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How Food Freedom Can Positively Impact You Hormone Heath (And Fertility!) with special guest, Olivia Wagner

Have you ever felt completely energy-depleted after a full night’s sleep or gone crazy around a certain type of food when you thought you were "in control"? If so, keep reading! Symptoms like these and more might be your body telling you that your hormone health is out-of-whack and needs some support. Today, my good friend Olivia Wagner and I are talking about:

  • 🥴 How to know if your hormones are out-of-whack
  • 🩹 How to ditch temporary band-aid fixes 
  • 👣 And steps you can take NOW to start balancing your hormones for improved menstrual health, reduced stress response, and a better chance for a healthy pregnancy


But first, let's get to know Olivia:

About Functional Dietitian: Olivia Wagner

Olivia is a functional dietitian who specializes in issues such as PCOS, period problems, and infertility. She helps women just like you discover and address root causes of their health challenges with personalized nutrition, realistic lifestyle support, advanced lab testing, and mind/body practices to help her clients learn how to trust their bodies again.

Olivia’s passion for women’s health started when she realized that she herself had a broken relationship with food and her body. She had an orthorexic-like experience with disordered eating, also struggling with illnesses such as digestive issues and immune insufficiencies. She realized that a lot of her problems were stemming from the foundations: lifestyle, thoughts, etc. This realization gave her a passion to help support other women in their journey to better hormone health, body trust, and thought habits.  


So, Why does Hormone Health Matter?

“We need to have healthy hormones on a daily basis to just feel well in our bodies and to optimize our daily experience.” -Olivia

When people think of hormones, they usually think exclusively about reproductive hormones. In reality, we have a variety of hormones that aid in a variety of areas such as:

  • Hunger/fullness,
  • Circadian function,
  • Energy levels,
  • Stress response, etc.

Olivia says that “women’s health circulates around the body feeling safe.” That means that your body knows it has the reserves on board in order to carry out daily needs. Nutrition and energy are not just for exercise—we need them to think, digest, pump blood... When your body doesn’t have all of its reserves, it starts pulling strings, driving up your stress hormones (which need even more energy), and your body ends up in a super depleted situation. That leads to your body having insufficient resources to support your sex hormones, hunger and fullness hormones, etc. 

I’m going to note here that your body responds more to a calorie deficit than a low weight, as Olivia explains in the episode. You can still struggle with disordered eating and hormone imbalances even if your body isn’t underweight. If you haven’t already, check out episode 2: 7 Signs You May Have A Disordered Relationship With Food


(⚠️ Spoiler alert!: Not one of those signs has to do with weight!)

How Do I Know If My Hormones Are Out-Of-Whack?

Here are some symptoms you might experience if your body is pulling strings due to depletion:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Low energy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Poor sleep
  • Anxiety and depression (Which can feed right back into disordered eating struggles.)
  • Low sex drive
  • Hair loss and thinning
  • Brittle nails
  • PCOS
  • Fertility issues
  • Poor skin
  • No weight change
  • An irregular or nonexistent menstrual cycle

Disordered eating can worsen hormone heath, and vice-versa.

A lot of the symptoms above that are caused by disordered eating can actually make your experience with disordered eating worse such as anxiety and depression, no weight changes, hair loss, and low blood sugar. It helps to identify behaviors that you might have that actually make your whole experience worse such as:

  1. Skipping breakfast
  2. Fasting
  3. Having a too low-calorie diet

These behaviors can put your body in a blood-sugar rollercoaster, causing the cravings which make you feel out of control. 

