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The difference between being "healthy" vs having ENOUGH RESOURCES and feeling good by Jenny Koos

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This is a transcribed excerpt from the Womensync Podcast, episode #1 All about the menstrual cycle and how you can influence it with Jenny Koos . Some adaptations of the text have been made. To listen to the podcast episode with Jenny click here .

In the episode with Jenny Koos, we talked about what affects the menstrual cycle; what we eat/don't eat, how much we exercise, whether we are stressed or not, how much we sleep and where we are in life. We talk a lot about food and what kind of food we can eat to balance hormones. We also get into veganism and how it can affect the menstrual cycle, why animals can be beneficial for our hormones and much more.

What are your resources used for?

Unfortunately, many do not make the connection between general health and a functioning menstrual cycle. You think: " I live so healthy, eat and exercise so well - but I don't have a menstrual cycle" . But the thing is, if you train too much in relation to how much you eat or how much recovery you get, then sooner or later the body will decide: " Well, obviously all the resources are going to something else, then we don't need to invest in to be with children ”. It's all about resources. What you perceive as healthy may still take quite a lot of energy from you, so much energy that you have nothing left over for fertility. When I say fertility, I don't specifically mean "having children", I mean having fairly regular ovulation . Because you don't necessarily have to have children, it's about pushing through ovulation and thus producing estrogen and progesterone , which have many health benefits. You don't get them if you don't ovulate.

How does your lifestyle affect the menstrual cycle?

One thing you can do yourself is evaluate and take stock of your lifestyle: How much do I eat? How much do I exercise? How much do I sleep? Am I stressed and in what way? What do I need? Something that is so important to remember, whether you have missed ovulation , involuntary infertility, PCOS or PMDS , is that the success stories of others do not always apply to you because you are not the same . What they do or have done may not work for you. How much recovery she needs, how much butter she needs to eat, or how it affects her when she drinks coffee/energy drink , goes for a run, or whatever it may be, won't always apply to you. Your reaction, i.e. how your hormones and menstrual cycle are affected by your lifestyle and is partly based on genetics, your unique intestinal flora, how many antibiotic courses you have taken, how much stress you have been through and are currently under - there are an incredible number of factors which plays. What you eat, what you do and how you live. Even if you were breastfed as a child. You can never compare yourself to anyone else. This is why I also never want to give any rigid general advice like: “ Do this! ". Because it almost always goes wrong. There is no one way that works for everyone. There are endless variations in terms of what we can tolerate, some eat more sugar or carbohydrates than they can tolerate, while others can handle the same amount without any problems. Our genetics and lifestyle (heredity and environment) will affect our tolerance, life can feel unfair but therefore the best thing you can do is to start from yourself and what you yourself want .

The most important question you can ask yourself is: What kind of resources do I have and how can I manage them? This is exactly what I am talking about in my upcoming book .

To summarize what you are saying. When you talk resources, more specifically what resources might they be?
Energy, food, sleep, physical activity and/or recovery. Other parts that come into play are how you feel, relationships (are you in a relationship you feel good about or a toxic relationship), how much physical closeness you get, how often you have sex, thoughts and feelings and more. Thoughts create matter - by which I mean hormones. When you talk about hormones, you treat them as some kind of external measurement value; “ On this day of the menstrual cycle, I had 586 in estradiol according to the blood test... ” . But you won't feel an exact way just because you have a certain number, so the number isn't always relevant. What cocktail of hormones and what mood swings you have - right now - will affect your mood and your experience of life. Your life experience, including all stressful and calming factors, will in turn produce a composition and fluctuation of hormones. Everything is hormonal, but the hormones are also constantly in flux, so why strive for specific values?

How too little food, caffeine and stress can affect the menstrual cycle and your hormones

Based on the women you meet, have you been able to see any patterns around different types of lifestyle traps that recur?

What I have been able to see in my practice is that many people run out of their resources in the form ofeating too little , too poor in nutrients or that they eat things that wash out the nutrients, which means that they don't get to retain very much. Stress also makes it harder to absorb nutrition and also blocks out a lot of your feel-good hormones. Additionally, it can inhibit your ability to ovulate. Add that many are constantly drinking caffeinated beverages, which act as liquid stress while being diuretic and can block the absorption of essential nutrients for the menstrual cycle.

