Health, Nutrition

Healthy Summer Guide – Part One

The transition from cold to warmer weather brings about a number of changes to our lifestyle and health. During the warmer months of the year, your body will naturally crave different foods and your typical workout schedule and diet may be disrupted by social commitments. 

It is important to maintain our health throughout the months of Summer to fuel our bodies with energy, confidence and nutrients. Above all, this is a great time to find balance in our lives so we can enjoy all the things we love, while feeling amazing. 

We know that between holidays, events and end of year celebrations, maintaining a healthy movement routine and balanced diet can be difficult. So we’ve made it easy for you. 

The Fluidform Healthy Summer Guide will outline:

  • How to use and enhance the nutrition of seasonal Summer produce
  • Healthy Summer swaps for adults and children
  • How to set yourself up for success when you are out and about all day

Welcome to part one – Eating with the seasons: Seasonal Summer Produce 

One of my favourite parts of Summer is the array of fruits and vegetables that flourish in the warmer weather. Not only are they delicious, but they bring a number of vitamins and nutrients into our diets.

Benefits to Seasonal Eating

  • Seasonal produce means the specific fruits and vegetables have reached their peak freshness at this time of year. Fresh, ripe produce is often the most delicious. The flavours are intensified and the textures are rich and digestible.
  • When produce has reached this fresh and ripe peak, the nutritional value is greater and easily absorbed.
  • Seasonal produce is easier to grow and source in an abundance, making them more accessible and cost-effective.
  • Seasonal produce is often grown, farmed and distributed locally, making it more sustainable to buy and eat.

Here are some of my favourites…

Berries 

Berries are packed with antioxidants that help our body reduce inflammation and even help fight against the physical signs of ageing. They are also one fruit option that is very low in natural sugar, making it a great snack or addition to your breakfast!

Try our Crunchy Granola & Berries in our Taste Of Summer Meal Plan.

Mango 

A quintessential Summer fruit – mangoes are an amazing source of vitamin C which aids in collagen products (glowing skin) and vitamin A which promotes healthy hair. A great way to protect your skin and hair when spending more time in the sun and salt water. 

Try our Golden Immunity Smoothie or Summer Noodle Salad

Avocado 

Not only is avocado detoxifying but it contains beautiful heart healthy fats that keep our skin and hormones healthy. Avocado is a plant-based source of fat which is incredibly important for healthy nutrition. 

Try our Kale Breakfast Bowl 

Tomatoes 

Tomatoes are a beautiful refreshing vegetable to enjoy when it’s hot outside. They are a major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. 

Try out Breakfast Bruschetta

Remember!

In Summer we tend to eat a lot more raw vegetables, as our bodies crave cooler foods. Did you know? The nutrients of raw foods are made more absorbable when consumed with a source of fat. Try pairing your raw fruits and vegetables with olive oil, nuts and avocados to reap the nutritional benefits of these ingredients.

Movement, Postnatal Movement

Finding Your Abdominal Connection After Birth

What happens to my abdominals during pregnancy and childbirth?

As your belly grows during pregnancy, your abdominal muscles stretch and change. 

Your deepest layer of abdominals (TVA or Transverse Abdominis), acts like a corset which wraps around from your spine and joins via a tendon in the front called the linea alba. 

This layer has a close relationship to your breathing and pelvic floor muscles – two key elements of abdominal connection and core strength. During pregnancy, this layer stretches and thins which can impact this relationship. This is what we refer to as diatasis recti or ab separation. 

Therefore, rebuilding your TVA and finding the connection between your abdominals, breath and pelvic floor is an important process in your postpartum recovery. 

Finding your abdominal connection post-birth is crucial to rebuilding your core strength.

How do I reconnect my abdominals?

