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).

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ayurveda body type

What is your ayurveda body type?

For the last five years I have been deepening my yoga practice and learning more through my teacher training courses. Alongside this, I began to study and practice Ayurveda, in particular Ayurvedic Nutrition. This is an ancient Indian system of medicine which runs parallel to yoga. Ayurveda body type analysis is used to characterise individuals according to body type and personality traits. Ayurvedic nutrition involves eating to maintain balance for your particular constitution.

Your Ayurveda body type is described in terms of three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. Each dosha relates to a combination of the elements of air, water, fire, earth and ether. As a result, each dosha has specific qualities. This leads to recognizable characteristics in body and mind. Take a look at the image below for a visual representation of the three doshas.

ayurveda body type

Ayurveda body types in detail

Vata

Qualities: light, dry, erratic, cold, spacey

Physical characteristics: petite frame, struggles to gain weight, drier skin and hair, pointed features, crooked teeth, runs cold and rarely sweats

Mental/emotional characteristics: nervous energy, creative, spontaneous, flighty, distracted

Common imbalances: anxiety, constipation, asthma, restlessness, poor circulation, joint issues

Pitta

Qualities: hot, oily, fiery, sharp, quick, pungent

Physical characteristics: medium frame, muscular, runs hot, strong digestion and metabolism, oily skin and hair, freckles and moles, sweats a lot

Mental/emotional characteristics: ambitious, driven, intelligent, passionate

Common imbalance symptoms: acne, rashes, heartburn, inflammation, excess heat, irritability

Kapha

Qualities: cold, damp, slow, earthy, dense

Physical characteristics: larger frame, gain weight easily, soft skin, thick hair, large eyes, straight teeth

Mental/emotional characteristics: steady, reliable, loyal, caring, compassionate

Common imbalance symptoms: lethargy, depression, loneliness, weight gain, excess mucus, sluggish digestion, emotional eating

We are all made up of all three doshas in different combinations but it is typical to have one or two dominant doshas. Does one particularly stand out for you and describe you to the T? Maybe you relate to one in your physical body and a different one in your mental and emotional bodies? Or perhaps you feel that you have a balance between all three doshas. This is known in Ayurveda is tri-doshic and although it is less common it does sometimes occur.

Note that this is a very simplified description of the three Ayurveda body types. If you are interested, you can take an Ayurveda body type quiz to help you identify which doshas are dominant in your physical and mental characteristics. I also recommend this book as a good introduction to Ayurveda with some practical lifestyle tips and Ayurvedic remedies.

Ayurveda body type imbalances

Ayurveda describes all disease as a state of imbalance between the body, mind, spirit and the natural environment. Living out of sync with your Ayurveda body type can lead to dysfunction or disease. We are born with a particular balance of the doshas which is known as our Prakruti. The lifestyle that we choose and the changing external environment can disrupt this natural balance. The combination of the doshas in your current state is known as your Vikruti. Ideally, you want your current state to match your natural balance.

There are two ways you might fall out balance with your natural state:

1. Imbalance in primary dosha

The first is by following a lifestyle or living in an environment that aggravates your dominant dosha. For example, assume your Ayurveda body type is vata dominant. If the climate you live in is also high in vata qualities (cold, dry, light, erratic) then you might start to experience vata-related symptoms such as anxiety, chills, dry skin and hair. If your Ayurveda body type is already pitta dominant and you consume a diet high in pitta qualities (hot, oily, fiery), you might suffer from pitta-related conditions such as heartburn or excessive anger. You can avoid this by adopting a lifestyle which pacifies your dominant dosha to maintain balance.

2. Imbalance in non-dominant doshas

The second is if your lifestyle causes an imbalance in any of your non-dominant doshas. For example, my Ayurveda body type at birth was a dominant pitta dosha. I am naturally quite athletic with a medium build, I gain muscle easily and have a strong digestion and metabolism. Typically I am driven, enthusiastic and a logical thinker. However, at different times in my life, I have experienced imbalances in both vata and kapha doshas due to diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors. In both case I needed to follow a pitta promoting lifestyle to regain my natural balance. Again, this can be avoiding by understanding your natural Ayurveda body type and adopting a lifestyle which supports this balance of the doshas.

Ayurvedic nutrition

Ayurvedic nutrition involves eating a specific diet to regain or maintain a healthy balance. All foods have qualities which relate to the three doshas. Vata foods are those which are cold, rough, dry or light. Pitta foods are hot, oily, spicy or pungent. Kapha foods are dense, heavy cool or moist. The imbalance symptoms described earlier occur when you eat a diet that is out of line with your Ayurveda body type and the environment that you live in.

Instinctively, we already know this. As the seasons change, if we are listening to our bodies we feel inclined to also change our diets accordingly. In the summer we crave light and cooling foods to balance the hot, pitta energy. As the autumn arrives bringing chilly temperatures and vata energy in the form of wind, we crave hearty soups and stews to keep us warm and hydrated. In the late winter and spring, we might notice that too many kapha qualities foods such as dairy or sweets increase mucus and we turn towards pitta stimulating spices to ease congestion.

