women’s health

Photo of a female with long hair standing on a beach with her hands over her face.

Iron is well known for the transportation of oxygen throughout the body as previously discussed, however, the link between iron deficiency and ADHD is not as well understood.

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition affecting 12% of school-aged children and a growing number of adults. Impulsive behaviour, hyperactivity and/or inattention are common issues with ADHD. The prevalence of ADHD in student and elite athletes is suggested to be as high as 8% in certain sports. Athletes with ADHD may naturally excel in sports that require quick movements and reactive decision-making such as basketball, netball and baseball due to these athletes’ inherent impulsivity. Physical activity through playing sports also improves the symptoms of ADHD such as inattention, depressive mood, anxiety and impaired cognition.

Managing ADHD

In most cases, psychosocial interventions are used to manage ADHD. Medications (methylphenidate and amphetamine compounds) may also be used to activate dopamine and noradrenergic neurotransmitter pathways in the brain. This activation may lead to improved attention and concentration but also often come with side effects including increased heart rate and blood pressure, abdominal pain, headache, anorexia, sleep impairment, weight loss, jitteriness and constipation. If not addressed these side effects can impair performance and/or threaten athlete safety.

As both iron and zinc deficiencies impact neurologic functions (poor memory, inattentiveness, and impulsiveness), finicky appetite, and mood changes (sadness and irritability), nutritional adequacy is especially important in ADHD patients. Altered levels of iron and zinc increase the susceptibility, aggravation and progression of ADHD. In children, the severity of iron deficiency has been linked to a 30% increase in inattentive, impulsive, and hyperactive behaviours.

Evidence suggests patients with ADHD may experience lower stores of iron (ferritin) in the liver. This is proposed to be due to higher levels of hepcidin in ADHD patients.  In our previous blog, we explain how Hepcidin is a peptide hormone that acts as the master regulator in iron metabolism and storage in the liver. Hepcidin also tightly influences red blood cell production.

Ferritin levels below 30ng/mL are related to sleep disturbances and a higher incidence of restless leg syndrome which may further compound behavioural issues in ADHD patients. Another mineral which shares the same carrier protein as iron is zinc. Zinc deficiency is also linked to inflammatory prostaglandins, essential enzymes and changes in melatonin and dopamine.

Whilst a food-first approach is preferred, individuals with high nutrient demands may benefit from targeted supplementation.  Iron-rich foods such as kangaroo, red meats, chicken, salmon and zinc-rich foods have been extensively discussed in relation to immunityanaemia and plant-based athletes.

Supplementation has been shown to be effective in individuals with iron deficiency, especially in the inattentive subtype of ADHD. Iron supplementation has also been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular events during treatment with ADHD drugs. A combination of iron and zinc supplements has been shown to be superior to iron alone in alleviating ADHD symptoms, as well as improvement in performance in IQ tests.

Hundreds of athletes have used our handy anaemia tool to help determine the likely risk of having low iron or anaemia. This short quiz is handy if you have experienced iron deficiency in the past and are unsure if your iron stores may be declining.

Want to know more? Contact the Athlete Sanctuary and learn how we can help you.

About the Author: Kate Smyth is a Sports naturopath, nutritionist and female-centric running coach. She is the founder of the Athlete Sanctuary- a holistic healthcare clinic for athletes of all levels and sporting codes. Kate has a thirst for knowledge with two bachelor’s and a master’s degree under her belt. She has been involved in sports for many decades and competed for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games marathons with a personal best time of 2 hours 28 minutes. For more information visit www.https://https://athletesanctuary.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/normatec-3-lower-body-system-thumb_720x-1.webp.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Seed-Cycle-Blends-scaled-1.jpg.com.au

 

References

  1. Robberecht, H., Verlaet, A. A., Breynaert, A., De Bruyne, T., & Hermans, N. (2020). Magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and selenium status in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Molecules, 25(19), 4440.
  2. Han, D. H., McDuff, D., Thompson, D., Hitchcock, M. E., Reardon, C. L., & Hainline, B. (2019). Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in elite athletes: a narrative review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 53(12), 741-745.
  3. Conant-Norville DO, Tofler IR. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and psychopharmacologic treatments in the athlete. Clin Sports Med 2005;24:829–43
  4. Hamilton RM, Rosenthal E, Hulpke-Wette M, et al. Cardiovascular considerations of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medications: a report of the European Network on hyperactivity disorders work group, European attention deficit hyperactivity disorder guidelines group on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drug safety meeting. Cardiol Young 2012;22:63–70
  5. Konofal, E., Lecendreux, M., Arnulf, I., & Mouren, M. C. (2004). Iron deficiency in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 158(12), 1113-1115.
  6. Yazici, K.U.; Yazici, I.P.; Ustundag, B. Increased Serum Hepcidin Levels in Children and Adolescents with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Clinical Psychopharmacology Neuroscience. 2019, 17, 105–112.
  7. Abou-Khadra, M.K.; Amin, O.R.; Shaker, O.G.; Rabah, T.M. Parent-reported sleep problems, symptom ratings, and serum ferritin levels in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A case control study. BMC Pediatrics 2013, 13, 217.
  8. Arnold, L.E.; DiSilvestro, R.A. Zinc in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. J. Child Adolesc. Psychopharmacol. 2005, 15, 619–627.
  9. Soto-Insuga, V.; Calleja, M.; Prados, M.; Castano, C.; Losada, R.; Ruiz-Falco, M. Role of iron in the treatment of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. An. Paediatrician . 2013, 79, 230–235.
  10. Parisi, P.; Villa, M.P.; Donfrancesco, R.; Miano, S.; Paolino, M.C.; Cortese, S. Could treatment of iron deficiency both improve ADHD and reduce cardiovascular risk during treatment with ADHD drugs? Hypotheses, 2012, 79, 246–249.
  11. El-Baz, F. M., Youssef, A. M., Ramadan, D., & Youssef, W. Y. (2019). Association between circulating zinc/ferritin levels and parent Conner’s scores in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. European Psychiatry, 62, 68-73.
  12. Tan, L.-N.; Wei, H.-Y.; Zhang, Y.-D.; Lu, A.-L.; Li, Y. (2011). Relationship between serum ferritin levels and susceptibility to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children: A Meta analysis. Zhongguo Dang Dai Er Ke Za Zhi. 13, 722–724.
  13. Öner, P.; Dirik, E.B.; Taner, Y.; Caykoylu, A.; Anlar, O. (2007). Association between low serum ferritin and restless legs syndrome in patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Tohoku J. Exp. Med. 213, 269–276
10 symptoms of Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a painful condition impacting over 830,000 Australian women and girls and over 176 million women worldwide.  With endometriosis, inflammation and estrogen dominance impacts tissue similar to the uterine lining and encourage growth in other areas of the body outside the womb such as in the pelvic cavity, the ovaries, fallopian tubes, intestines, or bowel.

