Now that my half marathon is only one day away (eeek), I’ve started thinking about how I want to change up my diet and exercise routine post-race. This coincided with an enlightening conversation I had with my homeopath and some subsequent research I did, so I’m thinking a lot of that will drive my direction starting Sunday.
The reason I initially went to a homeopath was that I went off birth control in August, not because we’re trying to have a baby, but because I grew uncomfortable with artificially regulating my hormones. I wanted to work with her to find natural remedies that can help me return to a more natural state of being, and also wanted to address the symptoms that returned a few months after stopping the birth control pills: acne, menstrual cramps – all the good stuff BC takes care of so nicely.
She gave me remedies that support the endocrine system (hypothalmus, thyroid, liver, ovaries) in order to regulate my hormones naturally. So far, I’ve seen good results, and am excited for more progress in the future.
But two days ago, during our third appointment, we discussed polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I was prompted to ask her about it because a friend of mine just found out she has it. In summary, this condition is caused by hormonal imbalances and insulin resistance. Symptoms include acne, weight issues, and infertility. Due to an overproduction of testosterone in females, exacerbated by too much insulin production as a result of a poor diet (too many sugars and carbs), estrogen levels become disproportionate, which prevents ovulation, causes acne, and leads to insulin resistance (and thus weight gain).
Doctors, without being too concerned with the root cause of such symptoms, often prescribe birth control pills to increase estrogen levels. The acne and irregular periods disappear, so seemingly, all is well. But this means that the ovaries artificially shut down, which throws off hormonal regulation even more and exacerbates the whole situation. Not to mention that high estrogen levels can increase your risk of breast cancer.
Since I’ve struggled with some of these symptoms and was on estrogen-heavy birth control pills for years, I asked my homeopath if she thought I maybe had polycystic ovarian syndrome. The name, by the way, derives from the fact that your ovaries build dockets that are supposed to release eggs, but accumulate in cyst like bumps if that doesn’t happen (due to a lack of estrogen/too much testosterone). She said the thought has crossed her mind, but that my case, if anything, would not be very advanced, and that there is no way to know until I try getting pregnant. Meanwhile, she said, we are already working with remedies that would address the root cause: hormonal imbalance.
All this led me to research polycystic ovarian syndrome more, which got me to think hard about the amount of carbs I consume.
My friend, who just found out she has PCOS, said she now has to go on the Paleo diet and avoid grains, sugars, and processed foods at all times. When we consume too many carbs early in life, our body produces tons and tons of insulin to break down the glucose. Due to the liver’s high exposure to insulin, as we grow older, we develop an insulin resistance, which leads to weight gain (nothing is preventing the glucose from turning into fat) and suffer from worsening hormonal imbalances. At this point, whenever we eat carbs, the body wants to turn them into fat. The solution: cut out carbs, get leaner, improve your hormonal regulations, and prevent life-threatening conditions such as diabetes (also cause by insulin resistance).
So, although I’m not sure if I have PCOS or might develop it down the line, I am concerned because I clearly have natural hormonal imbalances. If overconsumption of carbs in my early life (hello, I’m from Germany – the land of delicious bread and Spaetzle) is the reason for those and I now am developing more and more of an insulin resistance, I want to make sure I do something about it.
As a runner, I know that I need carbs, and I also have no interest in becoming a crabby debbie-downer that eats nothing but smoked salmon and tuna straight from the can. But I maybe should consider limiting my grain-intake to oats and quinoa, and focusing on eating carbs early in the day. This way, I would make eggs, veggies, fruits, healthy oils, and fish the core pillars of my diet. I also have to become even more conscious of avoiding soy because my over-exposure to it during my birth control years may have put me at higher risk for breast cancer (estrogen receptors in the breast can cause tumor growth if over-stimulated). This means my diet could then be labeled as mostly dairy free, pescetarian, gluten-free, and soy-free.
For someone who used to eat anything and everything (ok, maybe aside from rabbit meat), this is quite a list of limitations. But my health has become much more important to me in the past five years and I want to set myself up for a long, active life.
So here are a few ideas for breakfasts that fit the bill:
Avocado slices and a mushroom omelette (stirred with almond milk, fried in coconut oil).
Oats with nutritional yeast, a fried egg, and avocado.
Coconut oil, by the way, is extremely good for the endocrine system, so adding 1-2 tablespoons a day to your diet is a great idea. I put it in my morning smoothie, fry eggs and everything else in it, and eat it raw (letting it melt under my tongue) when I’m feeling particularly ambitious. Not to mention applying it to my face as lotion and my scalp as a moisturizer.
In terms of my training-regimen after tomorrow, I want to increase my speed, so I’ll be doing interval training during the week, and maintain a 6-mile distance on weekends. I may sign up for a 10 k this summer to push myself. I also want to add different types of yoga, weight training, and potentially try out some fitness classes around State College.
I will leave you with a plug for the free Lululemon “Om Finder” App. I’m obsessed with Lululemon’s branding strategy and their creative ways to get people to do yoga.