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Today Steph and Dr. Elana recap the episodes on Postpartum Hormones with Dr. Brooke and Restoring Your Cycle with Zesty Ginger. In the recap on restoring your cycle, they share their personal experience with getting their cycle back after baby, things to consider if you’re concerned you haven’t gotten your cycle back, and how to reduce burnout by working with your cycle. In the recap on postpartum hormones, they discuss how specific hormones and play a role in postpartum recovery and focus on the two we can control the most, cortisol and insulin. Learn ways to balance both successfully!
Interested in enjoying the medicinal benefits of mushrooms via delicious hot cocoa, matcha, or coffee? Receive 15% off your Four Sigmatic purchase by using code WHOLEMAMAS at check out or simply head to foursigmatic.com/wholemamas.
Elana Roumell 0:03
We have to really surrender right now to our body’s natural processes, especially as we’re nursing. And before getting our period back or even after getting our period back and just being patient with the whole process.
Stephanie Greunke 0:17
Welcome back to the Whole Mamas podcast. We’re here to give you tools, resources and evidence based information so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Whether you’re trying to conceive or navigating life with a toddler or a teenager, we’ve got you covered. I’m Stephanie Greunke, registered dietitian and program director for home moms club. I’m also the co-creator of our pregnancy program and upcoming postpartum program.
Elana Roumell 0:41
And I’m Dr. Elana Roumell, Pediatric Naturopathic Doctor and Creator of Med School for Moms, an online resource where I teach moms how to safely be a doctor mom.
Stephanie Greunke 0:50
Before we jump into this week’s Nourish Yourself segment and our podcast recap of the interviews with Dr. Brooke on postpartum hormones and Zesty Ginger on restoring your cycle, I want to share a fun smoothie recipe with you. I know it’s cold outside and smoothies aren’t always super appetizing, but they’re freaking convenient when you’re on the go and can’t handle another frittata. I often make one when I’m running out the door in the morning with Otto and sip it slowly on the way to school while I’m blasting the hot air in the car to keep me warm. Anyways, the other day I wanted to change up the flavor of my smoothie so I was looking for something that added a kick a flavor without a ton of sugar or extra hassle in the morning and there was my box of Four Sigmatic magic mushroom coffee. So I grabbed one of the individual serving pouches and added it to my smoothie with the rest of my smoothie ingredients and, tada, a chocolate nut butter coffee smoothie. Here’s what was in it in case you want to try. I just did two cups of nut milk or you can do cow’s milk or whatever kind of milk you like. One scoop of chocolate collagen fuel or whatever chocolate protein powder you like, about a tablespoon or two of nut butter. I add frozen cauliflower for thickness, which sounds really weird, but it actually doesn’t add any kind of off flavor, it’s really about adding smoothness to your smoothie instead of adding a banana. But if you’re nursing and you want to throw a banana in, that’s great. And then that packet of Four Sigmatic medic mushroom coffee, and I always throw in a prebiotic fiber powder just to bulk them up and to feed the beneficial bacteria in my gut. And I also do this with some of their other products. I’ve tried it with their mushroom golden latte mix in the smoothie and I blend that with nut milk, banana, flax seeds for fiber and coconut butter for fat. And it’s so delicious. I love starting the day with a nice balance of protein, produce and fiber and fat. And I feel like I’m already ahead of my nutritional game by 8am and the Four Sigmatic powders not only add delicious flavor to my smoothies but they also provide therapeutic benefits since they include anti inflammatory herbs like turmeric and adaptogens like Tulsi and Ashwagandha.
Elana Roumell 2:55
I love that stuff. These are great ideas. I’ve never tried that myself so I’m going to have to do that soon, but on the topic of smoothies, I’d like to share I just used their super food protein powder for my husband’s smoothie the other day, and he looked at me and he’s like “there are mushrooms in here? I can’t even taste them!”. Since my husband is an avid athlete, he’s always looking for ways to boost his protein needs. So I told him about Four Sigmatic super food protein powder, and he was excited to try it but a little bit weary that there are mushrooms in it, but I told him that he really doesn’t even taste the mushrooms, but that there are medicinal and there’s not only mushrooms, but there’s also adaptogens. To be exact, there are 1000 milligrams total functional mushrooms in the superfood protein powder, and 500 milligrams of adaptogens which are a really great medicinal dose in each serving. Now my husband not only got his protein fix, but also a good dose of mushrooms and herbs that will help his immune system, stress response, endurance and more. When I told him that these medicinal effects were a part of the smoothing, he was totally sold and happy to try more. Now with this powder, you can either add one scoop in some ice water for quick shake or get more creative by adding one scoop to your favorite smoothie recipe. Some ideas include trying it with cacao powder and frozen banana with a cup of non-dairy milk or add some leafy greens and frozen pineapple with some fresh coconut water. I personally agree with Steph, I always love adding a good amount of fat and fiber to each protein smoothie to help start the day. Just get creative and enjoy the process. Now if you’re interested in trying any of the Four Sigmatic products, head over to foursigmatic.com/wholemamas or use discount code WHOLEMAMAS at checkout to get 15% off your order. You can click on their link right in our show notes. We’re happy to share and we love sharing with you guys what works for our family. Now let’s move into our popular Nourish Yourself segment. Steph, what did you do today to nourish yourself or what are you doing coming up soon to nourish yourself?
Stephanie Greunke 4:49
Well I just got back from a walk and talk with my therapist. This is something that I’ve been doing for a while now. I think in the beginning when you are first seeing a therapist, it’s really good to be in person with them and to talk about what’s going on in your life and just really see the nonverbals of the other person and get each other on that level. But then after a while, sometimes it just takes a lot of time to go see a therapist. So you have your hour long session, and then you have 20-30 or so minutes, drive there and back. So that’s a good two hours out of your day. And so at this point, I feel good just having a walk and talk session with my therapist. And you know, I love multitasking so I get my steps in, I get to be outside, I get a nice break in the middle of the day, and I get that therapy. And so that’s actually what I did today.
