Katrina Parsons - 20 Jan 2021
Interview with Female Health Expert - Jodie Brandman
fertility | pregnancy | breastfeeding | hair
I'd been getting a lot of questions from my customers about everything related to female health. Everything from my personal fertility experience through to how I grew out my "mum hair" - you know, that annoying hair growth that makes you look like you have breakage/ baby hair for months!!!
So I reached out to Female Health & Fertility Expert - Jodie Brandman - who is also a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Writer & Speaker. We discussed everything to do with female health and the information she gave was incredible and the tips were actionable.
If you would prefer to watch the live video just click below, or if you are like me and always stretched for time you can launch the video and just listen to the audio while you multi task or go for a walk with your little one in the pram.
TAKE ME BACK TO WHAT YOU DID WHEN YOU LEFT SCHOOL, WHAT YOU STUDIED AT UNIVERSITY AND THE LEAD UP TO LAUNCHING THE FEMALE HEALTH HUB?
I studied Psychology at university and I was absolutely determined that I wanted to become a clinical psychologist. I tried so hard to get a psychology job because it was so competitive.
I applied for internships, worked in a mental health hospital where I worked thirteen hour shifts with girls who had borderline personalities and eating disorders, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I got so disillusioned.
"There was a girl who ended up taking her own life, not when I was on shift but when I was in the hospital, and I couldn’t bear it, the way they were treated."
They were walking around with litres of coke all day, there were serious mood disorders.
Girls with eating disorders were force fed cake for the calories. They were being dished out medication, and I decided that this wasn’t for me.
Then I went down the research side of things but that was too far removed. Everyone who had depression or anxiety was given a questionnaire, and it was very rigid and behind the desk and I thought nope, this isn’t for me.
Meanwhile I had my own health issues going on. I had my digestive issues and a few things. It was mainly IBS. I could talk for hours about digestion, and we could go into it more if you wanted to go into that. It is such a wide range of topic and there is so much to cover.
That is the thing. It is not holistic, and I ended up, the more I looked into it the more I understood about digestion and the more I understood about health and about how eating affect us, and I ended up putting myself on a course about macrobiotics which is like an ancient Japanese or Chinese, Eastern philosophy where you look at the energetic properties of food, and I thought this was so interesting, but it got too hippy.
I went to this course in Devon where they were feeling everyone’s energy. I am a bit more hippy now then I was then but I thought this was not for me. Then I packed everything up and went to LA where I wanted to see what they were doing out there, what the trends are.
I was there for two weeks. I put myself on a raw food course. Before that as well I signed up for my nutritional therapy diploma. I started that but I was still working in psychology, but I thought no I need to know more. I wanted the science about the course, and my husband was modern and he wasn’t with the whole hippie side of things, and he was like Jodie you just need a proper nutrition qualification, so that was when I went to Ion and I looked at all the juice bars, went back, set up a juice truck. I went to all the festivities, did all the corporate events.
I had this old corporate van which kept breaking, and I went let’s just quit while I am ahead with this and basically I tried different things and if you have a look at my Instagram and there you can see all the things I tried.
And then I had my fertility scare. I had crazy periods, and that was when everything started opening up. I found my passion and I started working with women because you say to women "you can’t get pregnant" and she will listen to what you say, everything you tell her. I am a control freak, because if it was a weight loss thing I didn’t feel as if people were as committed…
I found the ones with difficulty with their whole periods and cycles were the ones who had results. The more I dived into research myself, the more I learnt, the more passionate I became about it and I starting helping my cycles and my periods started balancing.
"I was told I wouldn’t be able to have a baby without an operation"
I was told I wouldn’t be able to have a baby without an operation. I was terrified and had endometriosis sand that was what propelled me into this. And then I fell pregnant naturally with my son and I thought right this is what I need to be doing and helping people as well.
With him I ended up getting post-natal depression. It wasn’t severe but I just lost myself. It is common but I thought here’s another whole area as well. Women are just not supported. The medical model does not work as effectively as it needs to and there is a massive gap. I am obsessed with this topic now.
