For women, good hormone balance is a tricky thing to accomplish, but it is absolutely essential to function well. I am sure most of you can agree that even a minor change in hormones (such as the one they experience while going through their cycle) can affect everything from mood, to cravings, to pimples. If you find that uncomfortable, then imagine some of the side effects of a constant hormone imbalance (acne, autoimmune flare ups, fibroids in the breasts, cancer, loss of period, mood problems, brain fog, and signs of menopause). The most incredible thing is that many women (up to 70-80%) are walking around with too much estrogen (what’s called “estrogen dominance”), and they don’t even know it. Luckily, most hormone imbalances can be balanced through changes diet that affect the way your body produces and metabolizes hormones.
This week, I am talking to Magdalena Wszelaki, who is an expert on female hormone imbalance. She has just published her new book, ”Cooking For Hormone Balance.”
This book is, in my opinion, the single best resource on how to eat for female hormonal health that has ever been created. This is a must-have resource for all women. Honestly, even before you watch this podcast, do yourself a favor and go grab yourself a copy of this book right now. (You can download the first chapter plus several free recipes and even 5 how-to cooking videos from Magdalena here. You can also get here free bonus, The Seed Rotation Guide for hormone balance here. So go grab one of those and then grab a copy of her new book. This is simply the best thing that’s ever been created for female hormone balance.)
It’s an amazing book that reveals the effects of hormone imbalance on your health, and it has 125 beautifully-done recipes that will teach you how to balance hormones with foods.
In this podcast, you’ll learn
- The most common hormone imbalance that most women don’t know they have
- How estrogen dominance is causing fatigue and other symptoms (and is overall, wrecking your health)
- How your period is affected by estrogen
- How estrogen dominance can cause breast cancer
- The main causes of hormone imbalance
- How to relieve the symptoms of menopause
- How stress wrecks your hormone balance
- Why coffee is problematic for many women with estrogen dominance
- Some of the top herbs and superfoods for hormone balance
Download or listen on iTunes
Listen outside of iTunes
How Hormone Imbalance Wrecks Your Health and How to Balance Hormones with Food (Cooking for Hormone Balance with Magdalena Wszelaki) – Transcript
Ari Whitten: Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten and today I’m with Magdalena, I’m sure I’m going to butcher your last name, but I just realized as I started this intro I’m thinking oh man, I should’ve asked you how to pronounce your last name before we started this, but it’s Wszelaki.
Magdalena Wszelaki: Very close, yeah, Wszelaki, yeah.
Ari Whitten: Wszelaki.
Magdalena Wszelaki: For someone who hasn’t been practicing this is the best butchering ever.
Ari Whitten: Perfect, that’s a great compliment, ‘This is the best butchering of my last name ever.” Haha. So she is a holistic nutrition coach. She’s the founder of the hormones balance online community, and the author of this wonderful new book that is about to come out on April 10th, Cooking for Hormone Balance, which I received an advance copy of since I’m gonna be hosting you on the podcast. I’ve been looking over it for the last few hours prior to this interview and it’s just a wonderful, wonderful book. So phenomenal job on that and I’m really excited to promote this to my community.
Magdalena Wszelaki: Thank you so much. Especially coming from you because you are like, your content is solid. It’s very deep. You don’t do fluff. The compliment coming from you really means a lot.
Ari Whitten: Thank you, I appreciate that. So welcome, it’s such a pleasure to have you on, and I’m excited to have this conversation on all these topics on hormone balance, which I really haven’t covered much on this podcast before, so there are all kinds of great new concepts we’re gonna get into.
Ari Whitten: I wanna start by maybe actually just having you talk about your health journey and I know that you had Hashimoto’s and what inspired you to get into this field and to start talking about hormones?
Magdalena Wszelaki: Yeah, Ari, first of all, I was not a breastfed baby. I was the formula fed child, not surprisingly with gut issues right from the beginning, huge food sensitivities. I was covered with eczema. I mean, my hands were just covered, here my neck was covered in eczema. Always bloated, always had a lot of sinus infections as a kid. I don’t remember much when I was five years old, but I do remember being taken to a hospital for a drainage of my ears. That’s how bad it was.
How hormone imbalance cause zits and how to balance hormones for acne
And then later, going into my early 20s, cystic acne all over the place including my front and back. I never owned a shirt that with an open back because I was covered in cystic acne. All of that stemming from food sensitivities.
And I remember coming across an article online that said, why is it that children in Papua New Guinea have no zits? And mind you, this was 20 years ago. But this kind of information was absolutely revolutionary. And I thought, wow, really. I got off gluten, half of my zits cleared up. Then I did food sensitivity testing which was super unusual to do but I found a way to do it. Discovered that eggs and dairy were my problems. Took them out, my skin cleared out, my headaches started going away. PMS regulated itself. I had always very swollen fingers. I couldn’t take my rings off. All of that disappeared. And this was like the introduction to food, like how food can really, hugely help everything. My migraines went away. I’m even forgetting all the things that cleared out.
What I didn’t do too well is that I didn’t really religiously really continue on that path and then I moved to China with my job. I lived between Hong Kong and Shanghai in a very, very stressful job. Super toxic environment. What you hear about China back in 2008, like around the Olympics, that’s all true. It’s incredibly polluted. You had no idea what you were putting into your body.
And in 2008, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, which is an autoimmune disease, attacking your thyroid, so causing hypothyroidism. But along the way, I also had definitely my adrenals were suffering big time and I had estrogen dominance, so terrible PMS, always still having that water retention around my fingers. Terrible mood swings. Hair loss started which was probably either thyroid or estrogen issues.
So fast forward to today, as a 45-year-old woman, I feel so much better in my body, in terms of quality of sleep, energy levels, quality of my skin. I’m wearing a little bit of eye makeup, but I don’t have any skin issues anymore. Just feeling like really strong, empowered, energetic, mentally clear. Because that’s one of the things of the thyroid, right? You’re so behind a fog all the time, especially when you’re in a high power job. I used to work in advertising as a strategic planner in Fortune 100 brands.
