginseng: This adaptogen, also known as Eleuthrococcus senticosus, a relatively new discovery compared to Panax Ginseng, is known as the ‘devil’s shrub’. Its roots are also used to resist illness and fatigue, though its effects take a few weeks to build up. Some of its benefits include increased endurance, enhanced sleep and memory, and improved sports performance.
Ashwaganda: Known as Indian Ginseng, this adaptogen regulates the immune system and is also used to quell the symptoms of anxiety. It has been used for over 2,500 years in Indian medicine and is often used to lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body. Its efficiency has been proven in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. For further information, see the study carried out by Chandrasekhar et. al., published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine (2012).
Rhodiola Rosea: This wonderful extract has the ability to raise or lower cortisol levels in the body, as required by each individual.
Schisandra chinensis: This “five flavor fruit” in Traditional Chinese Medicine is so named because it balances all of the healing principles attributed to each flavor. It has been shown to balance liver function, increase endurance and stamina, and act as a powerful antioxidant.
Withania somnifera: This potent adaptogen is especially helpful to moderate the effects of stress on sleep. Generally, it helps protect your body from the non-specific effects of stress, meaning it helps your body to deal with stressors and not get ill.
Adaptogens are a great ally for people of all ages; not only do they have no or minimal side-effects, these natural stress busters can help stave off the numerous effects of stress, both on a physical and mental level. Since they regulate the immune system, lower stress levels and soothe pain, they truly are Nature’s powerful healers.
Thanks again to Helen Wells for contributing this piece – Adaptogens are part of my frequent routine because they feel so nourishing on every level. Any time I need a little extra energy, a little more oomph, a better night of sleep or to take the edge off stress. – Amy.
I love love LOVE infographics. Seriously. So here’s an awesome PCOS infographic, made by yours truly. Please share this with sisters, mothers, daughters, wives and besties. Women need to know how common PCOS really is and how many women are struggling but don’t know it. Men should know too – maybe she’s actually doing everything she can but still struggling with weight because there’s an actual medical condition. Maybe she needs a little more support right now. Send it to your guy friends too, because men you can hand down the tendencies for PCOS to your children and there is growing evidence that men can be affected as well. So pass it on my friends! Pass it on.
PCOS made pretty. Pass it on folks – women need to know.
Want to share this on your own website? Please do!
Inositol for PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, is one of the best known natural remedies for this condition. Things get a little dicey though when you’re trying to choose a type of inositol and find the right protocol to help your body. Let’s review what inositol is, what it does and what is the best form or forms for you to take to help you the most.
What is Inositol?
Inositol is a naturally-occurring nutrient found in many plant-based foods like oranges and cantaloupe. It used to be considered a vitamin (vitamin B8 to be precise), but an essential component to a nutrient having “vitamin” status is the human inability to produce it ourselves. When it was discovered that inositol can actually be made in the human body from glucose, it was reclassified. The bulk of inositol from foods is called myo-inositol. There are many other forms that are significant for health, and they do different things but the other one that is important for PCOS is D-chiro-inositol. In a completely-unrelated-to-health-but-kind-of-fun aside, inositol is also widely used in explosives (!!) and as a substitute for actual cocaine in TV and movies when they need to show someone snorting something up their nose (!!!)
This explosion is probably not caused by inositol, but it’s more interesting than a picture of inositol. Inositol for PCOS is the bomb. See what I did there?
Why Would You Take Inositol for PCOS?
One of the main issues that face women with PCOS is the strong tendency towards insulin resistance or even outright diabetes. According to a 2017 study from the Journal Gynecological Endocrinology, Inositol, at a dose of 4 g (or 4,000 mg) per day has been shown to be as effective at sensitizing the body to insulin as the drug Metformin. This means that by taking inositol you are helping your body to utilize sugars more effectively and so it helps you to lose some of the insulin-related weight and even to normalize your menses. Inositol is also well known in helping with egg quality and so helps to improve fertility. Inositol also improves ovarian function, reduces testosterone and helps to balance the LH/FSH ratios that are so important for normal ovulation. There are many studies showing all of this, but the best I’ve seen to date is this 2016 review from the International Journal of Endocrinology which compares the effects of myo-inositol and D-chiro-inositol for PCOS. If the label just says “inositol” it’s myo-inositol.
What Does Myo-Inositol do for PCOS?