Treatment commonly consists of medical and surgical therapies to remove the endometrial-like tissue. Painkillers and hormonal treatments are frequently offered to sufferers, but unfortunately, up to 50% of women will experience a recurrence of symptoms within 5 years (2). Many find the years before diagnosis extremely frustrating as they seek validation for their symptoms.

The exact causes of endometriosis remain unknown, however, family history, retrograde menstruation, metaplasia (conversion of normal pelvic tissue into endometriosis), alcohol intake, and early onset of periods (prior to 11 years of age) may play a role.

A third of women will be diagnosed after being unable to fall pregnant or inadvertently during an operation.

10 symptoms of endometriosis:

  • Abdominal, lower back, or pelvic pain during periods
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Pain on going to the toilet
  • Ovulation pain, including pain in the thigh or leg
  • Heavy bleeding or bleeding longer than usual
  • Bleeding from the bladder or bowel
  • Increased abdominal bloating, constipation, and other digestion issues such as small intestine bacteria overgrowth
  • Tiredness or lack of energy
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Athletes and endometriosis

Endometriosis impacts athletes at all levels. Olympian Elinor Baker along with many women in sport are working to improve the awareness of endometriosis in sports. If you suffer from this condition it’s likely you may be able to relate to Elinor’s painful symptoms “as though someone was ringing out my organs as if they were a tea towel”. The fatigue, pain and heavy bleeding can severely impact athletes and their ability to compete and train.  It is not uncommon for athletes to miss competitions due to surgeries, muscle cramps, and debilitating pain.

Natural treatment options

Our understanding of endometriosis is deepening, and holistic treatment approaches are showing promising results. Symptom reduction and improvements in quality of life have been demonstrated through food first and a targeted treatment approach including herbal and nutritional medicines.

By reducing underlying inflammation, improving the immune response, and clearing excess estrogen, women can reduce the severity of symptoms, scarring, and formation of endometrium growths.

Dietary interventions alone have reported reductions in painful symptoms and bowel complaints in up to 75% of women. Increased consumption of essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and a combination of vitamins and minerals have also been shown to have positive effects on endometriosis-associated symptoms. Other nutraceuticals such as resveratrol may improve endothelial wound healing while phytochemicals such as Diindolylmethane (DIM) or calcium-D-glucarate may help support clearance of excess estrogen and relieve pain associated with periods in sufferers of endometriosis.

Our seed cycling blog describes the benefits of using seeds to maintain healthy hormones. purchase your seeds for your cycle here

It can be reassuring to know that with the right self-care and a holistic approach to health, you can continue to achieve life goals and sporting success.  An early diagnosis and understanding of your condition may result in better management of your symptoms.

 

About the Author: Kate Smyth is a Sports naturopath, nutritionist and female-centric running coach. She is the founder of the Athlete Sanctuary- a holistic healthcare clinic for athletes of all levels and sporting codes. Kate has a thirst for knowledge with two bachelor’s and a master’s degree under her belt. She has been involved in sports for many decades and competed for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games marathons with a personal best time of 2 hours 28 minutes. For more information visit www.https://https://athletesanctuary.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/normatec-3-lower-body-system-thumb_720x-1.webp.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Seed-Cycle-Blends-scaled-1.jpg.com.au

References

Endometriosis in Australia: prevalence and hospitalizations. VIEW

Hickey M, Ballard K, Farquhar C. Endometriosis BMJ 2014; 348:g1752 doi:10.1136/BMJ.g1752

Hui, E., & Nap, A. (2020). The effects of nutrients on symptoms in women with endometriosis: a systematic review. Reproductive BioMedicine Online, 41(2), 317-328. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S147264832030225X

Marziali M, Venza M, Lazzaro S, et al. Gluten-free diet: a new strategy for management of painful endometriosis related symptoms? Minerva Chirurgica. 2012 Dec;67(6):499-504. http://europepmc.org/article/med/23334113

Moore, J. S., Gibson, P. R., Perry, R. E., & Burgell, R. E. (2017). Endometriosis in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: the specific symptomatic and demographic profile, and response to the low FODMAP diet. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 57(2), 201-205. https://obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ajo.12594 

Jean Hailes www.jeanhailes.org.au

Oregon State University (2022).Resveratrol www.https://lpi.oregonstate.edu

Endometriosis Australia www.endometriosisaustralia.org 

BBC Sport www.bbc.com/sport/56276626 

 

relative energy deficiency

Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport – or RED-S as it is known – is caused when there’s a negative balance between dietary energy intake and the energy output needed to promote optimal health, performance, growth and daily life.

Up until 2014 RED-S was referred to as the female athlete triad – disordered eating, menstrual disturbances and low bone density. At this time the International Olympic Committee updated their position statement with the new term (RED-S) to be far more reflective of the wider-spread effects in both female and male athletes – on performance and throughout the body.

In 2018 the IOC published the RED-S Consensus Statement Update.

More than 10% of athletes experience RED-S throughout their career, yet despite its potential to have such adverse effects, RED-S is still only just becoming widely recognised and discussed within a majority of sports.

Symptoms of RED-S

There are many physical symptoms of RED-S, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Recurring illness
  • Difficulties staying warm in the winter and cool in summer months
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Stress fractures and low bone mineral density, and impaired accumulation of peak bone mass (PBM)
  • Weight loss, or below healthy weight
  • Growth restriction in junior and teenage athletes
  • Disordered eating or eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia, orthorexia, restrictive disorders or recurrent dieting/fasting
  • Digestion issues
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Metabolic disturbance
  • Menstrual disfunction

Relative Energy Deficiency in SportBut REDS can also have far-reaching behavioural and psychological effects as well, including:

  • Pre-occupation and constant discussion around food
  • Poor sleep patterns
  • Restricting or strict control over food intake
  • Overtraining or struggling to take rest days
  • Impaired judgement, coordination and concentration
  • Recurrent soft tissue injury
  • Irrational behaviour
  • Fear of food and weight gain
  • Severe anxiety
  • Withdrawing or becoming reclusive
  • Reduction in motivation
  • Depression

REDS can have an incredibly adverse long-term effect on athletic performance, including an increased risk of injury and decreased training and performance responses. These effects can include:

  • Decreased muscle strength
  • Decreased endurance performance
  • Impaired judgement
  • Decrease in coordination
  • Decrease in concentration
  • Decrease in glycogen stores
  • Negative impacts on muscle recovery
  • Poor muscle growth
  • Increased risk of injury

WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF REDS?

The majority of our bone density is formed during our teenage years. If our bone density formation is impacted during our adolescence or early in our adult years, it can lead to issues with bone weakness and osteoporosis later on in life.

Longer-term, REDS can also have a negative impact on fertility, thyroid function, cardiovascular function, and mental health.

The good news is that most of the negative consequences of RED-S can be reversed if picked up early.