As part of my nutrition consultations I always consider your Ayurvedic body type and current constitution when creating your personalised nutrition plan. I do not believe in one-size fits all nutrition! I believe in connecting to your intuition, becoming mindful of how the foods you eat impact your body and making conscious food choices to maintain balance. There is something extremely empowering about learning what, when and how to eat to suit your unique constitution.

Awareness and understanding bring power. Ayurveda helps us to realise our connection to the natural world around us and see that we too are made up of the five elements of earth, water, fire, earth and ether. It acknowledges (as in yoga) that we are not just physical beings in a material body but that we also have energetic, mental and spiritual bodies that make up our overall sense of being. You don’t need to be “spiritual” per se to practice and experience the benefits of Ayurvedic lifestyle and nutrition practices. But in my opinion is does give a much more interesting way to look at food than as an equation of calories and macros.

Are you ready to to take charge of your own health and wellbeing? Send me a message via the contact page to book a consultation online or face to face in Athens, Greece.

Over to you…

  • Comment: Did you take the quiz? What is your Ayurveda body type? Do you feel in balance?
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why self esteem is important

Why self esteem is important for improving your health

In today’s post I want to share why self esteem is important for improving your health. As someone who has struggled with low self esteem most of my life, I have observed how it impacted my own health and wellbeing. Through my coaching practice I now want to help other women believe in themselves so that they can finally make breakthroughs with their health and find the true wellness they are seeking.

What is self esteem?

Self esteem is defined as the worth or value someone places on themselves. Not necessarily for the things that they do or own, but simply for who they are as a person. Someone with a good level of self esteem is likely to have a strong sense of personal identity and belonging in social groups. It also means feeling competent and confident about your actions and ability to create the life circumstances you desire.

Someone with high self esteem will generally view themselves in an optimistic light. They have a mostly positive view of their physical image, personality traits and capabilities. This doesn’t mean they see themselves as perfect, but rather that they accept who they are and appreciate their strengths as well as their perceived weaknesses. In addition, they believe that others also view and respond to them in a positive way (1).

Some words associated with self esteem:

  • Self-respect
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-compassion
  • Personal value
  • Worthiness
  • Deserving
  • A good person

Signs of low self esteem

  • Talking or thinking negatively about yourself
  • Procrastinating or engaging in self-sabotaging behaviour
  • Downplaying your positive traits, skills or achievements
  • Comparing yourself negatively to others
  • Being overly critical in the face of failure or setbacks
  • Feeling excessively self-conscious, anxious or afraid of failure
  • A sense of stuckness and inability to create change
  • Worrying too much about what others think about you
  • Not being aware of or able to express your needs and boundaries
  • Lack of confidence in your abilities
  • Inability to accept compliments from others

If you can relate to several of these points then keep reading to find out why self-esteem is important for improving your health!

Why self esteem is important for improving your health

There are several reasons why self esteem is important for improving your health:

Sense of worthiness

Having a good level of self esteem means that you feel deserving of improved health. You feel that you are worth the effort it takes to make positive behaviour change. You believe in yourself and you truly wish yourself health and happiness. This might sound strange but deep down, those with a low self esteem might not want this for themselves. They may not believe that they deserve to be happy and that doing things to improve their health is a waste of time, money or effort. In fact, they might even engage in self-sabotaging behaviours which negatively impact their health (2).

Confidence in your abilities

The second reason why esteem is important for improving your health is that it brings a sense of confidence in your abilities. In order to succeed in making lasting changes in your lifestyle, you need to believe that you can! You need to believe that you have what it takes to learn new skills, change your habits and stay motivated long term. You don’t need to know everything right away but having the belief that you are competent and able to learn is key to making improvements to your health. Otherwise, you might give up before you start or the moment challenges arise.

Staying the course

Following on from the above point, having self esteem will help you to stay motivated on your health improvement journey. If you have low self esteem, you might interpret any setbacks as a personal failure and blame yourself or your lack of ability. Having a higher sense of self esteem means you are more likely to appreciate the many factors involved and understand that you are not personally to blame. This makes it much easier to let go of any “failures” and keep moving towards your goals. You can view the situation objectively and find ways to improve without attacking or criticising yourself.

Positive emotions

Self esteem is one of the foundations of mental health. At it’s worst, low self esteem can lead to depression like states of feeling useless, unworthy and unlovable. These types of negative thoughts set off a chemical cascade in your emotional body which can lead to a downwards spiral of negative feelings, thoughts and behaviours. On the other hand, higher self esteem results in more positive feelings about yourself and your life. A sense of happiness and optimism can be felt even in challenging situations. A good level of self esteem improves your overall sense of wellbeing (3).

Healthy relationships

One of the elements of holistic health and wellbeing is having healthy relationships. Having a supportive network of family, friends and/or professionals around you can be the thing that lifts you up and helps you to cope with the stresses of life. Low self esteem can lead to feelings of being unworthy of other people’s love or the belief that they see you negatively. This can result is social isolation and poor mental health outcomes. Therefore, developing self esteem helps you to connect with others and find balance and wellbeing in your life.

