Are Collagen Peptides the New Superfood?

Are Collagen Peptides the New Superfood?

Collagen peptides have been a buzz worthy topic amongst the paleo community for years now, and I personally think they’re great. I can’t use them currently because they’ve got a lot of calcium in them and I’m working on a magnesium deficiency, but I’m working really hard to get those magnesium levels up, in part because I want to be able to take collagen peptides.

But what exactly is a collagen peptide, and how can it benefit you?

Most well-known for the role it plays in our skin, collagen also makes up the majority of the muscoskeletal system, including joints, bones and ligaments. Collagen benefits the skin, nails and hair. Yet perhaps more importantly, collagen peptides can also really help improve systems inside the body, especially the gut.

Collagen peptides are short chain amino acids. They come from protein. But, they are unique because they contain four specific amino acids:  hydroxyproline, arginine, glycine, and proline. If your body lacks any of the four amino acids composing collagen peptides (which is easy to do if you don’t regularly eat skin or bone broth or gnaw on bones), it may be difficult for your body to produce collagen. This is why I value the supplements.

The difference between collagen and gelatin

Gelatin and collagen peptides often get confused. I myself accidently purchase gelatin originally instead of collagen peptides. One of the main differences between the two is the ability to dissolve into cold and hot substances. Gelatin is only able to dissolve into hot liquids and will congeal. it’s good for things like making jello. Collagen peptides on the other hand stay liquid at room temperature.  In my opinion, although technically flavorless, gelatin has a more noticeable taste and smell than collagen peptides. Whichever you choose to use, don’t worry; they have the same amino acids. Check out my favorite gelatin supplement here!

Why I started using collagen peptides

Collagen is known to help rheumatoid arthritis, osteosis, and in general, strengthen bones, joints and ligaments. Because collagen is the primary component making up our bones and cartilage, it is believed that consumption of the peptides will lead to easier reproduction of collagen in the body and replenishing supplies which as a result, promotes elasticity in the joints.

I have really bad knees. I’m not sure if I ever told any of you that!

AND My gut health really matters to me, so I am really eager to get back to taking peptides.

Finally: Of course, we all know I’m super vain.  Perhaps most (and worst!) of all, I really value the collagen supplements for their ability to help my skin be as smooth and elastic as possible.

Joint Health

Collagen is high in glycine and proline that are essential in creating new collagen in the body . Collagen peptides stimulate production of collagen in the body, allowing an increase of collagen production. Because it is the primary component in our bones and cartilage, it is often used by athletes to prevent injuries, and heal existing injuries in bones, tendons and ligaments.

What else can collagen be used for athletically?

Collagen is also used as a supplementation pre- and post-workout because of its ability to stimulate collagen production internally. Its content of Gylcine and Arginine may also help the synthesis of Creatine in the body. Creatine is widely known as the athlete’s supplement because it has demonstrated the ability to improve exercise and strength performance. Collagen also can contain up to 18 grams of protein in a twenty-gram serving.

Improved Skin, Nails and Hair

Collagen peptides improve the epidermis moisture content which can result in several additional positive symptoms (woooo!) including:  

         Promote younger looking skin

         Improve skin moisture level

         Prevent the formation of deep wrinkles

         Improve skin suppleness.

         Replenish moisture levels in hair

         Support nail growth

Healthy Gut

As I had mentioned, because of its elasticity collagen is essential in connectivity tissue growth. Those with leaky guts, or penetrative holes in the gut, may benefit from supplementing. Glycine is thought to reduce GI inflammation, aid digestion, and reduce symptoms of leaky gut. Research has shown that people with autoimmune disorders like Inflammatory Bowel Disease had shown depleted levels of collagen in their system, leading researchers to believe the lack of collagen contributed to inflammation levels.

Where can you source high quality collagen?