Myo-inositol is the form that is most commonly naturally occurring and the form that is most commonly suggested for PCOS. Here’s why according to the awesome review from the International Journal of Endocrinology above:
4g per day is as effective as the pharmaceutical drug Metformin 1500 mg per day in improving insulin sensitivity (see the reference above for the research).
With improved insulin sensitivity come improved BMI – this means weight loss
Menstrual cycle normalizes with 4 g per day dose in about 50% of the women who take it – that is huge because typically women’s hormones are much trickier than that.
Myo-inositol helps to reduce total and free testosterone, which is important if you don’t want to be the bearded lady (sadly it doesn’t seem to reduce the hair growth that has already happened. That’s what lasers are for.)
Helps balance blood lipids by reducing plasma triglycerides and total cholesterol.
Improves ovarian function. Woot woot!
What does D-Chiro-Inositol or DCI Do for PCOS?
D-chiro-inositol or DCI is being studied more recently for its effects on insulin-mediated androgen synthesis (this means excessive testosterone production secondary to high blood sugars). Normally we are supposed to convert myo-inositol to DCI, but some people don’t do this very well (and many of those people have PCOS). The suggested dose is 600 mg for women 130 lbs or under, 600 mg twice per day for women who are over 130 pounds.
Improves insulin sensitivity through a different pathway than myo-inositol (by using an IPG mediator).
Reduces total and free testosterone through the same mechanism myo-inositol does.
Helps those women who can’t convert myo-inostiol to DCI
Especially helpful for PCOS if you’re overweight. Not as much if you’re the “skinny” type of PCOS
DCI is less effective for women with thyroid disease.
What if I Take Both Types of Inositol for PCOS?
Actually, research is showing this is the best course of action in comparison studies. It’s essentially the most effective scenario because the types of inositol complement each other and you don’t have to rely on your body being able to convert anything. Studies show:
The combination of the two inositol for PCOS gets the same or better blood sugar control, far faster (meaningful change in only 12 weeks for the combo).
Reduces fasting insulin and fasting glucose
Decreases free testosterone
Increases Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (which further reduces the negative effects of testosterone).
So, inositol for PCOS? That’s a big YES. Given the effects on ovaries and egg quality (as well as sperm quality for the men) it’s becoming commonly used in fertility treatments too, whether you’ve got PCOS or not.
Gallbladder sludge is an initial step in the development of gallstones. It causes many people pain but is arguably too early for surgery. There are, of course, many natural ways to address this issue including a basic protocol,lecithin, and castor oil packs and research is indicating that probiotics might be helpful as well. While it stands to reason that a healthy digestive tract, i.e. one with a thriving colony of beneficial bacteria, will help protect against any digestive disease it is still nice to see the results on paper.
This study, published in the online journal PLoSOne, was actually conducted on different types of mice. These mice were from four groups of genetically related strains that were purchased from different vendors with a very different treatment of the mice in terms of their good bacteria. The researchers use genetically similar mice because genetics plays a role in gallbladder stone and sludge development so having similar genetics eliminates that variable and puts all the mice on an even playing field. The groups of mice differed mostly in their gut flora. One vendor maintains the mice in a germ-free environment but doesn’t introduce any good bacteria. Another colonizes the mice with a healthy bacterial flora and then maintains a pathogen-free environment after that.
Good gut bacteria like these may be able to help prevent gallbladder sludge and stones. Image from Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH
All of the mice were fed a “lithogenic diet” meaning a diet that is known to induce gallstones. This diet was essentially similar to a high-fat human diet. Specifically 1% cholesterol, 15% triglycerides and 0.5% cholic acid (one of the components of bile – in humans we would produce this naturally). Results were based on gallbladder weight, the percentage of mucin (or mucus) in the bile, cholesterol crystal formation, sandy stone formation, and presence or absence of true cholesterol stones.
The study found that the mice with the good flora were more resistant to gallbladder sludge than the mice without the good flora. The total gallbladder weight was lower which is important because it represents a measurable way to test inflammation. Inflamed gallbladders grow thicker walls that have a higher content of immune cells and inflammatory particles. Also the mice without the good flora showed higher percentages of mucin and researchers were able to determine that the good bacteria actually influence the gene expression of those mice. Healthy gut bacteria is able to down-regulate the action of mucin genes, which contribute to mucus formation in the digestive tract.
Actual cholesterol crystal formation, sandy stone formation and cholesterol stones were also all significantly less in the mice with healthy gut flora.
What Does This Mean for Humans With Gallbladder Sludge?