Realistic expectations

Finally, having a good level of self esteem helps to have realistic expectations for your health. Low self esteem often results in underestimating what you can achieve and procrastinating taking action to improve your health. On the other hand, excessively high self esteem can lead to overestimating your abilities and setting too high expectations. This perfectionism may cause later disappointment or giving up if you don’t reach your high standards. Finding balance is key! This means believing in yourself and setting challenging yet realistic and achievable goals for your health.

How to boost self esteem

I’m not going to lie, boosting self esteem can be difficult and take a long time. Often low self esteem develops in childhood and it can take a lot of self-reflection and/or therapy to discover the root cause and to move past it (4). It is important to break the cycle of negative thoughts about yourself which lead to painful feelings and drive unwanted behaviours (or inaction).

This takes mindfulness to become self-aware as well as the ability to challenge the thoughts associated with low self worth. This is why working with a therapist or coach can be helpful as they provide an unbiased, outside view and can reflect back to you this inner dialogue. Replacing negative thoughts with more positive or realistic ones can be helpful to reprogram your mind to see yourself in a better light.

I have written previously about the importance of having self-compassion on your path to health. Self-compassion is not the same as self-esteem but the two often go hand in hand. Having self-compassion in moments of low self esteem means to accept that you are not feeling good about yourself but to commit to speaking more kindly to yourself and accepting and forgiving yourself for your perceived flaws.

Self esteem vs. self efficacy

One of the ways to improve self esteem is by actually taking action and accomplishing things. It should not always be about the things we achieve, however setting yourself goals and reaching them gives you a sense of pride in yourself and your abilities. Even if your goals are small, achieving them sends the signal that you are a capable human and you can do hard things.

The problem comes when not believing in yourself prevents you from taking action and experiencing success because you don’t believe in yourself enough. We then have a catch 22 situation! Taking action requires self-efficacy which again is not the same as self esteem but does overlap. Self efficacy is the confidence in your ability to take action and make change. Even if you don’t like yourself or see your worth yet, you can learn to see yourself as capable and from there begin to take action.

You can increase your self-efficacy by:

  1. Setting and achieving goals (baby steps are best)
  2. Taking the time to reflect on past successes and what you have learned
  3. Understanding and accepting your strengths and weaknesses
  4. Mastering new skills or behaviours (4)

These four steps don’t necessarily require you to feel good about yourself but they certainly help. And once the ball is rolling and you begin to take action, the benefits will be exponential! Instead of a downwards spiral you will be on the up. Taking action will boost your confidence in yourself which will in turn create more positive thoughts and emotions. Feeling better about yourself will make it easier to keep moving forward.

This process of setting goals, taking action and then reflecting on your successes is part of the AGAR method of health coaching I use with my clients:

holistic health coaching method

So that is it for today. I really hope you found this post useful! Personally, improving my self esteem has helped me to make huge improvements in my health and my life. It is an ongoing journey and I still have my down days like everyone. But overall I am so happy with the progress I have made and it makes me happy to share what I am learning with others.

If this post helped you at all, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences and I always enjoy connecting with you. If you are interested in applying for health coaching with me, I will be opening up new client spaces from 6th December. Send me an email at lovemoonlife.mail@gmail.com to set up a free 15 minute call to find out if we are a good fit.

Have a lovely day and rest of the week!

References

(1) https://dictionary.apa.org/self-esteem
(2) MacGee, R. and Williams, S., 2000. Does low self-esteem predict health compromising behaviours among adolescents? Journal of Adolescence. 23(5). Pp.569-582. https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.2000.0344
(3) Paradise, Andrew W.; Kernis, Michael H. (2002). Self-esteem and Psychological Well-being: Implications of Fragile Self-esteem. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 21(4), 345–361. doi:10.1521/jscp.21.4.345.22598 
(4) Well College Global, 2019. Personal Wellness Course notes
(5) Baumgardner, A., 1990. To know oneself is to like oneself: Self-certainty and self-affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58(6), 1062–1072. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.58.6.1062 

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  • Comment: Has self esteem positively or negatively impacted your health? I would love to know your thoughts
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Outdoors yoga in Athens Greece

This weekend I hosted the first of many sessions of outdoors yoga in Athens. I love practicing yoga outdoors, it’s so different from being in a studio or at home. Both of these are valuable too but there is something about moving and breathing outdoors in the fresh air that takes it to the next level! Especially in beautiful surroundings like the beach, the mountains or a park where you have the sounds of nature as the backdrop. It leaves me feeling relaxed, refreshed and energised every time.

Since I moved to Athens last year, it has been difficult to set up a regular face to face class due to COVID restrictions. Now we are heading into the second winter and it doesn’t look like it will get any easier. So for now I think teaching outdoors yoga in Athens is the way to go. My intention is to set up outdoors Yoga in the Park sessions in different parks around Athens. Partly I am writing this post for anyone reading to let me know about any beautiful parks in the city that would be suitable for practicing yoga outdoors.

First session of outdoor yoga in Athens

The first session was last Sunday in Alsos Papagou park, close to the metro station Ethniki Amina (Σταθμός Εθνική Άμυνα). It was so lovely to have three ladies show up on a Sunday morning to practice together. The outdoors yoga session was held in the public gym area with beautiful greenery around and other active and motivated people walking, running and playing sports.