Vital Proteins sources from grass fed, pasture raised bovine hides in Brazil, which still supports grass systems. Being pasture raised and grass fed, there is no risk of having RBGH in their products. This, paired with a Brazilian law prohibiting hormones in bovine feed, result in a pure sustainable version of collagen. Vital Proteins also ensures the cows are raised in a happy environment. You can find their collagen peptides here.

Great Lakes Collagen and Gelatin also source their products from grass fed and pasture raised Argentinian and Brazilian cows. They have guaranteed that their laboratories remain free of insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, steroids, antibiotics, or hormones. You can find this brand, here.

I have noticed increased elasticity in my skin, as well as relief in my joints after consistent use. It took about a week of use to notice these benefits; however the other benefits may take consistent long term use to produce results. Collagen is a supplement that has a wide spectrum of positive benefits, and sourcing from a sustainable and non-toxic companies like Vital Proteins and Great Lakes can improve skin quality, hair and nail strength, and gut health to name a few.

What are your thoughts? Have you tried collagen peptides?

The Microbiome, Pregnancy, and Children

The Microbiome, Pregnancy, and Children

We already know how important the gut is to the health and functioning of the body.  (Find my article A Healthy Gut in 4 Steps: This Week In Paleo here)

But did you know that the gut doesn’t just determine the health of our digestion or immune system but even the health of our brains and our offspring?

In fact, evidence is mounting that the microbiome (that collection of bacteria, fungi, and other creatures who colonize the colon, skin, etc) may determine whether you suffer from anxiety, depression, and may play a role in the development of autism in young children, among other things.

If you are pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant, or have a young child, these are important things you should know. 

The Microbiome and Pregnancy

Before birth, the mother’s microbiome actually changes to produce extra lactobacillus (which helps the baby digest milk) as well as several other bacteria that give the infant an important start in the world, helping with their immune systems and digestion, as well as several other things.

These bacteria coat the vaginal wall in preparation for the infant’s trip through the birth canal.

However,  some mothers are placed on antibiotics while pregnant.  They are sometimes important but these broad spectrum antibiotics destroy both negative and positive bacteria, meaning fewer bacteria overall for the baby.

It is wise to seek a doctor with a well-rounded view and respect for the microbiome, one who is careful with prescriptions of antibiotics, especially during pregnancy.

The Journey of Birth

When it comes time to give birth, the journey through the birth canal is one of the most important moments for the microbiological quantity and quality of an infant.

That trip through the birth canal is vitally important for a new baby.  The microbiome of the vaginal wall infiltrates the babies mouth, eyes, ears, and gets into every mucous membrane, rapidly providing the important first colonization.

However, many babies are now born via cesarean section and therefore are not colonized by the bacteria on the vaginal wall, but rather by the skin of whoever they first spend time touching.  This is significant because the microbiota of the skin is different than what is present in a healthy gut.  

If C-sections are necessary (and they often are, though the medical community is beginning to admit they have historically been overused for many reasons) then many women are requesting or performing vaginal swabs to the mucous membranes of infants just after birth so that the infants can be colonized by the mother’s microbiome.

It might sound weird, but this could prove to be a vitally important procedure for the health, immune system, and psychology of children.

Since pregnant women spend nine months building this special colony for their baby, it’s a shame not to be able to pass it on, and may one day be shown to be quite damaging to the infant.  

Early Childhood

The first three years of life are vitally important for development of a child, especially their microbiome but many children experience ear infections early in life, or other issues which may be prescribed antibiotics.  

Studies on rats have shown that those kept sterile or “germ-free” develop social anxiety, even autistic-like features, as well as a penchant towards obesity and other diseases.

Not only that, but with animals from conventional farms being fed antibiotics to both prevent illness and promote fat storage, we are all are inadvertently consuming antibiotics through food when we eat conventional meat.  

Though there are times when antibiotics are necessary and can be lifesaving, it is generally agreed upon that they have been historically overused, often with little to no benefit and, it is being discovered, more and more detriment. In many cases, the condition would go away in time and may not even be a bacterial infection.