So, it just feels absolutely marvelous and I attribute that to changing my diet as being the foundation of getting to a point where I am now. And guess what? Not surprising, that’s why I’m passionate about this stuff. Because if it worked for me, it worked for a couple thousands of women I’ve worked with who have helped themselves to really feel like a woman again and not a monster. The stuff works, I know it does.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, beautifully said. There’s one more point I want to emphasize before we get into some of the meat of this. I want to find it. I’m looking through your book right now. Where’s this little section, I bookmarked the page. So, just for context, a lot of the discussion around hormone balance that you hear now is often revolves around seemingly scientific kind of cutting-edge stuff, just kind of pump people full of hormones or supplements that are supposed to affect hormones, whether DHEA or Pregnenolone, all kinds of different things that are kind of targeted like that type of things and a lot of it’s kind of this bioidentical hormone replacement. And certainly there’s a place for that.
But one of the things that I really love about what you’re saying here and I had a little bit of concern about, but I was very pleasantly surprised, is you kind of say, there’s a place for bioidentical hormone replacement and certain women who maybe have really complex medical issues where they may need some more targeted support, but you say for everyone else, avoid getting caught up in the pill popping and quick fix mentality. Replacing one pill such as medications with another such as cocktails of supplements or hormones.
I love that approach and I just want to emphasize that distinction for everyone listening, I think that’s critical.
Magdalena Wszelaki: Yeah, thank you.
How estrogen dominance causes hormone imbalance and disease
Ari Whitten: So with that in mind, I think a good place to start is estrogen dominance. This is a very prevalent issue for a lot of people and not just as we were talking about before this, and not just women, but also men. So I would love if you could talk a bit about what’s going on there, what kind of symptoms it results in, what causes it, and maybe some tips on how to fix it.
Magdalena Wszelaki: Absolutely. So I’m glad you asked about estrogen dominance because I feel that this is by no means a scientific data, but it’s just from observation of my own community. When you do this for a decade, you have a pretty good feel. I feel like 70-80% of women, I’ve worked with, suffer from estrogen dominance and the majority of them have no idea that that’s what it is. It’s just that they know they have symptoms, but they don’t know what causes them.
So let’s talk about symptoms first and I would just mention men just to start off with. But I’ll be very clear just to, that I do not work with men. So the cookbook has been written for women. However, men will benefit from this approach as well. I promise you’re not going to have boobs growing from this book. In fact, it’s going to only help to actually reduce them.
Ari Whitten: Well, I can actually personally attest to that. Because going through your book, I do some of the stuff that you recommend and I have yet to grow boobs. So I can confirm for my listeners that what she says is true.
Magdalena Wszelaki: So in men, estrogen dominance can manifest in things like prostate issues, prostate cancer as well as actually man boobs, which a lot of men are not very happy about and that’s what could be causing it. In women, we have a lot more going on. So anything from pretty superficial stuff like the PMS’s with the bloating and the mood swings and the headaches and the bad moods, to where you store fat around in your body.
Interestingly, in women, women who are pear shaped, where this is this stubborn fat around thighs and our hips. It’s in the butt. That can be often due to estrogen dominance. Water retention in the limbs around that time of your period, infertility issues, having spotting in between the cycles or in your mid-cycle, missing periods, irregular periods, lack of periods can be due to estrogen dominance.
And then more serious stuff, things like nodules on the thyroid, thyroid cancer. In fact, there’s a specific group of cancers that are due to estrogen dominance and these will be the estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, which is the majority of the cancers that most women experience. Lumps on their boobs, fibrocystic breasts which almost every woman experiences at some point in her life and lives in that constant state of fear, going what do I do with this? Do I need to get it scanned, what’s going on?
Two more that come to mind straight away is endometriosis which is for a lot of younger women that’s a huge problem. So painful. What does Western medicine do with it? We use menopause in these women in order to control it. I hope one day, we will come to a point where we realize it’s a pretty barbaric way of dealing with a condition like that.
Not to mention fibroids and again, the solution a lot of time of your OBGYN would be to remove the uterus when you have fibroids.
Guess what? Here’s an interesting thing about this is that you remove the fibroids, the uterus because of the fibroids, you’re not addressing the root cause of the problem which is estrogen dominance. And then six months later, one year later, women go, well, you know what? Now I have these lumps on my boobs.
What’s going on? You go and get a diagnosis. The chances of having an estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer is very high because you never address the root cause of it. And that’s part of the reason why I’m so passionate about estrogen dominance, especially like with issues like breast cancer, where we go breast cancer awareness month. As women, we’re aware, we know about this already. Let’s talk about solutions and I feel not many people, not enough is being said about simple things that we can do to help it.
So I know your audience is sophisticated, so why don’t I dive into what does it mean to have estrogen dominance, like what’s going on in terms of the hormones. Because this is kind of interesting. The estrogen dominance can happen, let’s just simplify it for two main reasons. Number one is the way you’re body breaks down, it’s not just one estrogen, there are sixteen different types of estrogens. But really there are three that we really understand and study today.
The way our body break these estrogens down can be what we call metabolites. The metabolites can either protective and do a good job or they can be antagonistic and they are the ones that are causing the growth of the malignant tissues, like for example in the case of cancer or thyroid nodules, fibroids. So that’s one possibility, how your body breaks it down, which happens largely in the liver and in our digestion. So we can talk about how these bodily systems impact our estrogen metabolism.
The other possibility is that you have some level of estrogen, but you have very little progesterone as compared to estrogen. So especially, we’re looking at the relationship between estradiol which is the more aggressive form of estrogen to progesterone. Just in case, somebody’s running off to look at their labs right now, you’ve got to look at from either my preferred version would be using urine, saliva’s somewhat accurate and then blood is completely useless when it comes to steroid hormones. So don’t look at that as a way of getting diagnosed. Looking at just the symptoms, so that’s basically what happens at the back end, chemistry-wise, chemically what was going on.
How to balance estrogen hormones with food
Now what’s interesting about estrogen dominance is that, Ari, it’s one of my favorite things to talk about because there are so many things that we can do to reverse it. And one of the biggest confusions around estrogen dominance is that, let me just tell you first that my favorite food when it comes to estrogen dominance is flaxseed. So when you look it up, flaxseed is actually called phytoestrogen. It contains high amounts of phytoestrogen, which is naturally occurring estrogen. It’s not super aggressive, it’s not the same as your boobie doing estrogen creams and patches, but it still will raise your estrogen levels.