It was a beginners level yoga class with the theme of finding balance. That is balance between the masculine and feminine or yin and yang energy. Also the balance between rest and activity, movement and stillness, pushing forward and sitting back. We all felt stretch out and mentally clear and calm after the class. What a great way to start our Sunday.

Afterwards we went for a nice hot tea or coffee to warm up and a group of other ladies joined us for a brunch at Piu Verde cafe. It was so lovely to meet like-minded people and connect in these challenging times. I love living in Greece but life as an expat comes with it’s challenges and stresses. Yoga and especially outdoors yoga is a great way to release some of that pressure and tension to be able to enjoy all of the joys of living in this beautiful country.

If you are an expats or a local interested in yoga, why not join me for future outdoors yoga in Athens sessions!

Future sessions of outdoor yoga in Athens

I have another Yoga in the Park session planned, this time in Galatsi park. Also on the cards is a Yoga in the Mountain session at Ymittos which I am so looking forward to! This one needs a bit of planning and a nice weather day but we will make it happen. I am also very excited to host Yoga on the Beach sessions in Athens once to spring rolls around again.

Head over to the Yoga Classes page to read more about my yoga practice and teaching style as well as to see the current class schedule. You can also contact me directly by email at lovemoonlife.mail@gmail.com or message me through Facecook at Moon Life Yoga and Nutrition if you have any questions.

If you are interested in joining future outdoors yoga in Athens, Greece, leave me a comment here and join my Facebook group Women’s Wellness Greece. I will share information about future sessions as well as run polls for times and locations for those who are interested. I also run weekly online yoga classes on Thursdays at 8.30pm Greek time for those who like to practice from the comfort of their own home. Again, see the Yoga Classes page for more information and to sign up.

You can also follow my blog here to be updated when I post a new article. I regularly share posts about holistic health, nutrition and yoga for women and hormonal healing. So if you are interested in any of those, stay tuned! I look forward to connecting with you and seeing you at a future outdoors yoga in Athens session.

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morning meditation for mindfulness and present awareness

How to breathe to relax and reduce stress

One of the pillars of health is learning how to breathe to relax. The fourth of the 8 limbs of ashtanga yoga is pranayama which translates as extension of the breath. Yogis view the breath or prana as your life force energy. Therefore, when your breath is restricted, your life force energy is also restricted.

When we are stressed, we tend to alter our breath in such a way that sends further stress signals to the brain. this creates a vicious cycle where stress causes stressful breathing which in turn causes further stress. Living in a chronically stressed state causes all sorts of problems including high blood pressure, insomnia and fatigue, poor digestion and mismanaged blood sugar.

how to breathe to relax

In this article, I will dive into some of the common breathing mistakes and introduce you to how to breathe to relax and reduce stress. Starting on Tuesday 9th November at 5.30pm UK/7.30pm Greece I am also offering monthly Introduction to Breathwork online workshops where we will dive into this topic and I will guide you through these powerful techniques. Click HERE to reserve your place!

Before I explain how to breathe to relax and reduce stress, I will describe four common breathing mistakes that most of the population make. These are mistakes that are often triggered by a stressful lifestyle or situations. They also cause a stress response in your body which prevents that stress response from completing. This means that your nervous system remains in that stressed state chronically, which is how your wellbeing can be affected over time.

Mistake #1 Breathing too shallow

One of the most common breathing mistakes is breathing too shallow. By this I mean breathing high up in the chest around the collar bones. A natural, relaxed breath should be controlled by your diaphragm. This is a dome shaped muscle that sits at the top of your abdomen that moves up and down to draw in and release air from your lungs.

However, many people instead use the muscles of their chest and shoulders to breathe, especially when chronically stressed. Breathing in this way can cause tension in these muscles as well as fatigue and further stress throughout your body. This is not how to breathe to relax and reduce stress!

You can easily check if you are making this mistake. Place a hand on your chest and one hand on your belly and breathe naturally, observing the movement of your hands. If the hand on your chest is rising and falling with your breath rather than the hand on your belly, then you are breathing too shallow.

This means you are only using a small fraction of the capacity of your lungs as you breathe. It is important for you to learn how to breathe to relax and reduce stress. You need to learn how to breathe using your diaphragm instead so that the hand on your belly moves while the hand on your chest is fairly steady.

Mistake #2 Breathing too quickly

If you are making the first mistake of breathing too shallow, you are probably making the second mistake too. That is breathing too quickly aka hyperventilating. You might associate this with asthma or panic attacks which is an extreme version of hyperventilation. However, most of us are constantly breathing too quickly in a mild hyperventilation.

Breathing in this way sends a major red flag to your nervous system that you are in danger. Fast breathing is reserved for extreme states when it is important to activate your fight or flight response. A normal breathing rate is around 10-15 breaths per minute, any more than this and you are over-breathing. In yoga we encourage an even slower breath, sometimes as little as 6 breaths per minute.

This rate of breathing activates the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system state. Slow breathing also slows heart rate and can reduce blood pressure. You might think that breathing more quickly will get more oxygen into your body but this is not the case. For optimal oxygenation and energy, you want to breathe better not harder.