According to many medical professionals, it is often difficult to discern whether an issue is bacterial or a virus.  Because many doctors receive pressure from patients for relief or are determined to “cover their bases”, antibiotics have been overprescribed.  Pair that with the overuse of germ-killing products like hand sanitizer and it’s clear why there has been such a rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria, which can be deadly.

Probiotics

Most of us were probably placed on antibiotics at some point which threw our microbiome out of whack.  

And it’s important for us to work with the best information and knowledge we have to try to put a healthy gut back together. 

As adults, early childhood issues of the microbiome promote a range of conditions including obesity, diabetes, and associated illnesses, as well as diseases of the gut like Chron’s, and autoimmune conditions, allergies, and the like.

Psychologically there is growing evidence that an affected microbiome can stimulate anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

In several studies, as well as my work anecdotally, probiotics do seem to help many people improve mood, digestion, and symptoms of illnesses and conditions like irritable bowl syndrome. 

For those with depression and anxiety, I think it makes sense to take a probiotic and for anyone- children and adults- who have had to use rounds of antibiotics, I think it is valuable to take a probiotic.

The probiotics used in most supplements are those with heavy research backing their efficacy.  It’s hard to know just how much bacteria actually gets through the stomach acid with these probiotics, but several have special coatings to hopefully help them reach the colon intact.

I particularly like this probiotic for adults (find it here).  Though it has fewer colonies, it is supposed to be more effective, remaining intact through the stomach and small intestine so that it can reach the colon.

This is a probiotic recommended for children (find it here).  As with anything with kids, please make sure you get your doctor’s OK before giving these to your child.

Remember that a healthy diet is vital for the health of the gut as well.  As much as I’d love it, we can’t just take a supplement and be done with it.

If you’ve had success with probiotic therapy, I’d love to hear from you!  Which ones have worked for you?  Which haven’t?  And what have you done to improve your microbiome?

 

 

Is BPA causing you and your children gut damage?

Is BPA causing you and your children gut damage?

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical estrogen widely used in the food-packaging industry. It is found in virtually all aluminum cans and plastic containers, including water bottles and baby bottles.

In recent years there have thankfully been several awareness campaigns about the dangers of BPA. This is why many people now carry their water in stainless steel canteens instead of the old-style plastic bottles.

(To read more about how to get BPA out of your life, check out this post)

BPA has been shown to be dangerous in many regards; for example, it reduces formation of brain cell connections, which can lead to mental disorders like Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. It appears to increase the likelihood of adolescents developing bi-polar disorder and other mood disorders. BPA appears to inhibit sperm development and contribute to male infertility. It also, unsurprisingly, inhibits female fertility. Rats which are exposed to BPA develop PCOS.

Today I am writing to add another problem to the long list of BPA-related concerns:

It can cause leaky gut and inflammation.

Worse of all is that some exposure while an infant can have long-lasting, damaging effects later on in adulthood.

Here’s how:

Estrogen is a potent player in gut health, particularly for women.

There are estrogen receptors all throughout the intestines and the colon. One particular kind of estrogen receptor, ER-beta, is well-known for it’s intestinal barrier modulating effects. Any time ER-beta is knocked out in rats, the intestinal barrier becomes permeable and the colon becomes abnormally shaped. A healthy amount of estrogen receptors along with a healthy amount of the body’s natural estrogen is crucial for keeping the gut healthy and inflammation-free.

This study looked at how BPA may influence three problems that may occur in the gut: permeability, colitis, and visceral sensitivity (or pain/dysfunction). There are a two standard dosages of BPA that have been established for rats: one level at which no adverse effects are witnessed, one at the “tolerable daily intake”. In the study rats were subjected either to a low level, to a “tolerable daily intake” level, or half of the tolerable daily intake of BPA and analyzed for the impact on their gut permeability, colitis, and sensitivity.

