Move your body and be happy

Exercise is another word that is often tainted with negative connotations. Why do most women exercise? Usually to burn calories, lose weight, tone up or compensate for over eating. Thinking about exercise in this way makes it feel like a chore or a punishment. It’s no wonder that it can be so hard to build healthy habits around working out!

As someone who has a history with chronic over-exercising and gym obsession, I prefer to use the words body movement rather than exercise. Exercise reminds me of pushing myself through intense circuits and hours of cardio all in the pursuit of weight loss. But moving your body has so many more benefits than burning calories. When done in the right way, body movement:

  • Boost your energy and vitality
  • Improves your mood
  • Helps you to get better sleep
  • Reduces your risk of chronic disease
  • Improves circulation, bone density and joint health
  • Helps you to live longer

What is the right way to exercise?

There are several factors that take the benefits of body movement to the next level. These are:

  1. Moving outdoors, especially in natural environments
  2. Social activities e.g. a walk with a friend, a group exercise class
  3. Moving at a non-stressful pace for your body
  4. Staying present and mindful during the activity
  5. Having a SMILE on your face as you move

The most important point is that movement should feel light, joyful and a chance to enjoy being in this human bodily experience. If exercising feels stressful, anxiety-provoking or is tied to the goal of weight loss of changing your body in some way, many of the additional benefits will be lost. Basically you are selling yourself short! This is a result of conditioning around what it means to exercise and your pre-conceived notions of fitness.

That is not to say that moving your body should never be challenging. Of course, it is good to push your limits but the trick is to do it gently. It should be so subtle that it doesn’t feel like a strain. You want to support and encourage your body into better health and fitness, not beat and submit it to your will. Perhaps at first, it will take some persuasion to get yourself off the sofa and onto the yoga mat or the hiking trail. But once you’re there it should feel good!

How much movement is ideal for health?

Most experts recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise OR 75 minutes of high intensity exercise. Personally, I recommend moderate intensity exercise as you also get the added benefits of stress reduction. Too high intensity exercise can actually increase your stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which make you feel good in the moment but can cause a crash later on!

So 150 minutes per week is equivalent to 5 times 30 minutes per week – that should be achievable, right? However, over 40% of women in the UK don’t meet this recommendation. If you are one of these women then think about why? Perhaps because you have a conditioned idea of what exercise should be and it puts you off. I’ve lost count of the number of women who have told me they are too old, not fit or flexible enough to join my yoga class! Or maybe because life is already exhausting and stressful and exercise feels like another thing on the list that you don’t have time or energy for?

But as I said earlier, body movement can be many things outside of what we formally see as “exercise”. Simple activities such as walking to the shop, cleaning the house, gardening, walking the the dog, playing games with your kids all count as movement. Getting outdoors and enjoying nature through hiking, swimming, cycling or climbing are also great ways to move your body which don’t feel like formal exercise. Personally, hiking, yoga and dancing are the ways I love to move my body and they never feel like a chore.

You want to find ways to move your body that you genuinely enjoy and look forward to. That way, you will not have to rely on motivation and persuasion to get yourself moving.

What are some ways to exercise?

The two files below give some examples of how you can bring body movement into your routine. The first pdf shows low, moderate and high intensity activities and explains how you can minimise stress by keeping high intensity activities to only short bursts, whereas low intensity exercise can be kept up for longer periods of time. The second pdf shows the different types of movement (cardio, resistance training and flexibility/mobility) which each have their own benefit for your health.

Tips for creating habits around movement

As I shared in yesterday’s post about food as nourishment, habits are key to creating a healthy lifestyle. You want to make it as easy as possible for yourself to make choices that are in line with your goals. Ideally, you want exercise to be something you don’t deliberate on each time but you just do it because that’s the way you always do it. Some tips for creating body movement habits include:

  • When starting out stick to 1-3 activities and commit to them
  • Always do the activities in the same way in the same place i.e. create a routine
  • Start with a monthly schedule and stick to it i.e. make the decisions in advance
  • Involve a friend or exercise buddy to keep you motivated and accountable
  • Make sure you have the right equipment e.g. comfortable clothes and shoes
  • Have all your equipment ready to go so that preparing is not a barrier

Today’s challenge: Create a body movement plan

Now it is time to take action! Using the template below, fill in the activities you want to commit to over the next 4 weeks. You can either repeat the same schedule each week or change it throughout the month. I prefer to reduce the intensity of movement around my period (more on that in a future post!) and increase it during other times of the month so that overall there is a good balance of effort and rest.

If you are in the Moon Life Well Women Facebook group, I will be sharing some additional resources to support you in building healthy habits around moving your body. So enjoy and I will see you tomorrow when we will be moving onto to the topic of getting a good nights’ sleep!

Over to you…

  • Comment: What is YOUR favourite way to move your body?
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Food as nourishment not punishment

How many times have you started a new year by vowing that this will be the year you finally succeed on that diet? Perhaps you have signed up to Weight Watchers or bought a book about the keto diet and have committed to going all in? After indulging over the festive period it is normal to want to cut back a little but this cycle of over eating and restrictive dieting can be detrimental to our overall health and wellbeing.

For some reason, as humans we seem to like extremes. We so often think in black and white, all or nothing principles. We are either eating everything in sight or we are vowing never to touch another cake or chocolate bar again. Food can be a source of punishment, either harming us through over-indulgence or equally through deprivation and restriction. But what if there is another way?

Food as nourishment

Food can also be a source of nourishment for our body, mind and spirit. Think about it – what you eat literally becomes you! Your food provides the building blocks that make up your skin, bones, hair and all of your internal organs which keep you alive. What you eat also provides the energy for you to live a rich and fulfilling life, to work, to be creative and to maintain supportive relationships. It connects you to your environment, community and your culture.

Eating a low energy or low nutrient diet is the number one way to create a life that is low in energy and nourishment. My mantra when I was recovering from chronic dieting was “RESTRICTED EATING = RESTRICTED LIFE”. On the other hand, by consistently nourishing yourself with lots of healthy foods (without necessarily eliminating “unhealthy” foods), you will have the energy and enthusiasm to create the life that you dream of. As Geneen Roth rightly said:

Trusting your body

There are so many popular opinions about what a healthy diet is that it can be overwhelming. Fans of keto or Atkins diets say that carbs are the devil and a high protein, high fat diet is the way to achieve lifelong health and weight loss. On the other hand, doctors and dieticians recommend high carb plant-based diets to over come disease and stay slim. Weight Watchers and Slimming World advise to eat whatever you like as long as you stay within your points allowance for the day.

All of these diets “work” in the sense that they can help you to lose weight or in some cases to heal health conditions. But they all have one thing in common. A lack of flexibility and the transfer of power and motivation to something external. By following a restrictive diet, you are saying that you do not trust your own body to keep you healthy and that someone else knows better. I believe the opposite that our bodies know best. It is simply our environment that can make things difficult!