Mistake #3 Breathing through your mouth

Another extremely common breathing mistake is mouth breathing. Remember in Stranger Things, Mike explaining to Eleven that a mouthbreather was a “dumb person, a knucklehead”?

Ok so maybe this is kind of mean but there is an element of truth in it. Breathing through your mouth leads to lower quality air reaching your lungs and reduced oxygenation of your cells. This means higher stress and lower energy and vitality. B.K.S. Iyengar, a world-famous yogi once said “the nose is for breathing, the mouth is for eating”. He was absolutely right!

Your nose is designed to heat and filter the air you breathe. It is there as your primary breathing apparatus. Breathing through your mouth is there as a back up and should not be your primary way of breathing. Mouth breathing is the opposite of how to breathe to relax and reduce stress. If you observe that you breathe through your mouth on a regular basis, it is important to learn how to breathe through your nose.

It might be difficult at first as you build a new habit. Even more so because “if you don’t use it you lose it” meaning that chronic mouth breathing can lead to clogged up nasal passages making it harder to breathe through your nose. But with time and practice, nose breathing will become easy and natural for you. Once you are consistently breathing through your nose, you will see your stress levels decrease and your energy levels soar!

Mistake #4 Holding your breath

The final common breathing mistake is actually to not breathe at all. Holding the breath is something that we instinctively do during a stressful situation or when we are anxiously waiting for something (“don’t hold your breath!”). Unconsciously holding the breath is also something that many people do whilst concentrating. It can also be caused by tension in the abdomen as a result of chronic stress.

There is a phenomenon known as email apnea which affects many screen users i.e. most people today! Email apnea is when you unconsciously hold your breath whilst reading something on a screen or focusing on your work. I previously wrote about another phenomenon called continuous partial attention which can cause stress. These two habits go along with each other – holding your breath whilst flitting between different tasks.

Another scenario in which breath holding occurs is in sleep apnea. This is when your airway becomes blocked during the night causing you to temporarily stop breathing. Sleep apnea cause cause daytime fatigue, mood swings, difficulty concentrating and headaches. Therefore, it is important to also learn how to breathe to relax during the night to improve your sleep. I will also cover this is the upcoming workshop.

How to breathe to relax and reduce stress

The trick to relaxed breathing is to avoid the four mistakes above. In fact, it is to do the opposite! This means your breath should be:

  1. Deep and diaphragmatic
  2. Slow and steady
  3. Through the nose
  4. Consistent and smooth

To learn how to breathe to relax and reduce stress, join me for a Introduction to Breathwork online workshop. I will be hosting these workshops once a month on the second Tuesday, starting with the 9th November at 5.30pm UK time. For the bargain price of 15 you will learn techniques to de-stress and boost your energy levels, all from the comfort and privacy of your own home.

Perhaps you are wondering whether you can simply research these techniques and practice them yourself? Yes, you can do that. But how many times have you tried to incorporate something like this into your lifestyle and lost interest or motivation before you even saw the benefits? Whether you join me for a single session or monthly, you will receive guidance but also accountability to show up for your practice and for yourself.

What will happen in the Introduction to Breathwork online workshop?

First, we will take time to settle into the practice and you will observe your natural breath. I will teach you the yogic mindset it is important to maintain throughout this practice. Then, I will guide you through yoga poses and stretches to open up your chest and shoulders and release your diaphragm. Next, we will practice a series of breathwork techniques together.

These will be perfectly accessible techniques, suitable for all levels. If you have any specific conditions, I advise you to email me beforehand at lovemoonlife.mail@gmail.com so that I can offer you any personalised advice you need. during and after the workshop, you can expect to feel extremely calm and relaxed, both in mind and body. Once you learn the techniques, you will be able to practice them yourself daily to continue reaping the benefits.

Regular practice of these breathwork techniques can help you to decrease your blood pressure, improve your digestion and blood sugar regulation and give you an overall sense of calm and wellbeing. Lowering your stress and finding a sense of inner peace has a knock on effect on the other areas of your life. You can expect to improve your sleep, boost your productivity and creativity and maybe even improve your relationships.

I hope you enjoyed this article, to find out more, join me for the first workshop next week! If you are attending the workshop, click attending on the Facebook event to be updated about any changes or requirements for the class. If you don’t use Facebook, let e know so that I can email you any information directly.

References

https://www.headspace.com/articles/shallow-breathing-whole-body
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6137615/
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-42552-9
https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/body-sense/201009/waiting-exhale
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sleep-apnoea/

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feeling cold all the time

Feeling cold all the time? Here’s how to fix it!

Sometimes feeling cold is a natural response to the environment you are living in. But what about if you are feeling cold all of the time, even if you are in a relatively warm climate? Feeling cold all of the time, especially feeling cold in your hands, feet and nose is a sign that your metabolism is not functioning as well as it could be. If you are feeling chilly, chances are you are not feeling your best either. Probably you feel tired, low in stamina and moody. Maybe you have dry skin and hair or slow growing, brittle nails.

