We welcome Samantha Gladish onto The Vital Way podcast. Our first female interview covering female hormone health!
While in the past we have focused on men’s hormone health primarily, we are shifting to focus on hormones for all, for better health and performance.
I recommend even guys take a listen to this one, just to understand women better (cause let’s face it, we aren’t always the best at that ;)
This is the first of much more to come, delving deeper into the much more complex female endocrinology.
- The Four Different Types of PMS Symptoms, A – C – D – H
- The “Sex Kitten” and “Fat Cat” Hormones for the Two Parts of the Cycle
- How Hormones Modulate the Neurotransmitters Serotonin, Dopamine and GABA
- The Dangers of “The Pill” used as a Band-aid Approach to Hormones
- The Best Herb for Women coming off “The Pill”
- Do Women Need More or Less Testosterone?
- The Best Stress Related Herbs
- And Much More
For more from Samantha be sure to check out HolisticWellness.ca.
Click the link below to access the complete transcript.[spoiler]
Logan: Welcome to The Vital Way podcast. Logan Christopher here and today on the line with me I have Samantha Gladish. She’s a Toronto-based author, speaker, nutritionist and founder of HolisticWellness.ca. She’s the author of The Qualitarian Life and The Qualitarian Cookbook which focuses on something very important but missed in virtually all diets, the quality of the food you eat. Imagine that. She has a lot of very cool recipes. In fact, she sent me a recipe for paleo doughnuts which I’m going to try to make this weekend. I had the pleasure of meeting Samantha last month at the Fitness Business Summit down in Costa Mesa, California and was excited to bring her on the podcast because she knows women’s hormones and that’s something. We’ve covered a lot with men’s hormones in the past and we’ll continue to do so but definitely want to extend this to the other sex as well. So thanks for joining me today, Samantha.
Samantha: It’s so great to be here. Thanks for having me!
Logan: All right, so how did you get involved in working with women in this way?
Samantha: Well, being a woman myself I’ve always really been interested in health and fitness and food and nutrition. Even just growing up, it was just something that I was naturally drawn to, just eating really healthy food and being in the garden. So in my teenage years, I suffered pretty terribly with PMS and my periods were very irregular and was just kind of all over the place. Really it wasn’t so bad compared to now when I see a lot of my clients who are suffering with a lot of fibroids and PCOS and heavy periods and whatnot.
I luckily didn’t have any of that but this sort of band aid approach that most doctors offer is to go on the birth control pill. So at a young age, I went on the pill, maybe around 17, and I was on it for almost 8 years. It was around that time when I started to study nutrition and I went to school to be a holistic nutritionist and started to really learn about the physiology of the body and really learned about the birth control pill and what I was actually doing and really learn how you can use food to heal. That really sort of started my path on really wanting to sort of ditch the pill and heal my hormones naturally. Then I wanted to take all of that information, share it with other women and help other women do that. That’s really how I kind of got started.
Logan: Excellent. It’s very interesting coming at this from a man’s perspective. We literally have no idea what it’s like to be a woman and all those things you guys must go through. You know we are on the receiving end when PMS could be bad. There are a lot of jokes about that and whatnot. Can we go into a little detail about? Is PMS a natural thing that every woman goes through? Why do some women have it much worse than others and what are some of the things we can do about it to make it more balanced?
Samantha: Yes, great question. There are many different types of PMS. PMS is premenstrual syndrome and it’s basically all those symptoms that you experience right around menstruation. There are many different types. There are actually four types of PMS. There’s PMS A which is anxiety, which actually affects about 80% of women and they really just get a lot of irritability and mood swings right before their period. Then there’s type C which is more for cravings which I’m sure a lot of women are experiencing. So you have like increased appetite, more headaches and fatigue. And then there’s also type D which is for depression and a lot of women experience this sort of like loneliness, forgetfulness and just sort of this mild depression. Then type H is for hyper-hydration and basically water retention is really what’s happening or sort of like edema that a lot of women experience, some weight gain and even like breast tenderness.