What's a Blood-Sugar Rollercoaster? 🎢

Every time we eat, our bodies break down our food into glucose molecules. Some foods break down more quickly in order to be used for energy. These are typically lone carbohydrates such as fruit, pasta, bread, and cookies. When foods are broken down more quickly, we get a spike in our blood sugar. When we come down from that spike, we get a fall. Don’t get me wrong, it's normal for your blood sugar to go up, but our blood sugar levels should look more like gently rolling hills, not a scream-inducing rollercoaster! Olivia gave us 3 main "T" factors that influence our blood sugar:

  1. The TIMING of our snacks and meals

If your body is in a stressed state, you might have to eat more often, but, we should typically aim to eat meals that are robust enough to keep us satisfied for 3-4 hours so that we don’t have to think about food so much in that window. If you have experienced that blood-sugar rollercoaster and participated in behaviors such as going long hours without food, nibbling all day, etc—your hunger and fullness hormones might be a little off. Practicing blood sugar stability can get your signals back on track.

2. The TYPE of food we eat

In order to get those rolling hills, we want to combine our carbohydrates with fats and proteins. For example, this can look like an apple with peanut butter or a salad with chicken and avocado with potato. For meals, we want to have protein, fat, carbohydrate, and fiber; for our snacks, we should aim to get protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are NOT bad, but pairing your carbs with something else can help us avoid the rollercoaster. Gaining stability in our blood sugar eliminates the necessity our bodies feel to send us those cravings that make us feel out of control. Those cravings are not a lack of willpower, but they can be a truly sensible sign that your body is asking for more resources to keep you regulated and safe. 

3. The TOTAL AMOUNT of food we eat

Again, we want to aim for meals and snacks that will keep us comfortably satisfied for about 3-4 hours. 


Band-Aid Fixes: Temporary Symptom Cover-Ups

Here are some common 🩹 fixes that women use to temporary fix their symptoms without treating the root cause: 

  • Consuming a low energy diet (ie - not enough calories)
  • Not eating enough carbs—Carbohydrates are SO important to your body’s sense of safety. If your body feels resistant to carbohydrates, your symptoms can actually be a result of a deeper issue. 
  • Over-exercising—Though women sometimes over-exercise to control their stress levels, this actually induces our bodies’ fight-or-flight response, impairs ovulation, and so much more. 


Fertility and Period Problems


I meet with so many women that are either already moms, trying to get pregnant for the first time, or women that simply know that they want to be a mom in the future. Olivia and I spoke to the issue of how our hormone health impacts our fertility and menstrual cycle. 

Really, it all comes back to our bodies needing to feel safe. Your body needs to know that it has enough resources to sustain you and a child from preconception and conception to a full term pregnancy. You can support your body’s sense of safety by:

  • Getting adequate nutrition
  • Continuing in intentional routines such as gentle movement, breathing exercises, and self-massage
  • Practicing blood sugar balance
  • Not adding extra stressors

🩸 Period Problems

Often, when women visit their OB-GYN after missing periods, the first thing their doctor tells them to do is start using birth control. Olivia stated that there is an incredible need for education: the question we really want to ask when we miss a period is: “Why?” 

“When you're taking an oral contraceptive when your period is missing, it's not giving you a real period. It is giving you a withdrawal bleed…” -Olivia

In other words, birth control is not fixing the cause of your missing period. Causes can include emotional stress and dietary problems that make your body feel too threatened to carry out a menstrual cycle. 


So, What Are Some Practical Steps I Can Take Right Now to Help Balance My Hormones?

Olivia's giving you 3 steps you can take this week to help support your body’s sense of safety and regulate your hormones:

  1. Eat a balanced breakfast within an hour of waking with at least 20 grams of protein in order to anchor your blood sugar for the day. There are so many options, but some examples include: 
  • A cup of yogurt with nuts and seeds on top
  • A smoothie
  • Chicken sausages with sweet potato and avocado

Keep those things that you enjoy! But add some protein, fat and fiber to it to support your hormone health. 

2. Complete Olivia’s Healthy Hormone Audit and Action where you can audit your symptoms and take action for healthy hormones! 

3. Check out Olivia’s self-paced course, No Birth Control, Now What? Where you can receive help for a healthy pregnancy after being on birth control. 


More Resources:

You don’t have to go at recovery and food freedom alone; there's help and community! Check out these resources as a next step for you: 

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