Ep.77: Balance Your Hormones with Magdalena Wszelaki
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Too many women have told me that they’re really healthy, yet they are experiencing hot flashes and drastic mood shifts. Magdalena Wszelaki joins us today to deconstruct the root causes of those abnormal symptoms and discuss how to balance your hormones.
She is the founder of the popular Hormones Balance online community. She is a Certified Holistic Health Coach accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. She received her education from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
She had to leave her very high-pressure advertising career, when her health tanked. She was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease in 2001, Hashimoto’s Disease and adrenal fatigue in 2008, estrogen dominance and high heavy metal toxicity in 2012. She is now in remission from Graves’ and Hashimoto’s, her adrenals feel rested and she has managed to reverse estrogen dominance. I absolutely believe that this can happen because I too am 17 years in remission from Hashimoto’s Disease.
Her work focuses on the healing powers of real food, sleep, and emotional healing. She is driven by her passion to give you hope, knowledge, and direction to self-heal so you get your energy, weight, hair, joy, and optimism where you always wanted them to be.
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
Get Hormone Balancing 20 Superfoods and 20 Power Herbs: HERE
Get the 1st Chapter, 6 Recipes & 5 Cooking Videos from my new book: HERE
Grab your free Seed Rotation Guide
Robyn: Hey everyone, it’s Robyn Openshaw, and welcome back to Vibe. Today we are talking about what to eat, what to cook, and what to shop for if you are concerned that, maybe, you have a hormone imbalance issue.
I’m bringing to you a guest who’s a dear friend of mine. I want to just point out that I cannot even count how many times I’ve had women tell me that they’re actually really, really healthy – and then they want to tell me about how they’re having hot flashes, big ups and downs in their mood, all kinds of symptoms.
I’m going to let Magdalena take them for you and sort of deconstruct this, that, just because your friends are experiencing them, just because your doctor may have told you this is typical for people in mid-life – people heading into peri-menopause, people heading into menopause – just because it’s common, doesn’t mean that it is normal or healthy.
Luckily, there are lots of things that we can do. None of them are particularly hard, and that’s where Magdalena comes in. She is the founder of the popular Hormones Balance online community. She’s a holistic nutrition coach. And like so many other folks that I’ve interviewed on this show, we talked about the wounded healer all the time, about how it’s not just their book learning, it’s not just their degree, or their advanced degree that made them an expert. Usually, they ended up on their knees with their own health issue.
Magdalena developed Hyper-Thyroidism, and then it went to Hashimoto’s, swinging to the two ends of the spectrum. She had adrenal fatigue, she was estrogen dominant; she literally crashed and burned, and had to leave her very high-pressure advertising career. She had to find a completely different, new way of eating so that she could stay healthy and head into middle age with her hormones working smoothly.
And she’s now symptom-free. I absolutely believe that this can happen. I, too, am 17 years going with Hashimoto’s in remission. The way I eat, and the way Magdalena eats, is a little bit different in the sense that I only eat plants, and she eats lots of plants and some animals too. I don’t think that there’s one right way to do it; she feels more strongly than I do. We can ask her about the fact that she believes we do need some meat in our diet, and I’m open to hearing about that.
She is going to share some practical knowledge from her brand new book coming out called Cooking For Hormone Balance. So write that down if you’re wondering what you should eat so that your thyroid, your estrogen, your progesterone, all of these precursor upstream and downstream hormones work well together, so that you’re happy. So that you’re happy, so that you’re slim, so that you are enjoying your life as you head into middle age. Which is when we are supposed to be the happiest of our life, right?
So, welcome to the Vibe show, Magdalena.
Magdalena: Thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited. You’ve got such a great community.
Robyn: We talk about these issues a lot, but we don’t usually get access to someone who’s such a hormone expert. That’s very, very dialed in; we usually talk about the larger issues. You’re coming out with this book; it’s your first book. I know you’ve been absolutely deep in research, and writing and drafting, and I’m so excited for this baby to be born. It’s very unique. It’s Cooking for Hormone Balance. Who did you write this book for?
