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Cold plunges? Intermittent fasting? Cycle synching? Are any of these actually effective or just entertainment on TikTok? This year, I’ve seen everything from “dry scooping” pre-workout supplements (please don’t try this) to alkaline water to raw carrot salad trends on social media. Although I wouldn’t blindly adopt any health trend, I did become curious about the ones that may have an effect on hormone health. Over the last few months, I’ve dug deep into the research, read books, listened to podcasts, and talked with functional medicine practitioners to find out which one of these 2023 health trends are legit…and, of course, how they affect our hormone health. I wouldn’t just leave you hanging with research, so I’ve tried every single one of these habits and practices myself. Some of the major 2023 health trends include cold therapy, red light therapy, intermittent fasting, and cycle synching. Grab a cup of tea, sit back and relax as I’m sharing all the deets below!

Cold therapy – Probably one of the trendiest naturopathic wellness modalities over the last year or two. You may have seen people taking cold showers, plunging into ice baths, or doing cryotherapy (one of my favorites) for anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. The science behind cold therapy is still developing, so it was difficult for me to pinpoint one research paper with crystal clear benefits spelled out. Research on this subject takes a while since cold therapy comes with a lot of different variables: exact water temperature, how much of your body is immersed and exposed, length of time, subjective mental health benefits, etc. The main benefit of cold therapy is that it exposes your body to hormetic stress – the good kind of stress that you need just a little bit of in order to reduce….stress. So yes, essentially you’re treating stress with a short burst of additional stress. The benefit here is that as soon as your jump into cold water (anything below 60 degrees F) or expose your body to very cold air, it releases fight-or-flight hormones like dopamine and norephinephrine. Dopamine is the same chemical that gets released from consuming alcohol or drugs, but how amazing is that we don’t need to do any of that or scroll Instagram to get even greater benefits? These hormones are a major mood booster and help with mental clarity. Cold therapy is also believed to help boost your metabolic rate and improve insulin sensitivity. It’s definitely one of the 2023 health trends you’ll be hearing more about.

A few studies claim that cold therapy can help with reducing inflammation and boosting your immune system as well. To me, the mental boost I get from cold therapy is the equivalent of a “runner’s high”. Even though I’m not a serious runner, the hormonal response you get from cold therapy is the same as the adrenaline rush I get when running, as adrenaline and noradrenaline are released by your body. I’ve tried cold plunges, cold showers, and whole-body cryotherapy and have experienced benefits (especially the mood boost!) every single time. With cryotherapy, you also burn between 300-500 calories in about three minutes, which isn’t a bad deal ;-). Here’s what cryotherapy looks like. I highly recommend checking out Restore Hyper Wellness if you’re interested in trying cryotherapy.

If you’re thinking about trying cold therapy, here a few tips:

  1. Make sure you’ve got the all-clear from your doctor or primary care provider. People with heart problems or a family history of cardiac issues should not be trying cold therapy.
  2. Cold therapy is very much an “extra” hormone health and wellness modality. You don’t have to go spend big bucks on getting a cold tub or finding a cryotherapy machine. You can just start practicing with turning the shower temperature down (a bit below 60 degrees F will work) for 30 seconds to start off with. I heard an expert doc mention that 55 degrees F in the shower is plenty for women, so there’s likely no need to go below that.
  3. Do cold therapy in the morning, as your body’s core temperature rises as a result – you don’t want to do this at night since it may interfere with your ability to wind down and sleep.

 

Red light therapy – Another great trend that I’ve embraced. Red light therapy uses LEDs or laser for photobiomodulation, basically a fancy word for using light to change the biology at the cellular and molecular levels. The red and infrared light activates the mitochondria in our cells which leads to more ATP (Adenosine tri-phosphate – cellular energy), which means your cells can basically work better. This translates to improved skin health by supporting collagen production, relief from arthritis, muscle and joint pain, and possible hair growth. Infrared light, which is usually another setting on a red light therapy device, reaches deeper into the body than red light and provides relief from deep tissue pain as well reduced inflammation. I often use both for helping to relief soreness from exercising and supporting my body’s natural healing and recovery processes. It even gives you a little brain boost as well! If you’re interested in diving into the details, check out this book. Although it’s been used for many years, red light therapy is one of the 2023 health trends that I think much more research will be done on.

