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hormones

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Low Energy? Check Your Liver


So, let’s face it. Most people these days walk around feeling perpetually tired and a little overwhelmed. In fact, one of the biggest issues my clients talk about is feeling fatigued and unable to muster the energy to accomplish everything they need to do. Often women tell me they can barely make it through a movie without falling asleep BUT as soon as they hit the pillow at night they can’t turn their brains off, which leads to yet another exhausted morning. Can you relate?

 

In today’s post, we’re talking about how one of your most important organs, the liver, plays a starring role in energy production and how supporting it might be the missing link in your otherwise healthy regiment.

The liver is an amazing organ and has hundreds of jobs to do daily. You cannot live without it and it’s the only organ which will regenerate itself if it becomes damaged. It’s THAT important! So what does the liver do? Well, it’s main job is to act as a detox organ filtering out all of the incoming toxins and chemicals we deal with on a daily basis. Two of it’s other highly important jobs include blood sugar regulation (keeping blood sugar steady between meals) and hormone de-conjugation – in less fancy words, making sure hormones are broken down and excreted from the body so they don’t build up in excess. All three of these systems, or functions, impact our energy levels. If you’ve ever been a victim of low blood sugar, you’ll know that your energy goes way down before you get your hands on some food. Similarly, when our hormones are imbalanced, one of the first symptoms we see pop up is fatigue or low energy. And finally, when we are bogged down and swimming in a pool of unfiltered toxins and gunk, well, you can see just how energy draining that can be.

 

Since getting rid of the toxic build up we incur is the main job of your liver, other functions will take a back seat in the face of incoming junk.  This means that both the systems of blood sugar and hormone regulation will be receiving the last, tired, half-assed efforts of your liver leading to even lower energy levels.

 

When I see women who are feeling like they are doing everything right and yet still struggle with low energy and motivation, or feel like something still isn’t clicking, I tend to look to the liver for clues. Often, by supporting this hard-working organ, we see pieces of our health fall into place that we couldn’t quite nail down before.

 

So, here’s the thing. Most of us don’t feel like we are walking around feeling extraordinarily toxic. Unfortunately, we live a world these days that sneaks man-made chemicals into our lives without us even noticing. The question isn’t “Am I toxic,” but rather “How toxic am I?” To get an idea of the areas of our life causing us the most strife, let’s look at the possible sources of toxicity.

 

Environmental toxins such as vehicles fumes, air pollution and industrial pollution

Home Toxins such as cleaning supplies, cosmetics and beauty care, perfumes, paint, mattresses and clothes with flame retardants, fragrant plug ins etc…

Processed foods, preservatives, food dyes, pesticides and herbicides.

Plastics from foods, water bottles, appliances containing harmful BPAs and PCBs.

Pest control chemicals and weed killers.

Alcohol and prescription or recreational drugs

 

While list seems small, it’s important to keep in mind that the average woman is exposed to 126 different chemical ingredients every single day JUST in her personal care products. Add in all those other categories and that’s quite the tall order for your liver to process.

 

But look, it’s not all doom and gloom. The really good news is that your liver was made especially for this process. The not so good news is that it wasn’t necessarily designed for a burden this large. So, our job is not to entirely live a toxic-free, bubble-boy style life. Our job is to reduce the damage as much as possible and then include lots of supporting foods and supplements as we begin to feel the negative consequences of all this exposure. The equation is: Remove the stressors and strengthen the defenses. So, how do we do that?

 

One of the easiest, and gentlest, ways to support the liver is by including lots of fresh green foods in your diet. The phytonutrients we get from plant foods are extremely helpful in helping the liver do its job effectively and have been shown to provide energy to humans as well via chlorophyll. It’s like a two-in-one since our focus today is, in fact, energy levels.

 

Some of the best for liver include:

 

Leafy greens – kale, spinach, chards, micro greens, broccoli sprouts, watercress, collard greens, cabbage, leeks

Brussel sprouts

Broccoli

Beets

Green apples

Grapefruit

Lemon

Garlic

Green Juice – Low sugar ones or homemade (shoot for 6 or less grams of sugar when doing store bought)

Cranberries or cranberry concentrate

Bone Broth

Artichoke

Asparagus

Nettle

Peas

Sea vegetables

Fresh herbs – parsley, basil, cilantro

Superfoods – Chlorella, chlorophyll, barley grass, Spirulina or other algae, chia seeds, flax seeds.

 

Try adding in two or more servings of these foods daily when focusing on liver health. Not only do they benefit the liver, but they provide tons of other nutrients as well which will have an effect on energy. The next thing we can do is to take a look at the products we purchase and aim for more less harmful alternatives. The Environmental Working Group has a great app for your phone that allows you to scan in a product and see it’s toxicity level right away. I’ve used this lots when I’m out shopping and unsure or unable to decipher a tricky product label. Opting for more natural cleaning solutions and beauty products is one of the quickest ways to reduce the toxic load on our liver. Trying to purchase organic food as much as possible will go a long way in lessening our load and looking for free-range or pasture raised meats and eggs will ensure that we aren’t dealing with hidden antibiotics, hormones, pesticides or other unknown gunk in our foods.

 

Making time for stress reducing practices is a huge part of supporting our liver. Detoxification is a parasympathetic activity, meaning it can only happen when we are in a state of Rest and Digest, NOT Fight or Flight. When we refuse to take time to relax or unwind, we do our livers a huge disservice. If you’re the type of woman who has a hard time giving yourself permission for self-care, consider this your permission slip! By taking time to unwind, eat well and support your liver, you’ll actually end up with more energy and vitality for the ones you love most. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t like the best, rested version of ourselves more than the tired, fatigued, irritable, exhausted version?