WHAT ARE THE COMMON MYTHS SURROUNDING REDS?

The common perception that athletes with RED-S have an eating disorder is false.  Although eating disorders are associated with RED-S not all athletes with eating disorders have RED-S and not all athletes with RED-S have an eating disorder.

It’s true to say that athletes with RED-S can present as underweight- but this is not true in all situations. RED-S can exist without the athlete appearing to be underweight.

RED-S is also not something that just female athletes suffer from. All athletes competing in sports with higher training volumes or weight category restrictions are at a higher risk of developing RED-S. This can include athletes competing in sports that can be judged by aesthetics including figure skating, gymnastics and synchronised swimming, and body weight-dependent sports including long-distance running, mountain biking, and cycling, and weight classed sports such as lightweight rowing and marshall arts.

In one study 44% of ultra-endurance runners were identified as being at risk of developing RED-S while 39% of elite female sprinters should signs of RED-S. 

“RED-S can occur in athletes of any competitive status. Among world-class endurance athletes, 37% of females presented with amenorrhea and 40% of males with testosterone in the lowest quartile range indicative of RED-S, which is similar to the reported 40% of Australian female athletes competing at the 2016 Rio Olympic games who were identified as at risk of RED-S.  Similarly, among recreational female exercisers, 45% had risk factors associated with RED-S.” (Sports Information Resource Centre).

WHAT SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR?

The most important piece of advice when it comes to RED-S is – listen to your body. Don’t ignore niggles and definitely don’t skimp on sleep and recovery. You should also:

  • Monitor menstrual cycles
  • Think about your relationship with food and/or exercise
  • Be mindful of your eating patterns: disordered eating to eating disorder.
  • Notice your exercise dependence
  • Monitor your behaviour, mood and sleep patterns
  • Notice change in clothing fit
  • Be aware of growth and development
  • Note injuries, illness and gastrointestinal issues
  • Athletic performance (stagnation-deterioration)
  • Try to be flexible in your approach

WHERE TO GET HELP

We appreciate that talking about many of the symptoms associated with RED-S can be difficult.  Our Sports Naturopath and Holistic Coach Kate Smyth has extensive lived experience with REDS in elite sport and provides a discreet and confidential platform to share your concerns.

About the Author: Kate Smyth is a Sports naturopath, nutritionist and female centric running coach. She is the founder of the Athlete Sanctuary- a holistic healthcare clinic for athletes of all levels and sporting codes. Kate has a thirst for knowledge with two bachelor’s and a master’s degree under her belt. She has been involved in sports for many decades and competed for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games marathons with a personal best time of 2 hours 28 minutes. For more information visit www.https://https://athletesanctuary.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/normatec-3-lower-body-system-thumb_720x-1.webp.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Seed-Cycle-Blends-scaled-1.jpg.com.au

 

Resources

Athletes in Balance 

Train Brave 

Butterfly Foundation 

Eating Disorders 

The Sport Information Resource Centre: SIRC,

Berg, S. E. (2021). The Relationship between Eating Disorders, Weight Control Methods, and Body Satisfaction in Elite Female Runners Competing at the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials.

Sygo, J., Coates, A. M., Sesbreno, E., Mountjoy, M. L., & Burr, J. F. (2018). Prevalence of indicators of low energy availability in elite female sprinters. International Journal of Sport nutrition and exercise metabolism28(5), 490-496.

 

 

Low zinc symptoms

The high demands of sports make athletes more vulnerable to illness, with 65% of athletes experiencing regular colds and infections. Zinc is a key nutrient required for immunity and keeping an eye out for low zinc symptoms, may just make the difference between being sick or great performances.

It can be so frustrating to put in many months of hard training only to be sidelined during a taper or on race day by heaving lungs, debilitating fatigue, and a pounding headache. Sports performance is materialised through consistency, akin to writing a book, one page at a time. Forced breaks from training due to illness detract from progress and drains confidence. Not all athletes rest when unwell and opt to “push through” the illness only to experience prolonged symptoms and more disruption to competition. 

Building a robust immunity is all part of a holistic approach to coaching and training. So how do you minimise your risk of getting sick? 

There are many nutrients that contribute to a healthy immune system as discussed previously.

Athletes may be more susceptible to being deficient in zinc because exercise, particularly strenuous and endurance exercise, increases zinc requirements, encourages zinc loss through sweating, and changes zinc transportation and metabolism.  

In our opinion, zinc plays the most critical role in supporting athletes and immunity.

Zinc’s role in hormone control and immunity

Zinc regulates several crucial processes in both your innate and adaptive immune system. Being deficient in zinc can lead to athletes becoming more susceptible to respiratory illness, particularly in the colder months. 

Apart from zinc’s well-established role in immunity, this mineral, contributes to protein structure, regulates gene expression, metabolism and is the second most abundant trace element in the body after iron.  Zinc deficiency can impact an athlete through hormone dysregulation (testosterone, thyroid, and growth hormones to name a few) and may affect erectile function and fertility.

Zinc is essential to maintaining optimum performance due to its function in metabolism and healthy cell division – essential in repairing damaged tissues after you exercise.

Studies show being deficient in zinc can lead to a reduction in the number of fast-twitch muscle fibres and muscle mass and performance decline.  For Masters Athletes this is of particular relevance as aging is also associated with sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass, muscle strength, and physical performance.

Zinc also helps maintain blood sugar control and assists with muscle contraction during exercise, glucose metabolism, and glycogen storage.

Zinc also plays an essential role in antioxidant production by increasing antioxidant activity and inhibiting free radical production that may damage tissues, impact liver function, and prevent muscle exhaustion.

Low zinc symptoms

Apart from recurrent colds and other infections, there are many low zinc symptoms.

*Anxiety and depression

*Hormone imbalances

*Poor concentration

*Stomach pain and gas

*Slow healing

*White spots on nails

*Skin issues and acne

*Loss of appetite

*Loss or change of smell

*Changes in taste

Zinc rich foods

The most concentrated sources of zinc are contained in animal products, particularly meat, seafood and dairy.   Vegan and plant-based athletes may be more susceptible to zinc deficiency due to reduced dietary intake, lowered gastric acid (which is zinc-dependent) and higher phytate consumption.  Phytates found in plant-based zinc-rich foods such as legumes can inhibit zinc absorption. 

Soaking nuts and seeds and legumes prior to cooking is a great way to minimise this issue and allow for greater micronutrient absorption.

Iron absorption 

The gastrointestinal tract plays an important role in maintaining total body zinc homeostasis by regulating zinc absorption and excretion. In order to boost your absorption, the addition of a probiotic may be beneficial.

In certain situations, zinc supplementation may be recommended. The amount ingested, supplement form, and the timing of zinc matters. Speak to a naturopath or nutritionist with an interest in sport before self-prescribing. You’ll definitely want to avoid zinc toxicity. High zinc levels can have a detrimental impact on your performance through anaemia, copper and iron deficiency and unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.