Here’s what you need to know if you want to start with red light therapy:

  1. You’ll want to check with your doctor or primary care provider before you start, just in case you have any conditions or are using any topical skincare products that won’t react well with red light therapy.
  2. Consistency is key. I’ve used red light therapy to help my body recover after running half marathons and have pretty much experienced instant relief. However, daily and consistent use has given me the best results. If you have a handheld device, you can get through a red light therapy cycle in about 10-12 minutes. Easy peasy! I highly recommend the Lumebox Pro if you’re looking for a handheld device that you can use at home at any time. Absolutely worth the investment.
  3. Like cold therapy, this is a complete full-body and hormone health “extra”. If you’re not nailing the basic hormone healthy habits, red light therapy won’t magically fix things for you, so consider it an extra (but very easy + amazing!) modality in your wellness tool kit.

 

Intermittent fasting – You’ve definitely heard of this one and may have read blogs, articles, and books since intermittent fasting has been around for a while. I found so many of these I honestly did not know which ones to cite. Intermittent fasting usually consists of a 16 hour window of not eating and usually requires skipping a meal in order to accomplish this. When I tried it, I definitely lost weight using this method because of the simple calories in vs calories out equation. If you’re skipping a full meal and aren’t adding in more food later in the day, you’re going to lose weight. Intermittent fasting also puts your body into a state of ketosis, which means it starts burning stored fat for energy instead of blood sugar. Sounds great, right? I thought it was until I started digging deeper. I found that when your blood sugar levels are all over the place (peaks and valleys), it can create a lot of stress on your body, which can actually aggravate PMS, PCOS, perimenopause, and a host of other symptoms of hormonal imbalances that women struggle with. Our bodies actually need rock steady blood sugar to regulate energy. The other issue I have with intermittent fasting, is that it’s really difficult to get adequate protein in when you’re skipping meals. As you’re aging and your metabolism starts to slow down, resistance training and enough protein are absolutely key for body recomposition and / or staying at a healthy and steady weight. Even if you’re successful at losing weight, intermittent fasting can be detrimental for women. I think it needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis and it certainly isn’t the only weight loss method.

Here’s what I would try instead of intermittent fasting:

  1. Circadian rhythm or time restricted eating – This is something I do every single day: I don’t skip meals, but stop eating around 6pm (right after dinner) and then don’t snack or eat anything else until breakfast the next day. I easily get in 10-13 hours without eating, feeling hungry, low blood sugar, or cravings. I highly recommend this instead of intermittent fasting since it’s been proven to beneficial for both sexes and is a great way to give your digestive system a break. Not everyone needs to eat every 2-3 hours.
  2. Eating enough protein at each meal. This is all the rage in the wellness world these days! How much is enough? I’ve seen varying recommendations for this and although the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight, I think we need more than that. According to experts such as Dr Staci Sims, our hormone fluctuations impact our protein needs, so this amount should be much higher. You can read more about her research and reasoning here.
  3. Quality > quantity. As we all know, it’s possible to lose weight eating just cookies and muffins, but we also know that nutrient density matters more, especially for hormone balance, cognitive, mental, and immune health. I’m not saying you need to completely cut out the muffins or cookies, though! I’ve got nutrient dense versions of both that you can find here.

 

Cycle synching – One habit that I can definitely get on board with! Why? As Dr Staci Sims mentioned in a podcast, women are not simply smaller versions of men. Our menstrual cycles can have a huge effect on our appetite, energy levels, mood, stamina, and sleep. Knowing when to pull back and when to push during a workout depends on what phase of my cycle I’m in. If you pay close attention to your body, you’ll notice subtle changes – one of the most noticeable ones that most women will recognize is a change in appetite the week before your period (am I right?!). We can’t simply follow the same fitness routines, meal plans, and nutrition and lifestyle advice that’s often created for men. Many women get caught up in this and often end up with hormonal imbalances. We do best when we move according to our phases and the natural push and pull of our internal female hormonal system – much like the moon cycles (which is why a menstrual cycle is often compared to a moon cycle). I explain how to exercise in synch with your cycle here and if you’ve never heard of seed cycling, or are wondering how effective it is, be sure to read this post.

I have many more trends to research, try, and discuss over the next few weeks, so stay tuned for more to come! Is there a particular wellness trend you’ve heard about that you’d like me to explore next? Be sure to let me know!

 

2023 health trends by Well & Great

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