Mice aren’t people, and although this is certainly something to think about, we can’t jump to the conclusion that gallbladder sludge can be prevented by good bacteria. We can, however, use common sense to say that chances are having healthy digestive bacteria can help our bodies to maintain healthy digestion. That means that gut inflammation will probably be lower with good flora, there will probably be less mucus, and digestive processes will run more smoothly. Logically it makes sense that this would lead to less gallbladder sludge formation.
How Do I Get Healthy Gut Flora?
Of course, there are a million probiotic formulas out there all claiming to be the “best” and as a consumer, it can be very difficult to wade through unless there is specific research on a specific product for the specific issue you’re having (which happens only in a handful of cases). There are not any products currently on the market which are researched for gallbladder sludge. There are a number of ways to increase your good bacteria, many of which are from food.
Increasing Your Good Gut Flora
Your gut bacteria are 100 trillion friends you didn’t know you had. Take care of them!
Reduce Antibiotic Use. If at all possible, minimize or eliminate all antibiotics from your life. Life-threatening illnesses are a different matter and some situations do require antibiotics but work with your doctor to minimize usage that is not absolutely necessary. Antibiotics kill off your good bacteria along with any bad bacteria and overuse is linked to obesity, serious digestive disease along with the more globally threatening antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Moderate Processed Foods. Processed foods are typically filled with preservatives, emulsifiers, stabilizers, colors and other chemicals that are foreign to your body and to your more fragile gut flora. A whole food diet has been shown to foster a very different digestive environment than a processed food diet and so eating foods with fewer chemicals will help your host of tiny helpers.
Increase Dietary Fiber. If you’ve read this blog before you probably know I’m a big fan of fiber. Fiber, especially soluble fiber, helps to feed the good bacteria and provides material for fermentation in your gut. All of those good bacteria really like fermentation and need the “prebiotics” or bacteria food that the fiber provides.
Get More Fermented Foods. Naturally fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sourkraut and other fermented veggies like spicy kimchee are all rich sources of good bacteria and can help to reintroduce those good strains into your digestion.
Grow Some (Organic) Veggies. Many of our good bacteria are soil microorganisms that we are supposed to through contact with, well, soil. We are supposed to have these good bacteria from the earth and historically we would have got plenty of them by gardening, harvesting, farming and eating vegetables that aren’t “sanitized” before being put on grocery store shelves or irradiated to prevent foreign plant diseases from entering the country with produce. So growing some of your own or buying from a good local organic grower. Rinsing your veggies as you normally would won’t eliminate all of the healthy bacteria so as long as they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides they’re a great source of some of your most potent good flora.
Take a Supplement. The supplements are always an option if that is easiest for you, but don’t forget to do some of the rest of it too. In terms of supplements, every digestive tract is different so it can be helpful to rotate through different types of products with different strains of beneficial bacteria because there isn’t a great way to predict which strains will colonize best in your system.
I am so happy to report that the MTHFR C677T mutation now comes with a superpower, and it’s prostate cancer protection. It’s not quite X-Men worthy and I have to admit mind control might be a bit cooler, but protection against one of the most common forms of cancer is nothing to scoff at.
The association between MTHFR mutation and prostate cancer has been unclear, with some studies showing increased risk, some studies showing no change and some showing decreased risk, so the information can be difficult to wade through. A recent research study conducted in Shanghai and published in Scientific Reportsshows that C677T polymorphisms, whether they are homozygous or heterozygous, are actually protective against prostate cancer although they are quick to say that this study was conducted on the Han Chinese population in Shanghai and that the results may be different for different ethnic groups.
The study shows that intracellular homocysteine levels are slightly elevated when the C677T mutation is present and that elevated homocysteine actually helps to encourage damaged cells, such as precancerous and cancerous cells, to die off the way they should, rather than proliferating into full blown cancer. In unfortunate news, a recent meta-analysis published in Genetics and Molecular Research, showed that this association may not exist in caucasian males and that in this population C677T mutation may not have any effect on prostate cancer. Interestingly, this same meta-analysis showed that the A1298C mutation might have a slight protective effect against prostate cancer in European males.
The most important thing to remember, is that almost every mutation that exists in humans or animals has a double edge – it often has some drawbacks, but typically benefits too or the members of the population with that mutation would die out. MTHFR seems to be, if anything, becoming more common so I suspect in years to come we will find many other benefits associated with it.