So there are different types of PMS and some women will fall into maybe all categories or one category over the other. So it really definitely varies but there are so many different things that can affect your cycle. The food that you eat by far is probably the most important one. Lifestyle, if you’re leading a really stressful lifestyle, especially with a lot of younger teenagers or university students, that’s probably when a lot of women, a lot of younger girls are highly competitive and they’re in sports or they’re in university and there’s a lot of studying going on and staying up really, really late and eating a lot of sugar and carbohydrate-rich foods. That can really throw off your cycle.
And then just really being overexposed to a lot of estrogen that we have in our environment, estrogens that we can get off of plastics, different antibiotics and hormones that we find in food. These can all affect our hormones and really sort of throw our system out of balance. So this will affect menstruation. Then even being nutrient-deficient, potentially magnesium or zinc or B vitamins, these can all affect how our cycle is. So there are a lot of things that can really play a role and whether we experience PMS symptoms or not. For the most part, we’re looking at about 80% to 90% of women who really do suffer with a lot of symptoms.
Logan: So we have a couple of different hormones at play with a woman’s cycle. The way I like to think about it, men are quite simple hormonally compared to women. We operate more on a daily cycle so it’s really easy but women operate on the monthly cycle. Certain hormones are coming up and certain other ones are falling, specifically progesterone and estrogen. Could you go into a little detail of that because that’s kind of behind some of these problems, right?
Samantha: Absolutely. So you guys just got it so easy. Yes, women are more complex. We have our main estrogen, which is basically our estradiol and I like to refer to it as like the sex kitten of hormones. It’s really what gives you your libido. It stimulates your mood. It helps to regulate your menstrual cycle and it helps with lubrication, which is important for sex. It improves your bone health. It maintains bone density and it’s really great for skin health. It also helps to increase different neurotransmitters so it helps to increase serotonin and dopamine, which is really great because what happens is right after your period, your estrogen, your estradiol, it rises so this is typically a time where a lot of women feel like they’re Superwoman and they can like take on the world.
That’s typically because we have higher amounts of serotonin and dopamine, which serotonin is like the happy hormone and then you have dopamine which just really helps to govern like motivation. So you’ll find a lot of women when they get off their period they’re more motivated to hit the gym or to sort of like follow a healthy diet or eating regimen. That’s because they’ve had higher amounts of dopamine. So, it’s really interesting how these sort of hormones play out over the month.
Then what happens is typically we have estradiol that in a typical sort of 28-day cycle you have estradiol that’s higher from day 1 to 14. Then from day 15 to day 28 is when we have our progesterone that increases. So the estradiol is like the sex kitten and then progesterone is like the fat cat. That’s how I like to explain it. It’s like a fat cuddly cat. It’s the calming hormone and it’s just really the counterbalance to estrogen. So where estrogen is very stimulating, you have progesterone that’s more calming. It can actually increase a GABA, which is a neurotransmitter as well, and that’s more of like a relaxing and sedating hormone. It helps you sleep. Progesterone is sort of like an anti-stress hormone. It’s pro-gestation so it’s basically to hold and care for a baby essentially for nine months. That’s really what progesterone is.
So they sort of just work in tandem in your cycle. You have estrogen that’s sort of building up the uterus for the first half of your cycle and then in the second half of your cycle you have progesterone that kind of comes along and nurtures and stabilizes what estrogen sort of built up so they really work in balance with each other.
Logan: Okay, very cool. So is it more typical for the estrogen to get off kilter for women or progesterone or is it a mixture of both because one sort of leads to the other?
Samantha: Absolutely, yeah. If one gets kind of out of whack, the other one can get out of whack and that kind of goes for all of our hormones. It’s almost like a domino effect where they can all really start to trickle down to one another. But typically, you do see things with more estrogen because you’ll see more estrogen-dominant issues right where again you have excess estrogen basically and this can be from your food, from different toxins or whatnot in your environment. What’s happening is basically your liver, which is your main detoxifying organ, it also metabolizes your hormones. So you have all of this excess estrogen coming into your system and your liver is sort of like overwhelmed and it can’t metabolize or detoxify them out efficiently. So you kind of have this estrogen-dominant effect that happens. But it’s tough to say. It can go both ways. It could be progesterone that’s low as well. If estrogen is too high then it could lower the progesterone and again it can go back and forth.
