Healthy and unhealthy foods & food alternatives

Granola bard, protein shakes, or vegan milk alternatives. There are many foods that seem to be healthy but are actually loaded with sugar or unhealthy fats. Consuming foods like these may make you feel tired, hungry or unfocussed as they cause your blood sugar to spike and drop rapidly. We took a closer look at some foods and collected a couple of tips to make your foods and snacks healthier and switch them for healthy food alternatives. This way you will know what to choose to feel energized and focussed throughout the day. But before we dive in let’s define what “healthy” means to us.

What are healthy foods? 

A healthy diet is one that supports energetic and physiological needs without excess calorie intake. This means a healthy diet pattern is rich in health-promoting foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables packed with antioxidants and essential micronutrients.  

Typically, healthy foods are ones that are:

  • Low in saturated fats 
  • Do not have added sugars  
  • Are unprocessed, or minimally processed.

Healthy food and snacks are considered to be rich in nutrients and beneficial to your overall health. Remember, if foods are based on simple and refined carbohydrates, they may not be the healthiest option, as these carbohydrates break down easier and faster into glucose Which results in a sharper glucose spike.

What is a healthy and balanced diet?

A healthy balanced diet is one in which macronutrients i.e. proteins, fats and carbs, are consumed in adequate, unexcessive proportions to support your body’s energetic and physiological needs, while providing sufficient micronutrients and hydration.

Still not sure what that means? Let’s try that in a bit more detail.

Macronutrients are the things you see when you look at the nutritional values on the label on the back of a packet of food in the supermarket.They are proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

For a meal to be healthy and balanced, it needs to include elements of all three of these macronutrients. These give the body the energy it needs to perform essential cellular functions, such as muscle repair.

Micronutrients are things like vitamins and minerals which you can get from food. Your body requires relatively low amounts of these, yet they are still essential for your body’s growth, development, metabolism and physiological functioning. The more varied – think colorful – your diet is, the easier it is to catch all essential nutrients on your plate.

Hydration is simply the amount of water in your body, which is essential for it to function. Make sure you are drinking around 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day. You can also healthily hydrate your body with herbal teas. Avoid things like coffee, alcohol, or sugary drinks as these are not as effective at hydrating the body, and can sometimes even have the opposite effect. Also, fruit juice is not the go to choice to quench your thirst. They look super healthy but unfortunately spike your blood glucose in an instant.

How to choose healthy foods

Healthy foods are typically characterized by these 3 key features we mentioned above :

  • They are unprocessed, or minimally processed
  • They are low in saturated fats
  • They contain no added sugars

Generally speaking, foods are healthy if they are rich in nutrients and beneficial to our health. However, sometimes foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals are also high in carbohydrates and fats, which is not ideal.

But we have some good news: Some foods that are rich in fats may actually contain monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated fats which are known to be good for our health, as long as they are consumed in moderation.

Avocados, for example, are a powerhouse source of nutrients and are high in vitamins E and K, folate, potassium, and B vitamins. The fat in avocados is monounsaturated, which can lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, and may increase ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, which reduces the risk of heart disease. 

However, avocados contain a lot of calories, which means that eating too many of them may cause you to put on weight. One avocado contains 32g of fat, which means 400 calories.

Carbs are not the enemy!

One popular dieting trend is to increase the amount of fat you consume, while decreasing the amount of carbohydrates as an illusion of easy weight loss and create a slimmer, more ‘chiseled’ physical appearance. However, when too high a percentage of your calorie intake comes from fats, you are most likely neglecting other key nutrients that your body needs in order to achieve a balanced diet.

For the record, carbohydrates are not unhealthy. All carbohydrates eventually break down into glucose, but unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, whole vegetables and unblended fruits are actually very good for you. They deliver vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients, which help stop your blood glucose levels from increasing too much.

Healthy hacks for unhealthy foods

We are sure you already heard about some myths around “healthy” foods which turned out to be actually bad for your health. But no worries, you don’t need to cut them completely from your diet. We took a closer look at 5 of these presumably “healthy” snacks and will give you some advice on how to make them actually healthier or give you an alternative. 

1. Smoothies

Smoothies have gained something of a cult-like status in recent years due to their delicious flavor, yet fairly misleading promises of healthy and nutritional value. In general, blending fruits actually cuts out their fiber and carbohydrate qualities . When the fiber and carbohydrate in whole fruits are reduced, this speeds up the rate at which the simple sugars contained in fruit juice enter your bloodstream, and cause a glucose spike.

Make it healthier

  • Use a ‘nutrient-extraction’ blender instead of a normal blender that homogenizes whole fruit to create ‘smoothies’ without the removal of fiber
  • Choose green smoothies with a kale or spinach base. These are packed with vitamins and minerals, yet are low in simple sugars, like glucose. Add some lime juice and mint for more flavor.
  • Throw in some berries, which are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Berries are also known for limiting your blood glucose response.
  • Don’t add sugars, syrup, agave nectar or honey.

Add a source of fat and protein to your smoothie to slow down the rate at which glucose and other simple sugars are digested and absorbed into your blood. Milk, coconut, almonds, peanuts, additive-free peanut butter and walnuts are great options.

2. Energy bars

Energy bars may seem like a simple, convenient and even healthy way to get an energy boost throughout the day, but the reality is that they are a small bomb in terms of calories. Many of them also contain hidden added sugars, and artificial sweeteners such as xylitol and mannitol. People who are not living extremely active lifestyles, such as professional athletes, generally do not need this level of caloric intake throughout the day, and by eating energy bars run the risk of weight gain.

Make it healthier

  • Make your own energy bars with real food ingredients, such as nuts, fruit and whole grains.
  • Throw in some flaxseed, whole cereals and pulses to really increase the nutritional value.
  • Go easy on the dried fruit and/or nuts. 
  • Do not eat them regularly

The truth about artificial sweeteners

Always check the label before buying low sugar or sugar-free options. Xylitol, mannitol, and any additive ending in -ol is actually a sugar alcohol that can leave you feeling gassy and flatulent. Other sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose can create intense cravings, and even dependencies.

The best way to lose your sweet tooth is to avoid anything with added sweeteners – whether from artificial, or natural sources like commercial sugar. Get your sweet fix from whole fruits as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

3. Plant-based drink

Plant-based drinks (known as plant-based milk outside the European Union) can be lower in calories than full-fat cow-based milk, but not necessarily lower than skimmed or semi-skimmed milks. However, many plant-based milks are loaded with added sugars in order to make them taste better, and more milk-like. Plant-based milks are also often low in fiber, as much of the fiber is lost in the processing required to achieve the final product. Most plant-based milks are lower in saturated fats and higher in unsaturated fats, but only if they are not coconut-based. In terms of nutrition, plant-based milks often lack vitamins A, D and B12 entirely, although many go through complex systems of processing in order to fortify them and artificially add them.

Make it healthier

Of all the plant-based alternatives to cow milk, the best option is soy milk. This tends to have higher quantities of the essential amino acid lysine than other, cereal-based alternatives such as oat milk or rice milk, although it may have lower quantities of the essential amino acids cysteine and methionine.

4. Granola

Granola is another one of those breakfast options that looks healthy at first glance, but is actually packed with unnecessary and unwanted added sugars, and often unhealthy simple carbs.

Make it healthier

Don’t buy commercial granola. Making it yourself is easy, healthy and fun. This way you can avoid adding excess sugars, use wholegrain cereals, and mix it with moderate proportions of raisins, seeds and nuts.

5. Protein shakes

Protein shakes may seem like the average gym fanatic’s best friend, but actually are not necessary for anybody exercising less than 5 hours per week. In addition to their protein content, shakes often contain added sugars, artificial thickeners and flavorers. More worryingly, a report has shown that many commercially available protein shake options contain dangerously high levels of toxins, such as heavy metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury), bisphenol-A or BPA (used to make plastic), pesticides, and other contaminants which have been linked to cancer and tumor growth.

Make it healthier

Read, read again and then read the label for a third time to make sure you know exactly what is in your protein shake before you drink it. And if you’re not exercising for more than 5 hours per week and already eating a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet, chances are you are already getting enough protein and do not need to supplement at all.

The essence

It’s difficult to navigate the food choices. Just remember that you should have a balanced diet including macro- and micronutrients. When you choose food make sure it’s not processed and no sugar is added. Our tip: Always check the label and make sure you know what you eat. Some things might appear healthier than they are. 

If you want to find out more about how you can change little things in your diet or lifestyle to have a positive impact on your glucose levels and thereby your overall health and wellbeing, start your journey with Hello Inside today.

 

what foods give you the best energy (Look Inside Kit) - Hello Inside

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

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Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

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Woman showing freestyle libre 2 sensor

Applying a sensor for the first time is very exciting. You are so close to seeing what happens inside your body and exploring our programs in the Hello Inside App. However, sometimes the sensor comes off just a few hours or days after application and you were definitely not ready to say goodbye to it. You were just getting started. Well, there can be many reasons for that but we collected some tips for you to make sure your sensor sticks well and you can enjoy the full 14 days of exploration.

Which CGM sensor is Hello Inside using?

We use an Abbott FreeStyle Libre 2 sensor with our Hello Inside App. Each of these sensors lasts for 14 days. You can easily and quickly apply the sensor to the back of your upper arm. The sensor is water resistant, and you can do sports with it. You can find more information on the sensor in our help center.

Especially, if you move a lot, do lots of sports and if it’s hot outside (you sweat a lot), it’s important to ensure the sensor sticks well on your arm after applying it. We collected some tips for you to make your sensor stick better and prevent it from falling off before the 14 days are over. 

