Coffee and Plastics

As women, our menstrual cycles are like our monthly report cards. Our bodies are constantly adapting to the environment around us, what we are eating, drink, doing or not doing!  The PMS we experience is directly related to our habits from the month previous.

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Last month, my period was NOT good. Not good for me meant I was more crampy, more crabby, and had heavier flow. Whenever this happens, I always take a second to think back to the previous month and ask myself: “what did I do well? did I have a change in habits? what was I eating consistently? how were my workouts?” There is usually always an answer in one of those questions. It can even be a good idea to ask your partner too, because they can often help you identify what changed.

And last month? It was coffee. Coffee is not a normal routine for me, but with shelter-in-place happening in San Diego, I was at my boyfriend’s place more often, and he likes to make coffee several mornings a week. Once I realized this, BINGO, I had the source of the problem.

Coffee itself is not inherently bad, but I’ve seen many women in my practice experience substantial lifts in PMS with the removal of coffee from their diet.

Let’s talk about coffee for a second.

Coffee contains caffeine. Caffeine is a molecule known as a methylxanthine, which in the plant world is a type of alkaloid molecule, and is the most common central nervous stimulant in the world. Chocolate and tea have methylxanthines too, known as theobromine and theophylline, respectively, but the caffeine content in tea and chocolate is much lower than coffee. All the methylxanithines have different chemical structures:

1,3,7-trimethylxanthine = caffeine

3,7-dimethylxanthine = theobromine

1,3-dimethylxanthine = theophylline

When caffeine is detoxified by the liver, it uses the CYP system of enzymes in phase 1 liver detox, which also detoxify estrogen (CYP1A2). Caffeine also gets metabolized by a few other pathways including: N-acetyltransferase 2 (NAT2), xanthine oxidase (XO) and CYP2A6

In my case, my coffee consumption increased, which impaired my detox of estrogen, which made my PMS symptoms worse.

Caffeine also has an effect on our stress regulating mechanisms – it increases cortisol and epinephrine at rest, which, if you are trying to rest/heal some dysfunctional adrenal glands (commonly referred to “adrenal fatigue”), is actually counter-productive. Many of the women I work with who have period problems have an underlying stress component that hasn’t been addressed, which is actually the cause of their irregular, painful, or heavy menses.  It’s not always an issue with just estrogen, or just progesterone itself.

For my patients who are trying to heal their nervous system, bring back balance to the parasymptathic/sympathetic ratio, and switch from being in a state of constant “go to go” aka “fight or flight mode,” I do not recommend they consume caffeine in any way, even small amounts.

Lastly, the preparation of coffee tends to go hand in hand with exposure of hot liquid to plastics, which causes leaching of the plastic compounds into the liquid, which we then ingest and get into our bodies.

For example, when you go to Starbucks, or whatever coffee joint you fancy, you are given a cardboard cup that is lined in plastic, with a plastic cover on top. The hot steam condensates on the plastic cover top, and falls into your drink. The hot liquid also affects the plastic lining of the cup, and plastic covering whenever you take a sip. So what we are left with, is essentially a hot beverage with a side of plastic.

Many of the ways we prepare coffee at home also use plastics. Plastic coffee filters. Plastic components of frech presses. Aeropresses are plastic. Plastic coffee makers. It’s best to go PLASTIC-FREE when making your coffee. (1)

Plastics are well known “endocrine disruptors,” because they are what’s called “xenoestrogens,” or fake estrogens that stimulate your estrogen receptors and make your body more estrogenic, or increase the body’s “total estrogen pool.” Too much estrogen is bad for you, and causes period problems like heavy flow, moodiness, breast tenderness and swelling, bloating, irritability, and crying.

Your total estrogen pool is made up of things such as:

  1. ovarian production of estrogens
  2. adrenal production of estrogens
  3. conversion of testosterone to estrogen
  4. estrogen bound to SHBG*
  5. estrogen not-bound to SHBG
  6. estrogen metabolites – detoxed and going out in the urine
  7. re-absorbed estrogen from a poorly functioning GI tract
  8. exogenous “unintentional” estrogens – city water containing birth control remnants and other hormones; exposure to family member’s estrogen cream; effects on prescription drugs on estrogen levels; xenoestrogens

SHBG stands for “sex hormone binding globulin.” It’s a carrier protein in your bloodstream that carries around hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone.