Zinc testing

Serum blood testing is used by some conventional practitioners to determine zinc levels in the body. Keep in mind 60% of zinc is stored in muscle and 30% in bone therefore serum may not be the best measure of zinc homeostasis.  A mineral test can be another alternative method of assessing zinc levels and is available through our clinic as explained here.

If you need help building a robust immune system, book an appointment with our naturopath.

 

About the Author: Kate Smyth is a Sports naturopath, nutritionist and female-centric running coach. She is the founder of the Athlete Sanctuary- a holistic healthcare clinic for athletes of all levels and sporting codes. Kate has a thirst for knowledge with two bachelor’s and a master’s degree under her belt. She has been involved in sports for many decades and competed for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games marathons with a personal best time of 2 hours 28 minutes. For more information visit www.https://https://athletesanctuary.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/normatec-3-lower-body-system-thumb_720x-1.webp.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Seed-Cycle-Blends-scaled-1.jpg.com.au

References

  1. N. Walsh.  Nutrition and Athlete Immune Health: New Perspectives on an Old Paradigm.
    2019 Nov 6. doi: 10.1007/s40279-019-01160-3.
  2. A. Venderley, W.Campbell. Vegetarian diets : nutritional considerations for athletes.
    2006;36(4):293-305. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200636040-00002.
  3. J.Hernández-Camacho, C. Vicente-García, D. Parsons, I. Navas-Enamorado.  Zinc at the crossroads of exercise and proteostasis.
    2020, 101529, ISSN 2213-2317. doi.org/10.1016/j.redox.2020.101529.
  4. P. Trumbo, A.  Yates, S. Schlicker, M. Poos. Dietary reference intakes: vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc.
    2010 March.101(3):294-301.
    doi: 10.1016/S0002-8223(01)00078-5.
  5. A. Baltaci, R. Mogulkoc, S. Baltaci. Review: The role of zinc in the endocrine system.
    2019 Jan;32(1):231-239. PMID: 30772815.
  6. P.Ranasinghe, S. Pigera, P. Galappatthy, G. Katulanda, & R. Constantine. Zinc and diabetes mellitus: understanding molecular mechanisms and clinical implications.
    23
    (1), 44.  doi.org/10.1186/s40199-015-0127-4
  7. M. Hambidge, N. Krebs. Zinc metabolism and requirements.
    2001;22(2):126-132  doi: 10.1177/156482650102200202
probiotics

If you’re training hard, but don’t feel like you’re improving your athletic performance, then enriching your gut health through choosing the best probiotics to complement your gut microbiome could be the missing ingredient.

What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms, mainly bacteria, and yeasts, that naturally reside in your gut (microbiome) and convey a health benefit. Your microbiome typically contains over 1000 different organisms, both beneficial and pathogenic.

Because a healthy gut microbiome strengthens your immune system and enhances your recovery from fatigue and overtraining, taking care of your gastrointestinal system is vital. This will enhance your general health and help to improve your athletic performance.

We consume probiotics via gut-friendly fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut, and commercially produced supplements.

Probiotics shouldn’t be confused with prebiotics. Prebiotics are carbohydrates and fibres such as inulin and other fructo-oligosaccharides found in foods like artichoke, bananas, and asparagus. The microorganisms in your gastrointestinal tract use prebiotics as fuel.

Supplements called ‘synbiotics’ contain both prebiotic molecules and probiotic organisms.2 Synbiotics offer a dual-action strategy for even greater health benefits. A diet rich in pre and probiotic foods support your gut to develop a robust immunity.

Understanding probiotics for runners

As the popularity of ‘gut health’ supplements for athletes increases, a basic knowledge of the assortment of beneficial probiotics in your supplement is helpful.

Probiotics are classified by their unique microorganism strain, which includes the genus, species, subspecies (if applicable), and an alphanumeric strain designation.

The seven core probiotic genera are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces, Streptococcus, Bacillus, Enterococcus, and Escherichia.

Lactobaccillus rhamnosus, Lactobaccillus acidophilus, and Saccharomyces boulardii are common commercially produced probiotic and yeast species. This ‘probiotic tree’ diagram highlights several commercially available probiotic strains.

Research on specific probiotic strains has expanded our knowledge of the health benefits and targeted treatments of probiotics for athletes. However, probiotic supplementation may not be appropriate or necessary for all athletes.

Probiotics for Runners

Certain probiotic species impart significant anti-inflammatory effects within your gut. In particular, Lactobacillus strains produce lactate, which is then converted into short-chain fatty acids by your gut bacteria. Butyrate is a pivotal short-chain fatty acid for intestinal homeostasis due to its anti-inflammatory properties and beneficial effects on intestinal cells, gut barrier function, and permeability.

Over thirty years of research supports the widespread use of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG) for common gut-related issues such as diarrhoea, antibiotic use, infections, e.g., Clostridium, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, respiratory tract infections, and allergies in athletes.

Studies also show certain probiotics can improve vitamin D levels in athletes.

LGG along with L. acidophilus, and B. bifidum improve exercise-induced gastrointestinal symptoms. In fact, almost 60%of runners and endurance athletes who train intensely experience gut microbiome upsets and unwanted symptoms. Probiotics offer relief by supporting immune function and intestinal cell proliferation and function, as well as shortening the duration of gastrointestinal symptoms.5

Probiotic strains interact favourably with other probiotic species in the microbiome to improve the overall balance and composition of beneficial bacteria in your gut. For example, Lactobacillus fermentum (PCC) can increase the Lactobacillus genus seven-fold after 11 weeks of supplementation.

Probiotic supplements can help regulate blood sugar levels and maintain energy for training and performance. Also, yeast probiotics such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae are widely used to suppress the overgrowth of Candida or thrush fungal infections.

Lastly, new research demonstrates that probiotics can enhance sports performance. Runners taking Bifidobacterium longum (OLP-01) for five weeks significantly increased their running distance in a timed test. Bifidobacterium longum (OLP-01) also provided other health benefits such as increasing the abundance of gut microbiota in the runners.

There are a few final points to keep in mind before you add probiotics to your diet.

First, the quality of your probiotic supplement may vary significantly. Be careful about your choices as the label “probiotic” doesn’t necessarily mean this option will be suitable for your microbiome.

Second, a probiotic combination or an inappropriate supplementation duration may exacerbate unwanted symptoms in some situations. Therefore, it’s vital to consume high-quality, well-characterised live probiotics that deliver a therapeutic dose over an effective length of time.

Finally, the best probiotics for endurance athletes are selected case by case to improve your performance, recovery, immune and gut health. Be sure to seek professional advice for the most suitable probiotic therapy for your training and health circumstances.

Unsure if a probiotic supplement could help you?
Speak with Athlete Sanctuary’s sports naturopath and nutritionist about your health and sports performance goals today.