Your metabolism is all of the processes that convert the food you eat and the air you breathe into energy. This is the life force, or prana, which fuels your activities in the world. This includes physical activity and growth but also mental processing and creativity. Your metabolism also generates heat in your body, helping your enzymes to function optimally and killing off harmful bacteria. Ideally, you want your basal body temperature, that is your temperature upon waking (before eating, drinking or moving) to be above 36.6°C (97.8°F).

To learn about how to test how well your metabolism is functioning, from the comfort of your own home, check out my previous post. There I describe two simple tests that can indicate if your metabolism is sluggish. If your tests suggest a low metabolism or if you are feeling cold all the time and want to know how you can warm up and boost your energy, keep reading!

Eat enough calories

If you are feeling cold all the time, the first thing you want to check is that you are eating enough calories. Unfortunately, as Western societies, we are obsessed with weight loss and dieting. These days, everywhere you look you see low calorie foods advertised as the way to ultimate health and happiness. It is true that we have a problem with obesity, however the story is not as simple as cut calories and eat less to lose weight. Our bodies are smarter than that!

If you do not eat enough calories over a long period, you are likely to be feeling cold all the time (1). Probably you have heard of “starvation mode” when your body goes into energy saving mode? Another word for this is metabolic adaptation and it means exactly what it says on the tin. It is a functional state in which your metabolic processes are slowed down in order to conserve energy in a perceived famine.

When food is scarce, your body’s number one priority is to survive. It doesn’t care if you feel cold and tired or if your hair isn’t as luscious as it usually be. Neither does it care about reproduction as it deems the current environment unsafe or inadequate to suppotr offspring. Therefore, you might also experience a lower libido or a complete loss of interest in sex. All of these can be a sign that you are not eating enough calories.

How many calories should I eat?

But what is enough calories? That really depends on your unique physiology. But I can guarantee that if you are following a 1200 or 1500 calorie diet as a grown woman, you are not eating enough calories. If you are on a low calorie diet and feeling cold all the time, working towards increasing your calories to an amount which supports a healthy metabolism should be your number one goal.

A good place to start is to use a Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) calculator this this one to estimate your calorie needs. For example, to maintain my current weight, I need a minimum of 1500 calories per day if I am completely sedentary and nearly 2400 calories per day if I exercise to an athletic level. And I am a petite woman (158cm and 54kg). If you are taller or heavier than me, your calorie needs will be even higher than this.

maintenance calories calculator

Many women are working out intensely several times per week and trying to get by on less than 2000 calories per day. If this is you, no wonder you are feeling chilly! If you are doing this and still not losing weight (if you are above a healthy weight range for your height) then it is a big red flag that your metabolism needs some support before weight loss will be possible.

Eat a pro-metabolic diet

Nutrients to improve metabolism and energy

The second part to the nutritional equation to increase your body heat is ensuring you are also eating the right foods. If you are eating enough calories and still feeling chilly, it might be that you are not eating a pro-metabolic diet. A diet which supports your metabolism is nutrient dense and includes vitamins and minerals which act as co-factors in your bodies’ energy generation processes, i.e. your metabolism.

Some of the common nutrient deficiencies that can lead to you feeling cold all of the time include iron and vitamin B12 (2). Lacking in these nutrients, can cause anemia which is a reduction in red blood cells. As red blood cells carry oxygen around your body which is needed to generate energy, anemia can lead to feeling cold all the time. Other nutrient deficiencies which can lead to feeling cold include vitamins A and D, selenium, iodine, zinc and calcium which are all necessary for a healthy thyroid function (3)(4).

Foods that are high in these nutrients include animal products, in particular red meat, eggs and seafood. So perhaps your “healthy” vegan or vegetarian diet could be responsible for you feeling cold all the time. Vegetarian metabolism supporting foods include dairy, coconut, root vegetables and fresh fruit which provide healthy carbohydrates and saturated fats to support your metabolism and energy generation processes.

Foods which can lead to feeling cold all the time

On the other hand some nutritious foods that can lead to you feeling cold include cruciferous vegetables such as kale, broccoli and cauliflower. These contain compounds called goitregens which can impact your thyroid function when consumed excessively. Similarly, foods high in poly-unsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds and vegetable oils can inhibit energy production (note that hibernating animals eat these foods before going to sleep for the winter).

This is not to say you should avoid these foods altogether, I am not about restriction or extremes here. However, if you are consuming tonnes of these foods or if they make up the majority of your diet, it could explain why you are feeling cold. Consider reading my previous post on foods to support your metabolism and work on adding some of these foods into your daily diet. If you need support with this, I offer 1-2-1 nutrition and holistic health coaching.

Balance your water consumption

My final point on nutrition to keep you feeling toasty and warm is an important one! I won’t go into too much detail here as I have written another post on exactly thing topic. But to summarise, if you are feeling cold all of the time it is possible that your water-food balance is off. I know we are told to drink more water to be healthy and yes some people could definitely benefit from some extra hydration.

However, this obsession with drinking litres and litres of water in a day has gone too far. It is simply common sense that if you are drowning yourself in cold water every day, or even hot water in the form of tea and coffee, it is not going to support a high functioning metabolism. Of course, you don’t want to experience dehydration either. But over consuming water just adds unecessary workload onto your kidneys and your body in general. If you are peeing every hour and your urine is clear, this is a sign you are over-doing t on the water front.