1) Clean the application area

Clean the part of your upper arm where you want to place the sensor. Use some regular soap to remove oil on your skin and dead skin. After you wash off the soap, let the part of your arm dry completely. 

2) Find the right spot

Place the sensor on a squishy part of your upper arm. You should avoid muscle tissue. You can do a “touch test” before application. Feel different parts of your upper arm and choose a place which feels soft.

3) Make the move test

Place the sensor somewhere that doesn’t impair you when exercising or moving your arm. This way, you can avoid rubbing it off accidentally. You can do a couple of steps (with arm swings) or a typical exercise you do often (e.g.: push-ups, squats or a yoga pose) to see your range of motion and where a sensor could be placed without being in the way.

4) Choose the right side

Unless you sleep on your belly or back your probably have a preferred side you sleep on. We recommend placing the sensor on the arm you usually don’t sleep on. So if you usually sleep on the right side of your body, place the sensor on your left upper arm. 

5) Double check the adhesive

After placing your sensor, ensure the edges of the sticker stick firmly to your skin.  Just press them down all around the sensor or draw a couple of circles around the sensor with a small spoon.

6) A bit of patience

After applying the sensor, avoid doing sports, taking a shower or swimming for about 1-2 hours. This way, the adhesive can warm up a bit and sticks better to your skin. This makes the sensor also less likely to come off later.

7) Use additional protection

We would recommend placing a patch on your sensor for additional protection, especially if you move a lot and do sports regularly. If you don’t have a patch, you can also use a physio tape to protect the sensor. 

Enjoy your exploration journey!

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

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Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

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Hello Inside Breakfast & Women's Health

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

We are sure you have heard this before. But why? 

Simply put, if you bring your blood glucose levels out of control in the morning, you may jump onto the blood glucose roller coaster before even noticing it. And it will be hard to get off during the day. So if you cause your blood glucose levels to spike in the morning, you might feel dizzier, less focused, hungrier, and tired throughout the day. But worry not, we’ve got you covered. Whether you are more of a sweet kind of person or if you prefer a savory breakfast,  we’ve collected the best glucose-stable recipes for your breakfast. 

For the sweet tooth among you: 

 

Ice cream bowl for breakfast (vegan possible)

What you need:

  • > 150 grams of frozen blueberries
  • > 5 tbsp milk (or plant-based alternative)
  • > Protein powder with your favorite flavor (make sure it’s not sweetened)
  • > Almond or any other nut butter

Preparation steps:

  • > Add everything to mixer, and blend until ice creamy texture. Garnish with fresh berries, coconut flakes and a bit of nut butter
  • > For some sweetness, you can add some cinnamon or a teaspoon of agave syrup. Enjoy

 

Greek yogurt with blueberries and seeds

What you need:

  • > 150-200g greek yogurt or skyr
  • > 50g of blueberries
  • > 1tsp pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
  • > Cinnamon to taste
  • > Coconut flakes to garnish
  • > Chocolate nibs or nut butter as a topping

Self-made PBJ (vegan)

What you need:

  • > 1 slide of dark bread (toasted)
  • > Peanut butter (make sure to check the label for added sugars)
  • > 20g of raspberries

How to prepare your PBJ:

  • > Toast your slice of bread
  • > Add peanut butter on your bread
  • > Mash the raspberries with a fork on your peanut butter bread

Savory alternatives: 

Toasted bread with avocado and poached egg

What you need:

  • > 1 slice of dark bread (toasted)
  • > ½ Avocado
  • > 1 egg
  • > Lemon juice

Preparation steps:

  • > Toast your bread, add the avocado on top and mash it with a fork and sprinkle some lemon juice over it.
  • > Simmer some water for the egg and add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water. With a large spoon, swirl the water and crack the egg into the center. Let it simmer for 4 minutes. Lift the egg out with a slotted spoon and drain it on kitchen paper.
  • > Place the egg on your Avo-Toast.
  • > Top your toast with some herbs, salt and pepper. If you are up for something spicy you can add some chili flakes as well. Enjoy.

  • Toasted bread with cottage cheese and salmon

What you need:

  • > 1 slice of dark bread (toasted)
  • > Cottage cheese
  • > 50g of smoked salmon
  • > Lemon

Toast your bread, add the cottage cheese and top it off with the salmon. If you like to make it fancy, add some lemon juice and herbs.

    • Breakfast egg muffins with veggies

What you need:

  • > 12 eggs
  • > Veggies of your choice (e.g.: bell pepper, tomato, mushrooms, baby spinach)
  • > 1 spring onion
  • > Grated cheese
  • > Salt & pepper
  • > Herbs

Preparation steps:

  • > Break the eggs in a bowl and whisk them with a fork.
  • > Wash and dice the vegetables. Mix them with the eggs & cheese.
  • > Add some salt, pepper, and herbs.
  • > Grease the muffin pan or put some paper muffin forms into your muffin pan.
  • > Bake for about 15 minutes at 200°C.

Scrambled tofu (vegan)

What you need:

  • > 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • > 1 block of tofu
  • > 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • > Salt to taste
  • > 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • > Garlic
  • > 2 tbsp plant-based milk alternative, unsweetened (e.g.: almond milk, soy milk, oat milk)
  • > Veggies to add (e.g.: avocado, spinach, tomato)

Preparation steps:

  • > Put the olive oil in a pan and heat up (medium heat). Mash the block of tofu with a fork and add to pan. Cook the tofu for 3-4 minutes. Don’t forget to stir frequently, like you would with scrambled eggs. There should not be any water left from the tofu before you continue to add nutritional yeast, turmeric and garlic. You can now also add salt to taste. Cook everything for some more minutes.
  • > Now add the plant-based milk into the pan and mix everything.
  • > Ready to serve! Add some veggies and top your scrambled tofu with some herbs of your choice. Enjoy.

Can’t wait for you next breakfast? Now it’s time to find out what works for you!

what foods give you the best energy (Look Inside Kit) - Hello Inside

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

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Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

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boost energy with stable glucose snacks

You sometimes need the extra energy boost in the afternoon, right in the morning or after exercising. There are many options you have probably heard of. From energy drinks, to power bars and sports gels. 

Unfortunately, these products may be efficient and suitable for elite athletes that need high amounts of quick sugar during or after their workout. But for the rest of you they will likely cause a quick glucose rush (a fast increase of glucose) that is followed by a glucose dip after. This fast up and down will make you feel more tired, moody or hungry than before you enjoyed this gel, bar or drink. 

At Hello Inside, we consider a good energy booster as something that won’t put you on this rollercoaster of highs and lows. These foods provide sustainable energy and won’t cause any spikes and dips.

 

Remember this as a rule of thumb:

The less processed your energy-boosting food is, the better. A small amount of sugar combined with plenty of fiber, fat, and/or protein makes a snack perfect and will make you feel energized for a long time.

Best 7 foods & snacks to boost your energy

  1. Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate may be an easy way to increase energy. It usually has less sugar than milk chocolate. Less sugar results in a more balanced blood glucose and thus avoiding dips. It also has more cocoa content which means more of the benefits of cocoa, including helpful antioxidants such as flavonoids.
  2. Hummus: Is low in fat, but high in protein. It typically contains no added sugar and is low in calories. Combining it with some veggie sticks makes hummus the perfect energy snack. (Tipp: make sure to check the food label for added sugars when you buy hummus in the store)
  3. Plain or greek yogurt is rich in protein, fats, and natural sugars, which provide energy to the body. The content of fat and protein help to lower the impact of naturally occurring sugars on your blood glucose. Caveat: Plant- based yogurts sometimes lack fat and or protein, causing your glucose levels to spike. 
  4. Quinoa and amaranth: Quinoa is high in protein and fiber. The combination of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and fiber are a recipe for sustained energy rather than short bursts of glucose. Add quinoa or amaranth pops to your yogurt as a snack.
  5. Nuts and seeds: are high in fat and protein to provide energy throughout the day.
  6. Matcha and guarana will make you feel energized and help to control your blood glucose.
  7. Green-ish banana: It contains something that’s called resistant starch. This resistant starch helps to slow down the process of releasing sugar in your bloodstream.

 

Did you know…

The browner a banana the more sugar it contains and cause a bigger raise of your blood glucose.

Boost your energy naturally with these habits

If you are looking for something else, other than food to boost your energy we have some alternatives for you. 

  1. Take a cold shower. In the short term this can result in a glucose increase and a quick energy burst. This is caused by the positive stress your body is exposed to. However, if taking a cold shower becomes your habit you also promote metabolic health in the long term. 
  2. Move your body. Simple, yet very effective. To avoid the afternoon slump after lunch just take a short walk outside or do some squats. Also a morning walk before work can help you to kick-start the day and make you feel energized. 
  3. Breathe. Sometimes the only thing you need is a quick break during your work day. A few minutes of breathing exercise can do wonders. Go to your window, open it, close your eyes and take 3-5 deep breaths of fresh air. You won’t believe how much more energized you will feel.
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Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

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Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

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Sleep & Recovery

We learn early in life how important sleep is for our development and functionality. It is evident in how our sleep is prioritized throughout our childhood. As we grow older and life speeds up, we seem to forget this fact and start neglecting sleep, even labeling it with negative connotations, usually laziness. But sleep is anything but a lazy activity. In fact, it is crucial for hormone balance, brain and body healing. 

In this post, we will dive into how to improve your health through sleep quality by understanding:

  • why prioritizing sleep is important
  • what effect sleep has on our health
  • why the quality of our sleep is as important as getting the recommended hours of sleep
  • what actions you can take to improve your sleep quality

Overnight therapy: Why sleep is so important

It’s a myth that as we grow older, we need less sleep. We, in fact, need as much sleep in our 60s as we do in our 20s because recovery is essential whether you are young or old. To quote the sleep expert, Professor Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at UC Berkley, “sleep is probably the single most effective thing you can do to reset your body and health.” 