You might think that your food habits are a result of willpower. Either a lack of willpower or a strong will to eat healthily. However, recent research shows that most of our choices are based not on conscious decisions, our goals and motivations but rather on habit and environmental influence. Our brains like to conserve energy and the easiest way to do that it do put simple tasks, like eating, on auto-pilot. Simply put, we eat the way we do because it’s what we are used to.

Changing your food habits

This is why changing your diet is so difficult at first. You go from preparing and eating food automatically to having to think about every decision which takes a lot of effort! You might need to learn new recipes, go shopping more often and spend more time in the kitchen. But if you manage to convert these new knowledge and skills into habits, they soon become the norm and are much easier to maintain.

When I work with clients, we follow the VISION-GOAL-ACTION protocol.

This means starting with an overall vision for your future health, setting some goals to motivate you and then deciding on simple actions that you can take daily to work towards those goals. This is a proven technique that actually works. Consistent actions, no matter how small, are what become your future positive habits that over time bring you closer to achieving your goals and becoming your vision of your healthiest self.

Some tips for creating healthy habits around food:

  1. Always write a shopping list and stick to it – It is much easier to use your willpower once to not buy things you don’t want to eat than it is to use it again and again to not eat the foods that are already in your cupboard

  2. Learn a few simple, tasty, healthy recipes – We all know that feeling of coming home after a long day at work and having zero motivation to cook a healthy dinner. Having go-to meals that you can prepare easily without thinking is so important for these situations

  3. Focus on what you can add to your diet – So often when trying to eat healthily we think about what to avoid but our brains are literally programmed to want what is forbidden. It is much better to focus on adding in healthy foods that trying to remove unhealthy foods!

  4. Make your meals a ritual – Mindful eating is the number one way to tune into your bodies’ intelligence. It knows what it needs and how much if you only listen. Eating meals in a peaceful, quiet environment without distractions makes mindful eating much easier

  5. Take pleasure from your food – This one should go without saying but sadly, many people think that healthy eating has to be boring and tasteless. In reality, a truly nourishing meal can be extremely satisfying and tasty one we let go of the idea that health is dry chicken breast and salad.

So what exactly is a healthy diet?

I prefer to keep things simple! There is no one-size-fits-all diet that can meet all of our needs. The amount of food, the ratio of food groups and how you should eat depends on many factors including:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Metabolic health
  • Activity level
  • Body composition
  • Life stage
  • Stress
  • Climate and season

I wrote more about this in a previous post: What is the perfect diet for humans?

To put it simply, the healthiest diet is one that consists of mainly whole, unprocessed food, includes lots of fresh plant-based foods and has plenty of variety.

This definition of healthy eating is not restrictive and can be applied to many different dietary patterns. Throughout history, humans have survived and thrived on a huge variety of diets depending on which location of the world they live in. But what they all have in common is that they eat an abundance of real food which come from the earth (including animals as well as plants).

Eating with the seasons

Something that has been lost in many developed societies is eating with the seasons. Historically, humans would have had a huge variety in their diet, simply by eating what was available to them in their environment throughout the year. Nowadays, we have huge supermarkets full of preserved, processed foods and produce imported from all over the world. We are spoilt for choice and although this does give us variety, it also cuts that spiritual connection with nature that we can experience through eating a more natural diet.

I first became interested in seasonal and local eating for environment reasons. I wanted to reduce the carbon footprint of my diet by eating less foods that had been transported across the world by plane. But I soon realised that eating with the seasons also has health benefits. Eating locally-grown produce means the food is probably fresher and as seasonal foods grow abundantly, they have usually been sprayed with less chemicals to protect them. I also feel like nature knows best and perhaps in the future we will find out that the nutrients available in foods at particular times of the year offer us particular nutrients just at the moment we need them!

Why not try making a list of a few foods you would like to include in your diet each season? Experimenting with new foods and recipes each season is a fun way to connect with nature and make sure you are getting a variety of fresh foods into your diet. If you’re in the UK, you can use the calendar below to find out which produce is available locally each season. BBC also have a seasonal recipes section which is great if you are unsure where to start. If you live elsewhere, you can Google search “seasonal foods” and you should find some helpful resources.

BBC Seasonal Produce Calendar

BBC Good Food Seasonal Food by Month

The best diet is the [insert your name here] diet

Overall, when it comes to the way you eat, it is important to find what works for YOU and not listen blindly to others. The only way to do this is to experiments with different food and eating styles and pay attention to how you feel. This might sounds obvious but how many times have you eaten a meal and genuinely observed how you felt after?

Usually we only notice if there is an extreme reaction, for example if a particular food makes us feel sick or causes bloating. But what you eat affect you in so many ways including your energy levels, stamina, mental clarity, mood and even the quality of your sleep. The amount of food you eat, the combinations of foods at each meal and even the timing of your meals can impact the way you feel throughout the day.

I shared in a recent post about the different body types according to Ayurveda and how particular foods can influence individuals in different ways. For example, one person might feel energised and clear on a diet high in raw fruits and vegetables whereas another might feel freezing and lethargic. Some people need more protein and animal-based foods to support their constitution, whereas others thrive on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Many people love three-square meals a day but some feel better with smaller meals and snacks.

All of this is to say that there is no simple right answer as to what to eat to be healthy. But this should be a good thing! You can shift your perspective from following dietary rules to asking your body what it truly needs to be nourished each time you eat. Every meal is an opportunity to support your physical, energetic, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies as I explained in yesterday’s post. If you learn to see food as nourishment, you will no longer be trapped in the cycle of dieting and over-eating but you will naturally come to a place of balance and find peace with food.

Today’s challenge: Complete a food diary

One of the tools I use with my health coaching clients is a food diary. Not as another way to count calories and deprive yourself, but as a way to see objectively what, when, why and how you eat. Today’s challenge is for you to complete a food diary for a minimum of three days this week, using the downloadable template below to:

a) Record when and what you eat throughout the day as well as how you were feeling physically and mentally before and after eating

b) Review your whole day of eating and check for the above principles. Did you eat mostly whole foods? Was there plenty of variety in your day or week? Did you include lots of fresh plant-based foods?

Hopefully this activity will be enlightening and you will see for yourself some simple changes you can make to improve your diet. It is important to do this task without self-judgement or criticism – what you eat says nothing about who you are as a person, it is simply the food habits that you have right now.

If you are in the Moon Life Well Women Facebook group, I will be sharing some additional resources to support you in making healthy changes to your diet. So enjoy and I will see you tomorrow when we will be moving onto to the topic of movement!

Over to you…

  • Comment: What is one thing you would like to change about your relationship to food?
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What is whole being nourishment?