And so people go, why on earth would you be recommending us estrogenic food when I’m ready estrogen dominant. And here’s the powerful and such a fascinating thing about flaxseed is that it does a number of things. The first thing that it does helps us to, you know how I was talking about breaking down the metabolites to the antagonistic and the protective ones. Flaxseed actually helps to skew it towards the protective side. That’s the first thing that happens. And that’s the reason why women who, even though they’re estrogen dominant, they start incorporating flaxseed on a regular basis to their diet, PMS starts going away, their breasts are feeling so much better, thyroid nodules start disappearing. It’s actually quite fascinating.
The other thing that we also know about flaxseed is that flaxseed also parks itself in a receptor, the estrogen receptor in the cells and blocks the aggressive estrogen from doing the damage and doing the proliferation of the cells happens with that. So it blocks basically from the bad estrogen from coming in and doing all that damage. So it’s pretty fascinating. And honestly I love it because it’s full of fiber. It’s insoluble, soluble and insoluble fiber, it contains both. And one of the big things about having a really good hormonal balance in women, especially, you’ve got have a really good bowel movement. And that amount of insoluble fiber that you’re bringing in from flaxseed, it like sweeps the colon and you’re evacuating thing very nicely, which is critical when you want to have a really good hormonal balance because we poop out metabolized hormones. A lot of women don’t realize that, but actually you create these hormones, they get back in the bloodstream, the liver separates them out and with the help with the bile, we basically poop them out. So that’s one of the easiest things that we can do. Two tablespoons a day, freshly ground flaxseed, boom. You’re going to start feeling so much better.
Ari Whitten: There are actually so many questions going through my mind right now. So many different avenues we can take from here, but let’s dig in just a little bit more to this concept. First as a specific question on flax and you kind of eluded to it a second ago, but I’ve definitely heard some reports of why it’s probably not a good idea to use pre-ground flax or flaxseed oil, but to actually get intact flaxseeds and then freshly grind them yourself. And that’s personally what I do, I put them in smoothies as freshly, as whole intact seeds and then blend them up in my Vitamix and get them that way. But what’s your take on that? Do you think it’s important to get them intact?
Magdalena Wszelaki: Yeah, that’s a really important question. It’s a very practical question. You are super pragmatic that way, too. We want to have the theory, but also the practical side of things. Absolutely. I absolutely discourage anybody to be buying preground flaxseed. It gets oxidized really easily. It’s very high in ALA, so that alpha-linolenic acid. And that gets oxidized really really easily. That’s the reason why you see flaxseed oil is always stored in a dark container in a fridge with a very short expiry date. There’s a reason for that. But also like you mentioned, flaxseed oil, I get that question a lot. Do I recommend it? You know, I don’t because the actual compound that really makes a difference in helping the phytoestrogen is found in the ligaments and so that’s in the fiber of that seed and not in the oil. So that’s why I’m not even using the oil in my cookbook, but do use a lot of the seeds. So same as you, golden flaxseed is something that over brown, I prefer a little bit better, just nutritionally speaking, profile wise. But both of them would work, freshly ground, like set in a smoothie. Sometimes some women don’t do smoothies. Like when I’m traveling, I’ll get to bring a jar with me that is freshly preground for four to five days in advance, keep it in a refrigerator and ready to go.
Ari Whitten: Nice. Excellent. A couple more questions on specific foods. One is pomegranate, which I know I have some relationship to estrogen, and the other is soy products. I’m curious what your take on the role of pomegranate with regard to estrogen dominance and soy.
Magdalena Wszelaki: Pomegranates are one of my absolute favorite foods. I mean, not only do they look absolutely beautiful, but really in every culture, pomegranate has a place, not in every, but in so many cultures, whenever it was geographically available. Originating from Persia and so from in Iran, women have always been drinking pomegranate juice, whether you were getting ready for getting pregnant or whether you’re suffering through menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, the pomegranate was always the go-to solution.
So it is done in India. In Israel, pomegranate plays a huge role as well. They have a place in so many cultures for a really good reason. So we have been using them, but then now today we know that we have the science behind them, right. They are just so nutritionally incredibly potent. One of the things that Russian athletes do is they do fresh pomegranate juice that is being given to the athletes just before their performances just because it is such a huge stimulant as well, in a good way.
So just hormonally speaking, everything from the skin to the arils which is the seeds, everything has a role in a pomegranate. Let’s just talk about the seeds themselves. They contain a substance which today we call a SERM, which is a selective estrogen receptor modulator. So similar to what I was talking about flaxseeds, what they do is they modulate that estrogen receptor so that if you’re having those antagonistic estrogen, they will potentially attach themselves to the cell and do damage, but guess what. Pomegranates stop that from happening. So that’s one of the amazing things about it.
It’s also hugely beneficial for cardiovascular issues. There is research that shows, actually believe it or not, helps even though it’s kind of sweet, it helps with sugar balance. Very high in phytonutrients, profile wise speaking. So just absolutely must have added to your protocol. Whether you do it with the full seeds, I have a number of recipes in my cookbook to add that or if you just do it in a freshly squeezed. And I want to emphasize the word freshly squeezed juice. Not the stuff that you buy from the store that has been pasteurized. A lot of sugar has been added to it.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. And that’s good for me to hear because that’s one of my favorite foods.
Magdalena Wszelaki: Is it really?
Ari Whitten: Yeah and there’s also some fascinating research on how certain compounds in pomegranate get metabolized in the gut microbiome and turned into other compounds and then have unique effects on mitochondrial health. Some really fascinating research in that area as well. All around, just an awesome food, plus it tastes delicious.
Magdalena Wszelaki: It’s beautiful, right?
Why soy isn’t used in the cooking for hormone balance recipes
Ari Whitten: So, what about soy?
Magdalena Wszelaki: Yeah, soy question. First of all, my cookbook is free of soy just because I see so many women having an issue with soy. Except for one recipe, the miso soup that’s in the book. So I am a fan if somebody can tolerate soy, I’m a fan of using a fermented form of soy which could be in a form of miso. It can be in a form of tempeh. Soy sauce can be reasonable. I want to emphasize one more time, somebody can tolerate soy. I would never recommend soy in the form of soy milk, tofu.
Everything from research that shows it causes digestive issues, goitrogenic properties that slow down the thyroid uptake of iodine through the thyroid cell that produces the T4 hormone. I see so many women having digestive issues with soy, like in the milk form. So I would say, just drawing the line between the fermented versus the unfermented ones. I’m curious what is your stance on that. Because you are kind of putting me on the spot here.