Let’s examine exactly why that is.

Sleep contributes to our emotional well-being as it functions as a therapy to help us fight off feelings of depression and anxiety. Furthermore, it enhances cognitive performance, boosts our immune system, increases longevity, has an anti-aging effect – and even makes us look more attractive! 

That’s not all: We even get smarter when waking up from a good night’s sleep. You probably heard somebody say, “Tomorrow will look different. Sleep on the problem,” well it might be one of the best pieces of advice you can get. Sleep enhances our memories and creativity as our brain processes new information, ties it with stored memories, and identifies new patterns – helping us find solutions we couldn’t make out before.

How does poor sleep affect your health, hormones, and weight? 

To further emphasize the importance of sleep, let’s talk about what can happen if you are underslept.

It can play out as emotional instability the next day. We might become irrational, impulsive or suddenly need to seek out sensations and rewards. This is because the prefrontal cortex – the logical part of our brain – takes the hit and can no longer properly regulate the part of the brain that stabilizes emotions – the amygdala.

There are also potential chronic effects since sleep functions as a “save button” for our brain when memorizing new information. Lack of sleep actually reduces our brain’s ability to lay down new memory traces by 40%. Studies show that sleep deprivation is the most significant lifestyle factor determining if you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. 

Poor sleeping habits also disturb the regulation of hormones in our bodies.

Another chain reaction deriving from lack of sleep is the one affecting our hormones. Sleep deprivation is linked to hormonal changes affecting our body’s glucose (blood sugar) regulation. Normally, when our bodies sense a spike in glucose, they start to release insulin to regulate it. If we are under-slept, our bodies (our pancreases) may become insulin insensitive and not release the adequate amount of insulin needed to regulate the glucose spikes. This, of course, affects our glucose tolerance, which may lead to an increased risk for diabetes. In fact, people who sleep 5 hours or less per night have a significantly higher risk of being diagnosed with diabetes compared to those who sleep 8 hours. 

If you plan to start on that healthy diet, make sure to plan for good sleep too! Studies show that sleep deprivation affects the hormones that regulate our hunger. Lack of sleep causes an increase in certain hormones that stimulate hunger and a decrease in other hormones that let us know when we are full. This means that if you are sleep deprived, you will most likely crave and eat more food than you actually need, especially food rich in fats and carbs. This, in turn, is an entry ticket for a glucose roller coaster. 

Does the number of sleeping hours matter?

It definitely does, but remember that quantity and quality are equally important here.

The recommended hours of sleep are between 7-9 hours, with 8 hours being the ideal for most people.

But how do I know if 8 hours of sleep is enough for me? Well, let’s say your alarm didn’t go off one morning. Would you continue to sleep? If yes, you are not getting enough sleep. 

Sleeping stages and why they matter?

Before we take steps to improve our sleep quality, it helps to understand the four stages of sleep: there are three NREM (non-rapid-eye movement) stages and one REM (rapid-eye movement) stage.

Stage 1. The “dozing off” stage occurs right before you fall asleep.

Stage 2. During this stage, your heart rate, brain activity, and body temperature are lower. 

Stage 3. Here is where we enter deep sleep or slow-wave sleep (SWS). This stage is considered critical for restorative sleep and essential for your body’s glucose management. 

Stage 4. In the crucial REM stage, brain activity picks up rapidly. It is restorative to cognitive functions such as creativity, learning and memory.

The stages move in a cycling pattern and have varying lengths. The length of each stage can be influenced, and this is how our lifestyle choices come into play.

Pulling all-nighters, having an irregular sleep schedule or regularly having your sleep disturbed are all factors that can negatively affect the sleep stages and in turn, affect your physical and mental recovery.

Therefore, sleep quality means optimizing the different sleeping stages, especially deep sleep (SWS) and REM.  

To assess your sleep quality, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Does it take you more than 30 min to fall asleep? 
  • Do you wake up several times per night and have trouble going back to sleep?
  • Do you feel tired and have difficulty talking and concentrating the next day?
  • Do you feel more hungry, experience cravings, and feel emotionally less stable?

If one or more of these apply to you, we have some remedies you may want to try.

How to improve sleep with lifestyle choices

 

The Circadian Rhythm

Almost all living beings – from bacteria to people – have a circadian rhythm. It is our “internal clock” that ensures that all of our organs and internal biological systems work harmoniously together over a 24h cycle. One of the most important processes, controlled by the circadian rhythm, is the sleep-wake cycle. It is regulated through a complex feedback loop that includes hormonal production (most prominently melatonin) interlinked among others to light exposure and sleeping patterns.

  • Always wake up at the same time: Abandon those plans to catch up on sleep during the weekends. Our bodies love routines, so try to follow a steady sleep- and wake-up schedule. This is best kept in check by always waking up at the same time, whether it is the weekend or even if you went out partying the night before. By waking up at the same time, your body will take the sleep it needs by “making you” go to bed earlier the next day! This will help foster a healthy circadian rhythm and teach your body to follow a specific sleep-wake cycle which can help you fall asleep quicker and improve your sleep quality.
  • Create a bedtime ritual to unwind: Relaxation before bedtime signals that it’s time for your body and brain to unwind. So, dim those lights, put on calming music, take a warm bath, get your favorite book or do whatever it is that makes you relax. Your circadian clock responds the best if you start to dim the lights in your home 3-4 hours before your bedtime. The darkness kicks off melatonin production, which causes drowsiness and helps initiate the sleep phase. Blue light is our main adversary here, that’s why most phones and laptops have a downtime mode, where you can set up times when the blue light is automatically reduced. But ideally, you would avoid screens altogether during your wind-down phase. 
  • Your morning ritual matters, too: Light exposure works both ways – within 30 minutes of waking up, go outside and expose your eyes to sunlight for 2-10 minutes. This triggers a healthy cortisol release to promote wakefulness and starts the timer for melatonin. Meaning, if you get bright light exposure 14-16 hours before when you want to sleep, it will help to time the melatonin release exactly when it is time for you to start getting ready for sleep. It doesn’t matter if it is winter or cloudy, just don’t wear sunglasses.
  • Avoid a glucose spike late in the evening: Avoid eating heavy meals or snacking late in the evening. It can cause indigestion and high glucose levels, which directly disrupts your deep sleep. 
  • Manage your glucose levels: Find out through glucose monitoring which foods give you spikes and lows in glucose. An interesting fact is that the circadian rhythm regulates your glucose metabolism. Therefore, a circadian disruption, such as ending a night out with a pizza or other “heavy” food, can cause glucose dysregulation.

 

Interesting Fact

Did you know that our liver works hardest when we are in the middle of our sleep? As elaborated above, our body “knows” due to the circadian rhythm when we are deep in sleep and that’s when some parts of our body work hardest. It is during this time (usually 1am – 4am) that we experience the most glucose dips and spikes. This is because our liver works hardest during this period to detoxify our body causing the erratic glucose levels.

  • Temperature: A cooler bedroom temperature is perfect for sleep as your body needs to drop 1-3 degrees for effective sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol: While a glass of good wine for dinner or some fun cocktails when out with your friends is part of life, it’s important to understand that alcohol will definitely mess with your sleep. Alcohol is technically a sedative that can aid in falling asleep, but in reality, it basically knocks you out. To put it bluntly: you’re not falling asleep, you’re passing out. This means it reduces the deep SWS and REM sleep and causes sleep disruption throughout the night, consequently messing with your sleep quality and recovery.
  • Exercise: Working out is a cure for all, including poor sleep and unstable glucose levels. But you should avoid heavy exercises that drive up your heart rate late in the evening. This goes especially for high-intensity training like HIIT, heavy weight lifting, or even a late evening jog. Instead, opt for low heartbeat activities like easy Yoga or Qi Gong.
  • Caffeine is all about timing: Would you drink one espresso as a good nightcap? No, right? But drinking 2 espressi at 5 pm, is like having 1 espresso at 10 pm. This is because caffeine has a half-life of 4-6 hours, meaning it takes your body that long to get rid of half the amount of the consumed caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and will keep you awake while it is in your system in a higher amount. Even if you manage to fall asleep with caffeine in your system, it will disrupt the SWS stage and lead to less restorative sleep. So, make sure to time your coffee or matcha well. 

The key takeaways:

Sleeping is crucial for your body’s physiological and mental recovery. The severe consequences of not prioritizing sleep include diseases, functional impairments, and elevated glucose levels.

You should aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep and work to enhance SWS (stage 3) and REM sleep (stage 4). 

Therefore, you should really analyze which daily choices in your life might affect your sleep quality. So heal your circadian rhythm: if your circadian clock is off, it can cause you sleep problems. Boost it by following a sleeping schedule, avoiding staying up at night, and avoiding eating in the evenings. 

One particularly important factor is stable glucose levels, which impact your hormones, your sleep quality, and, therefore, your recovery. Understanding how your body reacts to glucose levels helps you make healthy lifestyle choices. Hello Inside has designed a program that helps you understand your body’s response to food, exercise, and sleep. 

Hello Hormones is the name, and it includes personalized practical insights to help you make smarter lifestyle choices to enhance every aspect of your life, including sleep. 


References

Abel T, Havekes R, Saletin JM, Walker MP. Sleep, plasticity and memory from molecules to whole-brain networks. Curr Biol. 2013;23(17):R774-R788. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.07.025

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24028961/.