You are taught in schools that if you smell a boy you will get pregnant. Don’t get too close, if you sat on a toilet seat and a guy had sat on it you will get pregnant. It is bonkers. Nobody knows that there is a tiny window in a month when you can fall pregnant. It used to be taught in schools, and somewhere down the line on my vision board of things to do.
I want to talk to girls at school about it because I think they need to know how the body works. We are living in such a fast paced life style and we have been taught in this society that we can be anything we want to. We can have that career, we can have the children, we can do everything – career first, babies after, and actually the more I am seeing we can’t have everything.
HOW IMPORTANT IS NUTRITION WHEN IT COMES TO FERTILITY?
If you think about it the way we eat food and this is something I say in all the talks I give. I am going to illustrate this a bit.
Let’s just say you have a headache and you take a painkiller. You put it in your mouth, swallow it and the headache goes. Yet people don’t think that food is going to have any effect on the body yet it goes in exactly the same way.
We have countless opportunities during the day, during the week, month, year to put that in the body. The food gets broken down, gets extracted, it goes to our cells which determines how our body functions. So in terms of our fertility if we want healthy eggs, we want healthy sperm and we want normal cycles.
" If we want bodies that are ready for a baby, we need to be putting in the nutrients that make the body work."
We are so disconnected about how it is going to impact our infertility and nutrition. If we don’t eat well that is sending a stress signal to our body. Let’s talk about it a bit more.
If we are not eating properly we are not getting the nutrients we need and our body gets into stress, and if you think about it in evolution sense if our body is in survival mode it would shut down reproduction.
It would be okay we are running from a tiger and there is a threat it would not be going let’s have a baby; it would be running for survival.
And the same thing happens in our modern day world. Our body will prioritise survival. Our body does not know the difference of whether we are running from a tiger, whether there is a situation, whether there is famine.
Our stress results work on this thing called cortisol which is a stress hormone. When that goes up it can start affecting our progesterone which is the hormone that is responsible for that uterine lining, it is responsible for holding the baby in, in the shorter term that is what it does.
In the long term our body is massively affected and we need to look at it and it is a woman’s job, but we are seeing more issues with sperm than ever before.
"We are seeing sperm with two heads, two tails, the shape is different and if sperm isn’t working it can go in different directions, and it is not getting to that egg"
Something I read recently says the fertility issue split of men and women is 50/50. It could be a higher percentage of women but we definitely have to rope men in because they bring in half the package.
The thing is with men they are renewing sperm all the time so anyone with a low sperm count or they have low morphology, where their sperm is not going where it needs to... they can change that in three months - they can sort that out.
There may be couple of issues where they have issues structurally in their body; it can be a bit more complex than that. But women do have their eggs from birth so there is that.
But there is another misconception that a lot of people think they look at their EMH levels and they start to panic as they have low egg reserve. But that isn’t the case. We need just one quality egg and you can have as many eggs as you want…..
Eggs can be affected massively by nutrition because they all need to work. They found they need certain nutrients for sperm to be able to swim properly. They found that antioxidants can work, which are found in berries and vegetables.
It is such a wide topic I can talk about this forever.. There are certain nutrients that can fuel the egg. We can also physically buffer the effects of stress from nutrition from the inside, and I talk about this a lot when I work with clients and on the platform I have where I get people to work on steps where they really understand the effects on the inside where they are putting in all the nutrients.
Although there are nutritional components for both men and women but I usually just work with women at the moment because I love working with women, but you need to make sure you get your partner involved with this.
I can’t ever give guaranteed results but nutrition maximises your chances of conceiving. When people have been told it is unexplained, it doesn’t mean there is not a problem it just means that they have not got to the root cause. So much is missed by the medical module, and if you think about it with your consultations you have eight minutes max with your doctor, whereas I sit down with people for an hour.
"So much is missed by the medical module, and if you think about it with your consultations you have eight minutes max with your doctor, whereas I sit down with people for an hour."