Many of us try to live healthy, but at the same time we need our drugs to get around in this society. It's not our fault - society is built that way. We have to work many hours at the same time as we have to achieve this and that much. And try to have some sort of own life in the gaps. Society is not built for us to feel optimal if you say so, society is built for production. This means that we often go for a cocktail of the type " coffee/Red Bull and cinnamon roll, and then some wine that calms down and then the cig/snus on top of that" . To keep going, while at the same time having to be "useful" and eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, because it is so good for the environment. In the end, we have nothing left to go on, no fuel, but still we will go out and run too, to maintain the famous facade. What resources do we have for a healthy and fertile body and an okay mood?

How veganism can affect hormones and the menstrual cycle

One thing you've been interested in is veganism and how it can affect hormones and the menstrual cycle. Can you explain why it might be negative for some?

It's simply a matter of not everyone getting the nutrition they need. There is nutrition in animals that you simply do not get from a completely plant-based diet. Then there is absolute nutrition in vegetables and fruit, but the big question is whether you can absorb it (to read more about this pressure here ). Many times legumes and gluten become staples in veganism because you still have to be full. The problem is that you then replace irreplaceable animal foods with inferior vegetarian alternatives that the intestine also cannot cope with very well.

How do you know if you cannot tolerate legumes or gluten?

The best thing to do is simply to try excluding both gluten and legumes for a longer period (but not at the same time), then reintroduce them and see how the reaction is. Many stomachs are sensitive to soy products and fake protein, i.e. replacement products that neither contain complete protein nor make you full in the same way that animal products did. This does not go unnoticed, but is something our hormonal system notices. For example, our sex hormones are built on cholesterol. What do you get cholesterol from? Saturated fat. Where did you get full from in addition to the body's own production? Animals.

The body needs to be full and feel safe, which can be a challenge if you exclude important building blocks and instead prioritize foods that your intestines are not friends with and at the same time have difficulty absorbing nutrients from. I'm sure no one says vegetables aren't healthy, or at least I don't, but I mean we can't get everything we need from plants alone.

Many feel "good" from living vegan in the short term - but maybe not in the long run. Symptoms of nutritional deficiencies often creep in and can come in the form of PMS , strange bleeding, less cervical secretions , lower estrogen levels, increased fatigue, thyroid problems, lower sex drive and so on. It starts stealthily and increases gradually. Many of the people I've met - and I've met hundreds of women regarding their cycle health - an overwhelming majority are vegetarian or vegan, or were when the problems arose. I fully understand the ethical reasons for choosing plant-based, so I say this with all due respect.

When you see it up-front like this, sit and analyze women's menstrual cycles, vegan after vegan, it becomes difficult to ignore and say nothing. I feel that it would be unethical of me not to point out that with veganism being so sustainable and good, it may not be adapted based on the female body. That research and all the positive messages about that diet are not about menstruating, ovulating women having to feel as good as they can. The research is most likely based on non-menstruating white men who do not lose iron through menstruation each month. Where are the studies that it promotes the health of women of childbearing age?

You mentioned nutritional deficiencies as one of the reasons why veganism might not be optimal in the long run - which vitamins and minerals are important for the menstrual cycle and for it to function are usually lacking?

The vegan diet is the most cholesterol-poor diet you can eat, and it is cholesterol that builds our sex hormones. In addition to that, there are many other things such as amino acids (found in protein), zinc which we get mainly from fish and shellfish, vitamin D, B12 and B6 which we mainly get from animal products. If you want to read more about this, there is a post by Jenny with studies and sources at the end.

We need all nutrients to be able to ovulate. Many people who eat vegan can get a boost at the start, for example folate is usually good when you have a colorful diet with lots of vegetables, but B12, on the other hand, drops. You can of course take supplements if you really want to live that lifestyle, but it can still be a challenge if your gut is not friends with the staples of the diet. Then buying nutritional supplements that the body cannot absorb, or constantly drinking coffee so that the vitamins leave the body as quickly as they entered - it becomes a vicious circle.