Ben Simon E, Rossi A, Harvey AG, Walker MP. Overanxious and underslept [published correction appears in Nat Hum Behav. 2020 Dec;4(12):1321]. Nat Hum Behav. 2020;4(1):100-110. doi:10.1038/s41562-019-0754-8

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31685950/.

Calechman S. Sleep to solve a problem – Harvard Health. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/sleep-to-solve-a-problem-202105242463 . Published 2021. Accessed August 24, 2022.

Goldstein AN, Walker MP. The role of sleep in emotional brain function. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2014;10:679-708. doi:10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032813-153716 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4286245/.

Greer SM, Goldstein AN, Walker MP. The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nat Commun. 2013;4:2259. doi:10.1038/ncomms3259

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23922121/.

Huberman A. Episode 31: Dr. Matthew Walker: The Science & Practice Of Perfecting Your Sleep| Huberman Lab. Podcast Notess. https://podcastnotes.org/huberman-lab/episode-31-dr-matthew-walker-the-science-practice-of-perfecting-your-sleep-huberman-lab/ . Published 2022. Accessed August 24, 2022.

15. Huberman A. Using Light (Sunlight, Blue Light & Red Light) to Optimize Health | Podcast #68. Huberman Lab. https://hubermanlab.com/using-light-sunlight-blue-light-and-red-light-to-optimize-health/https://hubermanlab.com/using-light-sunlight-blue-light-and-red-light-to-optimize-health/. Published 2022. Accessed August 25, 2022.

Huberman A. Toolkit for Sleep. Huberman Lab. https://hubermanlab.com/toolkit-for-sleep/ . Published 2021. Accessed August 24, 2022. 

Kim T, Jeong J, Hong S. The Impact of Sleep and Circadian Disturbance on Hormones and Metabolism. Int J Endocrinol. 2015;2015:1-9. doi:10.1155/2015/591729 

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ije/2015/591729/.

Matthew Walker’s 11 Tips for Improving Sleep Quality. Masterclass. https://www.masterclass.com/articles/matthew-walker-on-improving-sleep-quality. Published 2021. Accessed August 24, 2022.

Patrick R. Dr. Matthew Walker on Sleep for Enhancing Learning, Creativity, Immunity, and Glymphatic System. FoundMyFitness. https://www.foundmyfitness.com/episodes/matthew-walker. Published 2019. 

https://www.foundmyfitness.com/episodes/matthew-walker.

Qian J, Scheer FAJL. Circadian System and Glucose Metabolism: Implications for Physiology and Disease. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2016;27(5):282-293. doi:10.1016/j.tem.2016.03.005. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4842150/.

Sleep. Obesity Prevention Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-causes/sleep-and-obesity/ . Published 2022. Accessed August 24, 2022.

Sleep Scientist Warns Against Walking Through Life ‘In An Underslept State’ | UC Psych. Berkeley Psychology. https://psychology.berkeley.edu/news/sleep-scientist-warns-against-walking-through-life-underslept-state . Published 2022. Accessed August 24, 2022.

Suni E. Stages of Sleep: What Happens in a Sleep Cycle | Sleep Foundation. Sleepfoundation.org. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/stages-of-sleep . Published 2022. Accessed August 24, 2022.

Suni E. What Is Circadian Rhythm? | Sleep Foundation. Sleepfoundation.org. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm#:~:text=When%20properly%20aligned%2C%20a%20circadian,of%20physical%20and%20mental%20health.  Published 2022. Accessed August 24, 2022.

Tasali E, Leproult R, Ehrmann DA, Van Cauter E. Slow-wave sleep and the risk of type 2 diabetes in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008;105(3):1044-1049. doi:10.1073/pnas.0706446105 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18172212.

Walker M. How caffeine and alcohol affect your sleep. Ted.com. https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_walker_how_caffeine_and_alcohol_affect_your_sleep/transcript?language=en. Published 2022. Accessed August 24, 2022.

Walker M. How To Improve Your Sleep | Matthew Walker. Youtube.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRp5AC9W_F8&ab_channel=PenguinBooksUK . Published 2019. 

Walker M, van der Helm E. Overnight therapy? The role of sleep in emotional brain processing. Psychol Bull. 2009;135(5):731-748. doi:10.1037/a0016570

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19702380/.

Why Sleep Matters | Matthew Walker | Talks at Google. Youtube.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1yGw_hfEfk&t=1283s&ab_channel=TalksatGoogle . Published 2019. Accessed August 24, 2022. 

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

Rate this Post:*

Sugar cravings

Do you know that moment when all of a sudden you get an urge to eat a specific food? Maybe for you, it’s for something sweet like chocolate. This is a craving, we’ve all had them, and for most of us, it’s probably been sugar cravings. Let’s take a deep dive into cravings, why they occur, what’s going on inside your body when you experience them, and how to stop sugar cravings once and for all.

What are cravings?

A food craving is an intense desire to consume a particular type of food, often with urgency. They can occur anytime but mostly happen in the late afternoon and in the evening. There is some debate whether food cravings happen from not eating enough food, or whether they’re developed over time through the conditioning behavior model. Both are possible. The conditioning model for food cravings suggests that cravings develop when regularly eating certain foods in combination with certain activities. For example, eating something while watching television or feeling a certain way (feeling lonely). Picture this, you come home from a long day at work, have dinner and sit down to watch some television. A craving for something sweet arises, and before you know it, you’re reaching for the fridge. Hands up if you’ve experienced this scenario?

Weight management and sugar cravings

Cravings are powerful things. What someone craves, how often, and how much they satisfy that craving can even influence how much they weigh. In fact, food cravings can influence up to 11% of the change in eating behavior and weight gain from person to person.

Stop craving sugar like sweets

What foods do we crave the most?

It is common for us humans to crave energy-dense foods such as chocolate, pastries, or sugary drinks. In fact, you may not be surprised to know that chocolate and chocolate-containing foods are the most frequently craved foods. This is followed by other high-calorie-containing sweets and savory foods. Many of us also have a tendency to crave low-calorie-containing fruits. Interestingly, the desire to eat foods high in calories increases throughout the day, while the craving for fruits decreases.

The difference between hunger and cravings

To the person experiencing them, a hunger and a craving may feel strikingly similar, and whilst there is definitely some cross-over, they are different. Here are four points to help distinguish the difference between hunger and a craving:

  1. Feelings of hunger occur when your stomach is empty, or your stomach is not full.
  2. Hunger and food cravings often happen at the same time, but you don’t have to be hungry to experience a food craving.
  3. Normally food cravings can only be satisfied by eating a particular food, whilst hunger will normally stop by consuming any kind of food. 
  4. Food cravings can be separated from feelings of hunger because of their specific desire for a certain food, as well as the intensity of that desire. 
How to stop sugar cravings like chocolate

Food cravings can be caused by a number of factors

Like anything to do with the body, its functions are complex and multifaceted, and cravings are no different. Food and sugar cravings are driven by many factors, such as physical, emotional, and psychological. So how can you tell which one your craving is driven by? Great question!

Physical 

Physical cravings are connected with several processes that prepare the body for food and stimulate eating. These processes include increased production of saliva in the mouth (sounds gross, but it’s normal), as well as the activation of the reward part of the brain. There are some links between nutrient deficiency and food cravings, but they account for a small fraction of food cravings. 

Emotional

Emotional cravings can be stimulated by feelings of nostalgia, seeking or needing comfort, and other various emotions such as feeling sad. This can explain why when you visit Grandma’s place, you get a craving for her delicious apple pie. Or when you miss you visit your childhood town, you get a sweet craving for a milkshake from the corner store. (or could say, “you get a craving for your favorite sweet pastry from the local bakery”).

Psychological 

There are several psychological reasons for why and how food cravings happen. A popular idea is based on what’s known as Pavlovian conditioning. This is where an activity or place has been repeatedly paired with eating food. Similar to an emotional craving, doing this activity or visiting this place alone can result in cravings. For example, every time you go to the beach you eat ice cream. You then visit the beach one day (without ice cream), and you get a strong sweet craving for ice cream. 

Think about your own life and the common cravings you experience. Can you identify if they are physical, emotional, or psychological?

blood sugar response after eating

The connection between blood glucose curve and cravings 

As humans, taste is an important factor that governs our eating behaviors. Most of us have a natural inclination to sweet-tasting foods as they are often tastier. Because our bodies desire that optimal taste factor, it can often lead to consuming food high in sugar. Consuming a high amount of sugar leads to a blood glucose spike, which induces insulin secretion to take the blood glucose up into the cells. Consequently, too much sugar in the body can cause a rapid rise in insulin concentration, which causes a rapid glucose uptake from the blood to the cells resulting in a  dip in blood glucose levels, which can then can lead to more sugar cravings (like a loop).

A dip in blood glucose levels can also occur when we haven’t eaten enough food. As blood glucose is a source of energy for your body, this can lead to food cravings. And these food cravings are often for high-carbohydrate and high-sugar foods. 

How to avoid blood glucose dip?

One way to help prevent blood glucose dips is to manage and monitor our blood glucose through the use of a continuous blood glucose monitor (CGM). A CGM tracks our bodies’ blood glucose levels and measures its unique reactions to food, exercise, and sleep. Additionally, focusing on eating regular protein-rich meals, that are low in carbohydrates is a way to manage and prevent blood glucose dips.

Why do women in a certain cycle phase feel cravings more often?

Many women experience sweet cravings and certain types of foods depending on where they are at in their monthly cycle. A woman’s ovarian hormones are powerful hormones that can influence hunger levels and cravings and binge eating. This also varies depending on which part of the cycle a woman is in (follicular phase or luteal phase). Let’s dive deeper into why women in certain phases of their cycle feel cravings more often.