Ari Whitten: No, yeah, if you’re worried that I’m judging you or something like that. No, I think a few things. One, I generally agree with you and I think that’s the safe approach. I also think that too much-unfermented soy products in my experience can create harm. Speaking purely about the evidence, some of the claims I think that are out there, some of the really strong demonizations of soy products, appears to be largely unwarranted based on some of the big reviews.
I know our mutual friend, Alan Christianson, did a big review on that recently. But, I definitely have also heard a lot of antidotes that don’t necessarily fit with that research and line up more with your recommendations. So I think it’s reasonable to have mixed positions on that subject and I think you can argue a few different points.
Why you need to listen to your body and not experts on different foods
I think what’s hard to argue is for this super strong demonization of soy products that they’re all terrible for you in all circumstances and soy is this kind of like, everyone needs to avoid soy. And I used to be one of the people promoting that. But upon further analysis of the evidence, I realized that maybe some of the vegan diet gurus who emphasize soy as being good for you, maybe there’s some legitimacy to that, too.
Magdalena Wszelaki: Have you been a vegan before?
Ari Whitten: I’ve dabbled in it, yeah.
Magdalena Wszelaki: Okay.
Ari Whitten: Believe me, I’m a very extreme person. So I’ve dabbled pretty much everything from veganism to near complete carnivory. In my younger years, I got suckered into a lot of very extreme, like every type of the most extreme diets imaginable. And not to imply that veganism is necessarily that, but certain variants of veganism, fruitarianism, I would classify as that. Carnivory, meat-based diets, which seem to now be growing in popularity. I mean, there was a time where I was eating meat and chugging cream and stuff like that. So yeah, I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff. Let’s just put it that way.
Magdalena Wszelaki: One of the things, I think it’s a really important point you mentioned about the demonization of food. One of the things that I really want to leave our readers with when it comes to in my book, is the idea that really tune into your body to figure out what works for you, what doesn’t. And we can talk about, for example, sauerkraut being amazing, this fermented food. But if somebody has a histamine issue, if somebody is having a problem with processing sulfur because they have a mutation for that, like I do for example. Then there’s food that becomes so unsavory and it causes so much health damage for us. I’m not saying you should be avoiding that food forever, but you’re going to heal up your gut and [inaudible] inflammation and all that to be able to tolerate it. But the point is that some foods can also be highly detrimental.
So, not every food in this book that you find here is going to work for you. I mean, I’m using cashews sometimes and somebody’s got problems with cashews and nuts, then that’s going to be the end of it. I think that’s part of the things that, that’s the first part of the book. Really helps to navigate and figure out, really tune into your body. And no one, no health guru’s going to tell you what’s right for you. It’s your body and your own intuition and intelligence will help you figure out, I feel amazing on these foods, but these ones, not yet, not now.
The connection between hormone balance and food intolerances
Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. And with that in mind, I think that’s a nice segway into the topic of food intolerances and the role of food intolerances in the context of hormonal balance. Because I know you devote quite a bit of time to that in your book, can you talk about that relationship a bit? How does something that someone is intolerant to relate to their hormones?
Magdalena Wszelaki: Absolutely. Who would have thought, I’ve got a problem with eggs, how does that impact my hormones? Well, actually it does. Let me just step back for a second, mention that a large part of my approach is based on what I call a three-legged stool, which means that if you want to sit comfortably on the three-legged stool, all the three legs need to be fairly stable and all the same length. And this applies the same way to our three bodily systems, which is your digestion, blood sugar levels, and liver health that will directly impact how the hormones express.
But you asked about food sensitivities and doing the elimination diet is the very first step in regaining your hormonal imbalance. An interesting thing about this, Ari, is that a lot of times women chase after this, I’ve got hot flashes. What’s the one herb, can I do Maca? What about black cohosh? I’m going to add this, add that. And it kind of works maybe sometimes for a while. It might for a couple of months and then it stops. It might work somewhat and then it doesn’t. The reason a lot of times it happens because you’re not addressing the underlining cause of the problem that the inflammation that’s being created in the body which largely can come from food sensitivities.
How to balance your hormones by lowering inflammation
So the book is based on the idea of doing the elimination diet to lower any inflammation. When you lower the inflammation, the body responds, your glands are able to produce the hormones so much better. Your liver is so much better equipped to being able to detoxify us from the utilized hormones and break them down properly. So the elimination diet really creates this sort of anti-inflammatory response in the body.
It stops creating the stress. You know, every time somebody’s going through, when you’re experiencing things like bloating, constipation, acid reflux, gas, loose stool, these are digestive distress. This digestive distress actually creates a hormonal response in our adrenals. The cortisol actually goes up when you’re constantly having digestive drama going on. Doing the elimination diet completely brings it down.
The other thing about digestion that I absolutely love and this is new research and I’m so following this because I want to see what’s going on. We know today now that there are a substantive bacteria in the gut called estrobolome which is responsible for helping us to break down estrogen. So who would have thought, Ari, that just by maintaining a good microbiome, a good bacteria in the gut can help you with reducing your breast lumps and reduce your thyroid nodules and maybe even reverse your breast cancer, because you’re taking care of your gut.
I mean, that’s pretty fascinating stuff, but we know that is happening and there is more research being done on that. So when you do the elimination diet, you’re supporting your microbiome in reviving itself and you’re regaining your balance between the good bacteria and the bad bacteria, lowering down the yeast, if you’re having too much yeast, you’re just reducing all of that. That’s one of the simplest things that you can do to support your hormonal balance.
The importance of only doing elimination diets in the short term for hormone balance
Ari Whitten: Yeah, fascinating. So this three-legged stool, the gut, the liver, and…
Magdalena Wszelaki: Sugar balance.
Ari Whitten: Sugar balance. So that’s kind of a good intro into the gut topic. Let’s dig a little bit deeper into that. You talk about elimination diets and various kinds like anti-candida diet, low fodmap diet, autoimmune paleo, and stuff like that. I want to ask you, ’cause I’ve talked to a number of people that have gone on elimination diets and then experienced improvements and then kind of, some people kind of feel like, okay, I’m forever supposed to be on this restrictive diet and they never re-introduce foods. They get locked into this very restrictive diet and it ends up being counterproductive for them in the long term. I’m just wondering if you have a take on that, if you’ve seen people who have gone down that path and how do you avoid that situation?
