By: Dr. Chantell Groenewald (M. Tech Hom UJ)
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to eating. Insulin's function is to store the energy from our food either as glycogen (stored in the liver and the muscles cells) or fat in adipose tissue stores.
Our cells require glucose (from the food that we eat) for energy. Insulin receptors on the cell surface act as a key-and-lock, binding with insulin in the blood to 'unlock' channels for glucose absorption into the cell. When cells become insulin resistant, our pancreas secretes more insulin in an attempt to absorb glucose into cells.
Increased visceral adipose tissue (central obesity) raises cortisol levels due to the high levels of inflammation caused by excessive inflammation markers secreted in adipose tissue. Cortisol is secreted to combat raised inflammatory markers. Cortisol (also known as the fight and flight hormone) directly inhibits the effects of insulin to ensure adequate levels of glucose during the fight and flight response. So chronically elevated cortisol causes cells to become insulin resistant, causing the pancreas to to increase insulin secretion . Now as I mentioned earlier, insulin serves to increase stored energy, so elevated levels of insulin favors fat deposition.
Fat cells = increased cortisol = insulin resistance = higher levels of insulin = increased fat deposition.
So, fat makes you fat.
Here are five tips to combat insulin resistance:
1. Intermittent fasting (IF).
Speak to your doctor to find out if this is an option for you. IF has been proven to reduce insulin resistance to increase your cells sensitivity to insulin.
2. Eliminate all forms of sugar from your diet, this includes honey, sweetners and sugar substitutes (non-nutritive sweetners such as aspartame).
3. Eliminate refined and fast releasing carbohydrates from your diet.
4. Avoid food that contain additives that can cause an insulin spike, this includes foods such as maltodexrin, corn syrup, high fructose syrup and maize/corn starch.
5. Eat a balanced diet with at least 7 servings of vegetables each day.
Remeber to include healthy fats such as coconut and olive oil and only use grass fed, organic, hormone free meat and animal products.
For more information, or to book an appointment for a weight loss assessment, please phone the NHCC on 0124609216.
By: Dr. Chantell Groenewald (M. Tech Hom UJ)
Aromatase is an enzyme responsible for the biosynthesis of oestrogen through aromatizing androgens.
Aromatase is secreted by the ovaries, testes, adrenal glands, placenta and adipose tissue (fat).
Increased adipose tissue = increased aromatase = increased conversion of androgens to oestrogens = oestrogen dominance = difficulty losing weight.
In women of child bearing age, up to 50% of circulating oestrogen can be produced by adipose tissue. In post menopausal women, 100% of oestrogen is produced by fat cells.
When oestrogen / progesterone raitio is healthy, then oestrogen plays a very important role in maintaining health. When oestrogen levels surge, causing oestrogen dominance (such in overweight patients secreting high amounts of oestrogen from increased aromatase activity in the fat cells), then oestrogen contributes to weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Oestrogen plays an important role in insulin sensitivity, with oestrogen dominance contributing towards insulin resistance and increased fat accumulation.
Increased fat accumulation = increased aromatase activity = increased oestrogen = increased insulin resistance = increased fat accumulation.
Fat propagates fat, making weight loss a lot more difficult than a simple equation of eat less exercise more.
In order to reverse the effects of weight gain due to oestrogen dominance, it is essential to facilitate healthy oestrogen metabolism. Here are 5 diet and lifestyle tips to help manage oestrogen dominance.
1. Support optimal liver detoxification. The liver is a major site for oestrogen metabolism. Increased oestrogen load causes an increased load on the liver. Facilitating optimal phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification assists in healthy oestrogen metabolism and a healthy oestrogen vs progesterone balance.
2. Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables contain sulphorophane which is very import in phase 2 detoxification of the liver, optimizing oestrogen metabolism.
3. Avoid environmental and lifestyle factors that can contribute towards oestrogen dominance. Plastic containers, beauty and body products, pesticides and other chemicals contain xenoestrogens that contribute towards oestrogen dominance. Always opt for organic body and beauty products, soak fresh produce in anti-pesticide spray before consumption. Avoid plastic food and beverage containers. This is only a few examples, for more info visit my previous article on oestrogen dominance.