Elana Roumell 5:39
I love it. It’s so funny, when I was in medical school, I always thought would be so cool if I could see patients while I’m like walking. Like I always like imagine that but unfortunately with my line of work I like really need to be in front of a computer and such which is kind of a bummer because I don’t like sitting all day long. But I just think being efficient and being productive and walking and talking is one of the coolest things. Plus, I think you think clear, like you your process things better. So I just think this is great. I’m so glad you’re doing that.
Stephanie Greunke 6:07
Yeah, how about you?
Elana Roumell 6:08
So we are recording as I’m nearing my delivery date. I know I’m such a planner, and I so appreciate you helping me with this because I really want to be fully focused on baby when I do deliver. And so I know that this podcast was going to be aired around the time that I really wanted to be in full mom mode. So what I did today to prepare myself for postpartum was I actually put together my postpartum meal menu. And this actually takes a good amount of time. I always say there’s three steps to really planning and prepping: number one is figuring out what you want to eat, number two, go grocery shopping and then number three actually do the meal prepping. And so this was my first step I decided I just took this morning I took at least an hour or so to go over different recipes and find the ones that I think would freeze well and highlight them and so now I’ve pretty much organized it all which is feeling so good and already so nourishing. It just gives me so much peace of mind. And so I’m so excited because by the time this episode airs, I’ll likely be enjoying these meals and simply just like defrosting them and just warming them back up, saving me tons of time, energy and ultimately just like a lot of stress because eating healthy is obviously such a priority for me and I know it is for you, too Steph, and when we’re having these little babies and you know, not sleeping as well, it’s just not necessarily the first thing you want to do is get into your kitchen, you just don’t have that energy yet you’re like ravenous and all you want to do is eat. And so I’m so happy that this is going to be prepared for me. So that’ll be fun.
Stephanie Greunke 7:38
Yes, and I’ll definitely make sure to restock you too when I come see you.
Elana Roumell 7:41
Ah I love you! Thank you. Yes, having this meal train and having friends sign up is such a blessing. So I’m just doing, I’m trying to hit it at all angles. So yes, I’m so excited for your visit and I just want to sit down with you and just be with you if you can like try to like schedule a whole day That would be fun.
Stephanie Greunke 7:58
Done. Yes. I’ll love to love up on your little baby boy, it’s been a while since I had a little baby boy.
Elana Roumell 8:04
I know well, you’ll teach me how to be a boy mom so I’m excited for all your wisdom.
Stephanie Greunke 8:07
I’m still learning! Well, let’s get into this recap, because we have two episodes that we’re going to be covering today. So let’s start with the first one where we talked about restoring your cycle with Zesty, Ginger. And I loved these two ladies. I’ve looked at their account on social media before, their Instagram handle, and I’ve heard them on another podcast, but I just think the information that they’re sharing is so relevant to our audience. And it’s just great to understand our cycle at that level so that we can work to support our bodies and what it wants to be doing at different at different phases like they outlined. And when I was listening to Megan’s story, I thought it was really interesting how much her story resonated with both of us. So for me, I resonated with the fact that she had a really difficult postpartum period with her first, and she did everything that she could in her power to make sure that she had a better experience with baby number two. And she did, she went on to have an amazing postpartum with a second baby. And I know for you, you also really resonate with the fact that you had a lot more energy and productivity during your pregnancy, which, you know, some mamas do, some mamas don’t. But I really got that from her story. And I think that a lot of people can relate to either Megan, or maybe Dr. Alex with her struggles with infertility and endometriosis. And with both of these ladies, another similarity with them is that they had to advocate for their health to get the answers and solutions that they needed to heal. And their biggest health struggles led to this new path and all these new guests that they can share with the world. And this is something that we can both speak to as our personal struggles fire us up to do our work and help mamas find answers so they can advocate for their own health as well.
Something you talked about in the podcast that I think deserves some more reiteration and a deeper discussion is about when it’s normal to get your period back after nursing. And I’ve heard everything from moms getting it back weeks after baby is delivered to two plus years. And on the podcast, you mentioned that your period didn’t come back until 22 months when you weaned. And mine, we’ll talk about it in a little bit, but mine didn’t come back to them way later in the game too. So although it’s highly individual, I know a lot of moms are wondering, you know, if a man doesn’t get her cycle back after 12 months, and wants to explore if it’s related something to other than what’s going on, or just needing more time, what are some tests that she can take to check in on her body and see if there’s something there?