Magdalena Wszelaki: Yeah, this is a really important question because it really leads you to a certain mental health and enjoyment of life to have. As you can hear and you probably know, I’m not American. I’m of European background and I grew up most of my adult life actually in Asia where people worship food. You get together with friends around food.
You talk about food. At breakfast, you talk about what you’re going to do for dinner with friends. It’s a moment of time bonding and nourishment. And moving to the United States, one of the things I noticed how afraid people were of food. Food was talking from a perspective of limitation and calculation and micromanagement, rather than the true enjoyment. That was a huge shift for me. I wanted to mention that because what you’re talking about leads to this kind of fear and obsession about food when we embark on these kind of elimination diets.
So first of all, thank you for asking that question and the elimination diet and my approach is only a temporary approach. Where you want to bring the inflammation down in the body, start keeping a journal and all of that is in the book, keeping a journal and I’m teaching in there, how to spot those things to figure out really what is your trigger.
The idea is that when you remove these inflammatory foods and bring in foods that help you to rebalance your microbiome but also heal the digestion, a lot of times, you will be able to bring these foods back in. If you are so super reactive to a lot of foods, then this goes beyond the scope of this work. This is something I’m sure that you talk much more about that. Work with a functional doc who can help you do a full profile of what’s going on in your gut and what I’ve found is when we eliminate infections, whether it’s parasites, bacterial infections, like SIBO, h pylori, viral infections, then a lot of amazing things start happening. And you’re becoming able to eat many more foods that you couldn’t before.
How food intolerances can be caused by hormone imbalance, infections, or imbalanced gut
Ari, let me share with you while writing this book and developing 127 recipes, I suddenly found myself to have a huge sensitivity to oxalates. For those of you who don’t know, oxalates are found in all the nuts and seeds, most of the grains, amazing vegetables such as kale has it and spinach has it. So many green vegetables contain high amounts of oxalates. Sweet potato has huge. And so cacao has it. I couldn’t do chocolate. Ari, you know how I was testing recipes at one point when it was really bad, I would put it in my mouth and I had to spit it out. I could not swallow it because of the pain. In my case, it was manifesting in a form of pain. A super sharp pain around my hips. It was so bad…
Ari Whitten: And you would feel that almost instantly after putting it in your mouth?
Magdalena Wszelaki: Two hours, like boom. When I searched online for help about oxalates, I belong to all these groups and they are all about strict abstinence. In fact, they have these banners saying, whole foods is promoting the almonds, macadamia and spinach. They are all poisoning us with oxalates. And I’m like, they are not poisoning us. These foods have been always amazing. It’s just that we can eat them. Something is going on in our bodies that we are not breaking down these oxalates, which are these crystals. They are supposed to get bound and get evacuated with the poop. They are all about abstinence and demonizing these foods. And I was like, this can’t be right.
I started working with a very high-end functional doc, ran a number of labs, turned out I had h pylori, I had SIBO, I had a few other pathogenic bacteria. God knows how I picked it up, but you know, we cleared it. And just being eight weeks on that protocol, I remember going to a restaurant, there was nothing else that was gluten-free except for a quinoa bowl. But quinoa is high oxalates and I remember having it and thinking, man two hours and I can’t walk.
And it was like two hours and it was nothing, no pain. That’s when I realized just by clearing these infections, my food sensitivities have disappeared. Today, my gut health is in really good shape. It’s never going to stay forever. You go through stress, and by the way, my SIBO came out because you may know this, I had a double hip replacement done six months ago. And a lot of times after surgery, because it’s so traumatic, especially when you have two hips done at the same time, that can bring out SIBO and so SIBO I think brought on these food sensitivities.
So anyway, long story, just to say if you get rid of these infections, a lot of times, we can bring these foods back. And I do believe that maybe because the way dairy and gluten have been modified today, not everybody’s going to be able to bring them back on. Your body’s going to tell you.
But a lot of these beautiful foods, for example, eggs or nuts or seeds, or things that people are so fearful of today, you should be able to eat them in moderation with a really good cycling. So you don’t eat almonds every day, but you cycle them with other nuts and seeds. And then you get your life back and you just love food then and not be afraid of it.
How stress causes hormone imbalance
Ari Whitten: Yeah, beautifully said. Also, I think in this context of becoming fearful of food, one of the things that can result from that is stress. And stress itself can create hormone imbalances. And I know you talk about that a bit in your book, but can you talk how stress itself can contribute to some of these hormonal problems as well?
Magdalena Wszelaki: Yeah, let me just talk about one, because it’s like all women have this issue. So when we are stressed out, there is a phenomenon called pregnenolone steal that can happen. So imagine the pregnenolone is like the mother hormone of which a number of different hormones are created, including cortisol and guess what, progesterone.
So the body has to make a decision, there’s a literally a pathway that breaks down pregnenolone. A certain amount goes towards cortisol and a certain amount goes towards progesterone. Now, when you’re stressed out and like you said, it’s either because you’re super fearful of food or it’s because you’ve got stuff going on in your life, it’s because you’re over exercising, you’re obsessing about things, you’re having a really bad relationship with yourself, there’s trauma from the past, whatever is your trigger, or you have digestive issues, the point is that the body than transfers much more pregnenolone towards cortisol in order for you to function and get you through that stress versus progesterone.
So what does that mean when you’re slow on progesterone? You know progesterone is as the word implies pro-gestation. It’s that pro procreation hormone. So the body goes I would rather have her get through this crisis, she doesn’t have to be pregnant. That doesn’t matter. Good sleep, that’s not important right now. She has to get through the stress. So the body gets depleted of progesterone which basically translates to things like, you can’t sleep, you get anxiety attacks, you can’t pregnant, you get maybe irregular periods, you get super painful PMS’s.
Even women with night sweats and hot flashes can be due to low progesterone. So this is one of the examples. There is a few other. We could talk about this forever. But if you can remember that, it just robs you of progesterone.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, beautiful. So one of the other parts of the three-legged stool is liver health. Let’s talk a bit about that and what impacts on one’s liver health and how that in turn, effects hormonal balance.