Welcome to the New Year Women’s Wellness challenge! If you’re not sure what this is all about read this post first. The first week of the challenge is all about whole being nourishment. When you think of nourishment, what comes to mind? Probably it’s food and that is definitely a good place to start but it isn’t the full picture!

The layers of your being

In yoga philosophy, a human is seen as not just a physical body but as 5 layers or koshas:

  1. Anamaya kosha (physical body)
  2. Pranamaya kosha (energetic/breath body)
  3. Manomaya kosha (emotional/mental body)
  4. Vijnanamaya kosha (intellectual/wisdom body)
  5. Anandamaya kosha (spiritual/bliss body)

Image credit: https://wellness-space.net/pancha-kosha/

The physical body is the solid material that makes up you: your bones, muscles, organs, nerves etc. This is the part that you can see and touch. It is also known as the food body as it is responsible for digesting and assimilating food into energy and for your survival instincts.

The energetic body is closely tied to the physical body and it represents the flow of energy, life force or prana which animates you. It is also known as the breath body as your breath and your life force are closely connected. We can nourish this layer through correct breathing or pranayama breath control.

The emotional or mental body represents what is often called the monkey mind or the mental chatter that you experience throughout the day. This is the limbic brain which is responsible for your likes, dislikes, feelings, fears, desires etc. which are responsible for most of your actions.

The intelligence or wisdom body is the higher part of your mind, your conscience, which is capable of rational thinking, making decisions, holding ethical values and creativity. If you pay attention, you can observe the difference between mental chatter and directed thoughts.

Finally, the spiritual or bliss body is the part of you which is most connected to yourself and all of nature. You access this body in moments of silence or awe when you move past the usual thinking and feeling state and time seems to stand still.

Whole being nourishment

These five layers or koshas make up your whole being. Nourishment is therefore about the body but also the mind and the soul or spirit. A major source of nourishment is of course food, and we will get to that very soon. But nourishment also comes from the thoughts you think, the air you breath, your feelings, actions, relationships, work, hobbies and everything that you experience through your five senses. You can eat the healthiest diet in the world but if the other elements are missing, you will never experience true wellness.

Throughout this week, and the whole of the wellness challenge, we will be focusing on different ways to nourish your whole being. The next three days will be about nourishing your physical and energetic bodies through healthy eating, joyful movement and good quality sleep. Following that we will introduce ways to nourish the mental and spiritual bodies which we will continue to expand on throughout the challenge. It is important to do it in this order as the energy you create through nourishing the physical body will feel into the other layers!

Focus on the feeling

Rather than focusing on the numbers (e.g. calories, weight) I invite you to keep the idea of nourishment in mind as you make lifestyle changes. Focusing on feeling good rather than on a particular outcome means that your motivation comes from within rather than on something external. This makes it much easier for you to stay committed because your lifestyle becomes a way for you to stay happy and energised instead of something that you struggle to keep up with when life gets tough.

This wellness challenge is about creating sustainable, supportive habits which you actually enjoy, not about punishing your body or following strict rules. I’m sure many of you, like me, have at some point in the past dieted or pushed yourself through extreme workouts to try to lose weight or look a certain way. But how long did this last? You can only maintain will power for so long and then what happens next? Your body starts to rebel and resist and you end up back to square one.

You cut calories or your favourite foods then end up binge eating because your body is starving and deprived. You go all in with an exercise regime and then get injured or exhausted and have to take weeks off. You lose weight and then gain it all back plus some. Instead of cycling between extremes, you want to find balance by creating simple and enjoyable habits that feel sustainable. This means it has to be a lifestyle which feels nourishing for all layers of your being.

Today’s challenge: Nourishing your body(S!)

Throughout the challenge I will be offering you activities to do or questions to reflect on. This is totally optional, but if you want to get the most out of this month and feel truly refreshed and recharged, I highly recommend it! Taking action is a way to integrate things that you read, hear and learn into your being. So grab yourself a notebook or journal to get started.

Today’s simple task is for you to make five lists, one for each of the layers of your being. Or if you prefer, you can simplify it to three lists: mind, body and spirit. In each list write down the things that nourish this part of your being. Some things might appear on more than one list, for example, eating fresh food will nourish your physical and your energetic bodies.

When you are finished, take 2 coloured pens and highlight:

a) The things that are already a regular part of your life

b) The things that you want more of in your life and commit to creating space for

If you are in the Moon Life Well Women Facebook group, feel free to share a photo of your list – I will be sharing mine!

Tomorrow we will be starting with the topic of healthy eating and nourishment through food.

Over to you…

  • Comment: Which layer of your being needs some extra nourishment right now?
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New year womens wellness challenge

New Year Women’s Wellness challenge!

It’s that time of year again… the deep winter when we take stock of the year that has passed and start envisioning what we want to create in the year ahead. Last January, I decided to run a Real Health January series where I posted a new blog every day sharing health tips and busting “health” myths. If you missed it, you can find all of those posts in the Holistic Health page of this site.

This year, I have decided to take it up a notch! From Monday, I will be commencing a Women’s Wellness Challenge here on my blog and in the Moon Life Well Women Facebook group. The challenge is inspired by Well College Global Personal Wellness Coaching course which I took last summer. Over 5 weeks we will progress though 5 areas of holistic health and wellbeing:

5 weeks of personal wellness

Week 1: Nourishment

The first week is all about nourishing your body, mind and spirit. You will learn how to eat in a way that supports your whole being, how to move your body in a way that creates rather than depletes your energy and vitality and how to get deeply restful and rejuvenating sleep. We will also start to dive into mental and spiritual health through the lens of positive psychology and Ayurveda.

Week 2: Connection

In week 2, you will start to build deeper connection to yourself, others and the planet we call home. Connecting with ourselves means finding inner peace and understanding who we are inside, not just our physical appearance, life circumstances and conditioning. We are social beings and so holistic wellness also includes building supportive relationships and communities that lift us up and give us purpose.

Week 3: Compassion

We can have the healthiest lifestyle in the world, but if we are thinking negative thoughts or acting unkindly towards ourselves or others, we can never experience true wellness. Therefore in week 3, we will focus on building compassion, mindfulness and strong self-care foundation. You will learn how to create change from a place of acceptance rather than criticism and punishment as well as how to let go of the past to allow deep healing.

Week 4: Wisdom

The fourth week is all about wisdom. Rather than being about becoming an expert or knowing everything, wisdom is about understanding that we don’t know everything and there are many things in life we cannot control. We will go into topics such as developing patience, light-heartedness and curiosity. I will also introduce you to the basics of meditation as a tool for accepting what is and connecting with your intuition.

Week 5: Transcendence

Finally, in week five we will move into the more spiritual realm. Don’t be put off by the word spiritual! This week we will look at areas of full-being wellness including gratitude, life purpose, love and belonging. You will also learn how to awaken your more spiritual side through the lens of cultivating prana (energy), consciousness and understanding the masculine and feminine forces at play in all of nature.