There were several interesting outcomes for the rats who had been exposed:

  1. The amount of BPA administered to the rats correlated linearly with permeability: that is, the greater amount of BPA the rats were given, the more the permeability worsened. 
  2. When rats which had had their ovaries removed were fed very low doses of BPA, the severity of their colitis was reduced–suggesting BPA may have had some sort of a protective effect against this condition for rats without any natural estrogen–yet this ‘very low dose’ also increased the amount of pain sensitivity the rats had to colorectal stimuli.

Perhaps more worryingly, there were significant results for rats that had been exposed at birth. The researchers tested rats who had been exposed to BPA perinatally, which means, while in the womb and for the first few weeks as infants. For these rats:

  1. Being exposed to BPA perinatally below the tolerable daily intake led to an increase in intestinal permeability as adults.
  2. Being exposed to BPA perinatally below the tolerable daily intake led to an increase inflammation in the gut as adults.
  3. These effects applied only to the female rats, not the male rats.

It appears as though not just the rats which cconsume the BPA themselves, but also their female offspring, suffer from regular exposure to BPA. This suffering may occur as a mental condition or a fertility condition as I mentioned briefly above, or it may be a gut health issue and inflammation issue like I just laid out, or both.

In fact, the close relationship we often see between gut issues and other health issues leads me to believe that BPA commonly contributes to poor gut health even if we are never aware of its signs or symptoms.

Now you may be wondering: surely this is tragic news for the rats… but I am a human! What about humans?

So far as we can best tell, rats are decent models for human gut health. They function very similarly. Moreover, the few studies I have read on the effects of BPA on humans seem to indicate that there is a very significant similarity between the way rats are affected by BPA and the way humans are affected by BPA. Studies on both species demonstrate mental, hormonal, and gut disturbances both in the individuals which are exposed to the BPA as well as their offspring.

What does this mean for us?

This means that as adults, we may in all likelihood be able to avoid some of the problems associated with BPA, like hormonal disorders, if we have a healthy liver than can dispose of the BPA quickly and effectively.

However, before BPA can even get to the liver it must go through the gut. The impact of BPA on the gut is completely unmediated by other organs and body systems. To that end, gut health is a significant motivation to avoid BPA, at least in my personal estimation. The gut is vulnerable to BPA, and we should protect our guts from BPA if at all possible.

Don’t forget that this is especially important for women, since our digestive tracts are so liberally laced with and protected by estrogen receptors.

Personally,

I like to use these glass containers when I take my lunch with me to school or work. They are all glass except for the rim which keep food and liquids safe but avoids the BPA. I bought the big set and use it to keep all my leftovers. Find them on Amazon here.

For carrying my water, even “BPA-free” bottles are a no-go, since they contain other estrogenic compounds that simply aren’t BPA.

I prefer these glass water bottles to anything else. They come with a silicon sleeve so they aren’t too slippery and I find that they hold up really nicely. They come in lots of pretty colors. Plus, there’s something satisfying about drinking from glass. You can find them here.

You can read more about avoiding BPA in this post on BPA-free living.

More importantly than ourselves, however, we need to be careful for our offspring. Time spent in the womb is showing itself to be critical to people’s health throughout their lives more and more every day. The importance of avoiding BPA while pregnant cannot be under-stated.

Infancy is also an incredibly important time for physical development. We should be careful to BPA-proof our infant’s lives, too. This means removing plastic bottles from the baby-bag and instead opting for glass or stainless steal options.

Finally, receipts have BPA on them! If you handle receipts on a regular basis, you may wish to begin wearing gloves.

 

So what do you think? Is your life BPA-proof? I often wonder if BPA has significantly affected my health and life…. do you wonder, too?

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Do you have healthy poop? Leaky gut? It’s not too late to find out! Yet!

Do you have healthy poop? Leaky gut? It’s not too late to find out! Yet!

Last week I clued you in to some pretty cool stuff emerging in the paleosphere. (This is a RECAP and “it’s not too late to take advantage!” post.)  It was about your gut. It was about inflammation. And it was, most of all, about your poop.