Magdalena Wszelaki: Right. So when I was diagnosed with estrogen dominance several years ago, well, that was like seven years ago when my hair was falling out, my thyroid was good at that point, but I was beginning to lose a lot of hair. And it’s like, what was going on? I wasn’t stressed out. So I was finally diagnosed with estrogen dominance and so before we talk about solutions, let me just say that there is a genetic predisposition you may have towards being a really bad estrogen metabolizer. And so you have an MTHFR mutation, if you have something called the COMT mutation and our good friend, Ben Lynch has done a beautiful book on that that just really explains what’s going on when you’re slow COMT metabolizer.
And I have all these mutations, double mutations, you know, so double whammies in every aspect. I’m like such a mutated woman. But you know, guess what? When I went to see my functional doc, one of the first things she asked when she looked my 23 and me and all that interpreting reports, she said, have you ever had breast cancer? I said, well, that’s a big question, that’s a pretty loaded question. And she said, yeah, because genetically, you’re just the perfect candidate for that.
And I will tell you, Ari, that whenever I do stupid things, like I’ll go to Portugal for a month and I drink wine and I’ll have gluten here and there, and I’ll do more dairy than I should. And I party maybe a little bit longer because it’s December and I’m there with my really good friends I haven’t seen for 20 years. Then, I come back and it’s like my boobs are lumpy, my PMS is from hell, you know…
Ari Whitten: Wow, you notice it just within a few weeks of changing your diet and habits. Wow.
Magdalena Wszelaki: But then, I know what to do, right? And that’s the protocol that what I wrote about in the book. I know what to do to manage that and completely, my boob lumps will go away literally within two weeks when I apply the protocol. So there is a genetic predisposition, but like I said, you can completely and absolutely control it with the right nutrients and food.
About your question about the liver, one of the fascinating things when it comes to estrogen dominance is the health of your liver. And so guess what? So there are seven different pathways in the liver and these pathways, they need these different substances that need to attach themselves to the different compounds, whether it’s bacteria, viruses, yeast, heavy metals, parasites, and hormones.
And so, it’s kind of fun because we always think about the liver as being a detoxification organ for alcohol, caffeine, or medicine. Not often are we made aware that our hormones are actual metabolize through the liver as well. And so in the book, I have this whole list of different pathways and what this pathway does to your [inaudible] and for example, the methylation pathway needs the methyls to attach themselves in order to evacuate, for example, estrogen. But the liver is also super important for the thyroid health. It’s the conversion of T4 to T3 hormone happens in the liver. So you have the sulfation pathway, when again sulfur is the compound that will help you with things like production of dopamine and adrenaline. Fascinating stuff and yet we don’t really think of it as an organ that helps us rebalance our hormones.
The cool thing is there are so many beautiful things that we can do with our food to support the liver. The elimination diet is the first great starting point because you stop putting junk into your body or inflammatory foods that are going to make the liver work so much easier. But then there’s also, if you want we can talk about… I’m curious actually what are your favorite foods to support the liver. See if I have it in my book.
Ari Whitten: You definitely have a lot of them. You talk about citrus peels, I think is a cool one. Cruciferous veggies, sprouts, I love broccoli sprouts, I’m a huge advocate of broccoli sprouts. What else? Those are the ones that come to mind for liver health, for sure.
Magdalena Wszelaki: So let’s see if I can find it right off the bat. So all of them like you mentioned plus also I love using dandelion leaves. One of the recipes I want to show you is a recipe I’ve learned Tuscany and it uses dandelion leaves, arugula leaves, and then it’s got orange, orange juice, orange zest, and walnuts is an option if you can tolerate nuts.
And the beautiful thing about dandelion is that anything bitter stimulates liver bile production and the bile than does the little flushing through the liver. So that’s one of the amazing things. It’s interesting because bitter is something that in our Western culture, we have kind of lost the thing for it.
Everything has moved toward salty and sweet. And often times, we don’t appreciate bitters. But bitter is actually, that’s why you do, the French aperitif, that little drink you have before a meal is always very bitter, it’s sweet, but it’s also bitter. And it’s there to stimulant your bile production, also your stomach acid production to kind of prep up the body for receiving the beautiful food and then you just really chomp it down and get the most out of it.
The relationship between caffeine and estrogen dominance
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Basically, it’s metabolizing a lot of these hormones and then it’s affecting the balance of a lot of different things. Estrogen dominance is a big one.
I’m just realizing now there are two other things related to estrogen. One of them I know is mentioned in your book and one is one other one I wanted to ask you about. Caffeine. I know you have a take on caffeine and that has some relationship to estrogen dominance. What is that relationship?
Magdalena Wszelaki: So, you do realize that you’re going to make me incredibly unpopular on your podcast right now, right?
Ari Whitten: Well, I don’t know if you know, but I’ve actually talked quite a bit about pros and cons of the research around coffee and caffeine. So my audience should be prepped for it.
Magdalena Wszelaki: Okay, good. I was teasing. Coffee and caffeine are one of the most addicting substances that are legalized in the world. And so telling someone that you shouldn’t be having it might be a tough one. Let’s just first of all state that some people really respond really well by taking coffee out and that can be like the last thing that they might need to do in order to feel better and there are others that coffee actually makes them feel wonderful. That’s the reason why you have studies from both and see people responding both ways. I don’t have any coffee recipes in my cookbook. I’m a little bit against coffee per se. Caffeine is a different story. I have some matcha recipes in the book, so matcha is caffeinated.
Let’s talk about specifically about coffee. A couple of things, one is the fact that it has to get metabolized in the liver and it’s a pretty big hitter on the liver. And it happens to be on the same pathways where estrogen is metabolized. It’s a little bit like a sieve, the liver’s like a sieve. And there’s only so much of the stuff that can get processed that after that it starts overflowing. And the body kind of prioritizes things and in a sense that it will always prioritize things like the heavy metals or parasites or bacteria because it really wants to get rid of that. But then other things like the hormones and caffeine gets sideways if the liver is not able to process things. This is the way I see coffee having an impact. I see a lot of women having a huge improvement in hot flashes and I’m not pushing any agenda. I’m just sharing with you what I see working.
Ari Whitten: You’re part of the anti-coffee agenda, aren’t you?
Magdalena Wszelaki: I’m not. I’m not.
Ari Whitten: You make millions of dollars every year based on people avoiding coffee, don’t you?
