“My biggest ‘aha’ moment was realising that it all starts with the gut!
“I mean everything, absolutely every health concern, starts with the gut! Looking after our digestive system should be the number one priority when it comes to health. Mental health is considerably improved once we begin to work on the gut.”
Which is why we call it the ‘second brain’.
I’m at a “Balance Hormones Naturally’ talk and food demo with nutritional therapist and food photographer Daniela Exley at Cake Room, Hastings. Daniela’s journey into healthy eating and personal development began in May 2013 after she started experiencing a huge array of symptoms including exhaustion, depression, allergies and painful joints – she was eventually diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and is now on the road to recovery through diet and lifestyle rather than taking drugs. I also have RA so am keen to learn from her experiences.
Her first point is that our general approach to health issues is medical care first and diet and nutrition as a last resort. It should be the other way around. If you’re experiencing health issues the first thing you should do is look at your diet and learn about how the gut works and what might be causing a problem. See if you can improve things naturally before you take drugs or HRT or its bio-identical equivalent, which is still chemically manufactured.
- Hormones are chemical messengers – your body is an orchestra and hormones are the conductors keeping things balanced and on track. When they are out of balance, for example, with menopause, it affects our health
- Healthy gut flora is important for a healthy immune system. 70-80% of your immune tissue is in your digestive tract. One way to replenish gut microbiome and rebalance your hormones is to eat more fermented foods like Kombucha, Kimchi, Kefir, Sauerkraut, which you can pick up from Trinity Wholefoods, a health food cooperative around the corner in Trinity Street
- Eat coloured veg for phytonutrients
- Eat prebiotics – found in green bananas, asparagus, artichoke, leeks, and garlic
- Drink 1 ½ to 2 litres of water a day (herbal tea counts) to help release toxins in the gut
- Phytoestrogens are structurally similar to estrogen so they can mimic it and help reduce the risk of conditions associated with low estrogen levels, such as osteoporosis and heart disease. Flaxseeds are the richest dietary source of lignans, a type of phytoestrogen. “My menopausal symptoms – hot flushes and breast pain – have stopped completely after 7 days of taking flaxseeds.”
- Asian women don’t tend to complain of menopausal symptoms, and they have much lower rates of breast cancer – possibly because of a diet high in miso, tofu, tempeh and Natto, a fermented soy superfood which is an acquired taste. “It tastes like old socks… slimy, stretchy but it’s soooo good for you.” Nor do they drink much alcohol, apparently, which made everyone go quiet. “Alcohol is so toxic to the system, it’s the only thing your liver can deal with when you drink, so if you’re drinking regularly your liver can’t help regulate your sex hormones.”
- Brassicas, baby – they are a good source of indoles which help the liver detoxify and inhibit enzymes that activate carcinogens. Broccoli, bok choy, kale, cauliflower, Brussels
- We need healthy fats and cholesterol for hormone production. Quality fish oils, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil: “I’ve lived with Spanish people who eat gallons of it – they are one of the healthiest nations.”
- Get outdoors more – being in nature helps to calm the central nervous system. Don’t overdo the exercise… hardcore workouts aren’t great in your 40s as they can stress the adrenals… try yoga or Pilates
- For better quality sleep and less anxiety try Epsom salt baths (magnesium) – I buy mine by the bucket load from a garden centre – much more economical and a nice man carries it up the stairs for me. “Listen to Marconi Union’s ‘Weightless’. It’s THE top meditation track. I always fall asleep before the end of it.”
- Plastics – you can’t avoid them completely, but supermarkets are getting better. Morrisons allows you to take in your own containers for fresh fish or better still, buy from your local fish market where it’s wrapped in paper. In Hastings, you can buy reusable wraps from The Crown pub on All Saints Street
- Beauty products can be hormone disruptors – ewg.org lists all known toxins present in products
- Go organic: when fruit & veg are sprayed with pesticides they don’t produce as many phytoestrogens
- BEE POLLEN – “You can survive on it. It contains every vitamin, mineral and amino acid known to man. It’s what they feed the Queen Bee and she ain’t got hot flushes
- Maca is great for libido, energy and balancing your hormones. Blend it with cashews, coconut flakes, dates, and lemon essential oil to make your own truffles
- Buy quality Essential oils – Daniela recommends doTERRA, which are food grade. We sniffed several: basil (smells amazing, relieves stress, anxiety & depression, relieves itchy skin), clary sage, thyme – all help with hormone balancing. Daniela hosts a drop-in session at The Cake Room on Monday mornings where you can try some of the oils and learn more about their uses
All in all, a fascinating evening and I came away feeling inspired and energised. Good company, good food and useful information. Daniela made a rocket & walnut pate/pesto while we were there served with homemade chia & flaxseed crackers. Easy and yummy: blitz lemon juice, olive oil, rocket and walnuts. We drank homemade Kombucha tea from Vikki from Bullet Café (has a kick and could be Prosecco if you drink it in a flute…) and polished off the Maca truffles.
I bought her book, the 28 Day Mind & Body Reset and have been enjoying the recipes – blitz and bake easy dishes and things I actually want to eat. I found bee pollen granules in Trinity so have been taking those; let’s see what a difference they make to my focus and energy levels as an alternative to multivitamins.
We had a chat before I left, and she gave me another nugget. “If you’re looking to do some deep work on energy and manifestation, I recommend Lacy Phillips. Check her out, powerful stuff.” I have since signed up for The Pathway and she’s right, it is life-changing work and another tool to support you on your journey.
Photos: Daniela Exley