Elana Roumell 10:39
Great. I think this is a great question because it is something that a lot of moms are somewhat concerned about because you really don’t know. Is it because they’re just nursing, or is it because there could be another physiological imbalance? So the first lab that I always like to test is a good thorough thyroid panel. And I’d like to do a comprehensive panel. We’ve spoken about this In past episodes, just to rule out any auto immune components, but if naturally a woman’s thyroid is under active, that alone could actually cause amenorrhea, which is an absence of a menses. And so whether or not they’re nursing or not, it would just be in their due diligence to do some of this lab work. And, you know, I think on other episodes, and actually the one that we’re going to talk about pretty soon with Dr. Brooks episode, we want to test these hormones pretty regularly about three to six months postpartum. So at that point, you’re already monitoring your thyroid. So even come 12 months, we’re kind of seeing a nice pattern. But if you haven’t done any bloodwork by 12 months, and you still haven’t gotten your period, and you’re just curious, there’s no question. Thyroid would be the number one hormone that I would want to test. Another one I would be interested in is your prolactin levels. So prolactin is the hormone that stimulates milk production. When you’re nursing, it’s elevated and it’s elevated for a reason. It’s because your body is essentially telling your brain to go ahead and continue to produce milk, and when we have elevated prolactin levels, this is what suppresses the menstrual cycle. Now, again, since everyone is so unique and medicine and really biology so individualized, there could be some women who still nurse with elevated prolactin levels and still have a cycle. So it doesn’t necessarily rule in or out the fact that you could bleed. But it is also something that it will just be nice to check. Because in very, very rare cases, prolactin can actually be triple or even quadruple the number. And then you have to start looking at potentially other sources of why prolactin is elevated, not just necessarily for milk production. And that can also suppress someone’s menses. And then the last thing is everyone you know, thinks about it, like, Oh, can you please test my sex hormones, these are estrogen and progesterone or testosterone. And oftentimes, I kind of shy away from that. And the only reason is that I know if you’re not getting your menses these are going to be very low. And so it’s not necessarily going to change My treatment plan but if we’re interested in or curious, I’m happy to order it. But it’s also not going to be helpful in when I would order it since there’s no bleeding happening. So I don’t even know what day you are in your phase of your cycle. So we’d like to optimize testing hormones during the luteal phase. I like to test during days 19 to 21 so I really can see where the hormone levels are. And so when you’re not really cycling, again, testing estrogen and progesterone may not be beneficial. But of course, if you want to know that information, that’s fine, but I would still prioritize thyroid first.
Stephanie Greunke 13:36
Great! I think that’s really helpful to give us some things or some considerations to talk to our doctor about to see, are we okay, or is it just going to take more time, or do we need to do some work?
Elana Roumell 13:47
You got it. Okay, so what about you Steph? When did you get your period back after Otto and Leo, and then what’s up with your cycle now? You could speak more about this than me since I don’t have my cycle right now. But I’m just so curious how you resonated with all this information.
Stephanie Greunke 14:03
Yeah. So with Otto, I was actually really nervous after I had him, wondering when my my cycle was going to come back. And the reason why it was so nervous is because I had some hormonal imbalance going into the pregnancy that I had worked really hard to resolve. But I know that if you do have a history of hormonal imbalance going into it, it might be a little bit harder to regain that cycle in the postpartum period, or there might be some more issues there. So with Otto, just like a recap, I didn’t have a period for about two years. And then I had one period where I bled and then the next month I was pregnant. So it was a very interesting situation, only having one period and then being a mom. And so when, you know, I think it was about 20 months postpartum, and he decided to wean on his own. At this time, I was pregnant with Leo. After he weaned around 20 months postpartum, I got my cycle back about a month later. So similar to you, you know, around that 20 month period and then got it back about a month after weaning. With Leo…
Elana Roumell 15:13
How many periods? I’m sorry to interrupt. How many periods then did you have between Otto and getting pregnant with Leo?
Stephanie Greunke 15:19
So I had about I had about two.
Elana Roumell 15:21
Yeah, not many.
Stephanie Greunke 15:22
Yeah, I had about two, which happened a lot faster than I thought was going to happen. And yeah, Leo. Leo came really early. We wanted kids about two to three years apart, and we got them two years and one month apart. So we were right there.
Elana Roumell 15:39
Yeah, right there. What about with Leo?
Stephanie Greunke 15:43
And then Leo he weaned early, which also was really really hard for me because I wasn’t quite ready and I thought I did something wrong that he weaned before a year because that’s what lactation sites told me is like, babies don’t wean before a year unless like something’s going on with mom. It was like, just very hard to read. And I definitely don’t believe that. I think he just was ready at an earlier age. And so he weaned himself around 11 months. And I got my period, again about two months after he weaned. So it took a little bit more time than Otto, but definitely not a whole lot of time. So yeah, it was interesting, because I actually, you know, I got pregnant back to back and I had very few amounts of periods. I think I had a total of what, like, three periods in, like eight years. So, yeah, I kind of enjoyed not having one I mean, it was it was definitely a interesting time being pregnant and nursing all the time. But yeah, so now Leo’s turning three (at the time of recording he is turning three on Friday of this week), and I have had my period back for a while now and my period is actually very consistent every single month, almost to the day I get it. But what I’m working on right now, to be honest, is just really heavy periods. The first two days are extremely heavy. And so at this point because I wait post weaning, and my hormones are back in a state where it makes sense to do some testing, I have done some testing and I am working on some things to help mitigate that that heavier cycle and the higher amounts of testosterone that I’m seeing and maybe at some point, I can talk about kind of what I’m working through right now which is more of an adrenal based PCOS which I don’t even know if you know this Elana, this is something that I have like self-diagnosed myself based on my labs, but it is something that I’m working on. So I am I’m in it with you mamas that are working on navigating your cycle and trying to optimize things and we’re getting there but they’re regular.
Elana Roumell 17:52
And no, I did not know this. We need to talk off the recording about this. So if I can support you obviously in any way, but I will say I’ve really been interested in Zesty Gingers four phase approach. And so I’m sure especially with you going through what you’re going through, you probably found so much insight into maybe ways to help optimize your cycle, even though it’s so regular, if you’re finding some imbalances potentially on bloodwork, this is such a great approach in my mind.
Stephanie Greunke 18:19
Oh, yeah, I really resonated with what they had to say and I hope the listeners did too, of really learning how to work with your cycle and when to be productive, and when is a good time to slow down. And, you know, based on what I know about you, you really thrive on a schedule and so I’m curious, I can definitely share my experience, but for you here, since you haven’t had a period in a while, maybe you don’t remember but did you resonate with this stuff? Like what they’re talking about?