About the Author: Kate Smyth is a Sports naturopath, nutritionist and female-centric running coach. She is the founder of the Athlete Sanctuary- a holistic healthcare clinic for athletes of all levels and sporting codes. Kate has a thirst for knowledge with two bachelor’s and a master’s degree under her belt. She has been involved in sports for many decades and competed for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games marathons with a personal best time of 2 hours 28 minutes. For more information visit www.https://https://athletesanctuary.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/normatec-3-lower-body-system-thumb_720x-1.webp.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Seed-Cycle-Blends-scaled-1.jpg.com.au

References

  1. Hill C, Guarner F, Reid G, Gibson GR, Merenstein DJ, Pot B, et al. The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics consensus statement on the scope and appropriate use of the term probiotic. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 2014;11:506-14.
  2. World Gastroenterology Organisation. Probiotics and prebiotics. 2017.
  3. Capurso, L. (2019). Thirty years of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG: a review. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology53, S1-S41. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000001170
  4. Leite, G. S., Student, A. S. R. M., West, N. P., & Lancha Jr, A. H. (2019). Probiotics and sports: A new magic bullet? Nutrition60, 152-160. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2018.09.023
  5. Salarkia, N., Ghadamli, L., Zaeri, F., & Rad, L. S. (2013). Effects of probiotic yogurt on performance, respiratory and digestive systems of young adult female endurance swimmers: a randomized controlled trial. Medical Journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran27(3), 141. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3917487/
  6. West, N. P., Pyne, D. B., Cripps, A. W., Hopkins, W. G., Eskesen, D. C., Jairath, A., … & Fricker, P. A. (2011). Lactobacillus fermentum (PCC®) supplementation and gastrointestinal and respiratory-tract illness symptoms: a randomised control trial in athletes. Nutrition Journal10(1), 1-11. https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-10-30
  7. Gaziano, R., Sabbatini, S., Roselletti, E., Perito, S., & Monari, C. (2020). Saccharomyces cerevisiae-based probiotics as novel antimicrobial agents to prevent and treat vaginal infections. Frontiers in Microbiology11, 718. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2020.00718
  8. Lin, C. L., Hsu, Y. J., Ho, H. H., Chang, Y. C., Kuo, Y. W., Yeh, Y. T., … & Lee, M. C. (2020). Bifidobacterium longum subsp. longum OLP-01 Supplementation during Endurance Running Training Improves Exercise Performance in Middle-and Long-Distance Runners: A Double-Blind Controlled Trial. Nutrients12(7), 1972. doi:10.3390/nu12071972 
  9. Probiotic professionals

 

menopause

Some women experience absolutely no symptoms during their transition through menopause but if you are like 80% of women who do, it’s reassuring to know there are treatment options available. Help for menopause is here.

Perimenopause is the stage where most of the symptoms begin and these can persist for over a decade. Menopause officially commences 12 months after your last period. Women can go through menopause anywhere between the ages of 40 and 58 years but the average age is 52 years.   Symptoms can occur due to the falling levels of estrogen and progesterone, which has a multifaceted impact on organs and tissues throughout the body.

Most women identify menopause with hot flushes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood swings, poor libido and fatigue. Symptoms usually occur in the perimenopausal phase due to declining progesterone. Oestrogen actually increases to levels 30% higher than before but can go through periods of variations similar to a roller coaster leading to insomnia, depression, poor concentration, irritability, anxiety and poor stress tolerance and lethargy. In the later stages of perimenopause, oestrogen declines which may contribute to other symptoms such as heart palpitations, joint pain, osteoporosis and mental health issues.

One of the associated effects of estrogen decline is an increased risk of osteoporosis.  This is due primarily to the 1-2% loss of bone density per year of menopause, as well as 10 years post-menopause.  Estrogen decline is also associated with elevated cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, hypothyroidism, urinary tract infections and thrush.

Some women have concerns about the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or are unable to use this option due to breast or ovarian cancer risk. Fortunately, there is now a large body of evidence that supports the use of herbal and nutritional medicines during the menopausal transition.

DIETARY INTERVENTIONS 

Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring estrogen-like compounds found in plants, fruits, or vegetables and are commonly divided into three main classes: isoflavones, lignans, and coumestans.

Isoflavones are found in the legume family, with high amounts in soybeans and soy products.

Lignans are found in high-fibre foods such as unrefined grains, cereal brans, and beans, with flaxseed being a particularly good dietary source of lignans. A recent systematic review found that women who consumed protein bars containing flaxseed (410 mg of lignan) for  6 weeks reported a 50% decrease in hot flushes. Seed cycling can be helpful for women who want to boost their intake of fatty acids and lignans.

Coumestan-rich foods include alfalfa and clover sprouts, peas, pinto beans, and lima beans.

Herbs

Hops (Humulus lupulus) dampens tension and anxiety.  The active ingredient in hops, 8-prenylnaringenin, is a potent phytoestrogen and has been demonstrated to reduce vasomotor symptoms by improving the ability of the blood vessels to expand and contract. Numerous clinical trials have also documented significant reductions in the frequency of hot flushes, sweating, insomnia, heart palpitations and irritability in women who used a hops extract for 6 weeks.

In clinical practice, a combination of herbs is often used to support women during the transition through menopause. Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), which is considered to be a “buried treasure medicine”, is another popular herb for active women suffering from fatigue. Ginseng’s active constituents include saponins, amino acids, vitamins (particularly folic acid and niacin), alkaloids, phenolic compounds, and flavonoids. Ginseng has been widely used in traditional medicine to assist with building resilience to stress and used as an energizer, to increase libido, and testosterone and alleviate menopausal symptoms. Clinical trials have shown ginseng significantly reduced depression and improve perceived well-being, exercise performance and energy in perimenopause.

Another popular herb is chasteberry, or vitex.  This herb has shown positive results in reducing PMS, anxiety, hot flushes and breast tenderness in perimenopausal women.  Vitex is used to support the transition from perimenopause to menopause due to its ability to increase progesterone levels and help maintain a healthy balance between progesterone and estrogen.

For women experiencing persistent hot flushes or night sweats as a result of menopause, Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense) may often be prescribed.  This herb contains high levels of phytoestrogens for improving hormonal balance, as well as helping improve bone density in those at risk of osteoporosis.  Several clinical trials demon straight the isoflavones present in red clover inhibit bone resorption and therefore reduce bone turnover associated with osteoporosis.

Ginkgo Biloba is similar to red clover because of the phytoestrogens it contains and its ability to naturally elevate estrogen levels.  Studies show that Ginkgo Biloba can reduce mood fluctuations associated with both PMS and menopause, as well as improving libido in 84% of trial participants after 4 weeks.