How to join the challenge

It’s going to be a fun and enlightening journey and I hope you enjoy following along with me! I will be posting regular blogs here throughout the month so make sure you are subscribed to receive email updates. If you would like to dive deeper, I will be going live in the Moon Life Well Women Facebook group as well as sharing worksheets and challenges for you to put the information into practice and truly integrate it into your life. My weekly online yoga classes will also follow the themes of the challenge throughout the month – see the schedule to book a session or contact me with any questions.

So enjoy the rest of the holidays and have a great start to 2022. Thank you for being here with me throughout the epic challenger of a year that was 2021 and I wish you every health and happiness that you deserve for the year to come!

Over to you…

  • Comment: Ladies are you joining us in the challenge?? Drop me an “I’M IN” below and let me know
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HA recovery meal plan (my secret project!)

It’s been a bit quieter around here for a while, and for a very good reason! For a long time I have wanted to create a tool to support women with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA for short) who are trying to recover their missing period. I know that learning a completely new way of eating was one of the hardest things parts of my period recovery journey. So.. my secret project that has been keeping me busy the last couple of months is that I have created a HA recovery meal plan. Aka the period recovery meal plan!

I am so excited to finally have this ready to go. I hope that it will be a helpful tool for all of you beautiful readers who are on this exciting but challenging journey of recovering your period. I know this is not all of you but I know that a large percentage of my readers are women who are were I was 5 years ago when I was trying to get my period back after 8 years of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. If you haven’t read my story you can find out more in my previous post and video here. I have also shared many posts previously about the causes of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and how to get your period back which you can find here.

When I finally realised that my poor nutrition and crazy workout regime was the reason for my missing periods I was stunned. I remember being extremely confused and so unsure of how to eat more after years of restricting both the quantity and types of foods I ate. I know back then I would have loved to have a HA recovery meal plan to guide me on this new way of eating. I even went back to university to study nutrition and trained to become a Women’s Wellness Coach because I was determined to use this experience to help other women in the future. So I am very happy to have finally created this period recovery meal plan and to be able to offer it to you now!

What does the HA recovery meal plan include?

The HA recovery meal plan is 38 pages long and split into 10 sections:

HA recovery meal plan

I have created 20 simple recipes and combined these into a 7 day HA recovery meal plan to inspire you on your period recovery journey. As I highlight in the book, I am a Nutritionist and not a chef! All meals are super easy to make and take less than an hour to prepare. I have based this meal plan on a minimum of 2500 calories per day which is the recommendation of Dr Nicola Rinaldi, researcher and author of No Period Now What ( I highly recommend purchasing her book for more on the science of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and the recovery process). I know 2500 calories can sound scary if you are coming from the world of diet culture. I explain why this minimum energy intake is necessary within the guide.

How was the period recovery meal plan designed?

I have carefully designed the meal plan to ensure that each meal and snack contains a balance of macro-nutrients. This is to provide your body with the fuel and building blocks it needs to recover your hormones. In addition, I have chosen a wide variety of foods throughout the meal plan. This is to maximise the micro-nutrient intake and ensure that your nutritional needs are met. Nutritional rehabilitation is a major part of recovering your period if it has gone missing due to under eating, over exercising or excessive stress. Therefore this was an important element when designing the meal plan.

You want your body to finally feel safe and nourished. I hope that the recipes in the HA recovery meal plan will do just that! The plan is designed around whole, unprocessed foods with a high nutrient density. Not because these are the ONLY foods you should eat. Rather to give a strong nutritional foundation from which you can play around with other foods. It is designed to inspire you and give you a launch pad from which you can get creative. The sample 7 day period recovery meal plan includes different recipes for each meal, every day of the week. However you can use the 20 recipes in which ever way you choose.

Personally I like to consume the same lunch and breakfast for a whole week to make meal preparation easier. Then I switch it up to ensure variety throughout each month. I have provided a full macro and micro nutrient breakdowns of the 7 day meal plan. Additionally, each recipe comes with a summary nutrient breakdown in EU label style. I know not everyone likes to focus on numbers. However it can be a useful tool to understand how different foods can support your body. Full macro and macro nutrient breakdowns for each recipe are available as additional pdfs on request (email me following your purchase for this option).

Will I definitely get my period back if I follow this plan?

Of course there can never be any guarantee that you will get your period back. I would be lying if I told you that, however it is very possible and so many women have made this journey and regained a natural cycle even after many years of HA. It is important first to confirm the diagnosis of Hypothalamic Amenorrhea with your doctor. You want to rule out any other medical issues which could be causing your missing period as the treatment plan could be different. However, the rates of recovery for confirmed Hypothalamic Amenorrhea are very promising when following a healing lifestyle.

One survey concluded that after making lifestyle changes (including adopting a period recovery diet and reducing exercise), 57% of women recovered their period within 6 months. For some women the process can take longer, sometimes up to 2 years. What I can say is that regardless of the outcome, adopting the period recovery diet set out in this HA recovery meal plan will NOURISH you. Eating this way will ensure that your body gets plenty of energy from nutrient dense sources which will improve your overall health and vitality.

Remember to focus on the process and not the outcome. Your body is intelligent and knows how to heal itself when it has the resources it needs.

How can I purchase the HA recovery meal plan?

So, is this is something you are interested in? Would you like to invest in the HA recovery meal plan as a tool for your period recovery journey? Well I have an exciting offer until the end of the year! I will be selling the plan at a 20% discounted price until 31/12/2021. So if you want to have this as a tool for the new year to start or continue your period recovery journey then go ahead and grab your copy!

NOTE – If you do purchase the plan and you find it helpful, I encourage you to please leave a review and to share the product link with other ladies who might benefit from this tool (please don’t forward the pdf directly as I have put much time and effort into creating this work).

Over to you…

  • Comment: Are you on your period recovery journey? What is your experience so far?
  • Please like this post and share to support my business, I really appreciate it!
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is your metabolism low

Symptoms of hypothyroidism but levels of TSH normal?

In this post I want to explore some of the research around a topic that particularly interests me. That is, what if you have symptoms of hypothyroidism but levels of TSH are normal? This is something I struggled with myself for many years so I want to share my personal experience and what I have found out through my research.

What is hypothyroidism? Causes and symptoms

Hypothyroidism is the second most common female endocrine (hormone) disorders. There are several causes of an underactive thyroid. The most common cause worldwide is iodine deficiency. However in developed countries, iodine deficiency is rare and the most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This is an auto immune condition where a persons own immune system develops antibodies which attack the thyroid gland. Other cases are caused by medical interventions such as thyroid surgery, radiation or certain medications.

