Sarah Ballintyne Review Notes on Ancestral Health 14
Ancestral Health for Women
The full video of the speech can be seen here:
But here are some of my notes and conclusions from listening numerous times to Sarah and from watching her at AHS14
Medical research is typically performed on men and not women. We know far more about Men’s bodies and not the hormone systems of women. We then tend to infer those results onto women but this is not always an accurate or proper procedure.
Hormones in the body are controlled by the hypothalamus who sends signals to the adrenal glands where the hormone is made and released. The HPA axis is the fight or flight but also all the other hormones. For example if something scary happens we send the message that It’s time to be stressed so it sends signal to pituitary glands.
As the brain sends the signal that we are in fear and need to release a rush of hormones, how does the brain know when the hormones have done their job?
Cortisol is released and the brain says oh my signals have been working and I can shut that off now.
The same with the thyroid gland, they signal back to the brain letting it know that they have made the necessary hormone gland.
The same with making estrogen and progesterone in the body. But here there is positive and negative feedback.
Stress can affect all these things Stress inhibits the T4 to T3 production.
It’s not just what’s happening with cortisol but how these axis effect other systems. Such as stress causing a problem with sex hormones and thyroid. These all work together. Stress prevents the relevant signals from getting to the brain and interrupts a woman’s hormones.
They are then impacted by diet.
Blood sugar regulation
Leptin Level and sensitivity
There’s an effect where there is too high of insulin and too low of insulin. It helps us store energy after feeding. When we have high insulin from high carb then we can end up with insulin resistance also
Insulin being too high suppresses the thyroid as well as when it’s too low. So being careful of your sugar regulation is needed to ensure proper thyroid function.
Having too low of Insulin can also happen with prolonged fasting and very low carb. But in women there are some detrimental effects.
Leptin is a hormone that we want the proper amount, we can throw our production out of balance from eating refined carbohydrates, over eating but also from very low carb diet.
All these hormones are effected by our diet.
It’s down to the quality of the carbohydrates and if they are eaten in conjunction with other macro nutrients.
What regulates Insulin and Leptin?
· Carbohydrate intake – Amount, Quality and other Macro nutrients
· Meal timing and size
· Amount of Adipose tissue
· Nutrient status. Rich in micro nutrients.
These all affect both amount of insulin and leptin produced and sensitivity and resistance.
Women are more sensitive to changes in macro nutrient
This is when someone doesn’t eat for 16-24 hours, this normally includes a period when you are asleep. There seems to be a different effect that the result on men.
Why does it not always work well for women?
Ramadan fasting seems to show decrease in all hormones through that time. However the study was not done on paleo people so would not be fat adapted.
Study in Rats show significant changes in body weight, blood glucose, estrous cycle and serum estradiol. Testosterone and LH level indicated the negative role of intermittent fasting regimen on reproduction in these young animals. Leptin plays a mechanistic role in suppressing hypothalamus axis.
Intermittent fasting negatively affects the Leptin and thus all the hormones. When chronically under eat then they can be infertile.
Ketosis as we know is from a very low carbohydrate diet.
Under 30g of carbohydrate in a day and high fat diet.
Proposed to help with weight loss, improve energy and manage health conditions and extended life
Ketogenic research mainly into men but research shows women should be careful into a ketogenic diet. The studies were done for epileptic patients.
But results from a study with women show the following results
- · Amenorrhea occurred in 21%
- · All women described menstrual irregularities
- · Menstrual dysfunction 45%
A better solution for women
- · Moderate carbohydrates
- · Maintain insulin sensitivity with activity, sleep and stress management
- · 75g plus in a day
- · Nutrient Density
- · Many adverse effects may be linked to deficiencies
- · Focus on eating organ meat, plenty of vegetables, high quality dairy if tolerated
- · Adequate protein intake especially at breakfast
- · Regularly spaced meals, limited smacking
- · Weight bearing activity and strength training.
- · 7-10 hours sleep.
- · Reduce the stress in your life
- · Increase activities
- · Walking. Yoga. Fun activities
- · Meditation.
- · Laughing and Play
Are all carbs created equal?
- · Low and moderate GI food are best choices.
- · Starchy carbs are a slow burn
- · Blood sugar is better regulated when consumed with protein, fat and fiber.
- · Experiment with timing of carbohydrates, perhaps low carb until when you exercise.
Women seem to have varied responses to changes in macro nutrient ratios than men
The reason is likely the complex interplay between the hormone systems
Female responses to ketogenic diets, very low carb diets and IT likely depends on stress level, sleep, nutrient status and preexisting imbalances in hormone and thyroid dysfunction.
Does that mean that keto diets don’t work? It means caution is required when experimenting with them.
What Do I Think?
Well I've always known that men and women lose weight at different rates and that a certain amount of that is down to hormonal differences.
Women seem to suffer from Thyroid problems far more than us men as well.
It makes total sense that women have to be careful with very low carbohydrate conditions. It is beneficial to keep them lower and to get them from healthy sources.
There was one point though that I agree with "Chris" an audience member. He asked about the study of women who fasted for 24 hours for the Ramadan festival. They would no doubt eat a high carbohydrate diet and thus not be fat adapted. So when no carbohydrates are available to them they would indeed have poor blood sugar regulation as well as other health problems.
Saying that I'm delighted that Sarah was on Jimmy Moore's podcast recently. Jimmy is a Ketogenic advocate and she explained her argument respectfully to his audience. Jimmy though is a total gentleman and is open to honest debates.
Weighting up all the evidence though I think that low carbohydrate could be tried by women but on a careful basis. Slowly reduce the carbs and experiment with how your body is reacting.
Try to notice if your extremities are getting colder than they had been, thus showing a poorer thyroid function.
But more importantly, the same as the rest of the population, make sure to get your carbohydrates from natural sources such as vegetables and perhaps some rice. Avoid refined carbohydrates.
(Especially grains- but that's a story for another day)
Thank you Sarah Ballintyne and AHS14!!!
There'll be more great AHS14 lectures reviewed soon so stay tuned!