Elana Roumell 18:46
It’s so funny. It’s so true, because I haven’t had a period and so it was almost hard for me because that’s kind of why started asking about the productivity. I was like, I feel like I’m productive right now. It must be because my hormones are more stable right now and I don’t have those kind of biphasic type of ups and downs every month, which could be a reason why I was so productive. And I have been during this pregnancy, but I really started thinking about it. I, also very similar to you Steph, when I weaned Aviva, I had two cycles, and then I got pregnant with this baby boy. So I haven’t actually had a period and now almost three and a half years, so it’s been a while since I’ve actually had a cycle. And prior to Aviva, I was very regular. And in fact, I was following the moon cycle, which I thought was like the coolest thing. So when I was interviewing Dr. Alex and Megan and they were talking about the moon phases, I was like, Oh my god, this is so cool. My body just kind of found that rhythm somehow. But as a reminder, I also had Amenorrhea for about easily five years at a point in my life. Around the time I had an eating disorder. So I know what it was like to be extremely irregular, I may have had maybe three cycles in five years. And then I had to go towards building my body back up and then going into a much more normal routine and rhythm. So just to be real with the moms, as amazing as it sounds, as you know, having a cycle normal based on the moon and then getting pregnant two months after weaning. We’ve both come from a place that that would not have been possible when we were during those phases when we both had amenorrhea and I just I’m so proud of us for how far we’ve come. And we obviously are really, really committed to honoring our health and wellness so that we can optimize our fertility and such and I know it’s not easy for everyone, but I just want to always remind people, we haven’t always been like that, that’s for sure. So anyway, to answer your question, it is kind of hard for me. I don’t remember those emotional or mental states in the time because I wasn’t as adept to being conscientious of it, you know that that long ago, and I wish I was because I find it to be fascinating. And in fact, because I like being so scheduled, I actually think that I would plan my projects around my menses moving forward mostly to like, get rid of the frustration that comes when you’re just feeling that lack of creativity, optimizing it during the times that you know you’re going to be more creative. Or rather optimize the times where you feel like you just need to be more of like the implementation mode or the reflection mode, like, why not optimize these times around your calendar? And so I know when I do get my period back after this second baby, I’m actually excited to now incorporate these ideas and these concepts, so I’m kind of excited about it personally. What about you Steph – now that you obviously are having a regular period do can you resonate with these type of four phases that they talked about?
Stephanie Greunke 21:58
Oh, 100% I don’t think I would have been able to before because I didn’t have a consistent period. But now that it’s consistent, I’m like, oh, I definitely see what they’re talking about. And you know, just being honest, I think the the vulnerability that you were sharing that we haven’t always had healthy regular cycles, just it really proves how delicate that system is, right? You know, too much stress or under eating or inbalanced blood sugar, or environmental toxins like these, these tiny things can really disrupt the cycle. And so it is almost an honor to be able to have that every month. And it is really something to shoot for and take pride in if it is there, and to then work with it. And so what really resonated with me was when she was talking about phase two and how during phase two, again, this is seven days after you bleed, so phase one is the first day of the year full flow of your period, the new moon. Phase two is seven days later. So right after you have your period, you know, seven days later is phase two. And that’s when your hormones are rising, and you have more energy. And you might make to do lists that are miles long. And this is I think, where I thrive, I do really great. The first half of my cycle, I’ve got so many ideas and things that I want to do for Whole Mamas and so many things that I want to add to the program and so many things that I want to do around the house and with my kids and I create these ginormous lists and these beautiful ideas, but not having the resources to execute them in the second half of my period, when you’re really in a better place to slow down, your body wants you to slow down, I think is what’s really been the root cause of what’s going on with with me, is just trying to do too much and having so much energy and productivity in the first half of the cycle, but then trying to keep pushing myself in the second half of the cycle when my body really wants to slow down.
Elana Roumell 24:05
See? Sorry to interrupt. I just love that you’re aware of this now cause then it normalizes it for you. And it doesn’t make you wrong for feeling that way. Yeah, that’s what I mean about like optimizing your schedules. Like great, now all of your like productive creative process is going to always be the first two weeks. And then the more like reflection and just like slowing down part is going to be the second two, and I think that’s so efficient. So I’m such a huge fan. This is great. Keep on going. Sorry to interrupt but I’m excited. This is awesome.
Stephanie Greunke 24:34
Yeah. But I think it really helps too. Even looking at your calendar like, Okay, do you really want to take that vacation during the second half of your cycle with your kids, when you have to plan all these things and you have to be on and the energy is there. Maybe not. Maybe you plan that vacation or maybe you plan that work trip or that presentation in the first half of your cycle when you’re really feeling good and you’re able to execute on tasks a little bit more, and so I’m really thinking about this as far as my work and what I do with my family, and how I take care of myself and even my fitness routine.I definitely find that during phase three and definitely phase four, I just want to do more walks, I don’t want to push myself with weightlifting. And so this is helping me build my workout routine too. I can do more of that in the first half of the cycle. But maybe yoga and walking is what I want to do in phase three and phase four. So I got a lot out of it.
Elana Roumell 25:29
I love that so much. And one quick little point, and then we can move into Dr. Burke’s interview and recap, but it’s just so clear that even if us women just don’t want to slow down just simply because, you know, we love productivity and we love the goals, no matter what, in some way or another nature is going to help us slow down for us. And whether that’s the second phase of your cycle, or even for me now is, you know, going into a postpartum time. I’m totally slowing down on everything: my work and my creative mind has to kind of shut down because it’s going to now go right towards nourishing this new baby. And so I really actually love those ebbs and flows and I find it to be a real privilege being a woman that we get those. I know for some it can feel like, oh, this is so hard! Like, I love how just like consistent my husband is or whatever. But in all honesty, I think when we can really embrace how the hormones play out and what we can expect, and we can just expect it, then we can really utilize it for our potential and maximize it. And so I just find these to be really cool gifts as being a woman.