Sage, most commonly prescribed as a tea, has long been used in the management of fevers.  However, there is also evidence to support the use of sage for menopausal hot flushes and night sweats.  A study that assessed the use of fresh sage leaves in food or as tea demonstrated that the intensity and frequency of hot flushes were significantly reduced over a period of 8 weeks with consistent use.

Hormones play an integral role in your health, and changes in hormone balances can be challenging. There are many different ways that nutrition can be used to navigate menopause, without having to experience the numerous, negative side effects of HRT.

As with any element of health, there is never a one-size-fits-all approach and therefore we recommend individualised treatments for menopausal symptoms.

About the Author: Kate Smyth is a Sports naturopath, nutritionist and female-centric running coach. She is the founder of the Athlete Sanctuary- a holistic healthcare clinic for athletes of all levels and sporting codes. Kate has a thirst for knowledge with two bachelor’s and a master’s degree under her belt. She has been involved in sports for many decades and competed for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games marathons with a personal best time of 2 hours 28 minutes. For more information visit www.athletesanctuary.com.au

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency has consequences well beyond bone health.

Vitamin D is gold.

Vitamin D is so important to the body, immune cells, brain, colon, breast, and other cells have the ability to also activate it locally when required. Although labelled a vitamin, calcitriol (bio-active vitamin D) acts more like a hormone within the body. It is involved in many essential functions well beyond bone health.  Vitamin D is critical for inflammatory modulation, hormonal and immune functions as well as cardiovascular, mental health and pancreatic function. The active form of vitamin D interacts with receptors in the intestine, bone, brain, heart, immune cells and skeletal muscle.  Vitamin D functions as a modulator of up to 1000 genes involved in cellular growth and protein synthesis.

Vitamin D plays an important role in an athlete’s health, training and performance.

Studies show it may even be necessary for optimal muscle function and performance as muscle performance is impaired by suboptimal vitamin D status. Deficiency induces atrophy of fast twitch muscle fibers, impairs calcium uptake and prolongs time to peak contractile tension and relaxation. Studies also show Vitamin D deficiency may delay rehabilitation from injury.

In sporty pregnant women, low vitamin D levels are linked to pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Vitamin D also plays a part in regulating insulin, blood sugar balance and thyroid hormones. Research shows that a deficiency of vitamin D is associated with a high risk of thyroid antibodies, which are found in individuals with autoimmune thyroid disorders.

Vitamin D is most commonly known in the athletic community for its influence on bone health and prevention of bone injury. Vitamin D influences bone health by upregulating expression of genes that enhance intestinal calcium absorption, and reabsorption by the kidneys along with increasing bone-building cell activity. Studies show calcium absorption significantly increases when vitamin D levels are sufficient. Calcium absorption is reduced to 10-15% with low vitamin D levels and stress fracture risk significantly increases.

Typically, 80% of our vitamin D is obtained from the sun and 20% from food sources.

Signs of Vitamin D deficiency

  • fatigue and tiredness
  • lower back pain
  • recurrent colds and infections and poor immunity
  • stress fractures
  • heaviness in the legs
  • recurrent injuries
  • muscle pain, weakness, poor muscle contraction and relaxation
  • mental health issues, low mood, seasonal sadness and depression
  • hormonal imbalances and PMS
  • anaemia and low iron
  • pale floating stool
  • photosensitivity

According to Sunsmart Australia, one-third of Australians are low in Vitamin D.

10 Reasons your vitamin D is low

Vitamin D can be made by our body when skin is exposed to sunlight through a complex activation process, however, what many people fail to realise is that this process doesn’t always occur efficiently or reach levels required for optimal health. Vitamin D production may vary depending on the time of day of sun exposure, season, cloud cover, smog, latitude, skin pigmentation, age, and sunscreen use.

We often see patients with low levels of vitamin D despite being out in the sun daily. There are several reasons why vitamin D levels drop despite sunlight exposure.

1. As vitamin D is fat-soluble and stored in fat cells, individuals with low body fat, may be disposed to vitamin D deficiency as their storage tank is smaller.

2. Activation and production of vitamin D are inhibited by magnesium deficiency, inflammation, and excessive use of sunscreen.

3. Individuals with any form of malabsorption issues, liver or kidney issues, coeliac’s disease, Crohn’s, vegans, and thyroid issues can be prone to deficiencies.

4. Anyone with a history of anaemia should also be aware of the bidirectional influence between iron and vitamin D. The activation of vitamin D in the kidneys requires iron-containing compounds ferredoxin reductase and ferredoxin. Iron deficiency may therefore contribute to the inactivation of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency may also be associated with higher hepcidin (a pro-inflammatory mediator) in the liver.  Hepcidin will elevate ferritin stores and down-regulate intestinal absorption of iron from food and impair storage iron release. Hundreds of athletes have used our handy anaemia tool to help determine the likely risk of having low iron or anaemia.

5. Diets containing limited seafood, eggs or dairy such as vegan diets may also reduce vitamin D intake.

6. Insufficient direct UVB exposure (due to smog, cloud cover or latitude), early- or late-day training, indoor training, geographic location further away from the equator and sunscreen use (SPF of 15 lowers vitamin D synthesis capacity by 98%).

7. Disruption to the microbiota and gut inflammation may also affect the availability of vitamin D.

8. In addition some individuals may find it difficult to increase their vitamin D levels if they have low antioxidant status.

9. Medications such as anticonvulsants, corticosteroids, cimetidine, theophylline, statins or the weight loss drug orlistat.

PATHOLOGY TESTING  

As a general guide, Osteoporosis Australia recommends most people should have levels of at least 50 nmol/L at the end of winter, which means people may have higher levels during summer (60-70 nmol/L). However, in order to maintain optimal health, athletes should aim for serum levels over 90 nmol/L ideally between 100 and 130 nmol/L.

Treatment

Daily sunlight exposure on your skin especially on large areas such as the back, chest, legs and arms (25-60 minutes in winter) without suntan cream, is a great way to keep levels topped up. Athletes living in southern states of Australia and New Zealand need 30 minutes of direct skin exposure (springtime) on large areas of skin such as back, arms, chest or legs closer to midday. Athletes living closer to the equator may require 15 minutes before 10 am. During this time avoid putting sunscreen on, then for the rest of the day, cover up. Lunchtime exercise with as much skin exposure as possible (within decency) is a great way to give yourself a vitamin D fix, especially in winter months.

Get tested biannually- before winter and again in spring.

Consume vitamin D-rich foods on a daily basis such as oily fish like cod, salmon, sardines or tuna, egg yolks, sun-dried mushrooms, and fortified milk, butter and fortified cereals. Some individuals may benefit from cod liver oil which also contains vitamin A and essential fatty acids.

When levels are low, take a quality supplement in the correct dosage range and a probiotic. Certain probiotics such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG and Lactobacillus plantarum enhance levels synergistically.

Obtain adequate magnesium-rich foods such as spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, black beans, oyster mushrooms, avocado, figs, yogurt or kefir and banana. Chocolate also contains magnesium.