I told all you about Leaky GutWhat’s Leaky Gut, again?

Leaky gut allows the stuff you’d otherwise excrete as feces — TOXIC food particles, environmental chemicals, and bacterial waste to leak through your digestive tract and into your body. Once inside, these foreign particles travel to different areas of your body and trigger an immune response, promoting inflammation and jumpstarting the development of chronic disease.

Instead of keeping the bad stuff out, the delicate lining of your intestine lets all the bad stuff in, and your body breaks down from the inside out.

You can even have leaky gut and not know it…. this happens all the time. I don’t even know if I have it. I think I might! It’s that silent and menacing a condition.

This is what leaky gut looks like. & it's the most under-diagnosed condition in the country.
So brain issues. Low energy. Uncomfortable digestion. Any kind of skin problem. Insulin dysregulation. Weight gain. Autoimmune diseases. Hormone imbalance. Infertility. Stress! Anxiety! Insomnia! (Big issues for me)

Yikes, and yikes, and yikes, indeed.

So I shared with you a bunch of cool diagnostic and healing stuff! Here’s the recap:

1) A quiz to help you see if you have leaky gut and how severe it might be.

2) An awesome infographic demonstrating the different kinds of poop. Do you have the healthy kind of poop? Check out the cute-as-hell poop diagrams to find out! @ here.

THEN,3)  Steve put on, IMHO, the most informative webinar the paleo world has seen to date.

Did you go?

Did you miss out!?

What did we talk about?

  • How leaky gut causes local and systemic inflammation, which can attack your body’s “weak” links” and speeds up disease
  • Why food allergies are directly related to leaky gut.
  • How gas, bloating and other digestive problems can be caused by infections in the gut.
  • The fastest way to get rid of gut infections.
  • 3 Supplements to try right away if you want to feel better (Yes, probiotics is one of them!)
  • What NOT to eat and Exactly what to eat for leaky gut
  • How GMO’s, Concussions (I know, right?!) and NSAID’s trigger leaky gut
  •  THEN Steve and Jordan did a Q & A for a whole hour. There, we talked about Candida, Adrenal fatigue, SIBO, Gastritis, Type 1 Diabetes, Reversing Autoimmunity and Food Allergies…. all of which you get to hear about if you watch the replay (and again, all for free!).

So if its not obvious already, I was there and it was AWESOME. Not only did it help me with my own health, but also with my work with my consulting clients… maybe you can watch it and not need me anymore. 🙂

So anyway. This webinar had dozens of thousands of attendees…

And now you can watch it for FREE, on YOUR OWN TIME (finally! a webinar you can watch at your leisure!)

But only until Friday (tomorrow!) at midnight is it free… so grab your pass AFAP… watch it with your dog, over dinner, with a bowl of coconut ice cream…

At least that’s how I did it.

Oh, also, 4) I’m giving you a free copy of one of my ebooks if you watch the replay of the seminar. Simply forward your registration and your favorite part of the seminar to paleoforwomenteam@gmail.com and you’ll receive a FREE COPY of Birth Control Unlocked…. all because I really care about your gut and want to help you heal.

So the webinar is replaying for free. You can take the quiz. Look at the poop chart. There’s also a list of the 19 leaky gut triggers Steve sends out for download for free. All amazing stuff to help you figure out if you’ve got leaky gut and what you as a unique individual need to do for your own healing.

Because we are all unique snowflakes, and we all have our own unique healing to do.

Steve’s got lots of amazing resources available on leaky gut…the kind of stuff even I learn from… These are not those gimmicky web draw-you-in things. Just. a. seminar. chart. quiz. guide. set of resources.  (@ Leakygutresources.com) Because leaky gut is a nasty monster thing and we all deserve to be free to be healthy and happy.

Or something. 🙂

Do you have a healthy gut?

Do you have a healthy gut?