In order to warm up your body, you want to “Eat for Heat”. That is to balance the amount of minerals (salts) you consume in your diet with the amount of water that you drink. A good balance should lead to a warm body, high energy, good sleep and calm mood. An imbalance can lead to feeling chilly, tired, anxious and difficulty sleeping.

Metabolism supporting exercise

Another common mistake people make is believing exercise will increase their metabolism. Ok, this is partly true. But it depends entirely on what type of exercise you do. Chronic cardio such as intense running, swimming or cycling for hours on end will not increase your metabolism. Yes you heard me right. Over-exercise is one of the main reasons for feeling cold all of the time. It causes stress in your body and decreases your basal metabolic rate. Lower metabolism = less heat generated at rest.

Cardio exercise burns calories whilst you are moving therefore can increase the total amount of energy you burn in a day. However, this type of exercise trains your body to do more with less energy i.e. causes metabolic adaptation. This means that you might feel warm and energised during the activity but after wards you can feel tired and cold all of the time. Sound familiar?

Excessive cardio is also a stress on the body. To maximise oxygenation levels in your cells and therefore energy and heat production, you want to minimise stress to within your bodies acceptable range. This does not mean eliminating all physical activity but rather operating within your capabilities and choosing metabolically supporting activities. Generally this would look like low impact cardio such as walking, easy cycling or dancing combined with resistance training to build muscle. This could either be weights but also body weight activities like yoga and pilates (5).

Reduce stress through proper breathing

As I mentioned, exercise can lead to feeling cold by causing stress in the body. When you are chronically stressed, your body becomes tense and stiff. This reduces circulation (blood flow) around your body and can lead to you feeling cold, especially in your hands and feet. Moving and stretching your body can help to relieve some of this tension but why not also focus on reducing your stress? You always want to ask yourself whether what is stressing you is worth losing your wellbeing over and act accordingly.

Another way stress can leave you feeling cold is by changing the way you breathe. When when we are stressed, we tend to breathe much shallower and also more quickly. Set a timer for 60 seconds and count how many times you breathe (in and out is one cycle of breath). A healthy breathing range is around 10-15 breaths per minute. Anything above this is mild hyperventilation which can be a sign that you are stressed. Also note which part of your body moves most as your breathe. Ideally you want your belly to rise and fall as your diaphragm moves. Stressed breathing is more likely to expand the top of the chest in the area around your collar bones.

Breathing in this way reduces the amount of oxygen which reaches your cells. As I mentioned earlier, more oxygen means more energy and heat generation. But it is not as simple as just breathing more deeply or quickly to increase your oxygen intake. Actually, deep slow breaths can definitely help to calm down your nervous system and relax your body. This is a good thing! But to get even more benefits from your breath, you can use specific breathwork (pranayama) techniques. These include retaining the breath at specific points in the cycle to expand your breath and life force.

If you are interested in learning more about breathwork to stimulate the metabolism, subscribe to my blog by email as I will soon be announcing an online workshop on exactly this topic.

Summary

So there you have it, my top tips on how to feel nice and toasty if you have been feeling cold all of the time. Let me know if you try out any of these tips and if you experience positive results. Remember, try out my home assessment of metabolic function to get an insight into your current state of metabolic health. Check out the other posts linked below for more on the topic of feeling cold and metabolism.

If you need help putting all of this together and applying it your life, this is what I do! Apply for my 1-2-1 health coaching program and I will make this process easy for you. No more feeling cold and tired but back to your natural, energetic self!

References

(1) https://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k1122.abstract
(2) https://www.who.int/health-topics/anaemia
(3) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20172476/
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3921055/
(5) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S053155651730503X

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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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How to speed up a slow metabolism

If you read my previous post and relate to the signs of a slow metabolism, you might be wondering how to speed up a slow metabolism. Or maybe you are here because you can’t seem to lose weight no matter how hard you try. You are convinced you just have a slow metabolism and there is nothing you can do about it. Well, I’m here to tell you that there is something you can do. It is entirely possible to increase a low metabolism and maintain a healthy weight without restriction and deprivation.

I want to start by saying that we are all born with a different genetic metabolic rate. Our metabolism also depends on factors such as our age, gender the amount of muscle we have. Therefore, some people naturally have a “faster metabolism” and others tend to hold onto weight more easily. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I am talking about when your natural metabolic rate is slowed down. When you experience any or all of the symptoms of a low metabolism such as feeling cold and tired all of the time, hair falling out or disruptions to your hormones.

I am especially talking to those of you who have been through periods of chronic stress, or who have been dieting and over-exercising for many years. If your metabolism has decreased you might just not feel like yourself. You might feel like your energy has been zapped and you’ve lost your natural vibrancy. If this sounds like you, read on to find out my simple strategy for how to speed up a slow metabolism!


How to speed up a slow metabolism

There are many different causes of a slow metabolism but at the root of them all is STRESS. This can be physical stress due to calorie restriction or over exercising, psychological stress or emotional stress. Any of these can put your body into a state of survival mode and cause your metabolism to slow down. Therefore the main focus for how to speed up a slow metabolism is to help your body feel safe and relaxed again. How can you do this? Try out the protocol below for a month and see how your body responds!

