Following our Instagram Live Q+A with in-house wellness expert, Danielle, we share responses to the questions you want answered.
- What are the top things we can do for our immune health in winter?
‘Seasonal changes, poor gut health, processed and refined foods, stress and our environment are just some of the things that can suppress our immune systems.’
- Reduce our stress – e.g. regular meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing daily. Chronic stress, with lowered circulating cortisol or a dysfunctional HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, affects the immune system negatively through diminished cytokine and overall immune regulation. This can lead to further risk of disease, infections and increased inflammation.
A colourful and diverse variety of whole foods, herbs and spices really are the foundations. It really does not require you to have a pantry of expensive ingredients or “superfoods” either.
- Whole foods nutrition – avoid processed/refined foods; limit refined sugar consumption; Add more herbs and spices to your winter meals – such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, sage, cardamon to cooking or preparing herbal teas that include echinacea, elderberry, astragalus root, lemon, honey, hibiscus or lemongrass
- Limit alcohol – acts as an immunosuppressant
- Hydration is key – supportive of lymphatic, digestive, urinary, hepatic systems in the body, further enhancing the resilience of the immune system
- Restorative sleep
- Have your vitamin D tested – supplement accordingly if needed with the guidance of a healthcare practitioner – important to note – vitamin D supports both adaptive and innate immune function to enhance immune activity and maintain antimicrobial defences in the body.
2. What are your thoughts on Soy?
- Yes to organic soybeans or naturally fermented soybeans that have not been genetically modified
- AVOID soy protein isolates and extractions that have been added to packaged and processed foods now readily available in our western culture
- Soy protein isolates are highly processed and have a far greater phytoestrogen (isoflavone) content than their wholefood parent
- Majority of studies/research papers on soy have used soy milk drinks or formula with an isoflavone content of anywhere from 30 – 200mg isoflavones per daily serve (in general) a far greater amount than what we may consume when eating organic soy products in a balanced wholefoods diet. Example – 100 grams of tofu contains around 25-30mg of isoflavones.
- What about estrogen? – soy is a MODULATOR (rather than increasing estrogen directly) and often weak in its actions in the body – it can actually support oestrogen metabolism in other ways
- We should be concerned more about xenoestrogens in the use of plastics for example – much more negative health effects
Questions I consider – What forms of soy are they consuming? How frequently? Are there any genetic predispositions? How do they digest soy? What are their presenting health concerns? Are there concerns around hormones or hormonal conditions at play? Could soy be beneficial to their health as part of a balanced diet or is it better avoided?
3. How do I best prepare for a cleanse, or what top tips can you share for pre-cleanse preparation?
- Clear out cupboards of processed/refined foods
- Crowd-out; begin to add more vegetables to your meals, include more diversity, think about what you can eat and enjoy
- Begin to reduce coffee and alcohol (depending on what you drink and the daily amount)
- Eliminate sugar (allow yourself at least 1-2 weeks to do this prior to cleansing)
- Choose more plant-based foods, reduce red meat intake and any other highly processed/fatty animal type foods
- Increase water intake – create a morning routine around having lemon in water etc. and aiming to have say 1 litre consumed by a certain time in the morning (create little goals and rituals around hydration)
- Begin to implement better sleep hygiene (e.g. off screens an hour before bed, not eating 1-2 hours before bed, meditation/journaling/reading rather than staying on our screens, black-out the room – no artificial lights, take a magnesium supplement).
4. How does stress affect the male / female reproductive system?
- As the hypothalamus and pituitary speak to the adrenals, they also speak to the ovaries (women) and gonads in men
- The hypothalamus produces a substance called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). This stimulates the pituitary gland to produce luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicular stimulating hormone, which in turn stimulates the production of testosterone, progesterone and oestrogen.
Along with cortisol and adrenaline, the adrenals in times of stress also produce glucocorticoids, which act directly on the hypothalamus by suppressing its ability to produce gonadotropin-releasing hormone.
This causes a flow on affect where the pituitary produces less LH and FSH and then overtime less of the sex hormones are produced. The survival response initiated when we are stressed and sustained through chronic stress will always take precedence over the body wanting to create sex hormones in optimal amounts to support reproduction.
These decreases in overall sex hormone production can then long-term lead to:
- Low libido (men and women)
- Menstrual irregularities like the length of a cycle or break through bleeding
- PMS symptoms
- Impact fertility for both men and women
- Chronic stress can also negatively impact sperm production and maturation
- Researchers have found that men who experienced two or more stressful life events in the past year had a lower percentage of sperm motility (ability to swim) and a lower percentage of sperm of normal morphology (size and shape), compared with men who did not experience any stressful life events
- Exacerbate existing reproductive conditions such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome.
5. I’m concerned about noticeable hair loss and even thinning in general. Can you help?
Certain amount of hair loss and -shedding is normal in the natural life cycle of hair growth. However, it is when this becomes excessive in volume or noticeable when examining the scalp (e.g. widening of the part) that we should start to consider what may be underlying causes of increased hair loss.
Factors contributing –
- Iron deficiency
- STRESS – chronic Cortisol can push hair into “resting phase” = no growth
- Post-illness; chronic illness
- Undereating/low carb diets
- PCOS/androgen excess
- Coeliac disease/gluten sensitivity
- Vitamin D deficiency – critical in hair follicle maintenance and healing
- Thyroid disease
- Zinc deficiency
- Protein deficiency (low calorie diets; vegan diets) poor digestion of protein
- Birth control/coming off birth control – some types of progestins are “androgenic” and have been shown to shrink hair follicles over time.
Who you can contact for more information
Hormones are incredibly complicated, but incredibly wonderful when they work in harmony. If you are overwhelmed with where to begin or have concerns regarding your menstrual cycle, it is always important to seek the advice of a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner to help you on your journey. You can book a consultation with our In-House Nutritionist, Danielle to discuss further.
Danielle is a qualified Clinical Nutritionist, with a Bachelor of Health Science in Nutritional Medicine. She believes no two cases are the same, as each person is unique in their biochemistry and make-up, as well as their lived experiences, which is the beauty of an individualised approach to health.
Forming the foundations of optimal health and wellbeing, Danielle believes diet, lifestyle and prioritising emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing are the keys to nurturing our longevity, vitality and wellness.
Danielle deeply values the merging and synergy of Eastern and Western holistic philosophies to health, which is further strengthened through her ongoing Ayurvedic study.
Click here to start your nutrition and wellness journey with Danielle.