Magdalena: Pretty much every woman. If you think about it, whether we’re going through PMS, we’re PMSing, or going through peri-menopause, or menopause, or being in post menopause – those are all significant time of changes. And every one of these parts of our lives will have quite a massive hormonal issues going on. And I don’t know about you, but I really haven’t met many women, unless it’s someone who works very diligently on her hormones, [that doesn’t suffer]. I think most of us are compromised in some way or another.
But in a nutshell, to give it a name: it’s for both women who have an intuition something is off, as well as women who have specifically been diagnosed. Whether it’s thyroid, adrenal exhaustion, estrogen dominance, menopause, or what. I also cover PCOS in the book.
Robyn: Okay, so let’s get into just the basics because some people are going to be a little incredulous, like “How is food going to rebalance my hormones? What do they have to do with each other?”
Magdalena: Yeah, so you know, the premise of my book is based on the idea that I use, the analogy of a three-legged stool. If you want to sit comfortably on a stool that’s got three legs, all the three legs need to be firm and of the same length, right? And stable, for you to not to wobble or fall off.
And how this translates to hormonal balance is the same thing. If you want to have a good hormonal balance, the three bodily systems need to be in a really good shape. It’s the health of your gut, it’s the balance of your sugar levels, and it’s how effectively your liver is detoxifying. So basically, it’s gut, sugar, and liver. Those are the three things.
The amazing thing is, when you fix those three things, when you work on them on a very intentional basis, then a lot of the stuff that we do [cures the symptoms]. For example, if I have hot flashes, I’ll do a black cohosh, or do this supplement or that supplement. You free yourself of all of those [issues] when you repair those three, and I see this over and over again. When you lay the foundation for your hormonal balance, a lot of the stuff that you’re doing is for specific conditions and for specific symptoms, that will then all vanish.
This is just going to be examples, not an exhaustive answer by any means, and this is the reason why the book became as big as it is; only about 50% of it is recipes. The first part of the book really sets the context so that our listeners would appreciate what the big deal is about the gut. And, note the science behind it, because I believe that once we understand what’s so important about having the right gut bacteria, then it makes us learn how to eat fermented foods. The elimination diet is to really save the gut, right?
So I really believe in empowering women with science, and that’s the first part of the book. Those are just small talking points, There’s a lot more in there. Just to speak to your question about, for example, digestive health. Whether it is your hormones, or whether you have eczema, or you’ve got constant headaches, you’ve got to take care of it.
The gut bacteria, specifically the microbiome, has a subset of bacteria called the estrobolome. And the estrobolome is something that coats for enzymes then to break down estrogens.
Estrogen is part of a complex hormone in the sense that it gets broken down in the liver, which we’ll talk about in a second. It gets broken down to the good estrogens and the bad estrogens. And the bad estrogens are the ones that are causing a lot of the symptoms, such as fibrocystic breasts, and breast lumps, and pneumatosis, and fibroids, and thyroid nodules. It’s all due to those bad estrogens.
Who would have thought, right? That there are bugs in your digestion, in your gut, in your small intestine, that will code for those enzymes that break down estrogen the right way? I mean, we don’t think of it that way. Not to mention the fact that there are a lot of digestive issues. What I mean by that is like chronic constipation, being bloated, having acid reflux, having bad breath, gas; those are things that, like you mentioned when you opened the podcast, we get so used to feeling this way, that we assume that it’s normal. And I want to assure you that it is absolutely not acceptable to be assuming that.
So just on that point of the gut; it’s a huge point of creating inflammation in the body. So just by doing, for example, the elimination diet, getting rid of all the highly inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, for some people it could be eggs, soy, excessive amounts of sugar, it could bring inflammation down so much that the whole body will rejoice. And the way your hormones are then produced completely changes.
If we talk about liver balance, liver detoxification, that’s my second favorite organ to work with. The liver has seven detoxification pathways. Those are pathways that take care of different toxins. And a lot of times, we think that, well, the liver takes care of maybe alcohol, right? But there’s actually a lot more. It takes care of your caffeine, getting rid of caffeine, bacteria, viruses, yeasts, and hormones, interestingly enough.
And so, different pathways need different nutrients that will attach themselves to and evacuate these toxins, including these metabolized hormones, out of the body. So, that’s the liver part.