Or they can go through the female health online thing where you go through weeks and weeks of classes where they go through your body.
There is so much that can be done to maximise your chances of conceiving and there is so much that can be missed and tests that doctors do where they say it is fine but there are certain things that have been missed and reference ranges that are not optimal.
IS THERE ANYTHING WOMEN CAN DO TO INCREASE THEIR MILK SUPPLY THROUGH NUTRITION AND DIET?
The thing is the jury is out when it comes to diets to increase milk supply but I love ancient traditions, and there are certain foods called galactagogic that are thought to help milk supply.
As I said the science is limited but traditionally they have been used things like oats, almonds, brewer’s yeast, flax seeds are all really good things. Fennel..
Smoothies are a great way to take these nutrients in. I used to make one of my many business ventures after having Zack I made lactation cookies which I was making for people and selling which had the oats, ground almonds, flax seeds. There are a lot of things.
You also have to remember that your milk supply is also very much linked to your stress levels, and as I have said before your stress levels are linked to the physical response to the body – if you are tired, if you are not eating properly.
Just making sure that as a mum you are eating regularly, and many mums are having coffee, not eating as they do not have time to look after themselves as they are running after the baby, so that high caffeine and lack of food are sending physical stress signals to your body and it is telling your body it is not safe, so not only does it impact your period and reproductive cycle but also your milk supply.
Waking up and having something easy like that smoothie in the morning and making sure you can throw things in the oven like sweet potato, cans of tuna, beans, something that is quick and good to go just make you are constantly eating and fuelling your body because it is hungry work feeding and all your reserves are taken.
Breastfeeding also does make you incredibly thirsty, I think my husband’s sole job for the first few weeks was running and getting me water.
CUSTOMER QUESTION: I AM STILL LOSING HAIR AFTER GIVING BIRTH TO MY SECOND CHILD. HE IS NOW ONE. I THINK I HAVE DEVELOPED A THYROID PROBLEM... IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO TO HELP?
This is a really common thing. Thyroids issues are a really common thing after birth. Pregnancy can trigger problems with the thyroid not only TSH which is your main auto thyroid but also your antibodies. I would recommend getting your thyroids checked to see if it is an auto immune condition, and also to get your free thyroid hormones as well.
You can do this privately if your doctor won’t do it. But if it says it’s normal get the results, have a look at it and double check what they have looked for and make sure your antibodies have been checked because there are different ways of addressing the thyroid depending on whether it is an auto immune or whether it is a general thyroid issue.
The two other things affecting the thyroid levels are your iron levels and vitamin D. You need to get those checked as well, because if they are low and especially at this time of year when the light levels are low you need to be getting them checked to make sure they are where they are supposed to be, as well as supplementing them, and sometimes and fixing iron levels can cause constipation so look for a gentler more easier to absorb of iron. Go to your health food store and look out for it.
But in terms of the diet it is way too complex to get into here but if you are interested send me a message as part of the female health hub which is part of the platform I run I have an entire master class dedicated to making dietary changes and if I try to give you dietary foods to change your entire body it is very complex.
There are certain foods you will be wanting to look at that can affect your thyroids, nutrient levels, certain supplements that might be really useful to include as well. So I go into this in much more details.
What is really interesting in terms of the thyroid it is the one thing that affects so many aspects of the body. It is a little gland that sits in the neck which is responsible for our metabolism, so if you are gaining weight or losing a lot of weight it could be because of that.
Any period problems, irregular periods, and what is really interesting is it could affect fertility.
"It is one of the most common reasons for fertility issues and infertility issues as well."
So this is the thing. This is the pattern that I see. Women could fall pregnant with their first and then they might not be able to conceive because their thyroid levels have been triggered during pregnancy or their thyroid has been triggered and it affects the thyroid. It is so easy to correct through diet and lifestyle and this is something we can do, as it is one of the biggest problems as we are burning the candle at both ends and the stress that we have and that affects the thyroids as well. We need to give it some TLC.
CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE FEMALE HEALTH HUB?