Stephanie Greunke 26:36
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more.
Elana Roumell 26:38
Cool. All right. Well, let’s go on to your interview with Dr. Brooke because I actually found that one fascinating it’s really neat that this month was kind of dedicated to hormones and stuff for these two ladies. So Dr. Brooke wrote a book. The book is called Hangry. You read it. I had not had the chance to read it quite yet, so I’m just being completely honest. But for some reason, when I knew you were going to do this podcast I just assumed tith the title of the book called Hangry, it was all going to be about blood sugar and hormone dysregulation. Like I just assumed it was all going to be about low blood sugar and how we get cranky and what we could do to control that. But I was really surprised that when I listened to your interview, you guys actually talked about all different types of hormones. And you guys really went into depth with, you know, the roles that they play and how they’re all connected and whatnot. And so I just kind of wanted to share. Of course, this makes sense that she would write a book and include all hormones. In school, I was always taught that hormones are like an orchestra: when all members of the orchestra are balanced, there’s a beautiful symphony of sounds. But even if one member is off, the harmonies turned into a cacophony and the music is no longer as pleasant and it can actually hurt your ears, right? So I love this metaphor. What I learned in school is that all of your hormones have to be on the same page. They have to play the same rhythm and they have to have the same harmony in order to turn into really something that is truly beautiful, and enriching to listen to. And if one thing is off, then you know, everything could be off. And so I just thought that it now obviously made sense to me that hangry is not just about one hormone being insulin or controlling your blood sugar, it’s obviously going to be about all of them affecting your moods and dispositions and stuff. So I’m just curious Steph, were you surprised about that when you read her book? Did you also have that same assumption? Or maybe that was just me getting ahead of myself?
Stephanie Greunke 28:33
No, I, I thought when I read the title, Hangry, it was going to be about blood sugar balance for the most part or nutrition, but also knowing Dr. Brooke and just how comprehensive she is when discussing a topic, it kind of led me to believe that it may be more as well and even she’s written a blog post for us over at Whole Mama’s club about PMDD and a more functional based approach to that and the blogs and how she writes she’s just full of information and insights and so generous with being able to describe what’s going on. So yeah, I, at first when I heard the title I was like blood sugar imbalances, but it’s definitely a lot more than that. And it has to, right, because your body does work like that orchestra.
Elana Roumell 29:18
Oh, that’s great. I actually didn’t know she wrote that article. I’ll have to check that out. I mean, Whole Mamas has so many great blog posts and articles, you guys have done such a great job. So thanks for letting our audience and myself know that as well. Because you can tell she has an amazing depth to her knowledge. And it obviously helps not only with her medical background, but also just being in clinical practice and seeing it and also her own story. Because she shared, which obviously, you know, calls a lot of us into creating and doing work and and driving our passion. So I think that was really neat.
Stephanie Greunke 29:49
Hey, Mama! Stephanie here, Are you overwhelmed with all the information out there regarding pregnancy and prenatal health? we get it. So I want to take a minute to share about our Whole Mamas pregnancy program. Our program includes over 20 videos discussing topics from nutrition to exercise, mental health, sleep, conversations to have with your partner as you approach birth and so much more. Each video has suggested reading, action steps and handouts to help you dive deeper into the topic and apply what you’ve learned. Our weekly pregnancy emails guide you through the program each week of your pregnancy. They’re the only weekly service that focuses on the nutrients that you and your growing baby need, and provide simple recipes using that unique nutrient. You also get a short checklist of things to do each week to help you prepare for baby and take care of yourself. We want to help you spend more time enjoying your pregnancy and less time searching for answers. Want answers and support to your burning pregnancy related questions immediately from the comfort of your own home? Then you’ll love our safe non judgmental community within the pregnancy program. It’s my favorite corner of the internet and many of our members agree. To find out more visit wholemamasclub.com and click on join programs.
Now on the podcast, she talked about hormones and nutrients that she tests at three to six months postpartum. And again, this is very similar to what Megan and you just recommended about the thyroid hormones. But she also said that it’d be really great to test iron and vitamin D in the postpartum period just to see how things are doing and do a quick checkup. Do you agree with this list? Or were there any more that you wanted to add?
Elana Roumell 31:23
No, completely. And in fact, you know, again, just to reiterate, you want the comprehensive thyroid panel simply because we know we’re more susceptible to potentially Hashimoto or Graves Disease, one of the autoimmune triggers in that early kind of postpartum time. The iron is important because there could be a lot of blood loss during delivery. This is not an uncommon occurrence. And so oftentimes, their iron levels can dip and so with so much fatigue happening with lacking sleep, oftentimes women will just say, oh, it’s just because I’m not sleeping so well, but it could also be a role in that your iron levels are too low. So I always like to order a full iron panel that includes storage iron, which is called ferritin. I like ferritin above 50. That’s my goal. And so I always just like to run that three to six months postpartum. So I agree with that. And then lastly, yes, vitamin D. Vitamin D, our child will intake our vitamin D stores before and leave us with whatever’s left over. This is why vitamin D is just so important to take during pregnancy. So our stores are at optimal levels by the time baby comes. And then when baby comes and is nursing, again, he or she is going to get first dibs. So we always just want to make sure that there’s enough for mom and also if mama’s too low, we’re going to have to also supplement baby so I love this list. The only thing I would add to it, and this is really for a mom who’s just super proactive and is actually more so interested in maybe getting pregnant in a short time after delivery is what I would say is, I would actually test an entire micro nutrient panel to see all of the vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. Again, pregnancy and delivery are very taxing on the body, you know, it requires a lot of nutrients. So nutrients are known to be depleted, especially with nursing. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just again, baby has needs. So we need to optimize our stores as pregnant women. And so for women who really want to have like back to back pregnancies, I always recommend doing this test simply so that we can ensure that she’s going into another pregnancy with optimal stores. And maybe a prenatal alone is not enough and we need to also increase some specific nutrients so that that second pregnancy and that second baby can have what he or she needs. Is there anything you would add or do you agree with that list?