The follicular phase (days 1- 14)

During the follicular phase when the estrogen levels are high, many women experience reduced hunger and cravings and a decrease in weight (which is the opposite of the luteal phase). It’s believed that estrogen helps to regulate appetite, while progesterone functions to counteract the effects of estrogen. This can explain how sugar cravings happen less during this phase.

Luteal phase (days 14-28)

During the luteal phase (postovulatory period), estrogen levels are low and progesterone levels high. This can result in women experiencing the following:

  • Eating more food than normal 
  • Increased cravings (especially craving sweets)
  • Increase in body weight
  • Increased energy needs (which may lead to an increased physiological need for carbohydrates).
  • Decreased insulin sensitivity

During this luteal phase, the lower estrogen levels result in what most of us know as PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Evidence shows that food cravings may be a reaction to negative mood changes caused by PMS. Decreased serotonin levels during the premenstrual phase increase negative mood and cravings for serotonin-releasing foods, like chocolate.  It’s possible that these changes in hormones are partially to blame for the increase in food intake and food cravings. So, ladies, it’s very possible that your hormones may be influencing your sugar cravings. But there are ways to help avoid these sugar cravings. You can find the right foods for each phase of your cycle and stop sugar cravings once and for all.

Sugar cravings before period

How food restrictions can lead to sugar cravings 

Weight concerns and dieting have become common among women who sadly regardless of their weight, think they are fat. Because of this, they frequently diet in an attempt to lose or control their weight. Anyone who chronically restricts their food intake can experience intense and frequent food cravings. This can then lead to binging, overeating, and an unhealthy preoccupation with food.

Because of this food preoccupation and increased food cravings, people that chronically diet are more likely to respond to external food cues than non-dieters. They also become less responsive to their body’s internal hunger and fullness cues. Those that restrict their food and experience chronic hunger, can have elevated motilin levels, depressed insulin levels, and pancreatic polypeptide responses. Which then leads to increased food and sugar cravings. So the more you restrict food, the more intense the food cravings become.

How can I avoid cravings?

Having cravings is normal but not necessary. Understand which foods keep you energized and full long after the meal, and which foods make you feel hungry shortly after, and increase your cravings by keeping track of your glucose levels. Your body is constantly trying to tell you, what is good for you and what is bad for you. Why not listen to it?

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

Rate this Post:*

Women's health and blood glucose are linked

Why blood glucose levels matter for women’s health

Why health alone isn’t enough for women

When we, here at HELLO INSIDE, talk about health, we’re not just referring to it as the absence of disease. Health, as the WHO defines it, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being” that requires men and women alike to actively take care of themselves.

While it is our goal to help both, men and women, equally to become the healthiest version of themselves we also recognize that women’s health does not get the (medical) attention it deserves – and desperately needs.

The narrative created online around wellbeing and self-care might lead you to believe that women dominate the health industry. But science tells a different story.

Women’s healthcare: a relic from the past

We’ve addressed this more in depth in our recent post, but health professionals quite literally know less about female biology compared to the male one. Women were historically underrepresented in clinical studies until the 1990s. As a result, the female body and its medical conditions were treated as if they were biologically male. This led to misdiagnosis, wrong treatment, or no diagnosis at all.

Even though prevention, management, and treatment have clearly advanced since then, there remains a chronic lack of awareness of the diseases that affect women differently, or that they may be more prone to.

Whether it’s heart diseases, mental health or osteoporosis, many women feel misunderstood and left to deal with their health issues in isolation.

This is exactly why in this post we want to:

  • give insight into the most important aspects of women’s health
  • take a closer look at how the female cycle works
  • and how stabilized blood glucose levels can optimize overall, female health

healthy woman, balanced and meditating, female cycle & hormones

Female health concerns everybody should care about

Just like women themselves, female health comes in many shapes and forms.

That’s not to say that some of the areas mentioned below don’t affect men. But the biological difference in sex and especially hormones (we’ll get into that later) often require an alternative, medical approach.

Topics with specific aspects for women include:

  • Sexual health (libido, STIs)
  • Menstrual health and gynecological conditions (PMS, endometriosis, vaginal infections)
  • Pregnancy, childbirth, pregnancy loss and postnatal support
  • Fertility & reproductive health
  • Menopause and hormone therapy
  • Mental health
  • Metabolic health
  • Physical health
  • Healthy aging and long-term conditions
  • Disease treatment (including, but not limited to): heart diseases, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other benign conditions affecting the function of the female reproductive organs, osteoporosis, depression, autoimmune diseases
  • Preventative care for women

Now, female health should not just be memorized like a list in an attempt to find the right doctor for the right problem (which, let’s face it, can be a challenge on its own already).

“Women statistically live longer than men.
They also spend a greater proportion of their lives being ill or disabled.
This is exactly why we want to encourage you to learn more about the female body and how that knowledge can be used to your advantage.”

Especially when it comes to the female cycle.

Of course, taking charge of your own health can be quite overwhelming sometimes.

How are blood glucose and female health connected?

One, perhaps surprising but equally helpful way to get started on this journey is by monitoring your blood glucose levels. Blood glucose is one of the best biomarkers to measure and optimize your overall health.

Why?
Because your blood glucose balance influences your entire hormone system and once this delicate cascade is disrupted, chances are very high that your blood glucose levels have been thrown off along the way or are the underlying cause for your hormonal problems to begin with.

Side note: It is natural for your blood glucose levels to be in constant flux throughout the day and night. As long as the spikes and drops are in a so-called healthy range, anything between 80-110 milligrams per decilitre (mg/dL), they are completely normal and stable.

What we all need to know about the menstrual cycle & female hormones

In order to fully understand how complex women’s bodies are, we need to take a closer look at the female cycle and how it affects a women’s day-to-day life.

This infographic below gives you a little insight into what we’re about to get into:

understand what's best for you in each phase of the female cycle

Many of us refer to the days women actively bleed as the menstrual cycle. Wrongfully so.

The female hormone cycle is defined by a cyclic pattern of hormonal changes that starts with the 1st day of your period, lasts from 24 to 35 days and ends just before the next menstruation.

Yes, you read correctly, the female cycle never really ends and consists of four phases that are dictated by the in- and decrease of four key hormones:

Estrogen, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteinizing Hormone (LH), Progesterone

The four phases are:

  • Menstruation
  • Proliferative phase (also known as late follicular phase)
  • Ovulatory phase
  • Luteal phase

With the help of the brain (the pituitary gland) the reproductive system (Adrenal glands, ovaries, follicles, and uterus) each of them creates a little system on its own that affects your mood, energy levels and appetite differently.

Now let’s take a closer look at each of the phases:

1.     Menstruation:

Every cycle starts with the part women are probably most familiar with: the period.

In biology, this is described as the shedding of the uterine lining (endometrium) that lasts from 3 up to 8 days.

During this phase, the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is produced and prepares the follicles to grow an egg for ovulation.

Estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest points, which can lead to low energy levels, rapid mood changes and even affect your sleep pattern sometimes.

Our tip

Try to create a healthy bed routine without any devices, take it slow and incorporate foods rich in iron such as lentils, pumpkin seeds or spinach.

2.     The Proliferative Phase:

The proliferative phase can take up to seven days, the FSH slowly decreases again and only one follicle continues to develop, containing the egg that later will be dropped at ovulation.

The dominant follicle produces estrogen as it grows, and the uterus lining starts to thicken again. Imagine it as if the body is creating a warm nest where the potential fertilized egg could grow.

With the increase of estrogen women usually feel more social, focused and energized.

Our tip

Use these days for more demanding physical activities, spend time with friends and make yourself nutritious meals including fermented foods like kefir or sauerkraut.

3.     Ovulation phase

The ovulatory phase lasts around 2-3 days and starts off with a big bang. Hormonally speaking.

Once estrogen levels are high enough, a signal is sent to the brain, causing a dramatic surge in luteinizing hormones, which in turn stimulate the egg release, also known as ovulation.

Fun fact on the side: The follicle and the Fallopian Tube, the passageways that carry the egg towards the uterus, where it can be fertilized by sperm, are not actually connected – rather imagine little finger-like protrusions at the end of the tube that catch the egg during a free fall.

The estrogen levels are still quite elevated at this point, and most women will feel motivated and optimistic.  If you are more sensitive to hormonal changes, you may feel more tired at night.

Our tip

This is the best time to prevent PMS, try to eat serotonin-boosting foods like complex carbohydrates (wild rice, oats or quinoa).

 4. Luteal Phase

During this phase, the luteinizing hormone and FSH levels decrease, the ruptured follicle closes after the release of the egg and creates something called corpus luteum, which produces progesterone.

Progesterone causes the lining of the uterus to thicken more, to prepare for possible fertilization. If no egg is being fertilized, the production of progesterone stops, estrogen levels decrease and we are back right at the beginning:

The shedding of the inner lining of the uterus (=period).

This last part of the cycle is also known to be the one that causes women the biggest problems. The hormonal changes often lead to PMS (premenstrual symptoms), including digestion issues, headaches, acne, tiredness, mood swings and much more.

Our tip

Try light exercise to decrease PMS, choose light, unprocessed food to avoid sugar crushes, stay hydrated and most importantly – be kind to yourself!

We hope that you have realized by now how delicate the female hormonal cycle is.

“Your habits and the environment can have a direct impact on this well-orchestrated system, causing imbalances that not just affect your reproductive system but your overall health.”

As we’ve mentioned before, one of the most underestimated causes of hormonal imbalances is unstable blood glucose levels. But luckily, looking at it from a different angle, this also means that controlling your blood glucose levels can have a positive impact on your cycle and your hormones.

