T’is the season for end of year deadlines, family stressors, holiday parties plus way too many cocktails and Christmas cookies. While fun, the holidays aren’t exactly compatible with vibrant health and balanced hormones. Parties, treats and all of that end of year stress can wreak havoc on your hormonal health from December to New Year’s. Fortunately, it’s possible to maintain healthy balanced hormones through the chaos of the holidays with a few tried & true diet and lifestyle tricks.
Our gift to you this holiday season is the Replete guide to enjoying good times and great food without sabotaging your hormones. At Replete Wellness we prefer to start the new year with happy healthy cycles, clear skin and vibrant energy, so for us this means carefully navigating the holiday season in a way that maintains optimal hormonal health. Trust us … when January resolutions roll around you’ll be happy for all of the self-care and healthy eating you managed through the holidays. We’ve put together this holiday hormone survival guide to give you our best tips and tricks so you can have the healthiest holiday possible. We encourage you to try out these hormone hacks to help you navigate the holiday season while still maintaining the great work you’ve put into improving your hormonal health in 2019:
So, alcohol is definitely a tricky topic. On one hand, we have studies telling us wine is great for the heart and women that drink wine daily have lower BMI’s than those who abstain. On the other, researchers have found that even 1 drink weekly can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. This happens because alcohol interferes with your body’s ability to detoxify estrogen and can also increase the body’s production of harmful estrogens. There are studies showing that drinking more than 7 glasses of alcohol weekly causes significant increases in serum estrogen levels which can contribute to heavy periods, weight gain, PMS and hormonal breakouts. While 7 glasses of wine or champagne weekly may be difficult to accomplish on a regular weekday it becomes surprisingly easy to pass this number during the holidays.
If you’re planning on having more than 1 glass of wine nightly then we suggest switching to organic red wine since studies show that red wine contains natural aromatase inhibitors that block estrogen production. Pinot noir and cabernet sauvignons seem to have the highest levels of these hormone-helping compounds. A methylated B12 supplement can also be a good idea when drinking excess alcohol since it helps the body metabolize estrogens and is depleted by regular alcohol consumption.
Replete Tip: speak to your naturopathic doctor about adding a high quality milk thistle-based product to your holiday health protocol. This herb helps to upregulate alcohol dehydrogenase which improves breakdown and excretion of toxic alcohol metabolites. It protects the liver and prevents excessive drunkenness making it ideal for those company holiday parties.
Great liver health is critical when it comes to healthy hormones since its job is to process and eliminate excess hormones. While the liver is constantly trying to break down harmful hormones all of those extra drinks and sugary treats can impair healthy liver function, leading to estrogen build-up. The following food and lifestyle tips can help your liver function at its best through the holidays:
Recent surveys estimate that Canadians are eating approximately 52g of sugar daily or around 10 teaspoons of added sugar every single day. For most of us that number doubles, or even triples during the holiday as a result of all those Christmas cookies being passed around at work, or the extra cocktails you’re drinking at holiday parties. Sugar is a problem for your hormones and natural beauty because it causes insulin levels (your blood sugar regulating hormone) to spike, which in turn initiates a cascade of hormonal responses within the body. Your ovaries are super sensitive to insulin levels and we’ll often see patients with heavier menstrual periods and irregular cycles for the first few months of the New Year as a result of over indulging in sweets and treats through the holiday season.
Many of our patients also complain of breakouts through the holidays because high insulin levels from sugar cause an increase in a protein called insulin like growth factor or IGF-1, which is one of the worst acne culprits. IGF-1 causes the glands in your skin that regulate oil production to go into overdrive and also increases the cell turnover in your skin. This means that sugar causes an overproduction of dead skin cells and excess oil, which creates an ideal scenario for the acne-causing bacteria propionibacterium acnes to grow on your skin, leading to inflammation and acne. Here’s even more bad news if you’re over 25 years old and consuming a ton of excess sugar this holiday season. After the age of 25 your skin’s production of collagen (the protein responsible for skin elasticity) dramatically declines leading to wrinkles and sagging skin. Sugar has the ability to further decrease levels of this important anti-gaining protein via the process of glycation which causes premature ageing and dull skin.
These are our best evidence-based blood sugar balancing tips so you can start the new year with glowing clear skin and balanced, happy hormones:
You must make sleep a priority if you plan on surviving the holiday season with your health intact. Poor sleep habits from late nights, alcohol and chronic stress cause a reduction in the hormone melatonin, which worsens estrogen dominance, thyroid function and blood sugar regulation. Sleep deprivation also disturbs stress hormone cortisol levels – and we already have enough stress this time of year!
Studies show that only four days of insufficient sleep will reduce the body’s ability to process insulin by more than 30% which means those Christmas treats will be even worse for your blood sugar levels and skin health. If you’re concerned about holiday weight gain sleep is critical in order to maintain a healthy BMI. In a recent study subjects that slept less than 6.5 hours had an 8.5% increased body fat. Sleep deprived dieters also lost 55% less weight than control groups, even though calories stayed equal. This is due to the fact that sleep influences release of metabolism hormones like leptin, ghrelin and glucose.
Start with the following Replete Rules for beauty sleep tips – we encourage you to visit your Naturopathic doctor if you’re still having issues with sleep after a few nights of committing to these sleep-boosting strategies:
While self-care looks differently to everyone, it’s especially important during the Holidays. As the body responds to high levels of stress it “steals” progesterone to manufacture the stress hormone cortisol, often leaving a relative excess of estrogen. Throughout the month of December I encourage you to complete one of the following stress-busting selfceare activities every day. There can be repeats, and if you find one activity particularly relaxing feel free to do it every single day):
There are also a few key lifestyle strategies that we employ this time of year to keep our adrenal glands functioning at their best. As mentioned above we keep our carbohydrate intake to dinner time. Not only does this help balance blood sugar and regulate insulin levels, it can also improve cortisol output and adrenal health. Carbohydrates antagonize cortisol secretion, meaning they lower stress hormone levels, so by avoiding carbs in the morning we can keep cortisol higher throughout the day (as it should be on a normal curve). Adding complex carbohydrates to dinner causes an insulin spike which lowers cortisol levels to reset the cortisol curve and promote a restful sleep. We are also religious about our seasonal affect disorder light ritual this time of year since 15 minutes of bright light upon waking has beneficial effects on cortisol levels and energy. In the spring and summer we simply head outside, but in the dark days of winter a seasonal affective disorder lamp is a must.
Happy Holidays beauties! If you have more questions, or if you live near Oakville and are interested in a customized hormonal health assessment and functional medicine protocol you can book your first visit in person visit here or visit my website for more information.
*Note: online services provided by Dr. Sarah to those of you living outside of Ontario are delivered as a Certified Functional Medicine practitioner consult and not as an Naturopathic doctor appointment & as such they will not be eligible for reimbursement through private insurance.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Naturopathic doctor or primary care physician. Do not use the information in this document for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. Always speak with your Naturopathic doctor before taking any medication or nutritional or herbal or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read online.
12 Daily Habits for Clear Glowing Skin, Balanced Hormones & a Replete Life