Stephanie Greunke 33:44
Yeah, that’s a really great place to start. In the postpartum program that I’m creating right now, it’s actually one of my favorite parts of it, is in the beginning, I provide a list of really great labs to get in the postpartum period and why you’d want to get them and what the optimal ranges and what the normal ranges that your doctor will say, and then what you can do to correct levels that are low. So I kind of give a protocol to help moms because I know it can be really frustrating if you just maybe don’t even hear back from your doctor about the results, or you don’t know what they mean, or you don’t know how to interpret them. I really help guide mamas so that they don’t feel alone or lost with all this information.
Elana Roumell 34:20
Well, I love that because I think you Dr. Brooke and myself were such big advocates that everyone you know, could be their own best doctor or at least be able to be educated and empowered so that they can work well with their practitioner. Dr. Brooke also mentioned you can download her lab interpretation guide. And it sounds like in your postpartum program, you’re going to have the same thing. So I just think it’s excellent. You know, one of the things Dr. Brooke mentioned is if let’s say T3 or T4 was low in a thyroid panel, then maybe consider these nutrients as being something that could have depleted it before just jumping right to hormone therapy and I just love that, you know, she’s giving practical information. She’s giving reasons why an elevation or a decrease in numbers could occur. I wanted, if you don’t mind Steph, for you to expand on, specifically how nutrients, whether it’s selenium or iron, can help the thyroid function so well because I think again, very frequently, we just jump right to the hormones, but come on, if we can just get our really good healthy nutrients in day to day perhaps we’re not going to see such imbalance. So if you don’t mind just helping us understand that role.
Stephanie Greunke 35:34
Yeah, absolutely. And yeah, there are some situations where you just absolutely need to have that medication. And then there are some situations where we can resolve it with things like nutrient therapy, but in any case, regardless of if you go on medication or not, it is important that we are providing our body with these cofactors and nutrients to support the hormone creation and synthesis and our body’s ability to work together in that symphony like you talked about. So in the case of thyroid, you really need iodine, selenium, iron and zinc for normal thyroid hormone metabolism. And if you don’t have enough of these nutrients, then that will impair your thyroid function. I’ll give a couple of examples. So Selenium and zinc actually help the body convert inactive T4 hormone, which is a type of thyroid hormone into the active T3 hormone. And if we have too much of that T4 hormone, if our hormone is stuck there, it’s not converting over to that active T3, you can experience those hyperthyroid symptoms so you might find that you are gaining weight, that you are cold more frequently, that you are tired, that the outer half of your eyebrow is falling off. You’re just not feeling like yourself or you might develop full blown hypothyroidism. Now selenium helps protect the thyroid gland from damage from excess of iodine exposure or from mercury or it can also prevent or reverse autoimmune thyroid conditions. And then zinc helps your body gauge how much thyroid hormones are circulating in your body. And if it’s unable to accurately gauge how much thyroid hormone is there because you just don’t have enough zinc and may not be able to produce the amount that it needs or overproduce. So all of these nutrients are going to be found and things like fish and seafood, specifically things like oysters and clams, they’re gonna be found in egg yolks and red meat and poultry and seaweed. And so you can definitely get them in food. But if you are navigating low thyroid or subclinical hypothyroidism symptoms or autoimmune thyroid, you might want to consider a supplementation with your provider, specifically if you find that you’re low in iron, or zinc or selenium, that can be really helpful to replenish what’s lost and then repair.
Elana Roumell 37:52
Thank you for that summary. I know I always kind of geek out on this but every time I asked you to like teach me about nutrition or something I feel like I always learned something new. I just love how you teach it. And I really appreciate it from such a dieticians perspective, you do a great job. So thank you.
Stephanie Greunke 38:08
Oh, yeah, no, no problem. I think it’s really important to really understand why you’re doing the things that you’re doing and where they come from. And then, you know, understand if you need to go that bit further, because we like to talk about food as medicine, but, you know, if you’re not into oysters, you’re not into sunflower seeds, you’re vegan or vegetarian, well, then, you know, supplementation might be the best course for you.
Elana Roumell 38:29
Yep, I completely agree.
Stephanie Greunke 38:30
Okay, so let’s talk about stress. And one of my favorite things that Dr. Brooke talked about is really it coming from a head down approach. So sometimes we like to just attack the thyroid gland with support or attack the adrenals with support, but we’ve got to look at what’s going up in our brain because that’s dictating so much of our hormonal balance. And oftentimes, we hear talking about stress reduction, but I think as busy mamas we can all agree that it’s really about stress management at this time in our life. And she offered the idea to have a list of stress management tools. And this is important to have a list of them because maybe what worked for you in the past isn’t going to work for you in this busy season of motherhood. And for her that was exercise. That was something that she relied on for her stress management. But that wasn’t working for her in the postpartum period when her husband was gone. And she didn’t have any childcare. And she had diathesis. So what are some of the tools that you use? Or you’re going to plan to use for your postpartum period to work on stress management?