If we didn’t have SHBG, our circulating hormones would be “free” all the time to bind to receptors, and we would feel constantly overwhelmed with their effects. SHBG creates a hormonal goldilocks effect – so we have just enough hormones unbound creating an effect on tissues, and we have just enough hormones waiting and bound, not creating an effect on tissues.

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Recently there have been an increase in products that are BPA-free. Bisphenol-A is one compounding in plastic that is an endocrine disruptor. So BPA-free is good right? WRONG. If you take something OUT, you have to replace it with something. The compounds BPP and BPS are the common replacements for BPA in plastics, and they are actually more hormonally disruptive than BPA itself!

I hope after reading this, you can understand a little bit more how plastics and coffee can have an effect on your menstrual cycle and your PMS.

For many women, lowering their estrogen pool and/or improving their estrogen detox, is paramount for alleviating their PMS symptoms.

I encourage you to re-think your use of plastics in your life. I would also encourage you to think critically about whether your coffee consumption is truly beneficial for you or not. Coffee is one of those sneaky hormone disruptors, that if you remove it, could really make a difference in improving your hormone health, as well the symptoms surrounding your monthly cycle.

xo,
Dr. Meg

For further reading:

(1) Here is the link to the french-press we own that is 100% plastic-free and works amazingly well.

Lane J.D. Caffeine, glucose metabolism, and type 2 diabetes. J. Caffeine Res. 2011;1(1):23–28.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5742777/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820066/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19519341

Coronovirus, explained.

I had to write this article, because there’s massive amounts of mis-information and HYPE / FEAR going on in the case of this virus. It’s driving me nuts. So I’m going to give you the facts and some tips… continued below.

Beware of where you get your information!

DON’T WATCH THE NEWS. The media is unreliable. Stick to CDC and WHO for the most accurate information.

BEWARE of internet click-bait articles, and people who are not doctors telling you their OPINIONS about the outbreak. Know your sources, people!

First of all, the virus is called “SARS-CoV-2,” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019,” which is abbreviated “COVID-19” per CDC.gov.

Let’s start with some basics:

  1.  We don’t know a lot about the virus – new information is being discovered every day.
  2.  There is no vaccine for the virus – Viruses’ replicate FAST and mutate often, which makes vaccines hard to make, and vaccines usually takes months to years of research to develop. (if you don’t know my opinions on the flu vaccine, take a look a few articles back in my blog)
  3.  The most “frequently reported signs and symptoms include fever (83–98%), cough (46%–82%), myalgia [muscle aches} or fatigue (11–44%), and shortness of breath (31%)” (cdc.gov)
  4.  Corona virus is an upper respiratory infection, which if not taken care of, can progress to a lower respiratory infection (read more info below on this).
  5.   If you be come ill, your doctor can test for the corona virus to see if you have it – by looking for viral RNA (which is similar to our DNA) in body fluids. Right now the most reliable specimens seem to be upper and lower respiratory fluids; and it’s unknown whether stool, urine, and blood will be present with viral RNA and/or indicate infection.

How is it spread?

We think the virus spreads from close contact with other people (being within 6 feet) or being in contact with their body fluids (sputum, blood, respiratory droplets). BUT we aren’t 100% sure how it’s spread – this is only what’s been postulated based on other coronavirus family viruses that have been issues in the past. SARS and MERS were both viruses that were types of coronaviruses. It’s a common viral family. Postulating the origin is from bats. And the source of the virus was an open-air market in Wuhan, China, which means they think that it was animal-to-virus spread.

The incubation period (period of time the virus is in you without symptoms) is estimated to be about 5 days and could be as long or short as 2-14 days, and this is based on information regarding another virus that the coronavirus is like, which was MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV.

Who is at risk?