First and foremost, use the first few weeks post-birth (before you have clearance from your doctor to resume exercise) to spend time on the floor with your bub and focus on your breathing. Here are some ways to do this: 

  • Lay on your back on the floor / mat / towel with your feet up on a couch. Inhale, letting your belly expand naturally. As you exhale, focus on contracting your abdominals (TVA) like a corset being drawn together at the front.  Make sure your spine and pelvis is aligned, and maintain small gaps under your neck and lower back, this is your neutral spine position.
  • Enjoy ‘Tummy Time’ – not only is ‘Tummy Time’ great for your baby – it provides you with great feedback during your breathing. Lay on your stomach with your hands under your head, inhale into your belly, you will feel the pressure into the ground and movement through your ribs as they expand, as you exhale continue that connection of contracting TVA. 
  • The next progression is to move up into the crawl position of 4pt kneeling – hands and knees hip distance apart with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Maintain this same breathing focus, expanding and contracting your abdominals as you inhale and exhale.

Everyone will have a different pre and postnatal journey – some experience no separation and others significant. No matter how your body responds to pregnancy, everyone can benefit from reconnecting your abdominals post birth. 

Once you receive clearance from your doctor to return to exercise, you want to focus on connecting and strengthening your deep abdominal layers – TVA, internal obliques and other core muscles. These muscles lengthen and contract (shorten) as you breathe. Begin by focusing on this contraction and connection to support your movement. 

The pelvic curl is a great exercise to start, with a focus on alignment, mobility and breath – it gives you the opportunity to incorporate this connection into your movement.  Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent and hip distance apart. Your arms are long by your side and your neck is in neutral, chin slightly tucked. Inhale to prepare and on the exhale, feel the contraction and connection to these deep abdominal layers. Maintain this connection as you begin the movement. Through consistent practice, you will start to reconnect your abdominals and build strength and tone in your core. 

Fluidform’s specialised Pre & Postnatal programs are designed to guide you through each stage of your pregnancy through to your postnatal recovery. These workouts aim to reconnect your abdominals and realign your body, to help rebuild your strength, tone and confidence post-birth.

Your core is your central powerhouse, which impacts your balance, stability and the way you move your body. A strong core will help to improve your posture, overall muscular performance and prevent long-term injuries across your entire body.

Movement, Prenatal Movement

The Importance of Exercise in the Preconception Period

By Georgia Hartmann
Naturopath, Nutritionist & Women’s Health Expert

When it comes to optimising fertility and preparing for pregnancy, there are numerous factors that must be considered一alcohol, caffeine, sugar and trans fat consumption, sleep quality, stress management, nutrient status, underlying health conditions, smoking, exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, weight, the list goes on…

One factor that we can all start prioritising today is regular exercise. Not only is exercise beneficial for reducing the risk of 40 chronic health conditions including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, but it is also incredibly beneficial in balancing hormones.[1-2]

Here’s an insight into exactly how.

Exercise helps to balance hormones associated with excess weight
It is well known that carrying excess weight increases the risk of infertility and miscarriage. We also know that moderate exercise influences IVF outcomes. A recent meta-analysis found a 1.96-fold increase in clinical pregnancy rate and 1.94-fold increase in live birth rate in physically active women compared with physically inactive women. The effect is due to the positive influence of exercise on insulin sensitization and ovarian function. Influencing levels of insulin is incredibly important in those carrying excess weight as this hormone is commonly elevated. [3-4]

Exercise helps to balance hormones associated with high stress
Elevated, uncontrolled stress is associated with infertility, cycle irregularities, poor sperm quality, and miscarriage risk. It can be challenging to find time to exercise when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. However, this is the perfect time to do so. What we know about stress is that it is associated with increased production of cortisol, one of our stress hormones. Research consistently shows us that regular exercise reduces cortisol levels. And if you have exercised prior to entering a stressful situation, your cortisol levels are much lower─ meaning you are able to cope with stress more. A recent study of almost 400,000 individuals also found that those who had a physically active lifestyle had around 60% lower risk of developing anxiety─again, through the positive impact of exercise on our stress hormones. [5-7]