Some of the main symptoms of hypothyroidism are:

  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Brittle nails
  • Low libido
  • Weight gain
  • Irregular or heavy periods
  • Constipation
  • Trouble concentrating or poor memory

References are listed at the end of the article, see ref (1)(2)(3)(4)

Testing for hypothyroidism TSH levels

Currently, the main test for diagnosing hypothyroidism or an under-active thyroid is a thyroid function test. This is a blood test to measure levels of two thyroid hormones: thyrotropin aka thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxine (FT4). If your blood tests show a high level of TSH and low level of FT4 then you may be diagnosed with hypothyroidism(1). High TSH level with normal FT4 is considered sub-clinical hypothyroidism.

I recently did a full check up using Thriva which included a thyroid function check. This is how the results look along with the ranges for TSH and FT4 hormones. You can also read here for more information on interpreting test results. If you are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism and want to check your levels at home, it is a great option. Otherwise you can visit your GP and request a thyroid function test.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism but levels of TSH normal? My experience

But what if your thyroid function test comes back normal? What does it mean if you have symptoms of hypothyroidism but normal levels of TSH? Well, you wouldn’t be alone in that regard! It is something that I experienced and I am sure many other women too.

For several years I experienced symptoms of hypothyroidism. In particular disruption to my menstrual cycles, feeling cold and tired all of the time, frequent constipation and dry and thinning hair. I was a classic case of hypothyroidism, exhibiting nearly all of the listed symptoms. However, I had several thyroid function tests during this time which all came back perfectly normal. I couldn’t understand what was going on and was left feeling frustrated and confused.

Each time I left the doctors office I would feel so down and hopeless. It wasn’t that I wanted something to be wrong with me. I just wanted answers so I could get my health back on track! There is nothing worse than feeling like your body is malfunctioning and not knowing what you can do to fix it.

Me whilst dealing with hypothyroid symptoms (L) and well into the healing process (R)

Symptoms of hypothyroidism but levels of TSH normal? The science

During this time I did a lot of research into all things hormone related. I found some interesting articles about patients with symptoms of hypothyroidism but normal levels of TSH. In some cases this related to sub-clinical hypothyroidism where levels of TSH were slightly elevated and FT4 levels were normal. This didn’t really interest me as in my case, both my TSH and FT4 levels were normal. But if your levels of TSH are between 2.5 and 4mIU/L, as you have the symptoms above, it is definitely possible that you are experiencing sub-clinical hypothyroidism.

Another study that interested me concluded that measuring blood levels of TSH may not be a reliable diagnostic test for hypothyroid (5). They describe case studies of two patients with symptoms of hypothyroidism but normal levels of TSH. When tested using alternative methods, both patients were confirmed as hypothyroid, despite normal TSH levels. Even more interesting, their symptoms went away when treated for hypothyroidism! The theory is that despite normal levels of thyroid hormones in the blood, if the cells are resistant to their effects, we can still experience symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Another area of research that caught my eye is something I have been reading and writing a lot about lately: low metabolism. In particular, I have shared posts about the signs and causes of a low metabolism and how to speed up a low metabolism. This turned out to be the answer to my problems. But how does this link to hypothyroidism? As I mentioned in those previous posts, the symptoms of hypothyroidism overlap greatly with those of a low metabolism. So perhaps if your doctor has given you the all clear with regards to your thyroid health, you might want to consider taking action to support your metabolism.

Reduce hypothyroidism symptoms by supporting your metabolism

To reduce hypothyroidism symptoms by supporting your metabolism, you want to focus on the following four areas:

Now, as a Nutritionist and Women’s Wellness Coach, this is an area that interests me greatly. A low metabolic rate can affect all aspects of your wellbeing from your energy levels to your mood and mindset. If your metabolism is slow, you can also find it difficult to lose weight despite eating healthily and exercising. So focusing on improving metabolic rate can have a wide range of benefits as well as helping to reduce hypothyroidism symptoms.

I will be continuing to share more details on how to do this over the next weeks and months. So make sure to follow my blog by adding your email to the “Subscribe by email” panel on the right to be updated by email when I post.

References

(1) https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/underactive-thyroid-hypothyroidism/symptoms/
(2) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1751485115000045
(3) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12325-019-01080-8
(4) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1751485115000045
(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5847294/

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is your metabolism low

Is your metabolism low? Test at home to see!

Is your metabolism low? Maybe you are one of the many people that say that they have a low metabolism. But how can you know for sure? One way is to see if you exhibit some of the signs of a low metabolism. This includes having chronic low energy and feeling cold, particularly in your hands and feet. Another way is to take some simple measurements to make an assessment of your metabolism at home. In this article I will describe two basic tests to determine whether you have a low metabolic rate.

The information I share in this article is inspired by the work of researchers such as Broda Barnes and Ray Peat. These guys were way ahead of their time and really were the forerunners of the “pro-metabolic” movement. I have learnt a lot from reading these guys work along with others who have shared or built on their theories such as Danny Roddy, Matt Stone, Keith Littlewood and Emma Sgourakis. I will link other peer-reviewed sources of information at the bottom of this post. Definitely check those out if you are interested in reading more into the science behind low metabolism.

Link between low metabolism and thyroid function

The underpinning theory is that your metabolic rate is driven by your thyroid function. A sluggish thyroid results in a “slow metabolism” otherwise known as hypothyroidism. Conversely, an over-active thyroid means a fast metabolism, aka hyperthyroidism. For optimal health and wellbeing, you want your thyroid to be functioning in the healthy range. By this I mean it is producing normal amounts of thyroid hormones which are being used appropriately by your cells.

Dr Denis Wilson, claimed that of every 100 patients with a low body temperature and hypothyroid symptoms, only 5 will show up as having abnormal TSH levels and therefore a diagnosis of hypothyroid (1). He labeled this condition of low metabolism symptoms with normal thyroid test results as Wilsons Temperature Syndrome. I have to make clear that this is not an accepted diagnosis according to most medical professionals. However, I view it alongside Adrenal Fatigue as a description of a common adaptive state of the body functions which leads to particular symptoms.

Perhaps the diagnosis is not accepted but if the “treatment” works then I don’t see it as a problem. Interestingly enough, both low metabolism and adrenal fatigue are linked to stress! But we won’t go there for today. We will quickly review the common signs and symptoms of a low metabolism. Then I will introduce you to the two tests you can take an home to answer the question, is your metabolism low?

Signs and symptoms of low metabolism

To clarify, symptoms are health effects identified by the individual whereas signs can be observed and measured by others. Often experiencing symptoms like fatigue and low energy can be frustrating. This is because you are made to believe by doctors and those around you that it is “all in your head”. There are many symptoms related to a low metabolism and often they go unnoticed because they are subtle or seen as normal.

