It's the first day of talks at mbg's exclusive event, revitalize, where movers and shakers from every corner of the wellness world come together to share ideas and inspire world-changing actions. We've already listened to actor and activist Hill Harper share how we can fix the increasing political divisiveness in the country; best-selling author and ESPN reporter Kate Fagan talk about athlete suicide; environmental warrior Paul Hawken share the number one way we can impact the climate—and that's just in the first session of the day. Just after our first break, mbg co-founder and Chief Brand Officer Colleen Wachob chatted with women's hormone expert and best-selling author Aviva Romm, M.D., about the unique challenge facing women in modern society—and what we can do about them. Here's what we learned.
1. It's not our imaginations—the modern world is making it much harder to be healthy.
Romm pointed out that since it's inception, the EPA has only banned 200 chemicals, leaving thousands more for us to be exposed to on a daily basis. By the time we're 20 years old, the average woman has had 18 antibiotic exposures—but, Romm pointed out, the issue has as much to do with depletion of positive elements as it does the overload of negative exposures. Romm mentioned a WHO study that highlighted the fact that the majority of women in the US are deficient in key, healing minerals like magnesium, iodine, and zinc, and an EWG study that found 284 toxins in umbilical chord blood, suggesting environmental toxins are reaching even unborn babies.
2. Women aren't just "whiny"; they really are more stressed than men.
While even Romm questioned the statistics on women being more stressed than men (were they just being unfairly labeled as complainers?), once she dug into the details, she realized that women are having far more physical symptoms of stress. "Men's cortisol simply isn't spiked in the same way," she explained on stage, noting that there's something happening with women's connectivity and empathy. She pointed out that women are dealing with life cycle changes that men aren’t, such as getting their period and having children, all of which can add different elements of stress. Beyond that, women in our culture tend to be the care givers. In her practice, Romm often treats women in their forties who are taking care of young kids and elderly parents—and on top of that, they’re often taking care of household chores like grocery shopping as well.
3. We should be worried about the future of fertility, but not for the reasons you might think.
According to Romm, one in eight women will seek a fertility consultation in her lifetime, a number that, while high, has actually stayed level for the past ten years, suggesting that female infertility might not be on the rise. Male fertility, on the other hand, is going way up. Why? Romm explained that it was all about environmental estrogen exposure. When women are exposed to environmental estrogen, they experience health problems like breast cancer and hormone imbalance, but when men are exposed to the same estrogenic compounds, they see their infertility rates spike.
4. Diet plays a big role in women's health.
Before even diving into specific foods, Romm dove into her number one ground rule: keeping blood sugar steady. When your blood sugar is plummeting constantly, she explained, it messed with all of your hormones, setting the stage for greater later problems. Beyond that, she advocated a diet that emphasized whole foods, 8-10 servings of daily vegetables, good quality fats (like nuts and seeds), and good quality proteins. While it sounded like the Mediterranean diet—and in many ways, it is—Romm pointed out that the Mediterranean diet isn't actually how people eat in the Mediterranean now. It's actually a post-World War 2 diet, which incorporated a lot of restriction and foraging.
The good news? Romm doesn't advocate any restriction beyond that which is medically necessary. "Good carbs are good for most women," she explained. "Eating some good healthy carbs three hours before bed levels out your evening cortisol, keeps your weight healthier, and helps you not have cravings the next day." She recommends not getting rid of gluten or carbs unless you truly can't tolerate them, and certainly not because some trendy diet supports it.
5. The number one thing young women can do to take charge of their health is all about attitude.
Romm thinks the number one thing people can do to take charge of their health is simply believing they can take charge of their health. "80 - 90% of autoimmune disease sufferers are women," she said. "As women we’re told to keep quiet, to not question authority. Women are being told their symptoms are depression or just stress, and they're not advocating to have their symptoms further looked into." Be your own advocate, she said. And above all, trust your gut.
Make sure you don't miss any other inspiring talks by tuning in to mbg this afternoon to watch our livestream, presented by INFINITI, and follow #mbgrevitalize on social!