The female cycle can be managed by blood glucose control. You can reduce cravings, and manager your weight.

How blood glucose levels can help you to optimize your cycle and reduce hormonal imbalance?

As versatile as the areas of female health are, as versatile are the ways you can incorporate a continuous glucose monitoring device (CGM) in your life to improve your well-being and balance your hormones.

Cravings & weight control

Every woman has probably had them once or twice in her life. Period-Cravings. You probably know the feeling—no matter how much ice cream or cookies you have at home, you’re not satisfied until you eat that one specific sort or brand.


They are mainly caused by the body’s physiological need for more energy during the luteal phase.

How to get on top of your PMS cravings

Even though it is important that women fuel their bodies during this time, it is worth mentioning that excessive intake of simple carbs such as cookies, cakes, or white bread, r can cause your blood glucose levels to crash and burn, affecting your mood and enhancing your PMS in the long run.

Swap your milk chocolate for dark chocolate, or add a handful of seeds to your salad, or enjoy your yogurt with berries. This can have a positive effect on your blood glucose and your hormonal balance.

Why the menstrual cycle can be beneficial to your weight management

Studies have shown that the female cycle not just creates hormonal food cravings during certain phases of the menstrual cycle but also is more susceptible to weight loss during the first day of your period or the late follicular phase.

A CGM-device can help you monitor these steps. It can tell you immediately when changes in your diet affect your body and therefore your hormones.

Fertility and pregnancy

We know, you’ve heard it many times before. But balance really is key. Especially, when we look at the connection between hormones, pregnancy, and blood glucose levels.

Obese women at increased risk of poor pregnancy outcomes 

On one side of the spectrum, women are still dying from preventable diseases such as preeclampsia (a serious blood pressure condition) during childbirth. Long-term overweight causes a significant disruption in the glucose homeostasis. Which can lead to insulin resistance and therefore preeclampsia, putting the mother and child at risk.

Malnourishment and its impact on women’s health

On the other side of the spectrum, caloric restrictions caused by drastic diets or diseases that inhibit your body from getting sufficient nutrition can take a severe toll on the female reproductive system.

We won’t get too much into the details, but by depriving the female body of necessary nutrients such as glucose or fatty acids, the system goes into panic mode and causes a cascade of hormonal reactions that delay or even completely disrupt the menstrual cycle.

Using a CGM device and stabilizing your blood glucose levels before pregnancy can support you to make better lifestyle choices and adjust your diet when needed.

(Need more tips on boosting your fertility? Check out: Boost fertility naturally: 5 diet and lifestyle tips (helloinside.com)

Sleep and mental health

Due to the hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, women are more likely to suffer from insomnia. Poor sleep can cause serious health issues in the long run like diabetes or heart diseases. It also makes women even more susceptible to anxiety or depression.

The connection between sleep and blood glucose

The bad but equally good news is: sleep has a direct effect on your blood glucose levels and vice versa. You might not be able to control the hormonal changes that occur in the female body. However, you can monitor your blood glucose levels, adapt your nightly routine accordingly and balance your cycle in the long run.

We know it can be a bit intimidating at first, but taking charge of your hormones and your blood glucose levels also means taking charge of your body, and your health.

Embrace your female superpowers, and start our “Hello Hormones” Program now.

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

Rate this Post:*

Intuitive eating is about eating when you are hungry, and stopping when you are full.

A personal story by Maya Pillay

‘Instant, proven, results!’ ‘Try this quick trick to lose lower belly fat’. 2022 and one quick search for ‘weight loss’ and within 0.72 seconds I have 8.75 billion hits. The world I inhabit seems obsessed with weight, with health, with wellness.

Social media screams the praises of Keto and Intermittent Fasting, yet we are all also ‘body positive’. So amongst this cacophony of wholly contradictory opinions – how do any of us have a ‘healthy’ relationship with food? How is it connected to ‘Intuitive Eating’? How can we learn what works for us personally and where does glucose monitoring fit in? 

A healthy relationship with food

I should preface the following with an admission : everything I’ve learned about building a safe and healthy relationship with food, I learned in recovery from anorexia nervosa. Essentially, amongst what felt like a constant bombardment of diet culture, I had to learn to eat again and thus my views on food and the morality we put upon it completely changed.

I didn’t actually read about the theory of ‘Intuitive Eating’ or know about Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole’s book until I was well into my own recovery. Having worked with a dietician, nurses (who closely monitored my glucose during the first months of my recovery), doctors and a whole host of experts teaching me to eat again and remove the theories of ‘good and bad’ foods that were so ingrained in me. 

What “Intuitive Eating” means (to me)

When I speak about ‘Intuitive Eating’, I largely discuss it as my own personal experience as opposed to the partly monetized concept you may have seen in bookstores. My main thought is – we have over-complicated all of this. If we can tune into ourselves a bit more, I firmly believe we will have a ‘healthy’ relationship with food, body and our weight.

So what is ‘Intuitive Eating’? Put simply: we should eat when we are hungry and stop when we are full. Makes sense, right? Surely this is one of our basic human instincts? Well, when was the last time you went out for dinner, looked at the menu and just said ‘I fancy that, I’ll have that’?

If this is your general practice – you may well be an intuitive eater, but for a large amount of the population this becomes far more complicated. 

Top view, Group of people sitting at the wooden table with food, enjoying a drink

Forget about “good” and “bad” foods

Upon looking at a menu, or browsing the supermarket, many of us are faced with an internal monologue: ‘mmm, chips, they’d be nice with….no, bad. Bad food. I shouldn’t have that. Oh, salad, virtuous, not enough protein to carve a lean muscled physique, should I be naughty and have dessert?’ Of course, this is an exaggeration, but the principle of ‘good and bad’ food is one that’s constantly present and largely inhibits our natural instinct to eat intuitively. 

Food labelling is tricky

The morality of our food permeates its way into everyday life – Supermarkets use terms like ‘balanced’, ‘lighter’. Magazines write about ‘guilt free’ or ‘sinful’ recipes. In January we will all be told that now is the time to “detox our body following the festive season”.  We go for dinner with a friend who suggests we be ‘naughty’ and get those desserts.

All of this language attached to the seemingly innocent act of feeding ourselves suggests (subtly) that some food is “bad”. And by eating them we are also ‘bad’. The idea of detox suggests we have poisoned our bodies, and must find a remedy in starvation or ‘virtuous’, ‘clean’ foods. That ‘sinful’ chocolate cake becomes a crime for which we must pay penance through sweat. 

All of this bizarre polarization of food may be worth it IF it were making us healthier, but is it? Seemingly not. According to the WHO, worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. According to Eating Disorder Charity ‘Hope’ there has been a worldwide increase in eating disorders every year for the past ten years.

At each end of the spectrum, our obsession with food, diet and exercise seems to be failing us. Of course, many factors contribute to both of these results, however, I can personally see the difficulty presented by modern day society and the impact it had on me when I had to learn to eat again. 

Couple after meal checking CGM on phone

Rediscover what your body needs with glucose monitoring

The journey to learn to eat again is not limited to recovering from an Eating Disorder. For most people who are moving away from diet culture and towards a more intuitive relationship with food, it will be necessary. Interestingly (and rather aptly), when recovering from anorexia the first step is glucose monitoring.

When you enter a residential clinic your glucose levels are checked regularly throughout both the day and night. This is largely to help indicate when more sustenance may be needed as the patient has often lost the ability to recognise their own needs. This starts off as one of the most important indicators, helping patients realise if and when they need to eat. Hello Inside and glucose monitoring could be the first step of anyone’s journey, allowing you to measure when your body is in need of some sustenance even if you are used to ignoring these cues.

If food conjures fear and confusion for you, using science (in this case glucose monitoring) could be a helpful tool to help you trust your instincts around food. It’s not a tool just limited to learning to eat again in extreme situations of eating disorders but also one that could be very useful for those learning to have a healthier relationship with food outside of a residential treatment situation. It’s pretty amazing products like this are available to everyone!

Lifestyle factors influence blood glucose

Intuitive eating should be normal

Learning to eat again and recovering from disordered eating is not limited to extreme situations. Since working on my recovery, I’ve noticed how prevalent disordered behavior around eating is in general society. So much of what I’ve learned to attribute to my eating disorder and worked hard to move away from whilst working on resetting my mindset with intuitive eating has been completely normalized.

Compulsive exercise and a general fear of energy dense food is almost expected for a young woman in my social circle these days. The true absurdity of the situation was highlighted when a friend of mine, who is a professional athlete, mused that I spend as much time in the gym as he does but without the support of a physiotherapist, sports masseuse and numerous people making sure his diet is supporting his training regime. 

I feel similarly when I hear people obsessing over what they’ve eaten, what they should have eaten or why they are good or bad – I have a specialist therapist to deal with all of these emotions around food but somehow this has just become completely normalized. So, after all of this – yes, in theory intuitive eating – ‘eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full’ – is simple. In practice, not so much. 

Healthy winter breakfast in bed. Woman in woolen sweater and shabby jeans eating vegan almond milk oatmeal porridge in bowl with berries, fruit and almonds. Clean eating, vegetarian food concept

So, how can we even attempt to have a healthy relationship with food and begin to intuitively eat?

Step One: ‘Avoid the good food bad food trap’

The first step is to be aware of the difficulties we are trying to overcome. Once you start to notice the polarised categories we put food into and the linguistic traps society sets to moralize our food, you are likely to become aware of how prominent it is. At first, this may seem exhausting.

I went through a phase of being absolutely infuriated every time I saw a brand profiting from increasing our insecurities (there was even a period where I would hide ‘weight loss tablets’ behind other products whenever I entered a famous ‘wellness’ store, but we will save that story for another day). 