Logan: So we can have too high or too low progesterone and too high or too low estrogen as well.
Samantha: Yes, absolutely, and even with testosterone. Even though we have one-tenth of what men actually have, we still have a little bit. I think a lot of women get scared when they hear testosterone. I think it’s this manly bodybuilding hormone or something.
Logan: Which it is but it’s so much more.
Samantha: Right. That’s part of it but we don’t have nearly as much as what men have and so it’s definitely a hormone of vitality. It definitely helps with arousal and sex drive and it really does help you to stay lean. If we have too little of it, we may not have much of a sex drive and if we have too much of it then this can lead to issues like polycystic ovarian syndrome or maybe infertility. So again, it can go both ways.
Logan: Just because I’ve been reading up on women’s hormones and some women seem to be of the opinion that most women have too high of testosterone and others are saying like almost all women have low testosterone, would you say it’s a little bit more of one of these cases, in your opinion?
Samantha: Yeah, I would say we typically have lower amounts only because one of the best ways to sort of like preserve and increase your testosterone as a woman is to actually lift weights. That’s really not just for testosterone but for all of your hormones. To really keep them in an optimal ratio, weightlifting is really, really great and it’s especially great for just your bone density and of course for staying lean and whatnot. But I don’t find a lot of women are doing that so they tend to have a little bit lower testosterone or again, they could be having too much of the xenoestrogens coming in from the environment and that will displace testosterone as well.
Logan: Okay. So definitely like I said, for men, pretty complex, generally if we want to increase testosterone. For women, it can be too high or too low and all these different hormones so it is quite a bit harder. We talked about estradiol. What about some of the other estrogens, estrone and estriol? How do those come into play?
Samantha: So those are really more weaker estrogens. Estradiol is like the main, sort of strongest estrogen and then estrone is very weak and it’s typically something that you’ll see more in menopausal women. It’s not really a hormone that is very active. You won’t find it in many tissues or many receptor sites in the body. Estriol is kind of like a by-product of estradiol. Again, it’s just not very strong and it won’t have the same effect on our tissues and our receptors the way that estradiol does. But we do have them all. It’s just different stages in your life where one is sort of more dominant than the other.
Logan: Right. So these are maybe kind of the male equivalents of androstenediol, androstene—I forgot the name of the different ones but the other androgens that just don’t have as much play is testosterone and DHP. So just different forms of estrogens?
Samantha: Yes, absolutely.
Logan: Okay. We brought up birth control a little bit in the beginning but can you tell what birth control and different forms of birth control can do to women’s hormones?
Samantha: This is a great question, probably like a topic I could just talk about all day. I was on birth control myself and I was on it for about 8 years. I didn’t really know what it was at the time. My doctor was said like here you go, here’s the pack, take it home and start on it today kind of thing. A lot of women have this idea that the pill or any type of hormonal contraceptive—there are some hormonal IUDs that are used, there are some shots, there are pills and patches—there are all types of things that are hormone-based and they’re synthetic hormones so they do not work at all the way that your own natural hormones work.
Logan: Quick question, are all of them synthetic? There are no natural ones?
Samantha: That’s right. Well, at least from my understanding. I’ve never heard of like a bio-identical birth control. There are non-hormonal birth control options like the copper IUD which is definitely something I would recommend over a hormonal IUD but some women do find they experience more cramping with it and then of course condoms or like a family planning awareness method. There’s a whole bunch of non-hormonal methods but sort of the quick fix is to take birth control pills.
So like I said, you’re taking synthetic hormones which are not mimicking your natural hormones whatsoever and a lot of women have this idea that taking the birth control pill is balancing their hormones, when it is not doing that at all. So we sort of lost sight of really what the birth control pill is because it has just kind of been this band aid approach to every hormonal issue with women, which I think has been really ridiculous. It’s been used to treat fibroids and heavy bleeding, PCOS and endometriosis. Any type of premenstrual issues, take the birth control pill.