My attitude is that it is not beneficial for anyone to stick to a rigid diet forever. From my experience, being 100% vegan doesn't work in the long run. Periodically yes, several days a week, possibly. But this particular thing with menstrual cycle-related problems due to a plant-based diet is something I've seen way too much, and I can't keep quiet because it would be as unethical as it is claimed to be eating meat. If you want to sacrifice your health for a specific purpose, go ahead, but be aware of it.

Is there any part of life that it could be more beneficial to eat more vegetarian and vegan as a woman?

When we stop menstruating, i.e. after menopause, we don't lose blood as often and the body stores iron in a different way. It is a time in my life when I myself could imagine a mostly vegetarian diet.

Good food for hormones

One thing I think about when we talk about food and the menstrual cycle. What can I do and what should I eat to have a balanced menstrual cycle? We are all unique and we will need different things. But are there certain parts that you think are "extra" important when it comes to diet and the menstrual cycle?

Complete protein, all essential nutrients, fiber and fat - preferably animal fat. Avoid foods that are draining, such as caffeine and alcohol. I can absolutely drink wine and coffee, but I am well aware of the consequences for me. I can have a cup on a specific day, but then I usually plan it according to my menstrual cycle. That's the cool thing, being aware of the impact. We need good protein (meat), fat and carbohydrates.

How can caffeine affect ovulation and the menstrual cycle?

You've talked quite a bit about caffeine but more specifically how does caffeine affect the menstrual cycle?

You drink liquid stress. On the one hand, you get the effect on the adrenal glands, they trigger adrenaline and cortisol (our stress hormones) and the feeling of being hunted, which makes it enormously effective but on the other hand can disrupt certain processes. It is also diuretic, which means that some of the nutrients you take in come out the other end a little too quickly. It also blocks certain nutrients, such as magnesium and vitamin D, which are important for pushing through a good ovulation and a good menstrual cycle.

I'm not saying you should never touch it, but if it's part of your everyday life, at the same time you have period-related problems, then maybe you should try cutting out caffeine. Some women are very tolerant of coffee, but for me, a cup of coffee keeps me up all night and gives me direct panic attacks. My advice is to try excluding it from one menstrual cycle to another, i.e. two whole cycles, and see what the effect is. Then you can start again and see how the body reacts.

I think it's so interesting because you hear so much about coffee and all sorts of perspectives, but the perspective of the menstrual cycle in particular feels so overlooked and new to look at.

Yes, and it is said that " coffee can help against alzheimer " and so on, but hey? We women - 50% of the population - suffer from completely normalized problems, where are the studies on coffee's effect on that? We are told that period pains and PMS are things that we just have to tolerate because we are women, but what if instead the dietary advice and the Swedish Food Agency's recommendations on how many cups of coffee to drink a day were adapted specifically to women! But there is not enough research on that, so that question is ruled out and we also do not consider that there may be a connection. But like I said, try two months and see. You can always start drinking coffee again if you want.

I have worked with hundreds of women who have been in and out of care with pain and have been given antidepressants, painkillers and birth control pills to manage their period-related symptoms. So many or all symptoms, problems that they have been with for twenty years, disappear when they stop coffee? It pisses me off.

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If you want to learn more about the phases of the menstrual cycle, how you can benefit from them and how you can use lifestyle as a tool to feel better during the month or different stages of life, we recommend you read Womensync - For a life in sync with your female biology , which Jenny has fact-checked, and of course also Jenny's upcoming book "Understanding Fertility" which will be released in 2022. If you want to read Jenny's blog about women's health, you can find it here. She also gives online lectures at Boon , where you can already take part in 40 webinars about women's unique biological conditions. There are i.a. a lecture on diet for better hormonal health, one on caffeine in relation to the menstrual cycle and pregnancy, one on PMS , period pain and exercise and hormones .

Here you can take part in part I where we talk about what it's like to be cyclical as a woman and part III training linked to hormones and the menstrual cycle .


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