In short, it’s older individuals, those with co-morbitidies (conditions that help you die faster) and those with already compromised immune systems. In fact, “most reported cases have occurred in adults (median age 59 years).” Common co-morbidities are diabetes, hypertension, lung diseases, and cardiovascular disease.

CDC.gov has reported that “there are a limited number of reports that describe the clinical presentation of patients with confirmed COVID-19, and most are limited to hospitalized patients with pneumonia.” So again, we have limited data about who is getting sick and what symptoms they have when they are sick.

What do I do if I feel sick?

  1.  Stay home
  2.  REST
  3.  Wash your hands WITH REAL SOAP and warm water
  4.  Stay in one room of the house so you don’t infect other family members or pets
  5.  Keep pets out of the room
  6.  Sanitize surfaces in your home / car / workplace
  7.  Watch for progression of symptoms

The course of the virus is variable and ranges from mild/moderate to severe/fatal. Right now, the data we have shows that there is a possibility for Corona virus illnesses to turn more severe in the second week of illness, resulting in a lower respiratory infection.

Most mild/moderate cases can be safely rested/taken care of/quarantined at home, but if your symptoms are not improving or remaining stable by the end of week one… example: if by the start of week 2 you feel significantly worse. Go immediately to the doctor. But don’t go anywhere else. Call your doctors office before you go, and tell them that you suspect being sick from the Corona virus. This allows your office to take precautions so the virus isn’t spread other individuals.

Like the flu, or other viral illnesses, there’s no specific treatment for the Corona virus. You have to be sick, rest, and let your body heal and fight off the virus. The key is not letting the infection get worse. If it gets worse, you will need hospital level medical intervention and monitoring. Which is similar to if the flu gets worse.

Many people are going to their doctors asking for “preventative” Z-packs (antibiotic…. and corona virus is a VIRUS, people…), steroids, and more. The CDC recommends NOT using steroids, unless needed for other reasons…. why? Because steroids SUPPRESS your immune system and that will prolong viral replication and increase the duration of illness.

So what’s the best prevention?

  1.  Diet rich in VEGETABLES and some fruit, healthy fats and high quality protein. A diet that is rich in whole foods and not proceeded foods and sugars. Stop eating sugar now.
  2.  Eat lots of garlic and onions; include coconut products into your diet as they are naturally antiviral.
  3.  Washing your hands whenever you get a chance – my favorite thing to do is always wash my hands when I come home from anywhere – it’s the first thing I do when I walk into the house.
  4.  Stay away from sick people.
  5.  Get quality sleep, because without it your immune system suffers.
  6.  Consider supplementing with vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, elderberry syrup, medicinal mushrooms and more. If I am not your doctor, I can’t make recommendations for you.
  7.  If you meet any of the criterial for being “at risk” then avoid crowded areas. But you do not need to seclude yourself in your house. Your risk of getting corona virus (because it’s relative rarity in the US right now) is lower than getting the common flu, which is definitely going around in all parts of the country.

Face masks might help you, probably not. Hand sanitizer might help you, it might not, because it’s also killing off your good bacteria which we want on your skin – so wash with warm water and soap instead. If your immune health is poor, preventative measures will help, but you are at highest risk. If you are elderly or chronically ill, you are the most at risk.

Lastly… the CDC states that “for most of the American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.”

Thank you for reading, and I hope this was educational for you, and helped to squash some fears surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.

If you want more info on immune health – please click here to read my article on how to support your immune system naturally!

SOURCE – Most/all of this information can be found on CDC.gov/ – I just helped synthesize and explain it for you.

Taurine

I like taurine because it has amazing affects in the body, but it’s incredibly under-rated.

Taurine is an amino acid-like compound that is made in your body from cysteine, (most commonly known as the sulfur containing amino acid that helps to make glutathione), that’s very very important for heart, muscle, brain, and eye health. I’m mostly going to talk about heart and brain health in this post.

If you want to keep your heart healthy, have a history of head trauma and/or concussions and haven’t been the same since, are experiencing some anxiety OR are concerned about the health of your nervous system — this nutrient is for you!

Let’s get a little nerdy.