Sugar balance is another one. How many people in America eat a muffin and have a cup of coffee for breakfast? So many. Or have a bowl of cereal, which I’m really not a fan of. And I will say, Robyn, one thing: sugar is an interesting one, because when I first moved to the United States, one of the biggest shockers was how much sugar people consume in the country. How many people have massive hypoglycemia at 11am or 3pm, and then they head out to have something sugary to bring up their blood sugar level, which is just adding fuel to the fire.
So the big deal about blood sugar levels is that every time you get to the point of hypoglycemia (that’s when you’re feeling shaky, unfocused, you get in a really bad mood, you’re just a wreck when you’re hungry, and you need sugar to pick up your sugar levels) that is, you go through a state of hypoglycemia, and, unfortunately, it is the function of the adrenals to bring up your blood sugar levels.
As it is, our adrenals already exhausted, as the gland that produce cortisol, your stress hormone. There’s so many triggers we can have in life, whether it’s kids, or family, financial issues, or whatever is stressing you out. Trauma from the past can be hugely contributing.
And then on top of that, you’re exhausting the adrenals further by having these sugar spikes and sugar drops that exhaust us. So this is just a couple of examples, and there’s a lot more.
Robyn: I would love to ask you about some of these very frustrating myths. They’re myths in my opinion, as I dig deep on these different issues over the years. These myths that get sort of passed around the internet, related to hormones. [The myths] are related to foods that are clearly good foods, but there are lots of women who are scared of them because they’ve been told that if a food contains this particular anti-nutrient, they shouldn’t eat it, if they have a thyroid issue for instance. One of them that I want to bring up and hear what you have to say about is the brassica family. Cabbage, broccoli, all of those. There are so many women [who ask], I cannot even count how many times I’ve been asked, or not even asked, sometimes [stated], “My thyroid practitioner told me not to eat cabbage, or broccoli, or broccoli sprouts because I have suppressed thyroid, because I have Hashimoto’s.” What do you have to say about that?
Magdalena: That’s a huge misconception. Anyone you ask, whether it’s Dr. Izabella Wentz, or Dr. Alan Christianson, or Dr. Kharrazian, who really are deep, deep thyroid experts, and very well researched, will tell you that there isn’t a single study that shows that cruciferous vegetables will kill your thyroid, as the myth goes.
Being in private practice for so long, I have never seen a single person who has gone off of cruciferous and can say that they have reversed their thyroid issues or Hashimoto’s. In fact, it is on the contrary.
First of all, let me just say that the myth comes from the fact that there is a substance which can inhibit thyroid function, but it’s not the cruciferous vegetables that will contain it. It will be in the soy family of products. So things like soy milk, soy tofu, in excessive amounts, can to some degree inhibit the thyroid function. But you really have to eat a lot, like drink a quart of soy milk every day, which most people don’t do, to really feel the difference. Now, cruciferous vegetables on the other hand, are hugely beneficial. And I’ll tell you why. You know how I talked about the liver, right? The health of the liver.
It’s really fascinating, the cruciferous; the kales, the broccoli, broccoli sprouts, and cauliflower, and kale, and collard greens, and arugula, which is my personal favorite, watercress, are so amazing in terms of, first of all, they support the liver like crazy. They are huge detoxifiers of the liver. They also contain high amounts of sulfur, which sulfur is one of the compounds needed for the liver, to attach sulfur to evacuate some of the toxins; the pathway is called the sulfation pathway, in case you are curious.
So what’s the big deal about that in the thyroid health? First of all, what we produce in the thyroid is the T4 hormone. And T4 then gets converted to T3. And T3 is a working horse, meaning that’s really what we have receptors for, like in your hair, and the ability of converting fat to energy, or the having of beautiful, healthy skin, having good mental functions – that’s all due to that hormone called T3.
Now, the conversion of T4 to T3 happens, guess where? In the gut, and in the liver. So if you are depriving yourself of these cruciferous vegetables, then you are just basically depriving yourself of the conversion ability. But furthermore, the other thing that they’re hugely beneficial for is that they contain a substance called DIM, Di-indolmethane. And some of our listeners might be taking a supplement like that called DIM, D-I-M, to help their estrogen symptoms, but guess what? It’s naturally occurring in these cruciferous.