Elana Roumell 39:33
Yeah, thanks for asking. Because when I listened to the podcast, I really started thinking about that was like, Oh my goodness, this is so good, this is so important for women to just like, get prepared because I can really see, for her if exercise was like her only big outlet, she’s totally setting herself up to fail because it’s so true. It’s like when do you have time to have someone watch the kid for you to get out and run and do this and you know, it’s like, it’s almost too much. I remember when I had to give up like my pilates classes, it was like, I don’t honestly want to waste an hour like getting in the car, driving there, checking in, then doing the class, and then getting back in the car, and then coming here, then I’m like paying a nanny to watch the kid. I was like, this is just not workable for me. So instead, what I’ve found that has just helped me so much, not only with my exercise, but it’s really my stress management, is walking. Walking to me honestly helps my stress so much, if I’m anxious, or I’m even feeling down, I just get outside, I take a walk and all of a sudden, I just really feel better within minutes. I mean, it’s it’s really quite striking for me. And so that’s why I’m so committed to starting my day with the walk whether or not I feel good or not, it’s just a great way for me to prevent not feeling well and just optimizing my mood more than anything. And what I like about it too, is that it’s efficient. You know, I’ve got a dog so I get to walk him during my walks and I really love getting Aviva outside and I’m really excited to bring the baby outside you know, I mean sunshine for everyone is going to be helpful, and fresh air. So that really is going to be I know one of my biggest tools for stress management. Obviously sleeping. But again, I may or may not have that luxury but you know, anytime that I do have childcare or there is an opportunity for me to nap or just get to bed early, that also really helps me during stressful times. Another thing that is something that I actually made myself wrong for for a while, but then realized like it was okay, is just zoning out and watching a movie or watching a show on TV. I like had this belief when I was I think in college and medical school time that like, no one should have a TV and screentime is so bad. And I mean, I don’t even own a TV for well over a decade. And I remember when I was pregnant with Aviva or maybe right after, I actually said to my husband, I was like I kind of want a TV and he was so surprised. It’s like really, you want a TV? I just figured it’s been working we’ll just use our computers or whatever. I said no like, I need time to just sit on the couch and literally just like zone out and like have time pass. And he’s like wow, okay cool! He was like really kind of excited because I was the one who was like yeah, let’s just not have a TV in the house. So we were kind of lucky, we had a friend who like donated one of their TVs and that’s like our main TV. And you know, it’s something that actually really helps me just transition away from my kind of work mode and just calming my mind down and just zoning out actually really is very therapeutic for me stress wise. And then the last one I would say for me, because I really thought about this list. I was like, after I listened to your podcast, I was like, hold on, I really want my list. For me, a lot of it also is connecting with my girlfriends. I have an awesome village of amazing women, Steph you’re included in one of them. And when I get to just pick up the phone and connect or get on a video chat or in person, of course, it’s so nourishing to me, like kind of snaps me out of whatever stressful feeling or anxiety that I may have and it just helps me put myself in somebody else’s world and I get to connect and it really rejuvenates me. So out of this list, I kind of like to just choose because if I don’t really have a lot of energy to connect, then like zoning out and watching a movie is actually what I would choose. But if I feel like I have the energy and it’s almost like restless energy than connecting is actually what I would want. Or if I just know I need to move my body, then I go to walking, or if I just know, I’m just so tired, I just needed literally shut off, then I go to sleep. So I like having a list that’s kind of varied. And I think at any time any of these could happen even as a mom of two, so I’m really looking forward to utilizing a lot of them often during my postpartum time and onward.
Stephanie Greunke 43:37
Oh, those are so good. A lot of those are similar to what I do too. So we are on the same page.
Elana Roumell 43:43
Yeah, we are in many ways. Okay, I kind of want to like switch over gears because I actually really liked how Dr. Brooke talked a lot about how there are hormones we can not control postpartum. And then there’s hormones we can control postpartum. And I really liked how she emphasized this because oftentimes, I think as moms we’re like, why are we feeling this way? What’s going on? And it’s not like we can do all that much for our sex hormones with estrogen and progesterone. But there are things we could do for cortisol and insulin. So I just thought that this is a really, really important thing for moms to really understand: that we have to really surrender right now to our body’s natural processes, especially as we’re nursing, and before getting our period back or even after getting our period back and just being patient with the whole process. But man, cortisol and insulin, things that we can control, really can play a huge role in your overall mood and, you know, symptoms and all of this. So I just think that that’s really great. So we talked a little bit about how to help manage cortisol because that’s your stress response. And I just kind of listed a few things that we could do to help control that. But now let’s talk about insulin. And so since you’re such an expert in nutrition, I thought you’d be great to maybe give us some steps on how can we or what actionable steps we can take to really help balance our blood sugar so we can help stabilize our insulin since luckily we have control over that.
