Fear-Less Friday: Brittani Kolasinski – Hormones, periods + pregnancy
I’m so excited to have Brittani as the first guest in my Fear-Less Friday Interview Series!
Brittani is a former Newcastle foodie turned nutritionist at Well Fed Holistic Health, who is passionate about supporting women along their own health journey. She’s been inspired by the practitioners who have played a part in her own healing process and has experienced firsthand the power of food as medicine. Now with a Bachelor of Health Science under her belt she is on a mission to empower, encourage and educate on all matters of health, in particular around women’s health and hormones.
Brittani and I met online through the Gratitude Gang and the Health Hub.
In our interview, Brittani shares about her own health journey and all about hormones, periods and a little about pregnancy. The interview is below, I hope you enjoy it!
Tell us a bit more about you and your health journey
I grew up in a home that was very health conscious but also fat phobic. My mother was and still is an obsessive dieter, always striving to lose those ‘last 5kg’ which really rubbed off on me. Throughout my teenage and early adulthood, I struggled with anorexia and bulimia for 10 years along with a drug dependency, anxiety and depression. It was actually through the healing that took place and my time in therapy that my passion for holistic health and nutrition was ignited. I was amazed by the power that real, whole foods (and actually EATING these foods) had on my body – my energy, my mood, my sleep, everything benefited, and I became obsessed with learning all about how food and the body interact with each other. I spent almost 4 years in Sydney studying and applying the knowledge I was learning to myself – I experienced severe digestive issues and had an inflamed bowel due to the damage that was done during the years with the disorder, I also worked and studied to the point of burn out and it was a long few years to get back to feeling my best again.
More recently I began noticing changes to my period, it was coming up to my wedding and also my graduation, so I put this down to stress, but as time went on it became all too apparent that something more was going on. I lost my period for 7 months and when it finally returned, I was having 60+ day cycles as opposed to the ‘regular’ 28 day cycle. I was experiencing sleep disturbances, low mood, dry skin, excessive thirst and gained 10kg in what felt like overnight. During this time, I’d seen a number of different specialists, doctors, fertility trackers, herbalists, naturopaths, acupuncturists and more which all helped to some degree. The only real answer I found was from my GP who thought I was heading into early menopause at the ripe ol’ age of 27. This really shook me up, we are planning to start a family in the next year and being told you could be entering menopause and you have undetectable estrogen levels was not ideal.
The changes to my body and my mood really played on my own self confidence. As a health practitioner, you place such high standards of yourself, never wanting to be unwell because you are here to help others reach their ideal state of health. But I am so thankful, as its given me so many experiences and increased empathy and compassion for others as well as a personal and professional experience and in depth understanding of the areas of gut health, mental health, women’s health and hormones – areas that have always been of interest for me.
More recently I began seed cycling, this is a process of using food as medicine to regulate and balance out female sex hormones. Using this method, I was able to get my cycle down to 31 days and now to a consistent, symptom free 28 day cycle. Something I celebrate every day.
Tell us a bit more about what you do as a Clinicial Nutritionist
My role is so varied, and I love it.
Because I run my own business and work for myself, I’m more than a nutritionist. I’m my receptionist, book keeper and accountant, marketing team, social media, website developer, photographer, recipe creator, and a writer.
I work part time in clinical practice seeing clients either face to face or over skype and facetime. These consultations go for over an hour and are in-depth discussions where I take a holistic assessment of the client’s current health and functioning. I’ll talk through some of their concerns, as well as their health history and go through each body system separately to get a real, good understanding of how things work for them. First and foremost, I focus on the diet as the foundation. Every single biochemical reaction occurring within the body requires enzymes, and these enzymes are derived from nutrients. So, rather than talk about macros (fats, carbs and proteins) I assess their need for certain nutrients and educate them on where to find these within foods – I provide recipes or complete meal plans that are tailored to their needs and are prepared in a way that they will enjoy and be able to easily prepare within their week. When needed, I do provide nutritional supplementation. These are from practitioner only brands, not something you can pull off a shelf from the supermarket. You see, vitamins and minerals come in different forms, and with my background and education in nutritional biochemistry I am able to prescribe my clients with the form and dose that’s appropriate and therapeutic for them.