And the big deal about that is that they, having sufficient amount of DIM, help with detoxifying estrogen. Because when you have too much estrogen, it drives up this protein called thyroid binding globulin. So you’re having too much of this protein that will attach itself to the thyroid hormone, making less available for the body.
So basically, to shortcut the whole thing if this is too complicated to comprehend, and I know a lot of thyroid patients are having challenges with brain focus and brain fog, so just to make it really simple: those cruciferous vegetables that we are fearing so much, in fact, are going to help you have more thyroid hormone available for your body to utilize. Period.
Robyn: I’m glad you said this, because I feel like somebody went out there and said that if you eat crucifers and you’ve got goitrogens, which is an anti-nutrient in many of those foods, then you’re going to have thyroid suppression. And then somebody else repeated it, and then 10 people repeated it, and 100 people repeated it, but I literally cannot find any evidence. And it sounds like you and the sources that you quote, two of whom are good friends of mine as well, Dr. Alan Christianson and Dr. Izabella Wentz, are having the same experience. I have actually not discussed that with either one of them.
And what I’ve always said to people is that it doesn’t actually make any sense to me. Because there are, if goitrogens interfere, there are anti-nutrients in virtually every good-for-you whole food out there. There’s dozens of nutritional compounds in those foods, dozens, that are known to support thyroid function, so I’m glad you put a fine point on that.
Let’s talk about another one. So many people say, “Oh, I stay away from flax. I stay away from flax seed because it’s estrogenic, and I’m estrogen dominant.” Talk about that one.
Magdalena: Robyn, why don’t I mention estrogen dominance symptoms first, so that our listeners can [understand better].
Robyn: Yeah, because you had been diagnosed with estrogen dominance, and I believe that you eat flax seed, so talk about that for sure.
Magdalena: I do, yeah. So if you are experiencing, just very quickly, things like PMS, infertility, irregular periods, lack of periods, a lot of cellulite around your thighs, butt fat, hip fat, that just will not budge and go away, no matter how much you exercise, but also more serious stuff like thyroid nodules, breast lumps, fibrocystic breasts, estrogen receptor positive breast cancers, fibroids, endometriosis. Those, especially the later ones, are all serious conditions.
Then guess what? It’s all due to this condition called estrogen dominance that Robyn is talking about. So interestingly, the problem with estrogen dominance is that, it’s not that you have too much estrogen, it’s you’ve got too much of estrogen metabolites. And this goes back to the idea of how the estrogens get broken down. That’s one possibility. The other possibility is that you’ve got too much of some of that estrogen, as compared to progesterone. That’s the second scenario. Many people have both things happening.
So let’s talk about the first one. How your body breaks down those estrogens to metabolites will be hugely dictated by, like I mentioned in the beginning of the show, the estrobolomes, or the gut bacteria you have, so bring on the probiotics, or fermented foods, right?
But on the other hand is also, how effective is your liver? The beauty of flax seed is that it’s got so many different properties to help us with the way that these estrogens get broken down. It, first of all, is full of fiber, so it helps with pooping, getting rid of estrogens and other hormones just by evacuation. That’s a big one, an important one. You cannot be constipated and experience good hormonal balance, it just doesn’t exist.
But more importantly, flax seed, when it’s freshly ground, activates those lignins that are in there, that have the property of really blocking estrogen receptors. So, basically, what they do is they attach themselves to the receptor in the cell that will otherwise receive that estrogen. I’m talking about malignant tissue here, so basically, your flax seed will stop the growth of malignant tissues such as fibroids, and pneumatosis, fibrocystic breasts, etc. all the symptoms I talked about.
Furthermore, it also helps the liver to detoxify us. The estrogen is broken down to the good guys and the bad guys, and flax seed can steer the balance towards the protective estrogens, the good estrogens, and not the bad ones.
You know, so it’s fiber, liver support, and blocks estrogen, the bad ones, from coming through. So really, I mean, this is an absolute fantastic super food. And guess what? Like to your point about myth. That’s one of the foods that thyroid patients as well are so scared of. They’re told that this is another goitrogenic food. Just the biggest nonsense. The biggest nonsense.