I’ve been informed it’s normal to be angry when you realize how much more complicated society has made intuitive eating. It’s worth highlighting once again that I did this with specialist personal support. This was part of my move away from starvation and towards repairing my relationship with food. But that’s not to say this is reserved for those who are recovering from extreme starvation. I still, personally, believe it’s the simplest concept of all, and therefore something we can all nurture in ourselves.

Once we are aware of the expectations and morality society places on food, we can begin to disentangle ourselves from this web. In noticing this pattern, we can notice the effect it is having on us and ‘check’ ourselves and our food choices. We can ban the ‘diet police’. 

Step Two : Learning to cope with your emotions

Many of us use food to cope with emotion, we treat it as a bandage on hard days or as a celebration on good ones. This is another facet of our modern-day relationship with food that has become wholly normalized. If someone is emaciated, we understand that this should be treated as a mental health condition (if there are no physical factors resulting in starvation).

I often have to explain to people that when I was suffering with anorexia, I did not starve myself because I thought it looked good, rather that I was sad and did not express this as I needed to. We do not seem to understand that a lot of the time if people are ‘overeating’, there is often an emotional reason behind this.

In dealing with our emotional baggage, we can in turn begin to examine our relationship with food. This might mean seeking help from a professional, or it might mean speaking more to those you trust and not bottling things up as much! 

Step Three: Respect your body!

Respecting our bodies is another key principle of tuning into our intuition around food. We are all different shapes and sizes. I’m not sharing anything particularly radical when I say the ‘body ideal’ is ever changing and so are we!

Understanding that your worth is not based on the size of your clothes and respecting your body whatever size, is a big step towards helping you make logical food choices as opposed to emotional.

In removing so much guilt and shame around food, we can start to tune into what our body actually wants and needs – our bodies are pretty smart, if only we would listen to them!

Step Four: Food and Fitness 

Food and fitness have become interlinked like never before. So many of us are sat at our desks all day we had to find another solution to keep us moving. There’s a strong link between intuitive eating and intuitive movement. As a fitness instructor I was constantly getting a raised eyebrow from my employers when I would tell clients to simply ‘find a type of workout they enjoy – if that’s not this class or not with me, that’s fine!’ Now, I understand this might not have been best for business. But I believe in the long term it is the best for them.

Stop focusing on burning off last night’s ‘sins’ and start working out what kind of exercise you actually enjoy. Fitness should not be a punishment but a fun part of your day! For me, it’s meditative, it’s the one part of the day where I switch off from everything and tune into only what I’m doing. However, this is because I work out in a way that I love.

If you hate spinning as passionately as I do, you don’t have to do it! Try something that you will like, such as an intense reformer pilates class, dancing, or a running HIIT workout with weights. Don’t punish yourself.

Women eating healthy vegetarian food at the cafe, close-up view from above on the table

Be mindful: enjoy what you are doing and what you are eating

Tune into what you actually enjoy. Listen to what your body’s telling you it needs, and honour them in your exercise and food choices. Tuning into what we actually enjoy helps us tune into our body’s signals. Therefore honour them in both movement and food choices. 

In Japanese culture, striving for pleasure is considered a factor of health. This is one of the teachings embedded in my intuitive eating journey. By enjoying the process of eating, by finding food pleasurable and by honouring this pleasure as opposed to just stuffing something down as we run around, we are more likely to be able to tune into what our body needs.

In making eating mindful as opposed to mindless (yet not obsessive), we can enjoy it and enjoy nourishing our bodies. In doing this, we are also likely to begin honouring our health! 

You are more than the distance between your thighs

My final piece of advice on all of this is a phrase we hear a lot, ‘be kind to yourself’. Understand that by eating a slice of cake you are not suddenly morally reprehensible.

You haven’t already failed and you needn’t completely give up and just eat the whole cake. In letting go of diet culture and really working hard to listen to your body and its needs, we can begin to move away from all of this. And are likely to begin to move towards really honouring our health – understanding and tuning in to our body and it’s clues.

I’ve already said it, but our bodies are in general pretty damn smart. They know what we need. And if we start listening to this and allowing ourselves to be fed, we can hopefully move away from society’s moral polarisation of food and bodies. 

In summary, we’ve over complicated it all. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. Move in a way we enjoy and honour our feelings. Simple, right? Understand that it might be a rather long process.

For me, personally it’s an ongoing journey. But I’m definitely happier having dismissed diet culture than I was engulfed in it! You are more than the number on a scale or the distance between your thighs. 

Resources to learn more about diet culture and intuitive eating

Find out what's best for you - Hello Inside

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

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Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

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How Hello Inside works

Keeping your blood glucose levels stable is essential for ensuring long-term health, and making your day to day life a lot easier in the short term. Now, with the help of cutting-edge Continuous Glucose Monitoring technology (CGM), it’s easier than ever. But monitoring your blood glucose levels is one thing. Understanding what your blood glucose levels mean, and even better, how to improve them, is where the Hello Inside App can help.

Hello Inside is all about allowing you to say hello to what’s going on inside your body. Hello Inside’s data-analytics and tracking app can allow you to spot patterns, and log your food, sleep and exercise habits to help you understand why it is that some days your blood glucose is stable and you feel great, while on others you’re faced with multiple spikes, and not many reasons why.

Not only can Hello Inside help you to understand what’s going on with your blood glucose, Hello Inside’s recipes, experiments and coaching programs can help put you back in the driving seat of your own health. Find out exactly what combinations of food, at what times of the day, and in what order can help you to keep your blood glucose stable, your mind focused, your weight healthy, your menstrual cycle on track, and your body glowing, so that you never have to follow anybody else’s diet or exercise plan ever again. With the help of Hello Inside, you’ll have all the answers you need to create your own plan, and comfortably, healthily and safely hit the goals you set for yourself.

Women checking phone to see blood glucose levels in the Hello Inside App

How does Hello Inside help me manage my blood glucose?

The Hello Inside App takes information from your CGM device and presents it to you in easy to follow, and easy to understand graphs. These will help you to see which foods you should and shouldn’t be eating to keep your blood glucose steady.

Are carbs the enemy? Can you ever eat cake again? What about things like pasta and rice, should you avoid them? The truth is that nobody can answer these questions for you, except you, and your body. That’s exactly what Hello Inside can help you find out. Some people realize that cakes, candy and chocolate bars have no impact on their blood glucose levels at all, whereas other people will find their blood glucose levels soaring the moment they’ve had one bite.

Your first few weeks of using Hello Inside will be a journey to discover the secrets of your body and your metabolism. The Hello Inside App will instantly give you the answers to the question of what the consequences are of your daily lifestyle choices, from nutrition to exercise, from sleep to stress. And once you’ve got a good idea of what’s already going on inside your body, you can start taking steps towards making a difference, and living a healthier, happier and longer life.

Balanced lifestyle and healthy lifestyle choices can improve your blood glucose levels

How can I improve my blood glucose levels with Hello Inside?

Have you ever had days where you find it hard to concentrate? Have you ever had strong mood swings, and had trouble trying to find the energy to do things? Do you find yourself needing another coffee just to get through the afternoon? Chances are these are all things that could be related to your blood glucose levels.

When you’re feeling low and wondering why, Hello Inside will be able to tell you whether it’s your blood glucose that’s the problem. And the best part is that Hello Inside will help you to control all of these things.

You can find out multiple ways to control your blood glucose by using the Hello Inside coaching programs. These teach you exactly what’s going on inside your body when you’re feeling these things, and give you some simple tips to try and keep things more stable, like having some apple cider vinegar before a heavy meal, going for a short walk afterwards, or timing your exercise to make sure it doesn’t disrupt your sleep.

You can log your meals, and your blood glucose response on the Hello Inside App to see whether there’s a specific food you’re eating that’s making your blood glucose spike – like white rice or bananas – or whether it’s the order you’re eating your food in that’s throwing you off track. Over time, Hello Inside’s logging feature will help you to really understand what’s going on inside your body and give you the information you need to make positive changes.

How do I use the Hello Inside App?

The Hello Inside App takes data from your Continuous Glucose Monitoring device (CGM) to understand what’s going on inside your body. When you open the app, this is the first thing you’ll see – your current glucose levels (after scanning your sensor with the LibreLink App).

From here, you can log your most recent meals. You can manually log a meal you prepared.  It’s best if you add the ingredients with tags and scan the barcode if available.

You will then be able to watch your blood glucose curve developing, and changing as your body reacts to your food. 2.5 hours after you logged your meal you will then be given a score.

Your food score from 1-10 will give you a strong indication of how the food you just ate is affecting your blood glucose levels. A low score indicates that your body had a hard time balancing your blood glucose levels. A higher score shows that the food you ate needed less control for your blood glucose, which is a good thing.

In the Journal tab, you will be able to get an overview of how your lifestyle is affecting your blood glucose levels. Here you will see all of your scores, and get a sense of whether you’re making any improvements as a result of any lifestyle changes you’ve recently implemented.

Food is not the only thing that affects your blood glucose levels. Exercise and physical activity can change your blood glucose levels. Movement after a meal can lower your blood glucose levels while intense workouts will make them go up. In contrast to a meal response a short term glucose increase is a good thing.

You can let your Hello Inside App know whether a blood glucose spike is from physical exertion by logging it in the app, using the sports activity log under the Journal tab in the middle right hand corner on the bottom of your screen. By connecting the Hello Inside App with your Apple Health or Google Fit data your activities will be synched and you don’t have to track them with the Hello Inside app. Doing so will support the score calculation, because the start time of the events will be accurate.