When I’m not with clients I’m writing E-books and articles, I write for other practitioners’ websites as well as a local school newsletter once a week, or I’m in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes for meal plans. The field I’m in is always evolving, which I love so there’s always something new to learn – new research to read, textbooks to study and seminars to attend.
My role can be isolating, when you work for yourself and do a lot online you can feel like you’re doing it all on your own and you never quite switch off. I recently teamed up with the Gratitude Gang to implement their Health Hub program worldwide. The community aspect of this initially got me interested and, when I looked into it further, I discovered that their values aligned with my own through their approach to healthy living, using food as medicine and being of service to others – something I just couldn’t pass up.
What does health + wellness mean to you?
To me, it’s about how you eat, how you move and how you think to come from a place of deep love, respect and appreciation of yourself. You could eat a healthy diet but if it’s from a place of controlling or depriving yourself of something soul nourishing (like eating take away with your best friends) than I don’t believe it’s healthy or will contribute to wellness.
If you’re exercising to the point of pain for some form of aesthetics than that’s not healthy and it will certainly not contribute to your wellness.
Health and wellness is about being flexible and adaptable, to allow yourself to tilt with the changes within seasons and cycles. We are after-all cyclical beings and living within a cyclical world – consider the different seasons in the year or simply the change between day and night. Health and wellness is allowing ourselves to go with the flow, to enjoy a loaded plate of veggies and a loaded plate of fries, to have your green smoothie and to have your gelato with your love – the things that nourish you mind, body and soul. Living with these aligned is true health and wellness.
What tips do you have for hormonal health?
Manage stress, nourish your being and get support from the appropriate health professionals.
I’ve created an Ebook myself to educate, encourage and empower others around their own health and hormones. It’s called ‘Hormones in Harmony’ as it covers hormonal health from the aspect of stress and adrenal health, fertility and periods, weight loss and blood sugars as well as thyroid – there’s loads of information and recipes to support you on your journey no matter where you’re at
You can purchase it here – https://www.wellfed.online/shop/hormones-in-harmony-an-e-book-for-women
What is a healthy period?
Our periods are a right of passage and they are worth celebrating, they are a good indication of what is happening for you health wise.
Ideally your cycle should be within 27-33 days, anything outside of this is worth investigating. Your first day of your period is your first day of bleeding, and the cycle ends with your next bleed. Your periods should come on pain free and virtually symptom free. Naturally you may notice a subtle shift in energy, in terms of being more extroverted and creative throughout your first 2 weeks (when estrogen should peak), but then become more introverted and more internal across your second phase (when progesterone peaks and estrogen tapers off). But if you’re experiencing debilitating symptoms, like pain, insomnia, anxiety, weight gain, bloating, break outs and breast tenderness its worthwhile looking into these – it’s your body telling you something is not quite right here, and things need to change.
Ideally women will ovulate mid cycle (around day 14) and it’s during this time that we are fertile. There’s about 6 days total that’s classed as our fertile window, so for those who are wanting to start a family this is the ideal time for intercourse. Many women might not be ovulating around this time so it’s important to understand when you’re ovulating and if you’re ovulating as you can still have a period (bleed) even though you haven’t actually ovulated – this is what happens when you’re on the pill.
You mentioned seed cycling – what is that?
Seed cycling is, in a nutshell (excuse the pun), a method of using certain seeds to support female hormones during the different phases of their menstrual cycle. Seed cycling has been used to support women suffering from absent periods, PMS, infertility and perimenopause symptoms as well as providing healing support for chronic conditions like PCOS and endometriosis. Seed cycling harnesses ‘food as medicine’ to support the intricate hormonal dance that occurs in a woman’s body in a delightfully inexpensive and non-invasive way.
For the first two weeks of your cycle you have 1 Tbs flaxseeds and 1 Tbs pumpkin seeds ground fresh.
Flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens, phytoestrogens are a plant-based source of estrogen that adapt to the body’s estrogen levels. They increase estrogen levels where needed, yet they also can decrease excess estrogen in the body. This is thanks to the lignans they contain, which bind to estrogen receptors and help to modulate estrogen production. Flaxseeds are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation in the body.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, zinc nourishes the ovarian follicles (the eggs) and promotes ovulation to occur. Ovulation is important as it establishes regular cycles and provides a balanced supply of estrogen and progesterone.
For the second two weeks of your cycle you have 1 Tbs sesame seeds and 1 Tbs sunflower seeds ground fresh.
Sesame seeds are rich in lignans which act on modulating estrogen and progesterone levels within the body. They are also a great source of omega 6 to be converted into GLA in the body. GLA is anti-inflammatory and helps to balance out female hormones.
Sunflower seeds are rich in selenium, an antioxidant mineral that supports liver function and the elimination of excess hormones. Without the appropriate detoxification of hormones, they can be reabsorbed and enter back into the bloodstream, creating imbalances. Sunflower seeds also contain omega 6’s to convert to GLA.
I’d love to talk about natural contraception. As someone who personally had, up until recently, been on the pill for many years but would prefer a natural option, what do you recommend?
I recommend fertility awareness, this involves understanding and knowing with confidence when your fertile window is and when you ovulate, you simply abstain from intercourse during this time or use condoms. Great way to check for ovulation is by taking your morning temperature, it will rise half a degree when you ovulate due to the thyroid pushing up your basal body temperature. You will also have changes to mucous that can be visible in your underwear, fertile mucous is clear like an egg white and it’s a way to know that you have ovulated.
Other options that are safe and easy to use are condoms and diaphragms. The copper IUD is another method that does not contain synthetic hormones and is much safer than hormonal contraceptive methods.
What results have you seen personally and with patients around their hormones, period and pregnancy from nutrition?
I’ve worked with clients coming off the pill who did not have a period for almost a year, which is a common occurrence. They also experience acne breakouts and changes to weight that have all been supported using food as medicine and nutritional supplementation. I’ll focus a lot on for them to clear the synthetic hormones that may be present post pill use, as well as build up their nutrient stores, as the OCP depletes essential nutrients, disrupts the microbiome and causes oxidative stress.
I work a lot with women who are planning on starting a family. Preconception care is so important to consider and to being 1-2 years before you decide to fall pregnant. Pregnancy takes a toll on mothers own nutrient stores as well as the physical strain and stress of growing a baby, giving birth and then providing food and care for thereafter. Chronic depletion of these nutrients can have negative effects on mum, dad and bub.
Not only this but we now understand the role nutrition and lifestyle has on our own genetic expression and how it influences the genetic makeup of our babies. It’s so important for both mum and dad to be in the best state of health so that they can create a healthy robust egg and healthy swimming sperm (It takes a total 90 days to get the egg ready for conception, and it takes 3 months for new sperm to develop. This gives a minimum of 6 months), and to give their children the absolute best start at life with their health – this won’t just affect them as babies or in the womb but long into their childhood and adult life.
You can read more about preconception care here – https://www.wellfed.online/articles/2018/1/22/preconception-care
What lead you to join the Gratitude Gang and Health Hub?
The community of the Gratitude Gang really got me interested in joining, working for myself I’m also working by myself and what I found with the Gang is that being part of something bigger with like-minded women was really appealing – they are your own personal cheer leaders.
Their approach to holistic health was in alignment with my own values and they really believe in using food as medicine with their whole food products – that are also highly researched and of the best quality which is super important to me.
I’ve found helping others with general health and wellness through the Gratitude Gang whereas clinical practice is more for those with really specific needs and more complex cases
What message do you have for someone wanting to learn more about hormone health – where should they start?
Start by tracking your own symptoms and cycles to gain insight and understanding of what is going on for you and seek help from a professional that can really get to the root cause – it can be so overwhelming to do it on your own. And more stress is the last thing you need for your hormones.
Seed cycling is also anther great way to help begin to balance the hormones at play, I’ve written on this topic and many other hormone related ones that can be found on my website, but also there’s so many wonderful practitioners putting information out there in the form of books, blogs and posts – Lara Briden and Jolene Brighton are two of my favorites.
FEAR-LESS FRIDAY INTERVIEW SERIES