 

Lastly, adding in some key supplemental support can help your body to do the jobs it’s already doing better. Two of my favorites include chlorophyll and Milk Thistle. I personally take them on a daily (well, mostly) basis, especially during times when I’m not eating, sleeping or exercising as well I could be. They are pretty standard supplements and can be found at your local natural grocery store or sometimes even vitamin shop.

 

Supporting your liver can be a long process, but these suggestions should give you a place to start. As you begin to incorporate more healing foods and reduce personal exposures, energy levels will begin to rise giving you even more motivation to continue your awesome new habits. Until next time.

 

Much love,

Sy

 

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Digestion and Hormones: Why they aren't so separate as we think


If you’re a woman, and you most likely are if you’re reading this, (don’t worry though fellas, this applies to you too), then you’re probably familiar with your hormones and all the chaos they create when imbalanced. Maybe this shows up for you in your monthly cycles, or maybe it’s in the persistent acne that won’t let up, or maybe you’re having a hell of a time with those hot flashes and mood swings that started around your birthday this year. No matter where you are in your life cycle, hormones can be a bitch to deal with and a headache to figure out.

However, from a nutritional therapy standpoint, there’s an easy way to comb through the web that is our hormonal system and make sense of the complexity surrounding it. We do that by coming back to the foundational aspects of good health, in particular, digestion.

 

In conventional medicine and structure, we think of the body as made up of separate systems that work independently of each other. This is a reductionist point of view that has gotten us in a lot of trouble as we continue to prescribe a “pill for the ill” and fail to recognize the wide-spread effects they have on other systems. Pharmaceutical ‘Side effects’ are the manifestation of this paradigm. If your digestive system wasn’t connected to your mineral balancing system, we wouldn’t see osteoporosis as a side effect of acid blockers. Similarly, if you’ve ever had a nervous stomach before publicly speaking or performing, you’ll understand that the gut and brain are connected as well. The body is made up of relational systems that each build upon, support and work in conjunction with one another. It is for this reason that we can address deficiencies in one and make a significant impact on another, like we are going to talk about today in relation to digestion and your hormones.

 

Coming back to foundational principles of health is essentially the process of filling in the holes letting out the most water so that we can bring the boat back to optimal function and safety. Digestion is the process by which we extract nutrients from our food. We take for granted that when we eat a food, it will go to where it needs to go and do what it needs to do. This isn’t necessarily the case. Our digestion needs to be strong in order to do this, but dietary habits, stress, inflammation and a host of other factors can impede these processes.

 

All of our hormones are made up of either proteins, fatty acids or cholesterol as their main component. So where do we get these substances? From our food! The food we feed our bodies supplies the building blocks to manufacture hormones in our body. Interesting, right? So you can see how if we are deficient in those nutrients, either because we aren’t eating them or because we aren’t digesting them, we won’t be setting up a very good foundation. It’s kind of like trying to build a house without tools - you’re probably not going to get far.

 

We’ve talked a lot about digestion in previous posts, but what are some of the ways that things can go wrong? Well, to start with, we are usually eating in a sympathetic state, or in other words, stressed. We are rushing, eating in the car, standing up or walking, hurrying back to work, etc. as we eat. Digestion, unfortunately, is a parasympathetic activity, meaning it happens we our body and brains are at rest or calm. When our brain registers stress, all energy and focus goes to getting through that stressor and moves away from stimulating digestive juices and processes. This means that nutrients are not being absorbed from our food leading back to a low supply of those building blocks. Another common dysfunction occurs when we have too little stomach acid being produced. A highly acidic environment is needed not only to chemically break down our food but to stimulate other digestive processes. Digestion is sort of like a water cascade, wherein the water supply of one pool directly affects the next process in line. Without this very specific pH as a trigger, we don’t release certain enzymes or bile that also work to break down proteins and fats. Yet another way that digestion affects hormones is through reabsorption. Hormones are meant to be excreted from the body via our elimination systems. However, if our colon is sluggish or backed up, this allows extra time in which our hormones can be reabsorbed into the body and recycled. This is when we see things like excess estrogen or testosterone. There are lots of other ways in which digestion affects our hormonal system, but hopefully you are starting to get a picture of why this fundamental process is to vital to our endocrine health.

 

So, what can we do? Well, I personally recommend that we begin to look at the ways in which we eat and start there. Simple shifts can make a big difference, and before overwhelming yourself with tons of new habits, just try taking some time to sit and enjoy your meals. Begin to thoroughly chew your food and perhaps start a sort of gratitude practice for the meal you’re about to eat. Gratitude immediately puts us into a parasympathetic, (rest and digest) mode. If you want to take it further, begin to address possible food sensitivities that are creating inflammation and introduce some gut healing nutrients and foods. Adding in a hydrochloric acid supplement can help to get that acidic stomach pH and enzymes will ensure that your food is being digested, even if your natural digestion isn’t where it needs to be yet. Lastly, addressing possible infections in the gut, such as SIBO or candida, will be necessary to improve digestion long-term. These small but easy changes can make all the difference if hormonal imbalance is something you’re dealing with and will give you something to focus on when the task seems overwhelming at best and defeating at worst. Hormonal balance is our body’s natural state of being. Our job is simply to remove the barriers and stressors creating the imbalance in order to bring back our vitality and see the world through those rosy, hormonally-balanced lenses once again.

 

Until next time…

 

Much love,

Sy

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