Infertility is not a foreign concept these days. The statistics show that infertility and menstrual cycle ‘disorders’ are on the rise and I have one bloody good reason for it – FOOD. You know I would say that, didn’t you….
Well, the thing is while food is a major contributing factor, there are two main others: environmental factors and ….. the pill. (I will do a separate post later on how certain foods can disrupt your fertility)
I was on the pill for about 2 1/2 years and in just that short amount of time, it seemed to wreak havoc on my body. The last couple of months when I was on the pill, my periods were erratic and sometimes I wouldn’t even get them for months. Since going off the pill at the end of June 2016, I haven’t had a proper period since (but I got my first bit of blood the other day!) and so have been trying to support my hormones in any way, shape or form to try and get my body back into it’s natural rhythm.
Now before I dive into this series of blog posts (which will come out weekly), I feel that it is my duty to share the information that has helped me come to terms with 1) actually needing my period for good health 2) understanding why women carrying more fat than men and 3) loving some fat on my ass
So no women thinks she wants blood coming out of her vagina. I mean before I dived into this area I thought it was fucking disgusting. It smells, it stains your cute lacy undies and it can totally disrupt your sex life. However, here are the facts that have made me go ‘wow women are fricken amazing!!!!! I want blood coming out of MA VAGINA!!!”
- YOU NEED FAT: A scientist by the name of Frisch determined that there was a minimum requirement of 17% body fat in order for menstruation to begin at puberty but a 22% body fat was needed to continue regular menstruation as girls approached the age of 16. Without this amount of fat, girls cannot reproduce. The body is put into a state of stress with low body fat and thus your energy is directed to the important places like your legs and arms and away from your reproductive and digestive system so that you have the energy to keep running from that tiger like you would in the cave man days. The ‘body fat connection’ makes sense as a newborn depends on its birth weight, which is correlated with its mother’s weight BEFORE pregnancy. Fat is a signal to the body that there is enough nourishment available for a baby to grow and survive.
- On all continents of the world, women store more fat than man. Food intake alone doesn’t account for the difference in fat retention. Both genders will consume roughly the same percentage of fat in their diet, and men actually consume 51% more calories overall than women, but men and women process food differently because of genetics, hormones and the biochemical pathways that cause food to be converted into fat (or not). At the age of 10-17, girls subcutaneous fat increases anywhere from 44 to 93 percent more than a boy. When girls go through puberty, they gain fat and it all goes to their feminine areas (hips, thighs and butt). Additionally the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey shows that women of all descriptions store fat more effectively than men.
- Fat tells our body that all is okay in the world and that there is enough food available for us to start puberty and bear children. Having your period and pregnancy will not even occur if we dont have enough body fat
- Men can actually eat more than a women pound for pound and still not gain weight
- Another reason women store more fat than men is ‘nutrient partitioning’ by which the body stores some of the calories you eat as fat and uses the rest for other purposes. Depending on your body you may set aside more or less of your food intake for fat storage.
- Nature also designed us to eat more than men after a work-out. Women on average are better than men at compensating for physical activity by eating more food. Women will eat more than men because of a fundamental built-in response that we need to carry a baby.
- A study showed that men’s ghrelin levels (hunger hormone) did not change much after exercise but in women, levels jumped by a third and when researchers added more food into the women’s diet, hunger levels still remained 25% higher than when they started. So, women compensate when calories are expended.
- A normal-weight woman on average has about 30% body fat whereas a man of the exact same height, weight and age will have about 15% body fat.
- Men actually burn more calories just doing nothing.
- Women are subject to a greater appetite stimulation and more efficient fat storage. Women have more body fat and we actually use it very effectively in exercising but once our exercise is finished, we revert very quickly back into storing fat. So basically, women will tend to eat more after a work out and then the food will turn to fat more quickly. Just because of BIOLOGY!!
Although this talk on fat is a scary thought, it kinda gives me piece of mind knowing that no matter how hard I try, I just won’t be able to have less body fat (or the same amount) as a man. End of story. So to all the fricken amazing women reading this, if you’re on a diet you are serving a lost cause. Just stop now and eat real food cause you ain’t going to lose all your fat – and if you do, you’ve done it in an extremely unhealthy way and that will NOT last forever!!
Okay so now that we’ve covered the base of understanding how women are just SO different to men, I’ll dive into some of the things that I started doing to help my hormones.
EAT FAT: One recent study found that women store omega 3 fatty acids in the fat tissue of our hips and thighs so that a fetus can depend on us while developing in utero. Since you can’t manufacture omega 3 fatty acids on your own, you must include them in your diet. e.g. avocados, chia seeds, almonds, wild caught salmon, grass fed and finished beef and eggs. Remember ladies that FAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU FAT! However small amount of estrogen is made from fat, and the rest of the estrogen is made from ovulating ovaries – so if you aren’t ovulating then EAT DA FAT
REDUCE INFLAMMATION: Inflammation in the body can compromise the genetic materials of your eggs so consuming turmeric and ginger in your diet along with other anti-inflammatory foods (avocado, eggs, nuts and seeds) can protect your eggs, increase blood flow to the ovaries, thus keeping them happier and healthier and improving the chances of fertility and a regular cycle.
REDUCE EXERCISE AND STRESS: High levels of exercise may be stressing your body out. Our body sees running or lots of exercise as though we are attempting to escape from danger and as a result, the body expels its energy to your arms and legs and away from your digestive system and reproductive system. Try slowing down your exercise regime and include powerwalking, yoga and pilates instead for a couple of months. Many of the HIIT classes, although affective, may be creating inflammation in your body and preventing you from even losing weight because of the stress involved! Those types of activities are great for men, but not so great for women because of our biology. Additionally, reducing your stress and creating more ‘space’ in your life is vital for your hormones and cycle.
Cortisol (our stress hormone) tells every cell in the body that food is scarce and slows your metabolic rate. When your body perceives that there is a famine, it will shut down your reproductive system because it doesn’t deem your environment to be safe enough for a baby – pretty incredible right?! When chronic stressors (like your boss, traffic, family issues … the list goes on), your HPA axis is permanently on alert and that perpetual state of always being ‘ready’ can wreak havoc on your entire endocrine system and put you at risk of potentially deadly conditions like heart disease, and stoke and even causes insomnia, weight gain, fatigue and challenges your fertility and sex drive.
RIGHT!! I feel like that’s probably enough for one blog post on this, but next week I’ll be sharing the top foods for fertility, other lifestyle changes I made to support my fertility, the supplements I started taking and anything else I can think of that works with that theme!
The week after I’ll be focusing on the foods and environmental impacts that can disrupt your cycle and how to avoid them.
Who knows, maybe I’ll continue and keep going on with this theme and start diving into the different hormones and all the juicy stuff so that you guys can mesh it into your lives to create the healthiest babies EVER!
Want more? Check out Elizabeth DiAlto’s podcast here for TONNES of juicy talks on being a woman. Also, check out Womancode and The Secret Life of Fat if you want to read more on this topic.