Broda Barnes in his book Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness*, argued that many common symptoms are a result of sub-clinical hypothyroidism. Some of the symptoms associated with a low thyroid function are fatigue, headaches, depression, anxiety, low libido, constipation, low mood, PMS, insomnia and easy weight gain (1). If you are experiencing several of these symptoms on a regular basis, potentially you are dealing with a low metabolism.

Two major signs of a low thyroid function and low metabolism are low body temperature and low pulse rate. These two signs are consistently associated with the symptoms above. Other signs include dry skin, dry hair and slow growing or brittle nails. All of the signs and symptoms are a result of reduced cellular respiration and energy generation.

Now let’s see, is your metabolism low?

Low metabolism test 1: Basal body temperature

Broda Barnes pioneered low basal body temperature as a sign of hypothyroidism, aka a low metabolism. Therefore, the first of the two tests to see if you have a low metabolism is to measure your temperature. Do this upon waking every day for a week and record your results. You can use any thermometer just make sure to warm it up first to avoid skewing your measurements.

A healthy functioning metabolism should result in an oral temperature of 36.6°C or above (armpit temperature is usually approx. 0.3-0.6°C lower). If your temperature is consistently below this, it may be a sign of a low metabolism (2). Especially if you also have some of the signs of a low metabolism I described above and in my previous post. Remember, this is your temperature upon waking. After eating, drinking and moving your body, your temperature should increase above this minimum.

For females, it is also important to know that your basal body temperature can increase by up to 0.5°C following ovulation (3). It then then decreases again once menstruation begins. This is due to an increase in metabolic rate during the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle. The numbers above refer to your temperature in the first half of your cycle so make sure you do the test before ovulation for an accurate assessment. As a side note, observing this temperature rise is a good sign that you are ovulating which is a good sign of a healthy menstrual cycle and fertility.


Low metabolism test 2: Resting pulse rate

The second test you can use to determine whether your metabolism is low is to measure your resting pulse rate. Measuring heart rate is a well established method for determining metabolic rate (4). A pulse rate of 70-85 beats per minute (bpm) is generally an indicator of a healthy metabolism. The exact number range differs but there is agreement in the pro-metabolic world that a pulse rate of 60bpm or below is a sign of low metabolism. Especially when combined with low temperature and other signs of low thyroid function.

Although many health professionals state that a pulse rate of 60bpm or lower is a sign of fitness, this is not the whole truth. Yes, it is true that athletes have a low pulse rate as a result of their fitness. However, fitness and health do not always go together! A low pulse rate, or bradichardia is a sign of metabolic adaptation. That is a modification of the metabolic processes in order to do more with less energy input. This is a useful adaptation in athletes as it allows them to perform at a higher level in sport. But it says nothing about their general health.

For example, many female athletes suffer from the Female Athlete Triad which is a combination of low energy availability, disrupted menstrual cycles and decreased bone mineral density (5). Usually this is a stress state caused by too much exercise and not enough energy intake. Although it has athlete in the title, this can happen to any woman who is very active and not fueling correctly. This happened to me and I did not have a menstrual cycle for 8 years! Although I was physically fit, my metabolism was extremely low and I had lots of health issues.

But isn’t a high pulse rate unhealthy?

It does get a little complicated as a study published in a peer-reviewed medical journal concluded that increasing resting heart rate is associated with increased incidence of metabolic syndrome (6). According to the NHS, metabolic syndrome is “the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) and obesity”. However, as the study did not look in detail at participants diet and activity, we cannot know whether those with a high resting heart rate were also following a pro-metabolic lifestyle (unlikely in my opinion).

Having a high temperature and pulse rate whilst eating well and being active is different than achieving the same outcome by being sedentary and eating unhealthy food. Really, more research is needed to differentiate between these two. Perhaps now that pro-metabolic lifestyle is gaining interest online, there will be more research done. Until then, the best thing to do is keep an eye on your other health markers such as blood pressure, glucose and weight alongside your temperature and pulse to find the lifestyle that works best for you.

How to increase a low metabolism

If you try out these two tests and think that you have a low metabolism, what can you do about it? I shared some simple tips for how to speed up a a slow metabolism in a previous post. In that post I also describe some of the potential causes of a low metabolism so make sure you check it out. You can also try incorporating my top foods to increase your metabolism into your daily diet. I will be making more detailed posts on this topic so if you are interested, make sure to follow my blog to receive updates by email. You can also like this post and comment below to let me know!

References

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4566469/
(2) https://www.pedagogyeducation.com/Main-Campus/Resource-Library/General/How-to-Take-a-Basal-Body-Temperature.aspx
(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK546686/
(4) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1095643310004988
(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435916/
(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2768698/
*If you purchase the book through this link I will earn a small commission through Amazon Affiliates (you will not be charged extra)

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hormonal imbalance symptoms in women

Hormonal imbalance symptoms in women

As a Nutritionist and Women’s Wellness Coach, I often work with women who want to balance their hormones. Hormone imbalances are actually very common and there are actually over 50 hormones at work in your body! But what are the hormonal imbalance symptoms in women that you should look out for?

10 hormonal imbalance symptoms in women

1. Missing or irregular periods

The most obvious of the hormonal imbalance symptoms in women is missing or irregular periods. A healthy woman will typically have a regular menstrual cycle lasting between 21 and 35 days. Anything outside of this is considered irregular (NHS). Irregular periods are normal during puberty, after pregnancy or after coming off hormonal contraception. However, irregular or missing periods can also be a sign of hormonal imbalance. Missing or irregular periods can be due to Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA), Hypothyroidism or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Irregular periods can also be a sign of early menopause in women under the age of 45. If you have not had a period for more than 3 months, it is a good idea to speak to your doctor to find out what is going on.

2. Excessive mood swings or PMS

One of the most common symptoms of hormonal imbalance in women is severe mood swings during the pre-menstrual phase. It is normal to feel slightly irritable, moody or fatigued in the days before your period. However, if you are experiencing extreme mood swings or excessively low mood during the pre-menstruum this could be a sign of a hormonal imbalance. The endocrine system is complex and your hormones have systemic effects throughout the body. Imbalances in estrogen, progesterone, serotonin, thyroid hormones and cortisol can all have a negative impact on your mood and emotional regulation. It is important to check your hormone levels to understand what might be causing your symptoms.

3. Extreme period pain

Another of the most common symptoms of hormonal imbalance in women is extreme period pain. Again, it is normal to experience some level of pelvic pain during menstruation. The muscles of your uterus contract to shed the outer layers of it’s lining which is the blood you release during your period. This can cause a mild warmth and cramping sensation around the area of your womb and lower back. However, if you are experiencing intense pain, this is not normal. There are several reasons for painful periods including Endometriosis, cysts or fibroids and tension in the muscles of the pelvis. Hormonal imbalance, in particular high levels of estrogen, is associated with severe period pain.