I spent all last week promoting – and you spent all last week reading about (thank you) – an awesome product. I like to share things that are cool. Nonetheless I was looking forward to a break…. a weekend full of dancing and White Collar marathons (my new TV addiction … it’s almost nothing but devastatingly handsome men in suits) … and then I finally checked out this set of leaky gut materials all the paleo professionals have been talking about.

I got sucked in.

And barricaded myself in my room at 9pm on a Saturday night. I promised myself I could go dancing if I sat down and investigated thoroughly.

[It is now Sunday afternoon. And five episodes of White Collar later…. So much for diligence…]

This is what leaky gut looks like. & it's the most under-diagnosed condition in the country.

This is what leaky gut looks like. & it’s the most under-diagnosed condition in the country.

 

As for leaky gut… what is it?

Leaky gut allows the stuff you’d otherwise excrete as feces — TOXIC food particles, environmental chemicals, and bacterial waste to leak through your digestive tract and into your body. Once inside, these foreign particles travel to different areas of your body and trigger an immune response, promoting inflammation and jumpstarting the development of chronic disease.

Instead of keeping the bad stuff out, the delicate lining of your intestine lets all the bad stuff in, and your body breaks down from the inside out.

Brain issues. Low energy. Uncomfortable digestion. Any kind of skin problem. Insulin dysregulation. Weight gain. Autoimmune diseases.

Yikes, and yikes, and yikes, indeed.

I also happen to know from years of clinical experience that gut issues are often the foundation of hormone issues – like PCOS – and male pattern symptoms like acne and facial hair. Why? Because an unhealthy gut causes inflammation, which causes cortisol and insulin levels to rise, which causes testosterone production in the ovaries, which throws a wrench in the menstrual cycle, which derails fertility and causes eight million kinds of symptoms and imbalance.

The gut is a real important issue for women’s health… not something I’ve discussed as much on this site as I should’ve. By miles.

So… what then? Where do I, you, we, start?

A good, solid paleo diet helps with leaky gut.

“Paleo” is about 80 percent of the answer.

Eliminating the gut irritants grains, dairy, and legumes – which is what most “paleo people” do – is a big step towards healing a damaged gut and eliminating all the symptoms that come from it. This is one of the biggest reasons I and so many other health professionals eat paleo. We want our guts to be healthy. We know that gut health is the most important factor for whole body health.

Period.

So eat paleo. Eliminate potential gut irritants. 100%. No cheating.

At least for several months if your symptoms are bad. Several weeks if not.  If you’ve got any symptoms related to mental health, gut health, skin health, or hormone health — leaky gut could be your culprit. Clean up your diet with paleo adherence and see if the problems get better.

You might even have leaky gut and not even know it. Leaky gut can silently inflame your body at a slow, steady stream for years and years. I don’t want to scare you. That’s just a fact. It happens to people on a regular basis. It’s a serious problem worth – at minimum – a clean paleo diet for a month. This gives your body a chance to heal.

What else?

Chances are good you’ll still need (or at least benefit from) more tweaking.

The GAPS diet, the specific carbohydrate diet, Sarah Ballantyne’s autoimmune protocol… these are three different diet plans – very specific and highly well-attested to around the globe – designed to heal a damaged gut. Vitamin A may be crucial for some people (consider this cod liver oil supplement). Fermented foods or probiotic supplementation. Avoiding fructose. Increasing your intake of leafy greens. Reducing insoluble fiber. Increasing soluble fiber. It’s all very tricky because every person has a different gut environment. Different symptoms, both obvious and hidden ones.

With more symptoms, it may require.. as I said. tweaking. More on which in a moment.

Do I have it?

I don’t know. I’ve always wondered. I really have no idea. Sometimes my digestion isn’t awesome. I have some skin issues but I know my hormones are the biggest players in that. I’ve dealt with significant stress in my life. I sleep very poorly. Do I have it? I don’t know. (I’m not a leaky gut expert… though I’m trying to learn through Steve.)

So I took a quiz! Steve made a quiz! Like so:

 

Fullscreen capture 2014-05-04 AM 113752

Now you know I’m a tab hoarder.