Overmethylated vs. undermethylated seems to be one of those things that everyone defines a different way, so let’s talk about it and see if we can bring some clarity. The terms overmethylation and undermethylation make the most sense to me as the Walsh Research Institute uses them. These are general physical tendencies based on the sum of your genetics, nutritional status and body burden. There isn’t one gene or genetic defect alone that can account for them – so just because you have an MTHFR C677T mutation doesn’t actually mean you’re over or under methylated (although it would be one factor that might push the balance to undermethylation). Dr. Walsh describes one’s methylation status as being like a tug of war between opposing factors. Many of those are genetic and some are nutritional or environmental.
This is less common than undermethylation. According to Dr. Walsh’s research, 70% of the population are normal methylators, 22% are undermethylators and 8% are overmethylators. Overmethylation in this context means that the methylation cycle as a whole is sped up, or downstream reactions that use SAMe (the ultimate product of the methylation cycle) are compromised in such a way that there is too much SAMe floating around wanting to methylate something.
Clinically overmethylators are more likely to have agitated or anxious conditions. Frequently panic or anxiety attacks (64% of panic/anxiety clients at the Walsh Research Institute), paranoid schizophrenia (52% of paranoid schizophrenic clients at WRI were overmethylators), ADHD (28%), behaviour disorders (23%), depression (18%). Depression can occur in under, normal or over methylators but 18% of depressed clients of Dr. Walsh are overmethylators.
Mutations most likely to contribute to overmethylation are AGAT, GAMT, CBS and MT. MTHFR mutation usually pushes towards undermethylation (but I myself am compound heterozygous MTHFR and an overmethylator) Remember that the presence of one or more of these mutations isn’t enough to say if you’re an over or under methylator. The combination of all of your genetic factors as well as your nutritional state must be taken into account. The best way to determine is through symptoms and traits.
Other contributing factors are impaired creatine synthesis. This is because Approximately 70% of the SAMe from the methylation cycle is used by creatine synthesis, so if this is impaired the SAMe is used more slowly. This can be due to genetic factors (AGAT or GAMP) or due to deficiencies of arginine or glycine. Also impaired cystathione synthesis, or other polymorphisms in methyltransferase SNPs that account for the rest of the SAMe use.
Overmethylation leads to excessively high activity of dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine in the brain.
If this reminds you of you, you could be overmethylated. A photograph of Robin Williams taken by Michael Dressler in 1979, later used as a cover photo for Time magazine to highlight Williams.
Symptoms and traits of overmethylation include:
High energy, restless, must move and fidget
Verbose or talkative
Often high artistic or musical ability
Antihistamine intolerance (makes anxiety or restlessness worse)
Overly empathetic with others
Non-competitive in sports
Tendency towards food and chemical sensitivities
Less likely to have seasonal allergies
Histamine Intolerance (or HIT – this is essentially a food sensitivity to high-histamine foods)
Dry eyes and mouth
Adverse reaction to SSRI drugs, SAMe or methionine (typically all make anxiety or depression much much worse.
An easy way to picture this type is by using Robin Williams as an example.
Is Overmethylated the Same as Over-supplemented?
No, although it seems that in a lot of popular literature on the subject people use the term interchangeably. So often you’ll see someone say that you might be “overmethylated” if you are taking too much 5-MTHF or SAMe. I feel that these are different things entirely. If you have a tendency to be overmethylated then certainly you would probably feel worse taking something like SAMe, but even without that you are still an overmethylator (in my opinion). Likewise taking too much 5-MTHF, doesn’t make you suddenly “overmethylated” it just means you’re taking too much.
Okay! I’m Overmethylated. Now What?
Interestingly the best way to balance the consequence of overmethylation, is still 5-MTHF. This seems strange, because it is also the answer if you’re’ undermethylated, but the effects are actually coming from a different mechanism. Folate actually reduces activity at serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine synapses. 5-MTHF is the active form of folic acid, and you can also get it from foods, especially if you have some trouble taking the supplement. Trouble taking the supplement is surprisingly common, although I think less common clinically in overmethylators (in my experience) than in undermethylators. Niacin or niacinamide can also be helpful for overmethylators as they quench some of the excessive methylation. Again, start slowly.
I Want to Start Taking 5-MTHF. How Do I Make This Easy?
Any time you start taking 5-MTHF, or increase your dose, there will be an adjustment period. Here’s a whole post on it. Just remember, start with a low dose and increase really slowly. This is changing the way your neurotransmitters work and doing some heavy detox work, so it’s vital not to overdo it because that is crazy-making. Start low and go slow.