 

About the Author: Kate Smyth is a Sports naturopath, nutritionist and female-centric running coach. She is the founder of the Athlete Sanctuary- a holistic healthcare clinic for athletes of all levels and sporting codes. Kate has a thirst for knowledge with two bachelor’s and a master’s degree under her belt. She has been involved in sports for many decades and competed for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games marathons with a personal best time of 2 hours 28 minutes. For more information visit www.https://https://athletesanctuary.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/normatec-3-lower-body-system-thumb_720x-1.webp.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Seed-Cycle-Blends-scaled-1.jpg.com.au

Mineral testing for athletes

Mineral and heavy metal testing can help to gain a better understanding of what metals may be impacting on health and what minerals are required to increase to enhance performance and overall health. Optimal nutritional balance is essential for the function of every cell and system in your body.  Obtaining feedback on mineral absorption is just one of the benefits of mineral testing for athletes.

Mineral testing provides a wider perspective on an individual’s overall health status than just urine, blood or stool pathology testing alone although it is always useful to use both tests in conjunction with each other. Mineral testing can be used as an early detector of subclinical issues and provide useful guidelines in terms of how to best support the body when annoying symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia and digestion issues persist.

In clinical practice, test results are always accompanied by a thorough assessment of your overall health and nutritional intake to provide meaningful context to data and to give you a clear understanding of where and how deficits may be occurring.

A mineral analysis may provide insight into your current health status, identify potential areas of concern and provide suggestions around dietary and supplemental measures that may improve your health now and prevent issues in the future.

Mineral testing for athletes- useful insights

Mineral testing provides a snapshot of how the body is utilizing the nutrients obtained from your food and provides an analysis of 13 key minerals. Trends in nutrient deficiencies or excessive mineral levels may indicate poor activation and non-beneficial storage of nutrients.

To demonstrate this point, let’s take a look at calcium. Calcium will be maintained within a very narrow range in blood serum due to its life-supporting roles in managing heart rate, nerves, and muscle function. However, in a mineral analysis high or levels of calcium may be observed.  Low levels of calcium may indicate poor absorption, inadequate intake or other nutrient issues such as low vitamin D, while high levels may be suggestive of low vitamin B6 and poor calcium utilisation in the body.

High calcium levels may also contribute to underactive thyroid issues with symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, low blood pressure and poor mood. Early detection of calcium issues is vital for the prevention of bone issues such as osteopenia, fractures, bone spurs, kidney stones and thyroid issues.

Mineral testing for athletes provides an analysis of how the body is utilizing 13 key nutrients obtained from the athlete’s diet. Longer-term patterns in nutrient deficiencies or excesses may indicate poor activation and non-beneficial storage of nutrients.

To demonstrate this point, let’s take a look at calcium. Calcium will be maintained within a very narrow range in blood serum due to its life supporting roles in managing heart rate, nerves, and muscle function. However, in a mineral analysis high or levels of calcium may be observed.  Low levels of calcium in mineral testing for athletes, may indicate poor absorption, inadequate intake or other nutrient issues such as low vitamin D. High levels in mineral testing for athletes, may be suggestive of low vitamin B6 and poor calcium utilisation in the body.

High calcium levels may also contribute to underactive thyroid issues with symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, low blood pressure and poor mood. Early detection of calcium issues is vital for the prevention of bone issues such as osteopenia, fractures, bone spurs, kidney stones and thyroid issues.

Significance of mineral testing for athletes

A clinical understanding of how an individual metabolises and utilises nutrients can be obtained through various mineral ratios included in a mineral test.  Just some of the ratios contained in the mineral analysis report are outlined below:

Immunity: Low zinc in relation to high copper levels may indicate a susceptibility to viral infections such as colds, cold sore outbreaks or poor wound healing. Zinc is critical to immune cell function and digestion and hydrochloric acid. Reduced digestive function and symptoms such as bloating, diarrhoea, malabsorption and low nutrient levels may also be observed in patients with low zinc.

Iron deficiency and anaemia: As discussed previously in relation to immunity, ceruloplasmin is a protein carrier shared by zinc, copper and iron. If zinc, copper or iron are too high, they may inhibit the absorption of the other minerals. For example -high levels of copper may be observed in women taking the oral contraceptive pill or through drinking water carried in copper pipes.  High copper levels may contribute to iron deficiency anaemia and present as shortness of breath, lethargy, dizziness and exercise fatigue.

Poor liver detoxification: Molybdenum is a key nutrient required for liver detoxification and is frequently low on test results due to reduced intake of foods rich in molybdenum such as legumes. When molybdenum is low in relation to sulfur an individual may experience sluggishness, fatigue, skin issues, and poor recovery related to reduced sulfation detoxification pathways in the liver.

Blood sugar control issues: Manganese and chromium are key nutrients required for blood sugar control. When manganese is low in relation to chromium an individual may experience energy dips, especially after meals, sugar cravings and dizziness or sweating related to poor blood sugar control and fluctuating insulin levels.

Hormone issues: Minerals play a key role in hormone modulation. When iron is low in relation to copper, individuals may complain of fatigue, poor recovery, weakness, loss of libido, irregular periods and hot flushes due to a pattern of low progesterone or testosterone.

Adrenal gland insufficiency: During times of stress, the adrenal gland utilises larger amounts of sodium and magnesium. When sodium levels are low in comparison to magnesium the adrenal gland may be underperforming as it is highly sodium dependent to produce key hormones such as cortisol.

General muscle tightness: Calcium and magnesium are required for bone health and muscle and nerve function. Stiff muscles, bladder issues and immobile joints may present when there is an issue between the ratio of calcium and magnesium in the body.

HEAVY METAL BURDEN
This form of testing may also identify heavy metal burden on the body. Despite a clean lifestyle, individuals can present with unfavourable levels of mercury, arsenic, lead, tin or aluminium largely due to living in a modern environment where exposure to heavy metals occurs on a regular basis.

Contrary to popular belief, heavy metal accumulation does not necessarily occur from occupational exposure. Frequent exposure arises from pesticides; additives and the tinning of foods; dental fillings; drinking water; products and materials used in homes and offices; personal care products and cosmetics.

Heavy metals are neurotoxins and may over time contribute to a plethora of health issues such as thyroid, reproductive and mental health issues, and cancers. Heavy metals displace other key minerals such as zinc, selenium and iron. The presence of these metals may also be indicative of other functional issues such as reduced liver detoxification pathways.

Practicalities of mineral testing for athletes

Mineral testing looks at long-term trends (over 2-3 months) and can be very useful when symptoms or health issues are ongoing and underlying contributing factors are yet to be identified.  Athletes also find mineral balance results useful before they launch a new training campaign as a measure of nutritional status and as a preventative measure against deficiencies that may inhibit performance.