Diet

To speed up a slow metabolism, getting adequate calories and nutrients is paramount. Even if your goal is to lose weight, focus first on getting your metabolism healthy again before trying to cut calories. Fixing your metabolism first will make it much easier to lose weight down the line and keep it off. So if you have been following a restrictive diet, take a break. Stop counting calories or macros and weighing your food. Don’t restrict any food groups, eat plenty of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Focus on mainly whole foods but don’t stress out about eating some processed foods too.

Basically you want to flood your body with energy and nutrients so that it feels a state of abundance. This is easiest with a diet including meat and fish but it is definitely also possible on a vegetarian or vegan diet. Go for energy dense foods such as potatoes, dairy, chocolate and coconut products. Focus less on high water, high fibre foods such as fruits and vegetables. Allow yourself to eat till you feel fully satisfied at each meal or snack. Listen to your body and it will tell you what it needs. One of the best ways how to speed up a slow metabolism is to eat more food and metabolically supportive foods.

Exercise

If you are currently following an intense exercise regime, please give yourself permission to take some time off. It might seem counter-intuitive to stop exercising to speed up your metabolism and yes you do burn calories through exercising. But exercise, especially chronic cardio can actually decrease your basal metabolic rate, that is the amount of energy you burn at rest. This means that your body is more efficient at using calories. A sign of this is a lowered pulse rate (below 60bpm) which we often associate with fitness but is also a sign of the body adapting to stress. Listen to your body and if you are feeling tired, don’t be afraid to rest.

This is even more important if you are feeling chronically stiff and sore as it is a sign your body is feeling stressed and overloaded. It is important let your body heal any underlying injuries and relax any built up tension. Yoga is a great way to move your body whilst supporting your metabolism. Gentle walking, tai chi, stretching and dancing are also great ways to stay active whilst healing your metabolism. Have fun and let go of any pressure to perform, burn calories or change your body in any way. As your metabolism starts to improve and you feel more energetic, you can add in some resistance training to build muscle which will help to boost your metabolic rate even further.

Relaxation

This is a big one! If you are feeling stressed, anxious and on edge your metabolism is highly likely to suffer. Stress alone can be enough to prevent you from losing weight and can cause the symptoms of a low metabolism. So if you feel like you have tried everything and nothing works, definitely take a look at your stress levels and you might understand. Identify the major stressors in your life. Then, maybe with a coach or therapist, work out how you can reduce your stress and develop helpful coping strategies. Reducing stress is one of the keys to how to speed up a slow metabolism.

Try to bring more relaxing activities into your day whether that is meditation, deep breathing, creative projects, reading or playing with your pets. Basically anything that helps you to get into a calm and relaxed state. Making relaxation a priority part of your every day self-care routine is a key step to getting your metabolism functioning optimally. If you are stressed about losing weight or comparing yourself to others, ask yourself why? Purge your social media of any accounts that make you feel down on yourself and replace them with interesting or uplifting things instead.

Sleep

This goes hand in hand with relaxation. There have been so many studies showing the impact of lack of sleep on the metabolism. Poor quality sleep is a stress on your body and can cause your cortisol levels (a stress hormone) to spike. Not only does it make you feel terrible but lack of sleep puts your body into energy conserving mode and makes you more likely to gain weight. Not getting enough sleep has also been linked to changes in blood sugar control and release of the hormones that regulate appetite. Ever noticed that you crave more sweets and caffeine after a bad night’s sleep? Now you know why!

To speed up your metabolism, make sure you are getting as much sleep as you need to feel refreshed and energised. If you are struggling with sleep, try out my tips on dealing with sleep disturbances. Especially taking care of your sleeping environment and having a solid evening routine to help you to relax and wind down. If you have chronic insomnia and signs of a low metabolism, focus on the tips here and you might just find your sleep improves naturally along with your metabolism. It goes both ways, sleep supports your metabolism and a healthy metabolism enables deep, sound sleep!


How to know your metabolism has increased

If you are following these steps for how to speed up a slow metabolism, keep track of how you are feeling throughout this process. Look out for changes in your energy levels, sleep and motivation for life. Notice if you are feeling warmer and more relaxed, maybe your hormones and hunger levels become more balanced. Celebrate any small wins you observe and don’t worry if you gain a bit of weight along the way. You are in this for the long haul and setting your body up for future health and success.

Enjoy the process as much as you can and take the chance to focus on other areas of your life outside of health and fitness. Pay attention to the signs from your body and when it tells you it is ready to start exercising again or to eat lighter foods, you can start to make gradual changes. Remember to always let your body lead the way.


Summary on how to speed up a slow metabolism

Remember that this isn’t forever.. this is a protocol for helping your body to heal itself and your metabolism to recover. As you start to feel better and have more energy you can start to switch things up. Maybe by changing the foods you eat or by adding in more exercise. Always let this process be guided by your body rather than your mind!

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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

Over to you…

  • Comment: Did any of these symptoms surprise you? Have you ever experienced hormonal imbalance?
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