4. Hormonal acne

Hormonal acne is something that most of us women deal with at some point in our lives. Whether is it having a face full of spots as a teenager or breakouts before your period each month, it is something you are likely familiar with. But what if your hormonal acne is excessive or chronic lasting way past your teenage years? This is one of the hormonal imbalance symptoms in women to look out for! Hormonal acne is usually found around the jaw and chin area but also on the cheeks and forehead. It can be a sign of hyper-androgenism (male hormones) as in PCOS. Hormonal acne can also arise with low progesterone. To understand the cause, you need to take a look at your symptoms holistically. You can also consider checking your hormone levels to identify any imbalances.

5. Trouble sleeping

A surprising hormonal imbalance symptom in women is insomnia. Most women wouldn’t associate their sleep troubles with their hormonal health. However, not sleeping well can also be a sign of an imbalance. Low levels of progesterone can lead to insomnia and poor sleep during the pre-menstrual phase. Imbalances in cortisol can also have a cascade effect throughout the body and cause disruption to sleep-wake cycles. In particular, sleep maintenance insomnia and early morning waking can be related to cortisol imbalances. Both progesterone and cortisol imbalance can be related to high levels of stress, whether than it physical, mental or emotional.

6. Low sex drive or sexual dysfunction

Perhaps a lesser talked about subject amongst women, or an overly normalised one depending who you ask! Low sex drive or low libido is another of the common hormonal imbalance symptoms in women. In addition, vaginal dryness and pain during sex can also be caused by hormonal imbalance. It is normal to experience fluctations in sex drive throughout your cycle with a peak during your fertile phase. Despite what we are made to believe, we are not expected to be ready to go at all times! But experiencing low libido for months on end may be a sign that something more is going on. Your reproductive hormones, especially estrogen and testosterone regulate your sex drive and your ability to be aroused. Low levels of these hormones can lead to disinterest in sex or pain during sex.

7. Changes to hair

Losing hair can be very distressing and is a sign that something is not right with your body. There are many reasons for hair loss in women including stress, anemia and dermatitis. However, hair loss is also one of the hormonal imbalance symptoms in women. Reduced levels of estrogen and progesterone, for example during menopause, can lead to hair shedding and thinning. Hypothyroidism, that is low levels of thyroid hormones, can also be an explanation for hair loss in women. When hair loss is in a male-pattern of balding this can be a sign of hyper-androgenism and PCOS. In this case, you might also experience hair growth on your face and body. Again, it is important to assess your symptoms holistically to understand the hormonal imbalance responsible for your hair loss.

8. Migraine or headaches

Many women experience headaches and migraines, especially during the pre-menstrual or menstruation phase of their cycle. This can sometimes be accompanied by nausea, dizziness and increased sensitivity to light. Rapid changes in hormones can trigger headaches, which is why they are more common around your period when your hormones levels drop suddenly. Studies show that it is likely in fluctuations estrogen which can trigger migraine headaches. This is why some women experience them more frequently during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. It may be that more women are more sensitive to headaches than others. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle to support hormonal balance may help to reduced the quantity and severity of headaches.

9. Unexplained infertility

A hormonal imbalance symptoms in women which might not be discovered until later is unexplained infertility. I recently wrote a post about infertility discussing some of the causes, risk factors and natural treatments. Infertility is not always caused by a hormonal imbalance. But having balanced hormones and regular ovulation increases fertility and chances of conception. Hormonal imbalances which can lead to infertility include high testosterone, low progesterone and low thyroid which can all affect ovulation. To check whether you are ovulating you can measure your basal body temperature and look for a sustained 0.5°C rise around the mid-point of your cycle. You can also look out for “egg white” consistency fertile mucus around the same time as a sign of healthy ovulation.

10. Weight gain and cravings

Finally, unexplained weight gain and cravings can both be hormonal imbalance symptoms in women. We all experience cravings from time to time. But if you feel like you are experiencing an insatiable hunger or desire for sweets, perhaps your hormones are to blame. Insulin and glucagon are hormones released from your pancreas which are involved in managing your blood sugar. Imbalances in these hormones can affect your appetite and cravings. Cortisol imbalances can also play a role in unexplained weight gain. When your body is stuck in fight or flight stress state, it may hang onto extra weight as a survival mechanism. If you are struggling to lose weight, despite reducing your calorie intake, you might want to focus on balancing your hormones first.

Summary of hormonal imbalance symptoms in women

hormonal imbalance symptoms in women

hormonal imbalance symptoms in women

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Guided morning mindfulness meditation

Good morning everyone! Today I wanted to share a guided morning mindfulness meditation. Use this practice to start your day with mindfulness and cultivate full body present awareness! Meditation is great to incorporate into your daily morning ritual before the action of the day begins. Make the most of the calm and quiet of the morning to find time to connect with yourself and your breath.

Just a few moments of mindfulness at first thing can ahead how you feel for the rest of the day. Starting your day with meditation can help to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase energy
  • Open your heart space
  • Release tension
  • Create a sense of wellbeing
  • Boost productivity
  • Inspire creativity

Guided morning mindfulness meditation

In this 15 minute meditation, I will guide you through a full body scan. This will help you to tune into your physical sensations and connect mind and body at the start of your day. You can practice in bed, in a chair or on a meditation cushion. All you need is a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Make sure to wear a jumper or cover yourself with a blanket as your body temperature can drop during meditation. It’s preferable to listen using headphones for the best experience.

If you try out this guided morning mindfulness meditation, let me know how you feel afterwards in the comments below. And why not share this practice with friends and family who could benefit from this practice? Wishing you a wonderful start to the week and thank you for meditating with me this morning.

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Causes for infertility and natural fertility treatments

What is infertility? What are the causes for infertility in both males and females? And what are the options for natural treatment of infertility? These are all questions I answer in this article so stay tuned!

I often support women who are looking to improve their health and lifestyle in preparation to start a family. In some cases this is women who just want to get healthier and learn how to take care of themselves. Women who want to learn how to nourish their mind, body and soul as they grow another human. For other ladies, the situation is more complicated and they are looking for support due to infertility.

What is infertility?

The majority of couples, that is around 84%, are able to fall pregnant within one year of having regular having unprotected sex. But unfortunately this is not the case for everyone. Infertility is when a couple cannot conceive, despite trying. Infertility is thought to affect around 1 in 7 couples in the UK. There can be many causes for infertility which can be due to the woman, man or both. Infertility can occur due to problems at any of the 4 main stages of conception:

  1. Ovulation i.e. the release of a mature egg from the ovaries
  2. Fertilisation of the egg by a viable sperm
  3. Transport of the fertilised egg to the womb
  4. Implantation of the fertilised egg into the womb lining

Problems with any of these processes can result in infertility and problems conceiving. Around a third of cases of infertility are attributed to female infertility and a third is due to male infertility. The remaining third is either due to both the male and the female or unknown causes of infertility.

natural fertility fertilisation

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What is primary vs. secondary infertility?

