Many women don’t realise that niggling health symptoms (you know those ones we just have to put up with because we are women) such as headaches, pre-menstrual stress, bloating, constipation, fatigue, period problems, weight gain, mood swings and anxiety are all signs that your body is unbalanced, predominately due to what you are putting into your mouth.
I know from my experience working with hundreds of mums in my naturopathic clinic that these symptoms can disappear simply by changing what you eat!
I would like to walk you through four of the most common health issues I see in mums that can be fixed with food!
I was shocked to hear from a client recently that her specialist had told her that her digestive discomfort and bloating had nothing to do with what she was eating! I mean how could your digestive system NOT be affected by the food you eat. To me it’s a no brainer! Bloating can be caused by different foods for different people. It is a common symptom of food intolerance or it can be a sign that the digestive processes are inefficient, often due to an imbalance in good and bad bacteria in the gut.
Gluten and dairy are common causes of bloating so following a paleo diet (which eliminates all gluten and dairy) is helpful for many people. Eating foods high in beneficial bacteria such as coconut yoghurt and fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut can help too.
2. Premenstrual Stress
Premenstrual symptoms can be physical – breast tenderness, acne, sugar cravings and fluid retention, or emotional – tension, irritability, mood swings and depression. All of these symptoms are caused by changes in a woman’s hormones, which become worse when we are oestrogen dominant. Oestrogen dominance is a hormonal imbalance where our oestrogen levels are too high in relation to our progesterone levels.
Every article I write features the S word and this one is no exception. Sugar! Sugar encourages oestrogen production within our bodies which exacerbates P.M.S. Avoiding sugar is harder than it sounds as it is in almost everything found on the supermarket shelves. Eating more ‘Real Food’ straight from plants and animals as close to its natural state as possible is one of the best ways to avoid sugar in your diet. Make your own sweet treats such as bliss balls or paleo muffins so you can use healthier sugar alternatives. Also remember that starchy carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice and cereals break down to sugar in the body too.
If we start to think of our bodies as a machine (the most important machine we will ever own) and food as our fuel we can begin to see where we go wrong with the food we eat. Filling our bodies with cheap, processed, packaged food is never going to allow our bodies to function well. Our energy levels are affected by many organs and systems of our bodies – our mitochondria within all of our cells, our thyroid and adrenal glands, our liver and digestive systems. All of these organs and systems of our bodies rely on nutrients from the foods we eat to do their jobs.
Much of the western food we eat these days is nutrient poor and calorie rich which leads to fatigue and weight problems. Think of every mouthful as a source of nutrients to fuel your body. Eat more foods that are nutrient rich such as salads, vegetables, eggs, nuts, fish and meat. Superfoods are great sources of nutrition as well, think chia seeds, coconut oil, goji berries, cacao powder and leafy greens – sounds like a great recipe for a green smoothie to me!
There are many causes of headaches but often a change in diet can really help. Some of the most common causes of headaches are dehydration, hormonal imbalance, stress, nutrient deficiencies and muscle tension. When we are under stress our bodies require more of the mineral magnesium. Our bodies also excrete more magnesium when we are under stress leading to a magnesium deficiency which can have an impact on our hormonal imbalance and cause muscle tension.
Magnesium is one of the first things to try if you are experiencing headaches. Magnesium can be found in foods – leafy greens, quinoa, brown rice, nuts, seeds and cacao powder. However in Australia our soils are depleted in magnesium so our foods are lacking it too. Magnesium supplementation (preferably powder form) is the best way to have adequate magnesium levels.
Blood sugar balance is an important consideration in headaches too To keep your blood sugar levels stable eat small meals every 3-4 hours, avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates found in cakes, biscuits, white bread, rice & pasta, most crackers, soft drinks and sweets. Eat protein with every meal in the form of fish, eggs, chicken, lean red meat, nuts and seeds. If you crave sugar or starchy foods, feel shaky, agitated, or dizzy when hungry you may have a problem with blood sugar balance.
As you can see many of the health issues we experience as women have simple fixes that can be found in the food we eat or don’t eat. Focus on getting the good stuff in and there will be less room for the foods that aren’t doing your body any good!