The female health hub is an online hub where I have put essentially all my signature methods that I have used with clients over the years. It is packed full of everything I have ever gone through with them and I have recorded all my teachings in video format.
We go through blood sugar balancing which is the most important thing in the whole of female health, so it is not just a case of thinking that your blood levels are balanced because no one I have seen have ever had blood sugar balance. It looks at the right carbs to eat, the right time to eat, why the inclusion of fat is so important and how we can get it into our diet.
Then I go into deep nutrition and how to make sure we can get all our nutrients, how to balance the effects of stress from the inside, and go into so much more. There are lifestyle things, exercises we can do at certain times of the month, working out how our cycle works. I cover detoxification and digestion to make sure that is optimised because that is the key to everything.
" It is not about doing a juice cleanse, it is about understanding how the body works."
There is so much to cover, and I got overwhelmed at first when I was thinking about how am I going to educate everyone. I see clients and I have seen them in the past, on a three months package, and I am thinking there is so much to cover. I want to get this out to as many people as possible so that we can be in a bit more control of our health. It is not just about what is wrong, why is this happening to me and turning to doctor google.
It is to stop all of the noise, and to give people a ninety day program, of giving them action steps that they can take, how to upgrade their meals. Tiny little tweeks we can make in every aspect of our lives, and it is helping you to understand tracking your cycles, so that if you are trying to get pregnant knowing the right times.
So many of us do not know the signs our body makes. Our body is incredible. It gives us all this information and it is learning how to read it. It is knowing the different phases of our cycle and tuning into that. People think they have PMS but when they go into the hub and learn how our body works you go it all makes so much sense now. I also talk about vaginal health and things like thrush. We talk about everything.
I have master classes coming out about PCOS and endometriosis. I have particular master classes coming out soon where I am going to be talking about egg and sperm health.
I feel that I never explain it well enough and I try to make it easy. It is essentially a website where you get a log in and load of videos, you get workbooks, you get recipe downloads, and there is also a private facebook group where people are asking questions, sharing recipe ideas.
"And honestly the girls that are in there so lovely. I have shed a tear a couple of times because someone will be freaking out about certain things in her body and there will be an onslaught of women saying it will be fine I have had this to, don’t worry, we will get through this together, and they cheer each other on."
We have knackered mums who don’t know what to do and their PMS is through the roof. We have women with endometriosis and girls with PCOS who .haven’t had a period in however long trying to get pregnant.
There are all sorts of women who are very supportive of each other. It is like building a tribe, and this is the thing. As women we need each other, to support each other and cheer each other on, and this is what lacking. And while I would love it to be an in person community where we could all get together, this is the next best thing. Also every fortnight there are live weekly calls where I just jump online and answer any questions.
And if no one has a question I run a dance party and let’s dance it out. It gets a bit crazy. This is very tame for me because I like to be all out. This is the thing. Fertility, female health problems and breast feeding, and post natal depression are very serious topics but I try to make light of it as best I can.
There is so much we need to do to change people’s health, our life and it is all to do with understanding our body, and once we do that it all falls into place, and as women we are intuitive beings and we really do know what’s up and we have lost that.
We have lost the ability to really train out body, we have lost that innate beauty healing energy about us and it is about tapping into that and bringing it back and embodying that gorgeous feminine energy that has been lost among this crazy thing along the way.
"This is my mission. To help women love being women again because I started all this when I just wishing I was a guy as they had life so easy when actually we have superpowers."
We have different amazing properties at different times of the month and have a rhythm when at certain times of the month we get more creative and other times we need to turn inwards and be more intuitive and we need to tap into those incredible super powers and then we can change the world.
Do you ever find at certain times when you are driving you have that spacial awareness. Then at other times when you parallel park you have to do it a million times.
This is the thing it is your period. It is because you have different brain connections and it is firing in different places and knowing what is going on and understanding that and not to drive.
WHERE CAN PEOPLE FIND OUT MORE INFORMATION ABOUT YOU OR HOW TO GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU?
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