I’m willing to bet my high risk is because I’m a stress monster.

But who knows. Maybe it’s the three pounds of blueberries I ate yesterday afternoon.

The kind of tweaking I’d need? I don’t know yet. Sarah tells me I might need more vitamin A.

I have a feeling I need to sleep more. But I’m addicted to dancing and we all have our weaknesses.

I have yet to watch my free videos and read the documents from Steve’s quiz.

As for you? You can take it now, too!

If you want, you can take it @ here.  Steve’s got lots of amazing resources available for investigating and overcoming leaky gut…the kind of stuff that teaches you what kind of tweaking you might need… this is just one of them. It’s not one of those gimmicky web draw-you-in things. Just. a. quiz. (@ Leakygutresources.com) Because leaky gut is a nasty monster thing and we all deserve to be free to be healthy and happy.

Or something. 🙂

10 Signs You’re a Healthy Woman

10 Signs You’re a Healthy Woman

Much as I love empowerment, self-love, and confidence, I am going to pass out if I write another article about sex appeal this week. That stuff’s important, but only as one piece of the puzzle of what it means to be a whole, healthy woman.

What are some other signs that you are healthy – and as a woman, specifically?

What do you want to look for as signals of wellness?

Here are the most important (and check out the book I wrote on women’s health for even more information):

——

1. If of reproductive age, you have a regular menstrual cycle.

The menstrual cycle is highly sensitive to fluctuations in health. Impaired gut health, inflammation, insulin resistance, physical stress and mental stress can all negatively impact your cycle and its regularity. If your cycle is irregular, you may want to investigate what may be causing it. An irregular cycle is a pretty clear signal that at least some thing is amiss in your body, even if the list of potential culprits is long.

2. Your period is relatively pain-free.

I will not guarantee you a painless menstrual cycle, no matter how healthy you are.

But if you are physiologically healthy, your period will never make you so sick you have to miss work or spend an entire day curled up in the foetal position with Love Actually. Common reasons for intense pain during a menstrual cycle are endometriosis – a condition of having endometrial tissue planted excessively throughout your abdominal cavity – and estrogen dominance. Endometriosis is associated with autoimmunity and immune system dysreulation, so an autoimmune protocol may be in order. Estrogen dominance is a result of being overweight, stress, inflammation, poor liver health, and birth control use.

High amounts of inflammation can also seriously impact your menstrual experience. Many women find that excessive sugar or a meal out at a restaurant leads to menstrual pain in the following days.

3. You do not go crazy once every month.

PMS is a sure sign that your neurotransmitters – the molecules that make up the bulk of your brain – are not quite working the way they should. In PMS, certain “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine do not react well to the hormonal changes at the end of your menstrual cycle.

So both your hormones need to be balanced and your neurotransmitters need to be supported if you suffer PMS or PMDD (the more extreme form of PMS). Cooling inflammation, weight loss, focusing on omega 3s, exercise, eliminating grains, dairy, and sugar, and healthy animal protein are all great ways to do this.

4. You sleep well.

Women experience insomnia at much higher rates than men. This is largely because hormones influence everything in the body. Estrogen is necessary for moving magnesium into tissues, which helps your body shut off at night. So without proper hormone balance, you may have trouble falling and staying asleep (see my favorite magnesium supplement here).

Women are also highly sensitive to stress hormones. Cortisol – the primary stress hormone – is also responsible for wakefulness. So if you are under an undue amount of stress, that can show up in your sleeping patterns and wreak havoc all its own.

If you sleep well, this is a good sign that you are in decent hormone balance, have your stress within manageable ranges, produce the right amount of sleep hormones, and have healthy neurotransmitters.