4. Avoid conventionally reared meat and animal products (milk, cheese, butter, ghee, yogurt). Laden with hormomes, this is a potent source of exogenous oestrogen. Opt for organic, grass fed meat and animal products instead.
5. Exercise. Mild to moderate exercise helps to upregulate protective genes, mobilize fat stores, regulate cortisol and improve insulin sensitivity. Start with walking at least 10 000 steps every day. This is a great start in general fitness.
For more information on obstacles to weight loss, follow @the_female_health_homeopath or www.naturopathichealthcarecentre.co.za for my next article on this topic.
By: Dr. Chantell Groenewald (M. Tech Hom UJ)
The fat around your belly button is a special type of fat called visceral adipose tissue (VAT). This fat surrounds your organs inside your abdominal cavity including your liver, pancreas and intestines.
VAT is composed of 10% macrophages (a white blood cell that is meant to control inflammation). When homeostasis is disrupted by higher amounts of fat storage, macrophages become pro-inflammatory and secrete several pro-inflammatory markers including IL-6. IL-6 levels are directly proportionate to your waist circumference(WC) - increased WC=increased IL-6.
So the more weight you carry around your waist, the higher your inflammatory markers.
So how does this affect weight loss?
The answer is not straightforward, but the short answer is that increased inflammation = increased cortisol (the anti-inflammatory hormone). Increased cortisone suppresses insulin which eventually leads to insulin resistance. Your pancreas compensates for the insulin resistance by secreting higher than normal levels of insulin, and as we know, insulin favors fat storage.
Increased fat = increased IL-6 = increased cortisol = insulin resistance = increased fat.
Fat propagates fat.
To lose weight, you have to take into consideration the obstacles to weight loss created by the biochemical and metabolic imbalances created by visceral adipose tissue. Eating less and exercising more won't cut it! It will only leave you frustrated and ready to give up.
So step one in losing weight: fight the inflammation!
How can you do this?
1. Eliminate pro-inflammatory foods. This includes conventionally raised aimal products (milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, animal fat),
2. Include foods that can fight the inflammation, ginger, curcumin, omega 3 rich foods),
3. Moderate exercis,
4. Get enough sleep, 7-8 hours of good quality sleep every night),
5. Drink a good quality omega 3 with a high ratio of EPA.
To be continued in a second installment tomorrow...
By. Dr. Chantell Groenewald
M. Tech Hom UJ
Is your oestrogen dominance the reason why your are struggling to lose weight?
What is oestrogen dominance?
We have two hormones that play a key role in preparing our uterine lining for pregnancy each month, oestrogen and progesterone. This is however not their only function and both hormones play a major role in many of our bodily functions, including but not limited to weight loss, libido and mental health. There should be a balance between the amount of oestrogen versus progesterone secreted, with anything between a 100 – 500 ratio being normal. Anything lower than 100 is seen as oestrogen dominance.
What are the signs and symptoms of oestrogen dominance?
1. Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
2. Difficulty conceiving (especially in the presence of low progesterone)
3. Headaches and migraines
4. Excessive PMS symptoms
5. Bloating of the stomach
6. Hair loss
7. Anxiety and depression
8. Decreased libido and sex drive
9. Fatigue and decreased energy
Higher than normal oestrogen levels (or rather an abnormal normal oestrogen versus progesterone ratio) can occur due to three mechanisms:
1. Excessive production of oestrogen in the body:
This can happen when you are overweight. Fat cells not only store fat but also acts as an endocrine gland secreting oestrogen, further exacerbating oestrogen dominance and further weight gain,
2. Activation of oestrogen receptors from exogenous oestrogen such as xenoestrogens:
Xenoestrogens are bad oestrogen found from sources outside our bodies in products such as cosmetics, plastic bottles, pesticides etc, and
3. Lower than normal levels of progesterone:
DHEA is the building block for cortisol as well as progesterone, during periods of stress our bodies favour the production of cortisol, which is OK if it is only for short periods of time, but this becomes a major issue when we suffer from chronic low level stress.