I cannot tell you how many women I’ve worked with who have thyroid nodules, and just by doing two tablespoons of freshly ground flax seed a day (you don’t want to cook it, you want to have it raw), has taken the nodules away within two months. The nodules are completely gone. So yeah, so thank you for asking this one, this is a big one.
Robyn: Yeah, it’s a really important one, and so many people for all the wrong reasons are avoiding this really powerful food. Magdalena mentioned that it’s full of fiber. It’s full of both kinds of fiber, and one of the things that the soluble fiber is doing is it’s mopping up all those bad estrogens. So once again, your research is totally spot on, and I’m really glad to hear you advocate for this really, really helpful food that does not lead to breast cancer, which I keep hearing from people.
What would you say are some super foods that someone on any end of the hormone spectrum, if they’re feeling imbalanced, that any of us can use that’ll help us get balanced? Whether we’re still menstruating, whether we are peri-menopause, whether we are menopausal: super foods.
Magdalena: You know what? I’ve got a list here, and I’m going to read it out to you, and you help me pick whichever one you want me to dive into. Sounds good?
Magdalena: Okay. So we covered flax seed and cruciferous vegetables. I also have broccoli sprouts, pomegranates, livers, bone broths, or vegetable broths, we can talk about that; I also have power herbs such as cacao, dandelion leaf, and dandelion root, maca, matcha, medicinal mushrooms like Reishi and Cordyceps, Astragalus, Tulsi. Tulsi is an herb. Anything stands out, Robyn?
Robyn: No. Those sound great, and can we put them in our green smoothie?
Magdalena: All of them, absolutely. Yeah.
Robyn: I saw an infographic you have. It’s incredible. Talk to us about seeds. You know, like sunflower seeds; you’ve talked a little about flax seeds; [tell us about] different seeds we might eat, and what they have to do with rebalancing our hormones.
Magdalena: It’s called the seed rotation method, and it’s a really simple way of rebalancing your estrogen and progesterone levels. And this really applies to women who are still menstruating, or going through the crazy time called peri-menopause, or if you’re going through menopause currently – everyone’s going to benefit from this method.
It’s really simple. If you’re still menstruating, day one of your period is also day one of seed cycling. So from day one to day 14 [is the cycle]; assuming that your [menstrual] cycle is 28 days, then you just cut it in half, right? So let’s just say from day one to day 14, you do seeds to boost your estrogen levels.
And you basically start off with flax seed and pumpkin seeds, one tablespoon ground each. Don’t cook them, because you want the lignins to be fully phytoavailable, and you’ll be putting that in your smoothies, putting that on top of salads, or sprinkling on top of a soup, whatever, even just a glass of water. I just have it in a glass of water when I’m traveling.
And so that’s that, and that’s really going to help you build up your estrogens, including the good estrogens. And then, day 15 to day 28, you want to do seeds to promote progesterone production. And that will be a tablespoon ground each of sesame seeds and sunflower seeds.
There is no progesterone found in any food, but what you can do is we can help the body to produce its own progesterone by giving it good supplies of zinc and vitamin E, which is exactly what sunflower seeds and sesame seeds do.
If this is complicated, or you are driving right now, just get the guide when you stop that we are giving away. And that gives you the chart, and shows you the recipes as well: what to do with the seeds. But basically that’s the principle of it.
I will say, Robyn, when I first was told about this method, when I was told that this is a really good one for women who are having no periods or very irregular periods, I thought, “How are these seeds going to help someone who’s got a really serious problem?” But it really started helping when I was in practice. I started using it about seven years ago, and one woman after another started coming back and saying, “Oh my God, I can’t believe it.” Some women as quickly as within a month would feel the benefits, and others within two; sometimes three months will be needed to really feel it.
Hot flashes, I know it’s something that a lot of women suffer from, night sweats. It’s just like there’s nothing worse, waking up in a bed of sweat and having to change the bed sheets. Or the hot flash; you just never know when it’s going to hit you, right? Or having cellulite, like doing a downward dog and then looking at your thighs, and it’s got just this cellulite. You go like, “I did not have this last year. What’s going on here?” And so the seed rotation is a really powerful tool to reverse and manage all these conditions.