Magdalena Wszelaki: Oh, you’re funny. Dave [inaudible] is going to hate me for that.
I see women regaining their health in terms of hot flashes going away and this is women who have eliminated gluten, cut out dairy, are very good with sugar, they don’t overdo sugar. Who have been doing their Maca and black cohosh thing and they are still waking up in a pool of sweat. Cut out that coffee and see if that works for you. That’s all I say. It might be the last thing that you haven’t tried yet.
Ari Whitten: This is such a weird area, I think a really unique area in the science because we have some scientific literature on coffee and caffeine consumption that’s really positive in so many ways. As far as long-term studies, kind of observational studies, linking it with lower rates of numerous different diseases. And we have very short-term studies showing improvements in cognitive performance, improvements in physical performance and stuff like that.
But, then there’s also this body of literature which is really under-reported and there actually hasn’t been that many studies on it and very few people are even aware of it. But it’s talking about the fact that a lot of the benefits as far as cognitive and physical performance, and energy levels, and mood enhancement and things like that, they’re only right at the beginning of what happens when you start to consume coffee. And they disappear within a few weeks.
And then what happens is people basically get addicted to coffee based on withdrawal reversal, which is essentially people when they don’t have caffeine in their systems, then they experience drug withdrawal symptoms and then they experience that like oh, I need my coffee to get going and then when they have their coffee, they feel better. But what’s basically, it’s the equivalent of having a hangover and then drinking alcohol to cure your hangover. The drug itself has caused negative symptoms and now you’re using the drug to alleviate the negative symptoms.
Magdalena Wszelaki: Absolutely. And like you said, it’s always a short-term thing. When they study people with the cognitive improvement for example, it’s always a short-term study. And these studies are focused on one element. They don’t look at, for example, liver enzymes probably in that study. They won’t look at estrogen metabolism in that woman. They don’t look at her PMS stuff and a lot of times, women don’t even realize that my PMS has been worse ever since I started drinking coffee, because we don’t make the correlation.
So this is one good example of something that is the very short term, that it’s got a very myopic look at things. That doesn’t look at the other effects of caffeine in the long term on a person.
Ari Whitten: The other aspect of this that I think is really unique and interesting is that there are these studies that exist showing lower rates of various diseases and sort of these seemingly very positive health outcomes and yet I have heard so many antidotes of exactly the kind you’re talking about, of people who are on coffee all the time, they remove coffee and all of a sudden, all kinds of different symptoms go away.
There isn’t much science around that, but there’s just a huge amount of antidotes from people who have been on coffee for years and then go off and then experience benefits from going off. It’s just this kind of weird mixed bag of some really positive research and maybe, I think the reality of it is probably if you consume coffee on a regular basis, there will be some health benefits, but there’s also going to be some areas that are negatively affected at the same time.
Magdalena Wszelaki: Yeah, one of the things I just want make a recommendation… if you’re someone who is absolutely, it’s impossible for you to give up coffee, it’s your little ritual. There’s a couple of recommendations.
First of all, do not drink coffee on an empty stomach, period. For a lot of women, especially women who have a tendency toward hypoglycemia, I’m sorry to say this, but I see this with so many women, no matter how much oil, MCT oil or whatever butter you put in there, 20 minutes, half an hour later, they do start getting shaky. One thing you can do, if you really want to have coffee, have it after a meal.
So a proper meal with some protein in it. One of the big things, Ari, you probably saw in my cookbook is I’m a big fan of savory breakfast, not sweet. So that’s one great way of sustaining your, leveling your blood sugar levels for the rest of the day, actually starting off with a really good breakfast. Have a coffee after that if you really have to. And stick to one, don’t do more than that.
Magdalena Wszelaki: If you really want caffeine for the benefits you talked about, cognitively speaking or energy wise, consider matcha. I don’t see women having as many issues with side effects especially like hot flashes with matcha as there is with coffee. Matcha, just to give you an example, a teaspoon of matcha has the same amount of caffeine as an espresso.
The cool thing about matcha is that it is a ceremonial, you spell M-A-T-C-H-A, just in case our listeners don’t know. It is a ceremonial tea from Japan. It’s pretty expensive, but you don’t have to use a lot of it. And it gives you this really great boost of energy, but it’s a very sustained energy that lasts for about four to five hours, not like coffee.
You know you just get this boost of energy and after that, you drop and then you have to have sugar or something to pick you up. Matcha is a very sustained release of energy. And what I also love about matcha is that it contains L-Theanine, which is a calming agent. So you’re kind of like, that’s why matcha originally historically has been used for both warriors in Japan before they go to fight a war, they’re given matcha for an energy boost and focus. But then the monks who were meditating in order not to fall asleep where also given Matcha, but they could, how many people can meditate after having a cup of coffee? But you can meditate after matcha because you’re staying awake, but it’s a very calming energy and not a jittery one.
Ari Whitten: Yeah, it’s very true. And my personal experience lines up with that well. Coffee definitely. Occasionally, I’ll have a cup of coffee, but it definitely causes anxiety and jitters for me. And matcha really doesn’t. It’s a much smoother experience, no jitters, no anxiety. And I also find it delicious.
How to relieve the signs of menopause and perimenopause
I know we don’t have too much time left. But there’s one more topic I want to ask you about which is menopause and perimenopause. Do you have any tips for women going through that and what are your big strategies for people in that situation?
Magdalena Wszelaki: That’s a really big one. There are so many things that we can do to support our perimenopausal and menopausal ladies here. I’m going through perimenopause myself. The first thing you realize is there is no normal. Things just start happening. It’s just what you can do by changing your diet is you can start normalizing things as much as possible and not make them, not be that surprised, not be in pain, not be having great mood swings, but just accept the fact that things are changing in our body.
So I’m just looking for the protocol. I’m just going to quickly show you this. It’s page 121. So one of the things about the cookbook is that it’s not just a cookbook. It’s also got protocols in it. And the protocol means that basically all the years of research, I’ve put that into these tables. For example, here it says, easing menopause and perimenopause. And so we have a whole protocol, what to add and what to remove. So you don’t have to do the research, I’ve done it all for you. So what can you do?