Exercise helps to balance hormones associated with poor sleep
Sleep not only affects hormonal balance, but also sperm function and IVF outcomes. While approximately 30% of the general population experience sleep troubles, a readily-available, non-pharmacological therapy without side effects is regular exercise. Recent randomized controlled trials have confirmed that exercise reduces insomnia severity, and improves ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and overall sleep quality. From a fertility standpoint, we know that both female and male fertility, as well as IVF outcomes may be affected by short sleep duration and shift/night work schedules. In order to have adequate levels of our sleep-promoting hormone, melatonin, exercise is best performed in the morning rather than afternoon or evening.[8-10]

Exercise helps to balance hormones associated with reproductive conditions
Regular exercise is increasingly being recommended to manage a range of chronic health conditions including painful periods and endometriosis. While some research suggests exercise can exacerbate painful symptoms in women with endometriosis, a recent study assessing endometriosis self-management strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic reported that exercise undoubtedly has an overall positive impact on well-being.[11]

In the case of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is a leading cause of fertility difficulties among reproductive-aged women, exercise has shown beneficial effects on lipid profiles, waist circumference, blood pressure and fasting insulin. It has also been shown to balance hormones, particularly androgens and oestrogens. [12-14]

So, if you are considering conceiving, now is the time to prioritise regular exercise.

References:

[1] Ruegsegger, G.N., et al.

Health Benefits of Exercise. Cold Spring Harbour Perspectives in Medicine, 2018. 8(7). PMID: 28507196.
[2] Ennour-Idrissi, K., et al. Effect of physical activity on sex hormones in women: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Breast Cancer Research, 2015. PMID: 26541144.
[3] Harrison, C.L., et al. The Role of Physical Activity in Preconception, Pregnancy and Postpartum Health. Seminars in Reproductive Medicine, 2016. 34(2). PMID: 27169984.
[4] Rao, M., et al. Maternal physical activity before IVF/ICSI cycles improves clinical pregnancy rate and live birth rate: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 2018. 16(1). PMID: 29415732.
[5] Khaled, K., et al. Perceived stress and diet quality in women of reproductive age: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition Journal, 2020. PMID: 32859204.
[6] Wood, C.J., et al. Physical fitness and prior physical activity are both associated with less cortisol secretion during psychosocial stress. Anxiety, Stress and Coping, 2018. 31(2). PMID: 29037088.
[7] Svensson, M., et al. Physical Activity Is Associated With Lower Long-Term Incidence of Anxiety in a Population-Based, Large-Scale Study. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2021. PMID: 34566716.

[8] Caetano, G., et al. Impact of sleep on female and male reproductive functions: a systematic review. Fertility & Sterility, 2021. 115(3). PMID: 33054981.
[9]
 Banno, M., et al. Exercise can improve sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PeerJ, 2018. PMID: 30018855.
[10] Carlson, L.A., et al .Influence of Exercise Time of Day on Salivary Melatonin Responses. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2019. 14(3). PMID: 30160559.
[11] Leonardi, M., et al. Self-management strategies to consider to combat endometriosis symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Human Reproduction Open, 2020. PMID: 32509977.
[12] Benham, J.L., et al. Role of exercise training in polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Obesity, 2018. PMID: 29896935.

[13] Shele, G., et al. A Systematic Review of the Effects of Exercise on Hormones in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, 2020. 5(2). PMID: 33467251.
[14]
 Smith, A.J., et al. The Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Estrogen Metabolism in Healthy Premenopausal Women. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 2013. 22(5). PMID: 23652373.

About the author:
Having been diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure two years prior to conceiving her first child naturally, Georgia’s passion lies within helping women overcome their hormonal imbalances through the blend of conventional and complementary medicine. For additional support, you can contact Georgia via:

IG: georgiahartmann_naturopath

W: www.georgiahartmann.com

E: hello@georgiahartmann.com