Robyn, I will say that there is [one issue] with flax seed; we call it a paradoxical food. I see 5% of women who try it do have a different reaction to what we were expecting it to have, so I really want to urge our listeners to tune into your body. When you do especially the estrogenic parts, the flax seeds and the pumpkin seeds, if you feel like your breasts are becoming more tender, if your PMS has actually gotten worse, then you’re going to stop it.
In my cookbook, there’s a lot of other tools you can bring in to manage your estrogen. That’s not the only one; this is just one of the many tools that I teach. But you know, that’s like with a lot of foods, right? You know this, Robyn; when we met, I had a problem with oxalates, so all these super healthy foods like cacao, and nuts and seeds and grains, I couldn’t eat them because I had a problem with these foods. There was something going on with my gut, and I was sensitive.
So the point is that even a healthy food can be having a different reaction for you. So just really tune into your body, and see. But from what I have experienced, 95% of women really benefit from seed rotation.
Robyn: And we always have to mention when we’re talking about anything, you know, that we can’t speak categorically about what a specific food will do for a specific person because we are all individuals. I have my own specific reactions.
I was just saying that I don’t want to drink any coffee after a meal. I won’t even feel the buzz from it, and I don’t really like coffee, I just like the buzz occasionally. And that just an example of how this may or may not apply to you. These are some principles to learn about and are still super-valuable, but maybe for someone who has an estrogen dominant breast cancer, or depending on the meds that you’re taking, there’s a possibility that flax isn’t appropriate for everybody.
But I do like busting the myths that just get recirculated on the internet, because there’s far too many of these strange dogmas that get repeated and repeated. And people with oxalate issues are a significant but small minority of people who have to stay away from greens.
On our cooking show that you and I did earlier today, you said you stay away from spinach. You said because it’s overdone and boring, but my guess is probably also from your days of avoiding oxalates, right?
Magdalena: Absolutely, and speaking of what [you were saying], anything that, I feel, we were not born with, we can grow into developing some kind of sensitivity. It’s not the food that needs to be blamed. The question I think to ask is, “What is it that my body is missing, or not doing right? What support do I need to help break down these foods like oxalates, and evacuate them, rather than let them store in my body?” And, causing this horrendous thing that I was experiencing, in my case.
So you’re right, I think I have a little bit of trauma left from the whole spinach [ordeal] because it’s so high in oxalates, and so is cacao.
I was basically diagnosed with SIBO, which stands for Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. It’s about nasty bugs, and h.pylori. And ever since I cleared that, I can eat high oxalate foods again with no problems whatsoever, and I don’t have the symptoms that I had before.
Robyn: Okay, so that is a really great life lesson, and really helpful for anyone who’s having some kind of food reactivity issues that we do heal. When we heal our gut, which Magdalena has gone into the work of doing, we can turn those things around and not be reactive to foods that we were a year ago, or a month ago.
You can also go get a free first chapter, and get started. She’s giving you six of her recipes to get started with, and video demos of them. So again, you can get either one of those resources, or we will point to the book on pre-order, and she probably has some bonuses that come with it. We’ll round all that up, so take a look.
Let’s talk a little bit about women in peri-menopause and menopause. What are a few tips that will help them with symptoms, because a lot of our audience is like 45 and older. You’re 45, I’m 51, we’re super intrigued in how we can manage peri-menopause and menopause. What do you know?
Magdalena: Awesome. I think this is also the time when women really begin to take care of themselves. So peri-menopause. First of all, there is no normal when you go through peri-menopause. There is really no reason for you to be angry, or surprised, or thinking, “What am I doing wrong?” That now [your] period is coming back every 16 days, and it’s two days; it used to be 30 days and be five days long. Everything is changing. The name of the game with peri-menopause: there is no normal.
What we can mitigate though, is how severe the symptoms are. And you know, Robyn, I actually hit peri-menopause about three months ago. I’m beginning to really see it coming on, as in my period. The duration is getting significantly shorter, and the cycles are way shorter now as well.
And so what we can do to support ourselves is to really make some dietary changes, that I’ll talk about in a second, so that you are not as symptomatic, you are not as erratic, you’re not PMSing as badly; but it’s perfectly normal to be going through the change. And then, hitting menopause: one of the biggest things is obviously hot flashes. So the one big thing that really supports both peri-menopause and menopause is blood sugar control. If you were one of those people who start off your breakfast with a bowl of cereals or a smoothie that’s like packed with sugar, like mangoes, and bananas, and dates; I’m sorry to say, but even if it’s from natural sugars, it can be a sugar-bomb.