Why do we need adequate progesterone levels and normal oestrogen versus progesterone ratio’s? Well, progesterone counters all the nasty side effects of too much oestrogen and is responsible for:
1. Boosting body temperature and metabolism
2. Promotes healthy libido and sex drive
3. Promotes healthy thyroid functioning
4. Lowers blood pressure
5. Has a calming effects on the brain and acts as a natural antidepressant
6. Boosts immune system
7. Retains bone density
8. Maintains healthy uterine lining for pregnancy
9. Natural diuretic
10. Helps promote healthy insulin levels.
Weight loss efforts are often futile if you suffer from oestrogen dominance. Testing your oestrogen versus progesterone ratio is as easy as having a blood test done for serum oestrogen and progesterone levels during two key phases of your cycle. Correcting oestrogen dominance helps us feel happier, healthier and assists in long term and permanent weight loss.
For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us at The Naturopathic Health Care Centre.
By Dr. Chantell Groenewald (M. Tech Hom UJ).
Estrogen dominance refers to an imbalance in the ratio of the female hormones estrogen versus progesterone. This ratio is crucial considering estrogen acts as an 'on switch' while progesterone acts as the 'off switch' for many processes in our body. An imbalance in this ratio is responsible for chronic diseases including, but not limited to endometriosis, uterine fibroids, endometrial and breast cancer as well as fibrocystic breast disease.
Estrogen dominance can be caused by three mechanisms:
Excessive production of estrogen in the body,
Activation of estrogen receptors from exogenous estrogen such as xenoestrogen, and
Lower than normal levels of progesterone.
Estrogen dominance can be determined by a serum estrogen and progesterone blood test, however these results are not always accurate and a diagnosis can be made based on the clinical picture.
Here are 10 signs of estrogen dominance
Weight gain and difficulty loosing weight
Difficulty conceiving (especially in the presence of low progesterone)
Headaches and migraines
Excessive PMS symptoms
Bloating of the stomach
Anxiety and depression
Decreased libido and sex drive
Fatigue and decreased energy
Here are 5 diet and lifestyle changes to implement to help reduce estrogen dominance:
Eat at last 5 - 7 servings of vegetables each day. Include raw and cooked vegetables and plenty of cruciferous and allium vegetables. Vegetables help rewire your biochemical pathways and assists in estrogen metabolism.
Avoid plastic containers. This includes water containers and food packaged in plastic.
Plastic is a rich source of xenoestrogens.
Eat organic produce and free range reared live stock. This helps reduce exposure to growth hormones and pesticides that contribute to estrogen dominance.
Include plenty of fiber including insoluble fiber in your diet. Fiber helps facilitate healthy metabolism of estrogen.
Use organic skin care products. What you put in your body is just as important as what you put on your body. Non organic skin care products contain products that become xenoestrogens when absorbed through the skin.
By Dr. Chantell Groenewald M. Tech Hom (UJ)
What is infertility.
Infertility is defined as not conceiving or carrying an infant full term after having regular unprotected sex for at least 12 months. According to Parent24, an estimated 15-20% of couples in South Africa struggle with infertility.
Causes of infertility in women:
Factors that play a crucial role in creating a neighbourhood conducive to conceiving include:
“Parenting begins the moment you make any conscious effort to care for your own health in preparation for enhancing your child’s conception.” Carista Luminare-Rosen
By: Dr. Chantell Groenewald (M.Tech Hom UJ)
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is our body’s immune reaction following damage to tissue, to localize and eliminate the injury or infection. Acute inflammation has many triggers including:
This acute response is crucial to life, however when inflammation become chronic then it negatively impacts our health. Chronic inflammation happens when the triggering substance is not entirely eliminated, this can include but is not limited to:
Chronic inflammation damages healthy tissue. Most adults have chronic inflammation that goes undetected by physicians, fuelling disease. Research suggest that chronic inflammation either promotes or is the direct cause of many diseases including:
What role do our genes play in inflammation?
Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFA) and Interleukin-1 (IL-1) play a key role in the regulation of inflammation. Some individuals have variations in their nucleotide base pairs that favours the expression of IL-6, IL-1 and TNFA which in turn promotes inflammation. While most underlying causes of inflammation can be addressed, we cannot change our genes, so these individuals need to take special care in terms of diet and lifestyle interventions to combat inflammation.
What are the special investigations to identify inflammation?
Article by Dr. Chantell Groenewald M. Tech Hom (UJ)
DR. Chantell Groenewald
M. Tech Hom (UJ)
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is the most common hormonal disorder affecting women of child bearing age. It is a chronic disease affecting the functioning of the ovaries causing excessive male hormones to be secreted and is characterized by:
What causes of PCOS?