The pill was meant to just prevent birth but we have this idea that taking it balances out our cycle. What it really does is it’s shutting down ovulation. That’s really the whole purpose of—I don’t want to say the whole purpose of being a woman but our body is meant to reproduce. That’s what our cycle is meant for every month. We want to have a baby. You shut down ovulation from happening, which is when you can actually have a baby. That’s sort of like your window of opportunity of conceiving.
When you ovulate, that’s when you really produce a lot of your estrogen and your progesterone so it’s such a key part of your cycle, if not THE most important part of your cycle. When you take a birth control pill, it completely shuts that down so that process does not happen at all so you’re not producing the right estrogen and progesterone. Then what’s also happening, too, is that you take the pill for three weeks and then you go off of it for a week onto sort of your sugar pills and that’s really when you would have your period but that’s actually not a period. That’s a pill bleed. It’s not a true period.
So I’ve had a lot of clients come to me who from the age of 13 or 14, they were on the pill and now they’re like in their 30’s or their 40’s, which literally means they’ve never had a true real period. They never once ovulated, they never once allowed their ovaries or their follicles to actually mature and they’ve never produced their true estrogen or progesterone. So they’ve really shut down that entire system from working. So I started on the pill at 17 and the good thing with that is that I had a good four or five years of having a natural real period so that was great. It was a great way to help my system mature but a lot of women don’t have that. They’re going on the pill or have gone on the pill really, really young so they never really had a true period or a true ovulation.
So not only is it affecting ovulation but the pill is causing a lot of nutrient deficiencies. It’s affecting our B vitamins. It’s basically depleting all our B vitamins, our vitamin C, zinc, magnesium and on top of that it’s really destroying all of our gut flora. So all of that really good bacteria in our gut, it’s really killing that and a lot of that bacteria’s necessary to produce certain different enzymes and hormones and to assimilate nutrients. So it’s just creating a lot of nutrient deficiencies. And we need B vitamins for optimal hormonal balance and for balancing our blood sugar. We need vitamin C. We need zinc. We need magnesium. These are all essential nutrients to actually help with fertility and help with a healthy natural cycle. The pill just really depletes us from all of that.
Logan: All right, so the sort of goal is to make it so you can’t get pregnant but these hormones are doing so much more than just that so it’s really screwing up things. So what happens if someone is coming off the pill?
Samantha: Yes, that’s where a lot of my work comes in. I love working with women who call me up and they’re like, oh I read one of your blog posts about being on the pill and I want to come off of it now. I love that because once they become educated and really want to start learning about their bodies they recognize that it’s not a good thing so they want to get off of it. It can vary for a lot of women, whether their period comes back right away or whether it might take a few months for it to come back. It’s normal, depending how long you’ve been on the pill. If you’ve been on it for 20 years then maybe your cycle might not return within a month of being off the pill. It could take anywhere from three months to six months to even up to a year, I’ve seen.
But the important thing is that you want to support liver detoxification because you want to detoxify all of those synthetic hormones out of your system and really replenishing all those vital nutrients like the B vitamins, the vitamin C. Zinc is a really, really important one because zinc actually helps to support progesterone release. That’s important, too, because you need progesterone if you do want to ovulate. You want to sort of support detoxification, replenish all those nutrients and then this is where maybe you might introduce some herbs.
For example, this is where Vitex otherwise known as chasteberry is a really great herb, although it’s a really, really strong herb. I know some women who do take it like all of the time, which I don’t really recommend. It’s something you kind of want to dose. It basically helps to produce ovulation or enhance ovulation by raising progesterone. The best way to take is probably in the morning because it kind of works with your pituitary gland and that’s when your pituitary gland is most sort of sensitive. You want to take it in the morning before breakfast. It’s a strong herb. You want to do sort of maybe a lower dose of it and that’s if maybe your period hasn’t returned. Even if you’re not ovulating and you want to obviously conceive then that’s when you might want to introduce Vitex.