Mineral testing does not require a blood draw and can be conducted in the privacy of your own home.  Test results generally take 2 weeks and are reviewed during an extended consultation.

For further information or to order a test kit email contact us or book in for your initial consultation.

Photo of seed products useful for seed cycling during the menstraul cycle for women

Before we get stuck into the detail, let’s do a quick recap on how seed cycling supports hormones.

Female hormones are regulated through complex signalling and feedback mechanisms. Signals are received and then transmitted by the hypothalamus part of the brain out to the pituitary gland, adrenal glands and then ovaries (the HPAO axis). In times of change or increase physical or emotional stress of any kind, the HPOA axis can become dysregulated.

Symptoms such as longer or irregular menstrual cycles, hot sweats, increased PMS, mood changes, fatigue, changes in bleeding and reduced ability to handle training intensity may appear. These symptoms frequently occur when there is no known structural or functional issue with the ovaries.

In order to reduce symptoms, some women reach for pharmaceutical medications without understanding or being aware they have the potential to further dysregulate long-term hormonal balance and deplete nutrients such as zinc and magnesium.

In addition to medicinal herbs such as Chaste Tree, Schisandra, Kudzu or Rhodiola, seed cycling may provide subtle hormonal support by boosting estrogen levels in the first part of the cycle and progesterone levels in the second part without the possible side effects of other medications.

THE PROCESS

Seed cycling supports hormones by providing nutrient rich foods in the form of seeds at different times of the menstrual cycle.

How to seed cycle
Preparation
Combine ¼ cup of each of the following seeds nominated to the two phases of your cycle. Take your seeds (according to which phase of your cycle you are in) and whiz them in a coffee grinder to break the seeds down into a meal-like consistency.  Make 2 separate jars of seeds.Seed cycling

Follicular phase day 1-14 of your cycle (or until ovulation)= flaxseed + pepitas  (pumpkin seeds)
Luteal phase day 15-28 of your cycle (or post ovulation) = sesame + sunflower seeds

Dose: 1-2 tablespoons of combined ground seeds daily.
How: Add seeds to smoothies, on top of breakfast oats, avocado toast, coconut yogurt or as a garnish on savoury soups, salads or scrambled eggs.  Seed cycling biscuits or brownie mixes are also a great option. Choose whole, organic seeds instead of pre-ground seeds where possible.
Storage: Store ground seeds in an air-tight jar in the fridge to preserve their essential fatty acids from oxidation.
Duration: Most women need to allow 3-4 cycles before expecting changes to occur.

An easy way to ensure you have the right seeds across the month is to purchase a seed cycling kit.

About the Author: Kate Smyth is a Sports naturopath, nutritionist and female-centric running coach. She is the founder of the Athlete Sanctuary- a holistic healthcare clinic for athletes of all levels and sporting codes. Kate has a thirst for knowledge with two bachelor’s and a master’s degree under her belt. She has been involved in sports for many decades and competed for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games marathons with a personal best time of 2 hours 28 minutes. For more information visit www.https://https://athletesanctuary.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/normatec-3-lower-body-system-thumb_720x-1.webp.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Seed-Cycle-Blends-scaled-1.jpg.com.au

PMS

Many women suffer from period pain and other PMS symptoms.  But what most women fail to realise is that it is NOT normal to have severe period pain, heavy bleeding, breast tenderness or discharge, debilitating drops in energy or significant mood swings as part of premenstraul symptoms. A healthy balanced woman can observe her period without experiencing symptoms that impact her quality of life and ability to function.  Pain is just one of the many issues women experience around their monthly cycle, however, it tends to be what prevents us from enjoying life the most.

In naturopathic medicine the overuse of NSAIDS (non-steroid anti-inflammatories) for menstrual cramping or period pain (dysmenorrhea) is cautioned as it may contribute to the erosion of the gut lining and contribute to a digestive condition called leaky gut where the tight junctions within the gut lumen come apart.

Commonly used NSAIDS such as Ibuprofen may provide temporary relief,  but they may also suppress some of the compounds that look after your gut lining. Once damaged, the tight junctions in your gut start to drift apart creating a “leaky gut”. This then allows toxins and larger particles to enter the bloodstream and trigger an immune response, inflammation and gastrointestinal distress. This may go on to contribute to a whole range of systemic issues such as food intolerances, skin issues and immune dysfunction. The good news is that there are lots of great natural solutions for period pain.

Ultimately getting your hormones balanced will assist with the symptoms, but while you are doing that here are a few options to make you more comfortable:

  • Athletes who are competing in their premenstrual phase may consider magnesium, zinc and fish oil at therapeutic doses for at least 5 days before their period is anticipated to reduce cramping and lower abdomen and back pain
  • A hot water bottle or heat pack on your abdomen and/ or lower back
  • Herbs such as cramp bark, turmeric and Black Cohosh may reduce PMS symptoms due to their anti-inflammatory actions and calming action on the uterus.
  • Consume more anti-inflammatory foods like cherries, blueberries, avocado and chia seeds. Fish such as salmon, cod, mackerel, sardines, bream, snapper or flathead high in omega-3 fatty acids, are also healthy choices. Consume more calcium-rich beans, almonds, and dark leafy greens. These foods contain compounds that combat inflammation.
  • Reduce coffee, refined foods and high sugar intake, bread, pasta and anything processed high in trans-fatty acids. These foods may contribute to inflammation and encourage period pain and tender breasts.
  • Sipping chamomile tea may inhibit the pain-causing prostaglandins associated with PMS without the side effects on your gut.
  • Seed cycling can help your body maintain a subtle balance and transition throughout your natural cycle.
  • Ginger and cinnamon are our favourite remedies for period pain. Studies demonstrated these two natural wonders provide the equivalent pain relief as ibuprofen when taken at therapeutic doses.
  • Fennel- Fennel extract can assist with severe menstrual cramps.
  • A combination of both 100mg of vitamin B1 and 500mgs of fish oil daily for 2 months has been shown to significantly reduced period pain.
  • Exercising-Most women find that exercising helps relieve menstrual cramps. Some women find yoga and tai chi are gentler forms of exercise that are more comfortable during the premenstrual phase.

As women, we need to consider our periods as the scorecard for our greater health. If you would like to understand how you can balance your hormones through practical nutrition, and natural medicines we welcome the conversation.

 

About the Author: Kate Smyth is a Sports naturopath, nutritionist and female-centric running coach. She is the founder of the Athlete Sanctuary- a holistic healthcare clinic for athletes of all levels and sporting codes. Kate has a thirst for knowledge with two bachelor’s and a master’s degree under her belt. She has been involved in sports for many decades and competed for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games marathons with a personal best time of 2 hours 28 minutes. For more information visit www.https://https://athletesanctuary.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/normatec-3-lower-body-system-thumb_720x-1.webp.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Seed-Cycle-Blends-scaled-1.jpg.com.au