5. You have regular bowel movements.

Constipation, diarrhea, and irregularity are all signs that something’s a bit off with your digestive processes. This is likely due to an impaired gut flora population (which often runs hand in hand with leaky gut). This is a crucial problem to address for many reasons. 1) Your comfort. 2) Your intestinal lining and a healthy immune system. 3) Keeping inflammation in check. And 4) Keeping estrogen levels healthy. Too little fiber and too much constipation makes your body re-absorb estrogen that it is trying to excrete, possibly making you estrogen dominant; and too much fiber and diarrhea on the other hand can do the very opposite.

6. You have clear skin.

This is a tough one for me. I have incredibly sensitive skin. Nonetheless, in the end I have nothing to be but grateful for this fact since my sensitivity makes me so attuned to small differences in my health. My cystic acne alerted me to my dairy and soy sensitivities. My keratosis pilaris (those red bumps commonly found on people’s arms) only flares up when I eat gluten, alerting me to some degree of sensitivity on that front. I break out when I am under even a small degree of stress.

And all of this is even more extreme because I had/have PCOS, one of the most common female hormone imbalances.

Your skin is littered with testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, DHEA-S, and other sex hormone receptors. Testosterone aggravates the skin and causes increased oil production, and estrogen soothes and softens your skin. If you experience cystic acne, particularly as it may fluctuate with your menstrual cycle, this is a clear sign that some sort of hormone balance is plaguing you.

7. You don’t have hair in male places, like around your mouth, and you aren’t balding where men do, like on the top of your head.

Male-pattern hair growth and hair loss is a clear sign of hormone imbalance. When your hormone profile matches a man’s — primarily via testosterone excess — you will develop hair growth patterns like a man’s.

8. You have a libido.

Libido is not just a side benefit of being a woman. It’s an important marker of health. Hormone imbalance – in both the cases when estrogen levels are too high and when male sex hormone levels like testosterone are too high – will often precipitously endanger your sex drive. Stress and poor sleep also derail libido. As does poor psychological health regarding sex.

If your libido is raging, ten stars for you. If you struggle with it, consider working on issues of hormone balance, reducing stress, and creating the safest sexual environment possible.

9 You have energy both before and after you exercise.

You shouldn’t have to force a workout. If you have the right amount of energy, (and if you are appropriately listening to your body!), exercise should feel good and fun. You also shouldn’t be so fatigued afterward. If you have energy both before and after you exercise, this is a good sign that your body is not over-taxed, that your stress hormones are in manageable levels, and that your body is on board with your current lifestyle.

9.5 You have energy. Period.

Way, way, way too many women are chronically fatigued. From stress hormone excess to poor sleep to hypothyroidism, it is incredibly easy for women’s lives to slip away into brain fog. If you are chronically fatigued, consider nutrient deficiencies, stress, inadequate sleep, too low carbohydrate or fat intake, too low calorie intake, blood sugar fluctuations and hypothyroidism as possible culprits. Hypothyroidism is particularly important for women since the vast majority of hypothyroid cases occur in women. The thyroid gland is highly sensitive to pituitary and stress hormone activity, both of which we know are crucial and highly influential aspects of women’s health.

10. Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t impossible.

Women have a harder time losing and maintaining a “healthy” weight than men. Why? Hormones, of course. For one, the female body is highly sensitive to starvation signals, so if you over-do it in terms of calorie restriction or exercise over a long period of time, your body may rebel by decreasing its fat-burning rate. For another, if you are on birth control or your estrogen levels are at all elevated (due to inflammation, being overweight, stress, and the like), your estrogen levels may be encouraging weight storage and preventing you from losing weight. If you are menopausal, you may struggle with weight maintenance because your estrogen levels are too low (counter-intuitive, I know), and you need at least a little bit of estrogen in order to store fat properly.

Also, the female body just so happens to usually really love having some fat on it, so give it a hug. Don’t try to starve it away.

Interested in more information on losing or maintaining weight in a healthy way? Check out my book Weight Loss Unlocked: The Paleo Woman’s Solution.

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All of which and more is in the seminal guide to women’s health, Sexy by Nature, @ Amazon and in stores now!