I have been immersing myself in this new, nutrition approach for the last 6 months (at least) and it has been fascinating. It’s revealed to me how much conflicting and confusing information there is out there on diet and wellness. It’s a total minefield for people: including myself. I’m not a nutritionist, but I know the importance of nutrition and nourishment when it comes to hormonal balance and fertility. A lot of the information shared here is inspired by Dr. Ray Peat’s research if you are interested in finding out more.
It’s a huge subject and way too much to talk about in this one blog post – so this will just be an introduction to the subject. I will write about it further in the coming months.
The overarching theme to this approach is nourishment. I love this word. This idea of nourishing our bodies is something we seem to have completely forgotten about in our current society. Whether its restriction or convenience, it allows us to cram more into our busy lives. But – has this approach meant we’ve paid a price with our health? Sadly, I suspect we have as stress levels are higher than ever. High stress hormones combined with not enough nutrients makes the body feel unsafe. I feel this is a massive issue when it comes to Fertility as the body needs to feel safe to ovulate and we can’t conceive if we aren’t ovulating. The pro-metabolic approach facilitates safety for the body and therefore it promotes fertility.
I also love this approach because it stems from the way our ancient ancestors would have eaten.
Here is a list of food groups to include for nourishment (introduce back into your diet):
- Nose to tail grass fed organic animal products e.g: Collagen, Gelatine, Bone Broths, Organ Meats like Liver, Kidney and Heart and small amounts of Muscle Meats as well as Eggs.
- Seafood, especially Oysters, also Wild Fish.
- Organic Fruits, Roots and Raw Honey
- Raw Dairy Products: Milk, Cheese, Cream
- Saturated Fats Coconut Oil, Chocolate, Ghee, Tallow, Butter, Milk, Cheese, Cream, fat from Organic Grass Fed Animals and fat from Organic Eggs)
- Monounsaturated Fats (used cold: Avocados and Avocado Oil, Olive Oil, Macadamia Oil and Macadamia nuts)
And here is a list of things to avoid:
- Hydrogenated fats (found in cakes, biscuits, processed foods etc…)
- Additives and preservatives and artificial sweeteners (chemicals) found in all processed foods pretty much
- Polyunsaturated fats: e.g. Canola oil, margarine, sunflower oil, safflower oil, nuts and seed oils, soybean oil, peanut oil, flaxseed oil, corn oil, poor quality fish oil, fat from industrially fed chickens, cows, pigs and eggs. (This also includes all the nut and and seed milks that people substitute for cows milk, many of these milks contain high amounts of vegetable oils i.e.: Canola oil.)
- Processed carbs: made of ingredients that our body doesn’t recognise and can’t digest.
- Soya that isn’t fermented: Soyabeans contain anti-nutrients such as phytates and tannins which are compounds that can impair the digestion and absorption of protein, vitamins and minerals.
- Raw cruciferous vegetables: These can interfere with the production of thyroid hormone, further worsening thyroid function.
Here are some basic principles to get you started with the pro-metabolic approach:
Eat within an hour of waking
After 7-9 hours of sleeping you should be waking up hungry, although many people don’t. A healthy liver is made to store enough glycogen to get your through those 8-10 hours. So, when those stores run out, your body should need food.
If you find that you are one of those people who is never hungry in the morning, it is likely that your body has already been using cortisol (a stress hormone) for part of the night or morning. When you don’t eat breakfast everyday (even if its because you just aren’t hungry) you will place even more stress on your liver and this cascades, placing more burden onto your adrenal glands then your thyroid gland (both are important for hormone balance). This will then do the opposite of what you might want such as leading to overeating much later in the day, weight gain and promoting muscle wasting (your body uses gland and muscle tissue to help balance blood sugar when glycogen or food isn’t readily available.
So if you struggle to eat in the morning why don’t you just start with a small snack i.e.: a piece of fruit with a little cheese or a glass of orange juice with some collagen and salt added in. Then build up a full meal 30 mins from waking. You will find that your appetite does come back in the morning if you persist with this approach, then you can build up to a full breakfast.
Balance your meals and snacks with protein, carbs and fat
I often stick to a ratio of 1:2 for protein and carbs. If you’ve been low carb for a long time try a ratio of 1:1 and build up slowly.
This along with fat, helps to slow down the absorption of the food which can ensure you have that slow and steady flow of glucose (sugar) into your blood (which stabilises it and provides a consistent and steady amount of energy to your cells). Your cells can then do what they do best since they have the energy they need. Whether that’s producing hormones or regulating a certain process, your body is then able to function as it should.
Eat every 3-4 hours throughout the day
Eating every 3-4 hours and balancing your blood sugar helps keep the stress hormones down and keeps you energised and happy. When blood sugar levels drop and you don’t have enough stored glycogen (many womens livers aren’t great at storing glycogen due to low carb diets, fasting, poly unsaturated fat intake and over exercising etc) the body releases adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol works to increase your blood sugar levels back to a balanced state. It does this by breaking down muscle and gland tissue to make glucose. Your cells primary and preferred fuel source is glucose. By eating frequently where you have a consistent flow of incoming glucose to stabilise those blood sugar levels, you will then give your cells enough energy to function properly.
Eat a bedtime snack to help improve your sleep
Ideally a snack that contains: glycine, calcium, salt and sugar. A bedtime snack can give you that extra bit of fuel your body might need before sleep, helping you avoid spikes in the stress hormones which wake you up at night. I.e.: natural yoghurt with fruit and bee pollen or cheese and fruit. Also: avoid blue light exposure from electronic devises for at least 2 hours before bed as this can negatively impact your sleep.
Don’t cut carbs and sugar from your diet
Now I have certainly been known to say to my clients don’t eat sugar in the past… so sorry guys!
I have learnt that so often the culprits of bad health choices isn’t the actual sugar per se, but the other ingredients in the processed sweet foods that are found with the sugar i.e. the additives, hydrogenated fats, polyunsaturated fats and soya. However, sugar often gets the blame. Sugar (glucose) is your cell’s preferred energy source. It’s also key to thyroid function and thyroid hormone conversion (converting T4 to the active form T3). If your body doesn’t get the energy or sugar it needs to function properly, its going to send you all the signals that it needs it, hence the mouth watering cravings for sugar. Women then end up binging on biscuits, cakes, Haagen Dazs and sweets. Sadly, its not the sugar in these foods that’s causing you the issues but the vegetable oils and chemical ingredients they are combined with. They are the real villains here not the actual sugar.
We want to give our bodies the right sugars and adequate carbs. Doing so can prevent cravings from happening and also provide your body with adequate nutrients that it needs. This means eating ripe and in season organic fruit, raw honey, good quality dairy (at least organic but ideally raw if possible) if you can tolerate it, organic root vegetables, organic white rice, good quality organic sourdough (if you can tolerate it), soaked organic grains, and organic fruit juices especially orange juice for example.
Like I said; you need to help your body to feel safe. Your body will not ovulate if it doesn’t feel safe.
The pro-metabolic approach will give you more energy, less stress, stable hormones, resilience, easier and more regular periods, less anxiety, and pain as well as better sleep, a desire to exercise, a higher libido, natural stable weight and better overall health.
To understand more about this approach a great book to read is called: How to heal your metabolism by Kate Deering. I also plan to write more on the subject so keep your eyes peeled on my blog to learn more.