Naturopath Meghan Donovan joined us on our lasted Unprocessed episode to share her best tips and tricks to maintaining peak health. From the relationship between sugar and inflammation to the importance of hydration and a healthy menstrual cycle, the Aussie health expert leads us through a number of wellbeing essentials.
Meghan first embarked on her naturopathy journey after her first yoga class, as it sparked her interest in the body and how it works. After undergoing extensive training and starting up In Bloom Naturopathy, she’s here to share her wisdom on the core foundations of health. She says it’s so important to get a hold of these pillars of wellbeing.
"Making sure that we’re actually getting the foundations of health right – these things are our diet, our hydration of course, our sleep, exercise and mindfulness or relaxation.”
Health 101: Hydration
The Aussie naturopath says keeping hydrated is one of the best places to start when you’re looking to boost your health, stating that “hydration is one of the foundations of health.”
Meghan reveals some of the signs something’s amiss:
“Number 1, feeling thirsty, and then there’s things like having a dry mouth or noticing some dark-coloured urine, strong-smelling urine, perhaps constipation as well.”
So, how can we prevent dehydration? While the 8 glasses a day myth has been debunked, Meghan says our hydration needs are very personal.
“With most things, water intake is highly individual, so I personally suggest people calculate their water intake needs by their body weight,” said Meghan. “Basically, we need about 33 ml of water per kilo of body weight and you want to add an extra 300 ml per hour of exercise and then another 300 ml per caffeinated or alcoholic beverage as they’re both diuretics.”
The benefits of staying hydrated
The health expert discusses just how beneficial keeping hydrated can be – other than the whole staying alive part, of course!
“When we’re adequately hydrated, Some things you’ll notice – opposed to being dehydrated – is improved cognition, temperature regulation, stabilised energy,” And it’s really important that we’re hydrated so that our water-soluble vitamins can get delivered into our cells and they’re able to be used for proper use which is vital for organ function.”
Let’s take a look at some of those essential water-soluble vitamins:
- Pantothenic acid
- Vitamin B6 and B12
- Vitamin C
Dealing with PCOS
Affecting around 12% of women, PCOS is a massive health concern for women – Meghan says it’s essentially a problem involving ovulation “which will result in the overproduction of androgens” like testosterone, along with lower levels of sex hormone-binding globulin, which is important for androgen regulation. Irregular menstrual cycles are one of the hallmark symptoms of POCS, with many dealing with anything from unpredictable, long periods to the absence of period. Hirsutism – excess hair growth – and hair loss are also associated with the condition, along with weight gain and acne.
Meghan discussed the “4 different types of PCOS,” and the importance in figuring out which one you’re dealing with:
- Insulin-resistant PCOS: This is the most common type of PCOS and it involves high levels of insulin in the body.
- Post-pill PCOS: After coming off birth control, many experience hormonal changes as androgens suddenly resurge after being repressed for so long.
- Inflammatory PCOS: Chronic inflammation can lead to excess androgen production, and therefore PCOS.
- Adrenal PCOS: This is characterised by excess cortisol and/or androstenolone production, with the former also known as the “stress” hormone and the latter a common steroid found in the body.
“They’re all presenting with that elevated androgen, however they all have different drivers.”
Sugar’s relationship with PCOS
“There’s no cure, per say, but you can change your diet, change your lifestyle, implement some therapeutic nutrients in the diet too," Meghan said. "In terms of diet, it really comes down to the recommended diet for the general population.
"What that consists of, is first and foremost making sure we’re eating enough – a lot of women I see in the clinic aren’t eating enough and they’re undernourished which means we’re not consuming enough protein or carbohydrates to create the hormones that are required for regular ovulation."
She says protein and healthy fats are especially important for hormonal harmony.
“That helps stabilise our blood-sugar, it’s required for energy, muscles, neurotransmitters, hormone production,” “In a healthy diet we want to make sure we’re having enough healthy fats as well.”
Take a look at some of Meghan's general guidelines for a healthy diet:
- Consuming organic foods
- Eating a lot of fresh produce
- Avoiding or limiting added sugar
“Refined sugars and refined carbohydrates are going to increase our blood sugar and if you have that insulin-resistant PCOS, that’s going to be driving that, so definitely remove sugar if you have insulin-resistant PCOS and avoid things like trans-fats which can be inflammatory on the body.”
Here are a few of the refined sugar and carb sources worth steering clear of:
- Confectionery and desserts
- Ultra-processed snacks
- White bread and white flour – opt for whole grains like brown rice and wholemeal bread for improved blood-sugar levels.
Along with ditching inflammatory foods, Meghan also says we can include a number of healthful herbs and supplements in our treatment plan. Here are a few of her top recommendations:
Peony and liquorice: “They work really well together; they work synergistically to inhibit testosterone production and to normalise female hormones.”
Myoinositol: Meghan says this supplement “will help improve insulin sensitivity, help reduce androgens and assist in restoring ovulation as well.”
Meghan also recommends supplementing with zinc and magnesium to support insulin sensitivity and the nervous system.
The naturopath says it’s so important to incorporate these health-boosting foods into our lives, especially considering the dire state of treatments for women with reproductive diseases and health issues.
“Often with women’s health conditions, they’re being described the pill for most things whether it’s pain, an absent period or skin, whatever it might be.”
This means the problem isn’t solved, only hidden – and sometimes, worsened, as is the case with post-pill PCOS.
Keen to hear more about more holistic ways to deal with PCOS and other health issues? From understanding menstrual health to conditions like PCOS, Meghan shares everything you’ll want to know about the topic. Watch the full episode here.
If you’re interested in learning more about eating nutritious, nourishing foods that reduce inflammation and boost gut health, join us for the 8-Week Program. We’re all about ditching those inflammatory foods like added sugar and trans fats and opting for real, whole foods.
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