The cause for PCOS is poorly understood, but genetic and environmental factors seem to play an important role. There is a hormonal dysregulation at play, which includes
What are the diagnostic criteria for PCOS?
The current diagnostic criteria for PCOS is at least two of the three following characteristics:
What are the signs and symptoms of PCOS?
The signs and symptoms of PCOS varies from one woman to the next. Here is a list of the most common symptoms:
What are the natural treatment protocols for PCOS?
1. Losing weight
This is vital in controlling insulin sensitivity, reversing insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome (triad of elevated insulin, cholesterol and blood pressure) and will aid in controlling the production of excess androgens by the ovaries. A carefully selected diet may assist in weight loss. There are various options including low carbohydrate, intermittent fasting, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic eating programs to choose from. The correct eating plan can reduce inflammation and help control insulin levels and manage dysregulation of hormones.
2. Controlling stress
Excess cortisol produced by the adrenal glands during periods of high stress has a profound effect on our hormones. Long term expose to higher than normal levels of cortisol translate into insulin resistance, weight gain and hormonal imbalances. Getting enough sleep is also vitally important in regulating cortisol levels.
There are various supplements that can aid in controlling blood sugar, reducing excess androgen production and balancing female hormones. A qualified practitioner can prescribe the correct supplements to help manage each individual case. Some supplements that have been suggested to benefit cases of PCOS include:
I.Chaste Tree: May be beneficial in regulating erratic ovulation, acne, oligomennorrhoea and amenorrhoea, ovarian cysts and assist in sleep maintenance.
II.Inositol: specifically, myo-inositol, is a vitamin like substance found in many plants and produced in our bodies. There are various studies that illustrates the beneficial effects of myo-inositol in the treatment of PCOS.
III.Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency effects an estimated 60-70% of people. The only way to test if you are vitamin D deficient is by doing a blood test (supplementing without confirmed deficiency is dangerous and should be done under the supervision of a primary health care physician). Vit D plays an important role in maturation of eggs and ovulation.
IV.Folic acid, omega 3, calcium, magnesium, zinc, n-acetylcysteine and chromium are a group of supplements that may be beneficial in the treatment of PCOS.
There are various case studies that demonstrates the beneficial effects of specific homeopathic remedies to aid in the treatment of PCOS. Following a consultation, a homeopath can prescribe a remedy that suites each individual case.
Moderate exercise assists in both stress management and weight loss, which aids in controlling cortisol as well as insulin levels.
PCOS is a silent disorder with an estimated 50% of woman being not being diagnosed correctly. The potential long-term health risks of PCOS include sleep apnoea, endometrial cancer, fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, cardiometabolic disease and more. There are several ways to naturally balance our hormones and reverse the effects of PCOS
By Dr. Chantell Groenewald (M. Tech Hom UJ)
What are Fibroids?
Fibroids, also known as uterine myomas or leiomyomas, are the most common benign (non-cancerous) tumours of the female reproductive system with an estimated 80% of women being affected by the age of 50. Fibroids are abnormal uterine growths composed of smooth muscle cells and fibrotic tissue that can range in size from pea size to the size of a grapefruit. These fibroids may be asymptomatic in some women while causing severe menstrual issues for others and the leading indication for a hysterectomy.
There are different types of fibroids classified according to their location, these include:
• Intramural fibroids: Situated within the muscular wall of the uterus,
• Subserosal fibroids: Located on the outside of the uterus called the serosa,
• Pedunculated fibroids: A subserosal tumour that develops a stem,
• Submucosal fibroids: These fibroids grow in the middle muscular layer of the uterus called the myometrium, and
• Cervical Fibroids: These fibroids take root at the cervix.
What causes Fibroids?
The exact cause of fibroids is unknown; however, their growth is dependant on the steroid hormones Oestrogen and Progesterone and specific growth factors.
Some risk factors for the development of uterine fibroids include:
• Genetics: a family history of fibroids
• Race: Woman of African descent are at a higher risk of developing fibroids
• Puberty: Fibroids have not been observed in girls before their first menses
• Age: Premenopausal woman are exposed to elevated levels of oestrogen for prolonged periods of time
• Consumption of alcohol
• High blood pressure
• Being overweight or obese
Symptoms of Fibroids?