It’s something like, a tropical fruit type of a smoothie can contain as many as 12 to 15 teaspoons of sugar, just as hello in the morning. And when you do that first thing in the morning, you basically setting yourself up for disaster. Because three hours later, or for some women, even shorter than that, your blood sugar levels are going to drop to drastically, you’re going to go into a place of hypoglycemia, and for a lot of women, that will translate to hot flashes.
Hot flashes oftentimes happen because your blood sugar levels drops, and coffee can be a big contributor as well. Sugar balance is also largely dictated by how inflamed you are. I have seen incredible improvements, Robyn, when I work with women who struggle with peri-menopause and menopausal symptoms to really contain the blood sugar levels, and do an anti-inflammatory diet.
A big part of my cookbook is describing how to do the elimination diet. There’s many different types out there, but I think the point is to take out those well-known inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, soy, and corn. My cookbook is free of eggs because I find that 50% of people react to eggs and the other 50 don’t. So you kind of have to figure out – and I teach that in the book – how to do that, to reintroduce the foods, and decide if eggs are for you or not. The minimal amount of sugar, and just that kind of anti-inflammatory response, is going to help with the symptoms tremendously.
That’s the first thing. The second thing I will say, is that supporting your liver when you are going through this, just making it easier for the liver to get rid of those metabolized hormones that I talked about, can be super-helpful. It’s going to help tremendously with the symptoms because, you’ve got to remember, the symptoms, a lot of the time, happen because of these bad estrogens. Because there’s not enough progesterone that you’re producing and so just doing that is a huge, huge relief.
And you know, Robyn, I know there’s a lot of women who go like, “Yeah, but you know, I can take black cohosh, my whatever practitioner told me, or I read that I can do black cohosh, or maca, or whatever, for my hot flashes.” But the thing is that, to me, that’s just replacing one pill with another. I think we are a pill-popping society.
And it’s not our fault, we’ve been conditioned for years, probably by the cultural and pharmaceutical companies, we’ve been trained that there is a pill for everything. We can’t sleep, we pop a pill. We don’t want to get pregnant, we pop a pill. We don’t want to have a hot flash, we pop a pill. And so a lot of people, I feel like, substitute prescription medication with another supplement or another herb. Without really addressing the root cause of the whole thing.
So think of it as a little bit like, if you have a leaking roof, and you start having a massive leak in the corner of your house in your room, what would you do? Would you slap on some paint in that room, or would you call a roof expert and get it repaired? So to me, it’s like, for example, taking a black cohosh alone – it’s slapping that paint over the mold that’s accumulating instead of fixing the leak.
Versus doing the elimination diet, rebalancing your blood sugar levels. That’s really going to be the foundation. That’s going to be a roof fixing, so to speak. Then you take care of, not just hot flashes, but a lot of other symptoms that start going away, including that stubborn fat around the belly which most women in menopause beginning to experience. Forgetfulness, and mood swings, [go away]. Just incredible changes start happening when we do that, so really do the liver support, go on an anti-inflammatory diet. I know [Robyn] teaches a lot of that, and you’re going to really feel so much better.
Robyn: Will you talk a little bit about your hormone imbalance story, and what has you now in ideal health? A month ago, you were off skiing. Was it longer than a month ago? You literally had double hip replacement due to birth injuries, and you are a walking miracle. And I think it has everything to do with the way that you are living, and the things that you teach in your book. But talk a little bit about your whole story, and what put your Hashimoto’s into remission.
Magdalena: A lot of times we tell our story from the time we’re diagnosed, right? Like you mentioned Hashimoto’s: I was diagnosed with it in 2008. But you know, Robyn, my story started so much earlier than that. I was born in 1973, and my mom believed, was just sold a story, that powdered milk was more nutritious than her own milk, so she never breast fed me.
One month old, I already ended up in a hospital with pneumonia. I don’t remember much as a child, but one of my earliest memories was to be taken to a hospital for ear drainage, because I had constant sinus and ear infections and so much pus that they had to basically use a tube to get rid of it.