Obviously a lot of women come off the pill because they want to get pregnant but it’s a scary process because I’ve had some women who have been on the pill for a really long time and luckily they got off of it and their period returned within like two months and then they got pregnant right after, which might seem really great and they may think like oh, I’m really healthy and my system’s really healthy to return to normal which is great but if you didn’t detoxify all of that synthetic hormones out of your system or work to replenish all the nutrients and the good bacteria then that’s scary because you could be potentially passing all of that onto the fetus. So detoxification is really important when it comes to fertility.
Logan: Yeah, I don’t think a lot of people are appreciating just how much the liver plays into the hormonal thing. It really should be considered one in the endocrine glands because of its role in detoxification, whether it’s estrogens from the birth control pill or from the environment like we’ve talked about.
Samantha: Right. Absolutely. So yes, liver is really important with any type of sort of hormone balancing program.
Logan: Okay. So what are some of the other herbs that you have your clients take besides Vitex?
Samantha: I love ashwagandha. It’s a really, really amazing herb for a lot of my clients. It’s a really potent antioxidant and it’s great for anxiety and being that almost 80% of women are experiencing anxiety right around their period, it works really well for them. It’s also a great anti-inflammatory. It’s great for sleep. It’s great for libido. I also find that because it has very calming effects even for myself, like I can’t take it during the day maybe just because I’m a little bit sensitive to it so I take it at night and it actually helps me sleep. So it’s a really great Ayurvedic that I love recommending.
Then rhodiola is another really great one. A lot of the time we have to think about stress too, and, ashwagandha is really great for stress but same with rhodiola. A lot of women are really stressed. They’re very high strung and they’ve got a lot going on between lifestyle, kids, work and whatnot so it’s important to really manage cortisol levels. Rhodiola is really great for that. It’s kind of a tricky process but basically it prevents the unwanted conversion of progesterone to cortisol and that can happen. I don’t really know the biomechanics of how it all goes down but that can actually happen.
Logan: If I understand it correctly when we have a cholesterol, it gets converted into pregnenolone which then converts to progesterone and from there it can go over into the corticoids, the cortisol or it can go down into the androgens and the estrogen. So if you’re having too much stress, the body’s going to need to create the cortisol. That’s going to then steal it from the progesterone.
Samantha: I love it! Look at you, amazing. Yes and so that’s what happens. A lot of these hormones can sort of convert into other hormones to help assist in their production. Right, that’s exactly what’s happening. Rhodiola can stop that process from happening, from progesterone converting to cortisol so it’s a really great herb.
Logan: Excellent. Any other ones you can think of? What do you personally take?
Samantha: Oh my god, I take so much stuff.
Logan: Do share.
Samantha: And you know for me, I alter my supplements all of the time.
Logan: Me, too.
Samantha: Based on what it is that I really need to support like for example right now, I’m really going through a lot of detoxification support. It’s mainly because I’ve been paying attention to sort of my cycle over the past few months and the symptoms that I’ve been experiencing and I can sort of see more estrogen-dominant issues. I’m taking like turmeric and I3C which is indole-3-carbinol from broccoli essentially and milk thistle. It’s like a combination of all of those. I’m just really taking that right now to help support the liver.
And I always introduce some homeopathics as well. I think some homeopathics work really, really great, too. They’re very gentle and there’s some really great homeopathics that you can take for sort of like lymphatic drainage, which is really important because in your lymph system, you store a lot of fat soluble toxins. That can affect your estrogen so I want to eliminate all of that. A great way is to take homeopathics to support lymphatic drainage.