Fibroids can often go unnoticed without symptoms. Symptoms vary depending on the size, number and location of the fibroid or fibroids and include:
• Heavy, prolonged menstrual bleeding, or bleeding between periods;
• Dysmenorrhea (painful periods);
• Pelvic and lower back pain;
• Painful intercourse;
• Difficulty conceiving;
• Urinary frequency; and
• Abdominal distention.
How are Fibroids diagnosed?
Fibroids are usually diagnosed during a routine pelvic examination. A transvaginal ultrasound or a pelvic MRI is used to confirm the diagnosis.
What are the natural treatment options for Fibroids?
Until recently large or multiple fibroids were removed surgically via a myomectomy and in severe cases a hysterectomy is performed. There are also several minimally invasive treatment protocols which include forced ultrasound surgery which uses high frequency sound waves to ablate the fibroids, cryomyolisis, endometrial ablation and uterine artery embolization. These treatment protocols are effective in removing current fibroids, but it does not address the mechanism of the fibroid growth and often fibroids return.
To naturally treat fibroids, it is important to address the mechanism of fibroid growth and this is focussed on addressing the elevated levels of oestrogen.
5 Tips to treat fibroids naturally:
1. Eliminate environmental xenoestrogens
Xenoestrogens are substances that have a hormone like action on the body which are used in but not limited to food production, pesticides, food packaging production and cosmetics. Here are some tips to reduce exposure to xenoestrogens:
• Choose cosmetics and toiletries that do not contain parabens
• Choose organic veggies that have not been exposed to pesticides
• Choose animal products that have been reared without any growth hormones or routine antibiotics
• Stay away from foods packaged in disposable plastic
High fat non-organic processed meat like hamburger patties containing unhealthy saturated and trans-fats should be avoided at all costs
• Rather use a glass water bottle than a plastic water bottle.
2. Losing weight
Fat cells can act as endocrine glands and secrete oestrogen. Although these levels might not be very high it is still significant enough to raise blood levels of oestrogen, especially in obese woman. Weight loss will also assist in not only decreasing insulin resistance which is important for optimal ovarian function but also in regulating blood pressure which is important in preventing uterine fibroids. A few tips on an effective diet program to combat fibroids include:
• Foods high in oestrogens such as soy and commercially raised animal products should be avoided
• Inflammatory foods should be eliminated from the diet, this includes foods such as diary, wheat, processed foods, sugar etc.
• Avoid fresh produce that was not organically grown seeing as pesticides, herbacides, synthetic fertilizers and food preservatives contain xenoestorgens that high jack oestrogen receptors in the body and further exacerbates oestrogen dominance.
3. Detox the liver and heal the gut
The liver is responsible for metabolising oestrogen. If the liver is not functioning optimally, high levels of oestrogen will further exacerbate oestrogen dominance. There are various supplements including Chedlidonium, Taraxicum and Carduus Marianus, that may be beneficial in supporting liver function.
After oestrogen has been metabolised by the liver, it is excreted via the gut. Leaky gut syndrome causes an up regulation of an enzyme called B-glucuronidase which breaks up bound oestrogen to be excreted and allows these smaller particles to be re absorbed into the system. A gut cleanse diet is essential in the healthy functioning of our hormonal system.
4. Supplements & Herbal treatment
Supplements that may be recommended by a qualified physician include:
• Chaste tree: Chaste tree may be beneficial in reducing oestrogen dominance by balancing out the oestrogen vs progesterone ratio of the menstrual cycle,
• Progesterone cream: Can be considered under the supervision of your health care practitioner,
• Omega 3 fatty acid: Due to its anti-inflammatory properties,
• B vitamins: To balance hormone levels,
• Liver support: A well formulated herbal mixture to help facilitate phase 1 and 2 detoxification of the liver and support the healthy functioning of the liver,
• Indole 3 carbinol is an antioxidant that helps eliminate excess oestrogen from the body.
There are several homeopathic remedies indicated for the treatment of fibroids. The correct remedy is chosen based on each individual case. Studies suggest that a thorough case taking based on the symptom picture will lead to a similimum prescription to aid in shrinking uterine fibroids.