And all of that was, as I later found out, due to food sensitivities. And growing up in a traditional Western family, we were obviously eating a lot of gluten, and dairy and eggs. Which now today I know I have a big sensitivity to, even though today I can eat them actually and not react anymore, but I don’t because I don’t want to trigger anything.
And then later, these food sensitivities converted to other issues. Oftentimes they evolve, and in my early 20’s, it was cystic acne. You know, Robyn, I was covered with pimples, very deep. Cystic acne is not just a pimple, it’s like it’s a volcano that’s on your face. And they were on the sides of my face, on my chest, on my back. I never owned a shirt with an open top or front because I was just so embarrassed. And you cannot cover this with makeup. The face, to some degree yes, but not your back. And constant headaches, terrible PMS’s, always a lot of water retention, migraines – I couldn’t leave the house without having Tylenol in my bag. And I was always bloated.
I still remember having a bowl of pasta, or a traditional latte, and feeling like looking like a three-month pregnant woman. The epiphany for me came when I saw, by accident, an article on Yahoo that said why it is that Papa New Guinea children and teenagers do not have pimples. And I thought, “Holy moly, they don’t have pimples? I thought we were told that it was normal to have pimples when you are 16 years old.” And here I was, 24 and covered still.
And the article said that it’s because they don’t eat processed foods and gluten, and I thought, “Ha, what is that?”
So, long story short, I started looking into food, and my acne has significantly improved. But what I think triggered Hashimoto’s, almost 10 years later, was the combination of stress, a lot of traveling; I was in a regional job, as you mentioned, advertising. I was working on iconic brands, I think it was also that the job really validated how good I was, but I was in a different country every week.
And I was the girl who was taking the flight on Sunday night to be ready for a Monday meeting, working on my slides and working out of hotel rooms, and eating crappy airplane and hotel food. So it was that combination and living in China, a super-toxic place, that I think contributed. It’s stress, lack of sleep; I used to be a smoker; I was also over-exercising. I was a semi-professional athlete, had my own team, so in order to train, I would get up at 5:00 in the morning and hit the gym before I go to work. And then come home at 9:00 most of the time.
When you work in advertising… it’s like for those of you who have watched Madmen, that’s a very precise description of what the industry looks like. So I think with all of that, the whole combination of that and just not eating very good food with lack of sleep, has really triggered Hashimoto’s. It was like a perfect storm.
But it was also a very awakening moment, in a sense that I didn’t know how I was going to reverse it, but I knew that, intuitively, I had to either quit my job or do something to get better, because what I was doing was killing me.
And you know Robyn, back then in 2008, there was only one book about thyroid. So I got it express shipped to Shanghai where I was living, and all it said was I have to stop eating soy and bok choy. That’s all it was. Once I understood I had autoimmunity, that it wasn’t a thyroid problem, it was an autoimmune problem, I started digging deeper. I discovered all the rest of it, that I teach today: doing the anti-inflammatory diet, and how to avoid these different foods. Rebuild your digestion. Support your liver. Getting enough sleep. Detoxify, which is a big part of what you do.
All of that, and definitely the estrogen dominance, adrenal fatigue along the way.
Fast-forward today. As a 45 year old woman, I feel better than I felt when I was 25. And as you said, even with the double hip replacement. Which, by the way, was not my choice. I fought it for three years, but I gave up the fight because I had too much damage in the hips; it basically was an inherited thing, plus an accident at birth.
The doctor calls me a miracle patient, and I’m thinking to myself, “I wish that you had told more patients how to prepare and recover from a surgery, because when you have an anti-inflammatory diet, and the nutrient dense nutrition in your life, and good sleep, and you’re supported by community, just incredible things can happen.”
Robyn: Ah, that is so hopeful, and I appreciate your sharing your story. I know it’s been a long, long process, and I think everything has come together in your book to share the very best bits that you’ve learned.
Magdalena’s book, coming out April 10th, 2018, is called Cooking for Hormone Balance, and thanks so much for being with us, Magdalena.
Magdalena: Oh my gosh, I’m so grateful to be here. Thank you so much, Robyn.
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