I’m sort of doing a mix of things. Yeah. I’ve got some homeopathic going, I’ve got the turmeric, the I3C, the milk thistle, the ashwagandha before bed. Oh my god, I take mushrooms like every day. I love the mushrooms. Those are just great adaptogenics as well. They’re great for stress and they’re also great for hormonal balance. I just sometimes put them in a smoothie. You can buy them in powder form, grind them yourself or buy them in tincture, which is great, too. They’re just great to just add into a smoothie. It’s a really great way to take it. Yeah, lots of stuff. Sort of my core absolutes aside from some of the herbs are things like probiotics, magnesium, zinc, a high quality fish oil. Those are sort of like the core every day and then based on what I need to address that’s when I start to incorporate the herbs.
Logan: Right. Yeah, I think definitely adapting things overtime is really where you’re going to need to go. There are certain things that you can certainly be on all the time but definitely with a lot more of the hormonal stuff, you want to make some changes. With the detoxing, do you have a recommendation for people? You mentioned you’re listening to your body and you felt it was time to do that. For someone that may not be as much in tune, do you recommend detoxing a certain amount of times in the year or what would you say to that?
Samantha: That’s a good question. I think a lot of people get really confused when it comes to detoxing because detox is such a buzz word. The last thing I want is people to run out to a health food store and buy some ten-day detox kit and then sort of call it a day because it doesn’t necessarily work that way. We detoxify every single day so the best way to support detoxification is with the right foods. It’s really about getting rid of all of the junk like the wheat and the sugar, maybe cutting back on alcohol or getting rid of it altogether because alcohol is actually very estrogenic so we want to get rid of that.
Logan: Is that all alcohols?
Samantha: I don’t know if it’s all alcohols but I know wine is estrogenic and beer can be estrogenic. I know that there was a study that was done on breast cancer patients and basically it was showing how two glasses of wine a night can increase breast cancer by 250% because it’s increasing the estrogen. So paying attention to sort of the foods that we shouldn’t be eating and just really eliminating those is really going to assist in the liver and helping it to sort of detox better because it’s not having to deal with all the sugar, the alcohol and the wheat and any sort of process foods or GMOs, vegetable oils, things like that we really want to pay attention to.
Then loading up on really good quality fats is really important, avocado, olive oil, ghee and coconut oil. Not only is this really good for liver and detoxification but it’s really great for hormonal balance. Our hormones need fat to function. Water is really essential because water helps to flush toxins out of your system. Fiber is essential in any detox program because fiber is really what helps to bind to different toxins in your system and help flush it out. Flax is really great for that and flax can actually bind to excess estrogen in your gut and flush it out. So of course if you’re increasing your fiber, you want to make sure you’re increasing your water or it can back you up a bit.
What else? Trampoline or jumping on a trampoline is actually one of the best things you can do for your lymphatic system. Again, your lymphatic system stores a lot of fat-soluble toxins and those fat-soluble toxins can be hard to get rid of so jumping, just like rebounding, getting on a trampoline, which is fun, you can do that to help support detoxification. Then of course, milk thistle is amazing for the liver. Eating dark bitter leafy greens, which are pretty much like liver-loving foods, the dark bitter helps to stimulate liver detoxification so include those. There’s just so much stuff.
Logan: Yup, absolutely is. Well, we’re about to run up on the time for the show so where can people go to to learn more information from you? Any women there listening if they want to get some coaching to go and more depth on this subject, where would you like people to go?
Samantha: Absolutely. They can go to my site at HolisticWellness.ca or even just Google my name, Samantha Gladish. All my information is there and if they are interested in sort of working one-on-one they can click on Work with me. I outline everything there. Yeah, I work primarily with doing obviously hormonal health and then I have a really strategic weight loss program that I offer as well. Again, that’s always addressing the hormones as well, addressing the insulin. Yeah, they can find me on my site.
Logan: Excellent. Well thank you so much, Samantha!
Samantha: Thank you! That was great!
Logan: Excellent. Well, thanks everyone for listening. We’ll be back next week with another podcast, a lot more exciting interviews coming up, more Q & A. As always, we’ll be covering tons more on the hormones because that’s a place people need to focus, whether it’s for different health issues, weight loss and all that. So thanks, everyone, for listening. Please leave us a review on iTunes if you enjoyed this and we’ll see you next week.[/spoiler]