Why taurine is important for the heart:

  • Stimulates the mitochondria in heart tissue, so that the heart can create energy better!
  • Reduces arrhythmias like PACs (premature atrial contractions) and PVCs (premature ventricular contractions) because it acts as an antioxidant and decreases lipid peroxidation, which are two things that contribute to heart damage from heart attacks and heart failure.

The heart isn’t the only place where taurine is a superstar – it’s super important for your nervous system too – because high levels of taurine in your nervous system helps to balance excitation and inhibition of neurons. Ideally you want a nice balance between neurons acting excited and neurons acting calm or becoming inhibited. Because of the role of taurine in protecting the nervous system, it is hugely useful for keeping the brain healthy.

Why taurine is important for your brain:

  • Taurine can even help repair damaged synapses – something that happens in Alzheimer’s disease.
  • It crosses the blood brain barrier and exerts antioxidant functions in the brain tissue.
  • Taurine helps keep your brain calm because it:
    • helps prevent age-related loss of GABA receptors, and
    • counteracts the excitation caused by glutamate.
    • GABA is a inhibitory neurotransmitter that calms down neuro-excitation. Taurine also plays a role in forming the dopamine receptors in your brain. And you want to have appropriate dopamine levels – dopamine is what makes us feel good and seek pleasure!

Just like having leaky gut – you can also have leaky brain.

When your brain is inflamed, the excitatory amino acid glutamate tends to leak out of cells. This creates a very excitatory environment. When neurons are overly excited, they become damaged. Taurine helps to reduce brain inflammation— it forms an anti-inflammatory compound in the brain which inhibits nitric oxide and TNF-alpha, and having too much of both of those compounds is very inflammatory!

Overall, taurine is an extraordinary brain protector. Another mechanism WHY taurine is so awesome, is because it helps decrease microglial activation, which can happen after head injuries or other insults. Microglial activation is very inflammatory in the brain because, when activated, they release a variety of destructive compounds like various cytokines, prostaglandins and excitotoxins. Brain cells are very sensitive, and taurine helps to protect them against injury by making sure the nervous system does not get too excited.

Interestingly, taurine supplementation has been show to improve insulin sensitivity within tissues, and also positively affects the glucose transport in the brain – so your brain can get it’s fuel (glucose!) more effectively!

I use injectable taurine with my patients, because it can have direct action on the blood brain barrier with this route of administration, and we can by-pass absorption and/or breakdown in the gut.

Herbal Liver-love Salad

The ingredients in this chopped salad are great for supporting healthy liver function, blood flow, healthy blood vessels, increase minerals. This salad is nutrient DENSE.

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Herbal Liver-love Salad

1 package organic cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 small red onion, diced (use less if you are not an onion fan)
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
1 bunch flat italian parsley, roughly chopped
2 TBSP olive oil
pinch salt
pinch pepper
few dashes of hot sauce, I like Franks
juice of one small lemon

Directions:

Prep all ingredients above, and combine in a large boxl. Stir until combined. Serve cold. Store in airtight container in the fridge. Eat within 3 days. Use this salad to top roasted white fish, to top salad greens, or as a side for burgers. You can also add diced cucumbers or beans to the salad, if desired. The addition of cucumbers decreases how long the salad will last in the fridge.

Do not make this salad if you are pregnant – parsley has few powerful compounds that are not good for baby. Eating parsley while pregnant is not contraindicated entirely, but large servings of fresh herb like this, I do not recommend.

Broccoli Crunch Salad

broccoli crunch

Broccoli Crunch Salad
makes several servings

INGREDIENTS

4 large heads of organic broccoli, cut into single florets which are bite-sized
3/4 cup  organic salted roasted whole cashews
3/4 cup  organic flame raisins
1 package organic nitrate-free bacon, cooked + chopped
1/3rd red onion, sliced
1/2 cup high quality mayonaise
1 TBSP honey
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1/8 tsp black pepper

MAKE

1) Lightly steam broccoli.
2) Whisk dressing together in a large bowl.
3) Add all ingredients into bowl and toss together.
4) Chill and serve.
5) Eat within 7 days.