Stephanie Greunke 45:13
Yeah, this is actually one of the very first steps in my postpartum program is helping mamas take control over their blood sugar because it plays such a role in your healing and your mental health. And it’s something that us mamas have a hard time with because we’re craving sugar all the time because of that emotional eating or that under sleeping or just needing to numb from the day. And we’re also skipping meals just because it’s inconvenient or we’re trying to get the baby to sleep or we don’t have enough hours in the day or we didn’t have something planned. So I’ll give a couple of things that I think are huge needle movers and the first would be having a balanced breakfast. This one is something we talked about all the time on the podcast. But it can’t be over said or overstated. And when I say balanced breakfast, again, I’m talking about like we were discussing in the smoothie of having something with protein, and produce and fat. If you can remember those three things and look at your plate and make sure you’re checking off all three of those things, then you are good to go. And I remember for me as a breastfeeding mama, a lot of times it was having eggs or a frittata and vegetables in there and sliced avocado or having a smoothie, something that I could make ahead of time, that was really easy, but we need to have that balanced breakfast. Otherwise, if we skip it, we’re going to be starving and hangry like her book, or if we skip it, then we’re going to be choosing things that we don’t want to be necessarily eating that are quick, but maybe aren’t as balanced or we’re going to be causing more stress in our body. So we definitely need to start the day with a balanced breakfast and I typically recommend within an hour of waking. And the next thing that we need to do is make sure that we’re not spreading out our meals too far apart. Sometimes when I’m talking to a mom she will be like, well, you know, I had breakfast at 8am after the baby woke up, but then I didn’t have lunch until two and that is far too long. That is causing your body to have to secrete more cortisol to help release more glucose from your system. And we don’t want that. And again, if you’re waiting too long, then your choices may not align with what you really want to be eating. So making sure that we’re eating every couple of hours, you don’t really want to go more than four hours, five hours without a meal in the postpartum period, and even less if you’re nursing. And then the other thing that I would recommend is looking for lateral shifts. So postpartum isn’t about being perfect with your diet. And so thinking about ways that you can take that craving that you are having, and maybe swap it with something that is a little bit healthier. And so I know Elana, one thing for you is you love chips. And so you found coconut oil chips that work for you, or maybe it’s something that sweet and so for me, that may be having fruit with nut butter because that is really sweet to me, or maybe having an RX bar, because that’s something that really feels good in my body. Or maybe you have a favorite dish that your parents used to make or that you love from home. And then you find ways to swap ingredients that fit what makes you feel good. So those are three things that I think anybody can start doing today, whether or not they are postpartum, to help get their blood sugar and cortisol back in rhythm.
Elana Roumell 48:30
I love that. I also love that, like, you know my favorite foods. You’re so sweet, you’re so cute, I love you. Alright, so any other final takeaways? I mean, I think that these were both just great episodes. I know we got so many community questions for both of them. I mean, they’re just great and people are interested in it. And simply because as women, we know that our hormones can really fluctuate and get the best of us at some points, but there’s also just so many great hopeful things that we can do to help better balance them. So I think we’ve shared a lot of our personal experiences and some other clinical tips, anything else that you can think of that you would like to share?
Stephanie Greunke 49:07
Yeah, I think going back to what we were talking about before, the biggest takeaway that I want to make sure people really hear, and hear again, is that if you don’t slow yourself down, then nature is going to slow you down. And also not feeling bad or feeling guilty. If you notice that towards the end of your cycle right before your period, you just want to slow down, don’t make yourself wrong for skipping the gym for a couple of days, or taking a half day at work if you can, or maybe indulging in some self-care like a massage or a manicure because you need it and your body’s asking you for it.
Elana Roumell 49:45
Hmm, I love that. I think that’s so wise and awesome. So let’s just continue to remind ourselves that just as friends, we can remind ourselves that because it’s easy to kind of forget, and then also for our listeners to just keep on reiterating that so I think that’s awesome. Alright, thanks, Steph. I really enjoyed this show. I hope you guys also enjoyed today’s episode, I do want to just do a quick reminder: Megan and Dr. Alex and Zesty Ginger is offering our audience 15% off their program on their PMS project. So if you guys are just hungry for more, and you want to understand more how the phases of your cycle can be used to optimize your energy, your productivity, your mood, or reduce just any unwanted symptoms that go along with those monthly cycles. It’s just so nice to them to offer that special discount code. It’s called WHOLEMAMA. And we’ll put the link in our show notes. Again, it’s only expires in two weeks. So I believe December 17th it’s no longer going to be available. But just check them out. I mean, they’ve got such great resources and we’re excited to share that with you. And then of course, keep on going to Dr. Brooke’s resources and buy her book because there’s just such great information that’s right at your fingertips and great resources. Now we also want to thank our partner Four Sigmatic. Don’t forget about their special offer too! We got so many great goodies for you guys. 50% off any Four Sigmatic purchase, you go to their website foursigmatic.com/wholemamas or use their discount code WHOLEMAMAS at checkout and enjoy the special offer. Now as always, if you enjoyed this episode, we always appreciate you sharing our podcast with your mama friends and writing us a review on iTunes. Let us know what you enjoyed about this episode and help us grow our village. You can also visit our website wholemamasclub.com/podcast to review show notes, find past episodes and leave comments and questions for future shows. Now please remember that the views and ideas presented on this podcast are for informational purposes only. All information, content and material presented is not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis and or medical treatment of a qualified physician or health care provider. Consult your provider before starting any diet supplement regimen or determine the appropriateness of the information shared on today’s podcast. Or if you have any questions regarding pediatrics, pregnancy or your prenatal treatment plan. Now go on have a good day and nourish and nurture yourself and your family.
- How Steph and Dr. Elana restored their cycle after babies
- Considerations for mamas who haven’t gotten their period back
- How to reduce burnout by working with your cycle
- What main hormones we recommend getting tested during the postpartum time and why
- How cortisol and insulin are the two main hormones to focus on the most and why
- What stress reducing techniques they use to support cortisol
- Actional takeaways and tips to balance blood sugar and keep your insulin hormone levels optimal
- Episode #161: 4 Phase Approach to Restore your Cycle Postpartum with Zesty Ginger
- Connect with Zesty Ginger on Instagram
- Check out their program at ZestyGinger.com
- Free Feminine Wild Cycle Guide
- The PMS Project (Use code WHOLEMAMAS for 15% off)
- Episode #162: Balancing Postpartum Hormones with Dr. Brooke
- Connect with Dr. Brooke on Instagram
- Purchase Dr. Brooke’s book, Hangry
- Dr. Brooke’s Lab guide
- Blog: A Functional Medicine Approach to PMDD
- Blog: Find your unique carb tolerance
- Blog: Why Didn’t I Lose Weight While Breastfeeding