The first thing you may want is to sustain a blood sugar level. I can’t tell you, Ari, this is coming from an actual doctor who teaches functional stuff and she tells me, I have this amazing revelation. I have my breakfast. At 11 o’clock on the dot, this hot flash just hits me. And I’m with patients. I can’t have this thing happen, I can’t focus. And then she says, 15 minutes before 11:00, I just realize I’m just going to a handful of nuts and that just completely took away the hot flashes. I’m thinking, well, that’s a great solution. At least, she’s figured something out. But then the question is what do you eat for breakfast for your blood sugar levels to drop like that, that by 11:00, you’re having this crash because that’s what causes it.
So the first thing on easing your menopause, the first thing you want to do is transition learn how to do what I call a PFF breakfast, protein fat and fiber-rich breakfast. That’s the first thing. Adding calcium and magnesium-rich foods. Superfoods such as you mentioned broccoli sprouts, one of my favorite, they contain sulforaphane, which is the same substance, which does the same job as tamoxifen, which is a nasty estrogen blocker given to women with estrogen positive breast cancer. Only for five years, because it destroys your liver so badly. So here you have these little broccoli sprouts that have sulforaphane that can block that, so you don’t have to be exposed to toxic stuff like that.
Ari Whitten: And they have a whole bunch of positive side effects instead of negative side effects.
Magdalena Wszelaki: I love the positive side effects.
Flaxseeds, fermented soy, I’m a big fan of that. Liver support, broccoli sprouts we mentioned. Acceptance and self-love. So that’s one of the big things. And what can you remove? Blood sugar fluctuations, coffee and alcohol, stress and unfermented soy is one of the items. Just do that and you’re golden.
Cooking for hormone balance – the book
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. I love it. A couple last questions. First of all, who is this book for? Can you just say who kind of like, who’s the target audience for this book? Obviously, I’ve read it so I know. I know I’m not really your target audience at all, but I have to say that I really enjoyed it, even though it’s not written for men, I think men can actually still get a lot from this. But who is this written for?
Magdalena Wszelaki: It’s written for women who are going through issues with thyroid, Hashimoto’s, Grave’s Disease, any women with autoimmunity will benefit from that book, estrogen dominance that we talked about, perimenopause, menopause, also women who need some support for the adrenals. So those are the main targets.
And you know what, like you mentioned about men, I have an online program that this book was inspired by. This was my testing grounds. And I can not tell you how women have reported getting on eating this way and then getting their husbands on it because you just share meals. And their testosterone is coming back on again, their sex life improving, a guy losing 20 pounds that he couldn’t kick off for the past two years.
Just really beautiful, it’s just no-nonsense. There is nothing crazy or gimmicky about this. There’s nothing that’s going to make men grow boobs. It’s just a no-nonsensical approach to lower your inflammation, rebalancing your hormones, blood sugars, supporting your liver, supporting your gut. Which man wouldn’t benefit from that?
Ari Whitten: Yes, absolutely. So like I said at the beginning of this podcast, I’ve actually gone through this and I highly highly recommend everybody to go out and grab a copy of this. It comes out on April 10th. And then the last thing, I know you have a gift for my community, which is the seed rotation guide. Can you just kind of tell briefly about what that is and then I’ll put a link to it on the show notes page for this. Which will be theenergyblueprint.com cooking for hormone balance. Sorry, for everyone, theenergyblueprint.com/cooking-for-hormone-balance. The seed rotation guide, what’s that all about?
Magdalena Wszelaki: The seed rotation is a method that a naturopath told me many years ago. When she first told me about it and she’s like, this is really going to help women with problems with PMS, menopause, everyone’s going benefit from it. And I thought what? Seeds? That’s just too simple to be true. And long and behold, I started working with a lot of women and it helps everybody from terrible PMS’s, I’ve had women who have been having fertility issues conceiving, women who are suffering from hot flashes and night sweats, mood swings will benefit from there. So the idea is basically really simple.
You want to do two weeks of to boost up your estrogen levels. You do that with a help of flaxseed and pumpkin seeds and then after two weeks, you switch over to sesame seeds and sunflower seeds, which are high in vitamin A and E and zinc and that helps you with progesterone and that should create, it gives you the nutrients for your body to produce on progesterone. It’s basically a two-week cycling, that’s why it’s called seed rotation. Menstruating women will do it from day one to the middle and the guide just explains all of that. And when you are in menopause, you can start any time.
I like to start it with the moon, so start off the flaxseed protocol to help your estrogen boosting from day one, which will be a new moon, which is that skinny crescent. So that even though menopausal women don’t ovulate anymore, but if somebody in the past when you ovulated you want to do that at the time of the full moon. A simple thing like that, two tablespoons of freshly ground seeds a day added to your smoothies, salads, soups, however you like, in a glass of water. And it’s a good as medicine.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. I love it. So thank you so much, Magdalena. An absolute pleasure to connect with you and thank you for sharing this with me. Really, really enjoyed it. And again, everyone, I highly recommend picking up a copy of this on Amazon. I’ll put a link to it on the show notes page as well. And then we’ll have the seed rotation guide as well on that page for you. Magdalena, really a pleasure. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with my audience. I really appreciate your time.
Magdalena Wszelaki: Thank you so much, Ari. I really appreciate it.
Ari Whitten: Yeah.
How Hormone Imbalance Wrecks Your Health and How to Balance Hormones with Food (Cooking for Hormone Balance with Magdalena Wszelaki) – Show Notes
How hormone imbalance cause zits and how to balance hormones for acne (2:25)
How estrogen dominance causes hormone imbalance and disease (6:52)
How to balance estrogen hormones with food (12:55)
Why soy isn’t used in the cooking for hormone balance recipes (20:40)
Why you need to listen to your body and not experts on different foods (22:45)
The connection between hormone balance and food intolerances (25:34)
How to balance your hormones by lowering inflammation (27:17)
The importance of only doing elimination diets in the short term for hormone balance (29:10)
How food intolerances can be caused by hormone imbalance, infections, or imbalanced gut (32:00)
How stress causes hormone imbalance (35:06)
How liver health is related to hormonal balance (37:22)
The relationship between caffeine and estrogen dominance (43:04)
How to get through menopause and perimenopause (52:52)
Cooking for hormone balance – the book (56:05)
You can download the first chapter plus several free recipes and even 5 how-to cooking videos from Magdalena here
You can also get her free bonus, The Seed Rotation Guide