Primary infertility is the inability to conceive in a woman who has not given birth previously. Secondary infertility is when a woman has already given birth to at least one child. Often people wonder if fertility can be genetic. The answer is yes, approximately 50% of infertility cases are thought to be genetic. The remaining cases are caused by a combination of environmental and lifestyle factors.

What are the causes for infertility in females?

The menstrual cycle, which is responsible for female fertility, is regulated by a complicated symphony of chemical messengers aka hormones. An imbalance in these hormones can impact ovulation either by making ovulation irregular or stopping ovulation altogether. Other physical factors can affect the transport and implantation of a fertilised egg.

Female infertility can be due to a number of causes:

  • Physical – Hereditary problems, damage or trauma can lead to infertility by affecting the functioning of a woman’s reproductive organs
  • Reproductive disorders – Conditions such as PCOS, endometriosis, hypothalamic amenorrhea and hypothyroid are all associated with reduced fertility in females
  • Hormonal imbalance – High stress, excessive exercise, poor nutrition and other lifestyle factors can lead to imbalances in the female reproductive hormones
  • Contraception – Use of certain contraceptives such as the pill or implant can lead to temporary infertility after stopping the contraception
OvulationHormonal imbalance, contraception, PCOS, hypothalamic amenorrhea
FertilisationLow sperm quantity or viability, timing of sex, ineffective mucus
TransportationBlocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis
ImplantationEndometriosis

What are the causes for infertility in males?

The quantity and quality of sperm is absolutely necessary for the second stage of conception, fertilisation to take place. Male fertility is usually assessed by checking the sperm count, mobility and viability as well as the volume of sperm produced.

Male infertility can occur for a number of reasons:

  • Physical – Damage to the testicles or structural problems can lead to reduced sperm count or affect transport of sperm
  • Impotence – Stress and other lifestyle factors can affect a man’s ability to achieve or maintain an erection
  • Contraception – Males who have been sterilised previously may experience reduced fertility even after reversal of the vasectomy

Risk factors for infertility in women and men

There are several factors which affect both female and male fertility:

  • Age – A woman’s fertility starts to decline after the age of 35 as the number and quality of her eggs decreases
  • Lifestyle – Factors such as poor nutrition, smoking, alcohol, stress can reduce fertility by affecting a woman’s ability to conceive and a man’s sperm quantity and quality
  • Body weight – Both obesity (BMI >30) and underweight (BMI (<18) are both associated with lower rates of fertility
  • Environmental – Excessive exposure to pollutants such as pesticides, fertilizers, PCBs and other toxic chemicals can affect fertility in both genders
causes of infertility

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Can infertility be treated?

The answer to this one is, it depends! As we have seen, infertility can be caused by a wide range of factors. Some of which can be treated and others which cannot. If you are struggling with infertility and you are unsure about the reason, it is a good idea to visit your GP for testing. This is the best way to find out the potential causes and your options for treatment.

In some cases, medically assisted reproductive procedures such as IVF may be the best path to take. In other cases, it may be possible to improve your fertility using natural methods. This includes improving nutritional status and other approaches described below. Natural methods of fertility treatment are particularly beneficial if no structural or hereditary conditions are present.

There is significant research to demonstrate the benefits of nutrition and lifestyle changes on fertility, however nothing is guaranteed. The good news is that natural approaches to improving fertility have no negative side effects and offer many other holistic health benefits. Even for couples who decide that medical intervention is the path for them, natural fertility methods are complementary. Healthy lifestyle changes support the couples health and wellbeing throughout this process and increase the chances of success.

Natural approaches to infertility

Natural approaches to fertility are holistic and varied. Here I will focus on the areas of my training which is nutrition, holistic lifestyle practices and menstrual cycle awareness. Other natural approaches you might want to research includes Traditional Chinese Medicine, Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture. I will be sharing more on this topic in the coming weeks and months. For now, here is a summary of the three main areas I focus on with my clients:

Menstrual cycle awareness

Despite what we were told in school, it is not possible to fall pregnant at any time but rather only at specific times in a woman’s menstrual cycle. Improving timing of sex to align with ovulation can improve chances of conception from 2-4% to 20%! This means getting to know your cycle and observing your natural hormonal rhythms and signs of fertility. These are signs such as your body temperature and cervical mucus consistency. Not only will this improve your chance of conception, it also helps you to become more connected and in tune with your female body. This will support you throughout your pregnancy, birth and life in general.

Nutritional therapy

Research shows that a healthy, balanced and varied diet improves fertility in both females and males. This includes ensuring you are taking in the right amount of energy and macro-nutrients. You need energy to support optimal functioning of your metabolism and reproductive system. A nutrient dense diet with plenty of fresh produce, adequate protein, complex carbohydrates and high quality fats promotes natural fertility. Similarly, reducing consumption of alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants improves chance of conception.

There are also specific nutrients which promote healthy egg maturation and boost your fertility naturally. You want to ensure you have these nutritional bases covered via your diet or through targeted supplementation. It is helpful to check nutrient status to determine potential causes for infertility and the appropriate nutritional strategy. Pregnancy requires a large amount of nutrients and without adequate stores can leave a woman depleted. Eating a healthy nutrient-dense diet during conception can also help to reduce the chances of deficiency post-partum.

Stress and mental health

Ensuring your overall lifestyle is supportive of your fertility is another key part of natural fertility treatment. This includes managing your stress levels and incorporating rest and relaxation into your daily routines. Stress alone is one of the causes for infertility in females and males so it is important for both partners to managed their stress!

Holistic health also incorporates maintaining a positive mindset towards your body and your fertility. Infertility can be a distressing experience therefore maintaining good mental health care throughout the process is important. Learning holistic health strategies prior to conception is also a great way to prepare for pregnancy and motherhood. Then you will need to take care of yourself and baby!

Physical activity

Natural fertility treatment also involves ensuring that the amount and type of exercise you do is appropriate to ensure optimal health and hormonal balance. A healthy amount of moderate exercise improves fertility but excessive exercise can lead to problems with ovulation. Over-exercise is one of the causes for infertility amongst athletes who otherwise seem very healthy. It is that you want to find that sweet spot of the right types and amount of exercise for hormone balance.

Finally, reviewing the products that you are using is important. You want to avoid exposure to potentially toxic or hormone disrupting chemicals that could impact your fertility.

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References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3885174/#:~:text=Infertility%20is%20a%20relatively%20common,are%20due%20to%20genetic%20defects.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility/

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/infertility#:~:text=Primary%20infertility%20is%20when%20a,diagnosis%20and%20treatment%20of%20infertility.

https://www.britishfertilitysociety.org.uk/fei/at-what-age-does-fertility-begin-to-decrease/