In the Coaching tab to the left, you will find lots of information to help you understand why these things are taking place. Here you will find all of Hello Inside’s coaching programmes, on a range of topics from sleep to nutrition to hormonal balance and the menstrual cycle.

Over time of using Hello Inside, you may find that food is the main driver of your blood glucose response. To get a better sense of exactly how that affects your body individually, you’ll want to check out the Experiments. Here you have a chance to try different things in terms of eating, sleeping, and exercising, all while keeping a close eye on what that does to your blood glucose levels.

The Coaching tab also has a number of recipes you can try out to see whether different combinations of food, or leaving out certain ingredients can have a significant impact on your blood glucose response.

As you use Hello Inside over time, keep an eye on the analytics and stats in the app to get a sense of your general progress. 

Our tip: Don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly through the Hello Inside App. Just go to your profile tab, and look for ‘contact support’. Otherwise, you can always just send us an email at ask@helloinside.com. Our experts and support team will be happy to assist.

Ready to get to grips with your blood glucose? Head over to the Hello Inside shop to get started! 

Find out what's best for you - Hello Inside

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

Rate this Post:*

Women's Health matters

What is Women’s Health?

In a world that’s constantly striving for greater equality between genders, the concept of ‘Women’s Health’ might seem slightly counter-intuitive. If men and women are equal, why should we single out ‘Women’s Health’ in particular at HELLO INSIDE? Why devote so much of our time and resources to it? “What about ‘Men’s Health’?” some people may ask. Why not just call it ‘Health’? 

So what is Women’s Health and why is it so important? We believe that gender equality essentially means equality of opportunity, and equality of access. In the case of health, that means that it’s simply not enough to just put out broad and generally applicable advice on health. Hoping that women find what they need within that. Women, as 50% of the global population, face unique and specific challenges and circumstances in their health. Due to some historic – and in some cases on-going – reasons, they run the risk of being lost in more general conversations about health, pathologies and diseases.

In this blog post we’ll:

  • explain some of the historical context as to why we believe we ought to pay women the specific attention they deserve in our product, 
  • what kinds of challenges they face that are not faced by men, 
  • and why we at HELLO INSIDE are proud to be launching the Women’s Health Program in order to assist women in getting the help, advice and guidance that they leave to live longer, happier and healthier lives.
Women's Health: What is it?

1. Women have been historically excluded from medical trials

In the United States, women were banned from partaking in clinical trials or studies by a Food and Drug Administration policy in 1977. This was because women’s bodies were considered “too complex” due to hormonal fluctuations. Medical professionals had other concerns as well on the potential impact of drugs on women’s fertility and child-bearing potential.

This ban applied equally to all women, regardless of whether or not they were taking contraception, or had no interest in having children in the future. 

Although this ban was lifted in 1993, to this day we are still suffering from a huge knowledge gap. Vital medical data is missing not only on how certain diseases or pathologies manifest themselves in women in terms of symptoms, but also how women’s bodies and metabolisms respond to preventative and responsive medical care.

Women were excluded, for example, from clinical trials testing out new HIV drugs. Even though 48% of people living with HIV worldwide are women. As a result, when antiretroviral drugs were rolled out to HIV positive women, the only conclusive data about their effectiveness was from trials conducted solely on men. This left huge gray areas as to the safety and efficacy of these drugs on women. 

Although it may sound like stating the obvious, it’s worth repeating it for the record. Women’s bodies are, were, and always will be very different to those of men. They are hugely affected by the hormonal balance required for their reproductive system, the menstrual cycle, and fertility. This means that there simply cannot be a one-size-fits-all-genders approach to crucial topics of health and wellbeing.

2. How women’s health is affected by specific diseases and pathologies

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. Yet women often do not display the typical symptoms or signs that are used to detect and preempt heart attacks. Women tend to present less severe symptoms than men. 

As a result, women wait 30% longer to go to a hospital when first experiencing symptoms of a heart attack. And when they get to a hospital, women are 50% more likely to be misdiagnosed. This is simply because their symptoms are more vague or seemingly less severe than they would see in a man.

Although women can experience chest pains just like men do when facing a heart attack, understanding women’s health also means understanding the more subtle symptoms that women are likely to display than men, which could lead to misdiagnosis. 

These include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Back pain
  • Sweating
  • Jaw pain

If women are not aware that these symptoms could be linked to heart disease, they are less likely to get to the emergency room on time. Even if that does not prove to be fatal, it can cause long-term irreversible damage to the heart. This could lead to further complications down the line, such as arrhythmia or an increased chance of having a fatal heart attack later in life.

6 reasons to do self-care together

3. Misconceptions around body fat and body image

The last few decades has seen a revolution in the way media is created, accessed and consumed. Social media platforms and algorithms that play on some of the worst of human beings’ instincts and animalistic drives mean millions of us are bombarded daily with endless images of impossibly thin and supposedly attractive or desirable physiques.

Body dysmorphia and eating disorders are something that affect both men and women. However, a fundamental difference arises from the fact that while men generally are biologically designed to have leaner and more muscular physiques, for many women achieving the body fat levels paraded regularly to us through our mobile phone screens is an impossible and defeatist task.

Biologigal factors

Women naturally have higher body fat percentages, and store their fat in different places to men. Healthy levels of body fat in women even play a vital role in women’s metabolic, hormonal and reproductive systems. Biologically, women have evolved to retain more fat so that they can give birth, nourish and raise their children even in environments where there is a scarcity of food.

Yet the onslaught of bikini images – and unfathomably unscientific concepts such as the gap between a woman’s thighs – have left many women feeling that they need to undernourish themselves and live in a permanent caloric deficit in order to achieve impossibly low levels of body fat. Many women also follow unhealthy and unsafe diets in order to achieve this. This means that their immune and digestive systems may not receive enough nutrients in order to function optimally.

Beyond the physical effects, the mental health implications of the current world and the specific challenge this presents for women who – again – are biologically designed to carry more fat on their bodies than men, are significant. Another reason why we believe Women’s Health requires additional attention, especially in this regard.

Women’s health and body image

Body images and weight challenges start young for women, but often remain until old age. Studies show 50% of teens describe themselves as “self-conscious” about their bodies, while 26.2% report being “dissatisfied”. By age 60, 28.7% of women feel “dissatisfied” and 32.6% feel “self-conscious” about their bodies.

15% of young women have substantially disordered attitudes and behaviors towards eating. 90% of those who have eating disorders are women between the ages of 12 and 25.

4. The menstrual cycle

One of the most obvious differences between women and men’s health is that women have a monthly menstrual cycle. Starting in puberty in their early teens, the female cycle lasts until menopause in middle age.

For the menstrual cycle to be as unobtrusive and cause the least discomfort, it’s essential for all women to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle, and have metabolic balance. These conditions allow for women’s hormone production to be stable, which makes the menstrual cycle much easier to manage.

general tips for each phase of the female cycle

Phases of the menstrual cycle

As you can see in the above infographic, the menstrual cycle is made up of four distinct phases. At each of these phases, the body is producing different types and different levels of hormones, which can affect mood, energy levels, and even cause physical discomfort. The key hormones moving in a monthly dance are: Estrogen, Progesteron, Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle-Stimulation Hormone (FSH). We will not go into more details here other than: The dance is complex and very individual in the ranges the hormones move. 

One fact that is highly unknown to most women about their health: Unstable blood glucose is the most underestimated underlying cause behind a number of hormonal problems. Blood glucose stability influences the entire hormonal – the endocrine – system. One key function of that system is to transport glucose to the brain, the muscles and organs. If already that very delicate process is not working properly, it seems intuitive that uncontrolled blood sugar is not the only problem you will encounter. Other parts of the endocrine system will not function as planned either. You might ask yourself:  How to tackle and solve a causal issue you were not even aware of until now? That you have unstable blood glucose and that this might be the connection to a hormonal cascade and challenges you experience, every month.

How can I stabilize my blood glucose levels?

The good news is: unstable blood glucose can easily be improved by adapting your lifestyle choices along your cycle phases. The key to making sure each of the cycle phases is as seamless as possible is to find out your individual pattern. 

Start by making sure that your blood glucose levels are in check. That is the easiest access point linked to how you move, what you eat, how you sleep – and how you feel in this context. 

Aim to have a stable blood glucose response throughout all phases of the cycle. You can keep an eye on by continuously monitoring the glucose levels in your blood. You can do this by using a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitoring) device and the Hello Inside App.

In the above infographic, we have outlined how you can best approach each of the four phases of your menstrual cycle by adjusting your nutrition and exercise plan. This helps you to best manage the different strains and pressures hormone production is placing on your body.

In HELLO INSIDE’s Women’s Health program, we go into this in much more detail. And we offer even more practical advice, knowledge and tips to make the menstrual cycle more manageable.  

Women's Health and controlling blood glucose

5. Women’s health and blood glucose

Having unstable blood glucose levels can pose a significant risk to women of developing serious pathologies at some point in their lives. High insulin resistance and poor blood glucose control are linked with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), infertility, menstrual dysfunction, problems with body weight, and even skin conditions.

The good news is that women can prevent these issues and their debilitating symptoms. This is possible by working to make their blood glucose levels stable. A study has shown that 24-weeks on a low-glycemic diet significantly improved insulin sensitivity in women with PCOS, and lowered fasting insulin.

Your biomarker “blood glucose” can tell you so much more about what’s going on inside your body. That’s why we should be constantly monitoring our blood glucose levels. It’s amazing and helpful to see how our body responds to specific lifestyle choices and decisions we make.

Take the first step towards hormonal balance and living a happier, healthier life. Check out our HELLO INSIDE’s brand new Women’s Health Program.

know you body like no one else - Hello Inside

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

Rate this Post:*

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