This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Dr. Natasha Turner. Dr. Turner is the author of The Hormone Diet, the founder of the Clear Medicine clinic, and is here to chat about one of our favorite topics: hormones!
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Jonathan: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor here back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. Today I really have an awesome talk with an awesome individual who is really one of the nation’s leading experts in a subject which is near and dear to all of our hearts and she is none other than best-selling author of The Hormone Diet, Supercharged Hormone Diet, and The Carb Sensitivity Program. Right there you can see why she’s on the show. Her name is none other than Dr. Natasha Turner and she is one of the nation’s leading naturopathic doctors as well as the founder of the Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique in Toronto in Canada. She’s awesome, she’s energetic, and she’s all about hormones. Natasha welcome to the show.
Natasha: Thanks Jonathan. Nice to talk to you.
Jonathan: Dr. Turner, just to get started here can you tell us a little bit about your story and how you came to focus on what we all now know really is the control system for the body, what we should be thinking about instead of calories and that is hormones. How did you end up in the wonderful place you’re in today?
Natasha: Well I graduated from university. I did my undergrad and I finished in 1993. That summer I was exercising like an hour a day, I was watching what I was eating, I was living a really balanced healthy lifestyle and over the 4 months of summer I continued to gain weight steadily and by the end of it, I had gained about twenty pounds. So I thought, “Well obviously what I’m doing isn’t working, so I’m going to do it harder.” So I cut my calories more and I added another twenty, twenty five minutes of cardio to the end of my weight-training session, it was already an hour.
I did that for about another week and gained another 5 pounds and then eventually ended up in the emergency ward because I couldn’t understand people when they spoke to me, I was confused, I just couldn’t process information, I couldn’t drive the car… blood work at that time uncovered that I had some imbalance and I discovered that I had a deficiency of thyroid hormone. So it was then that I realized, “Okay, I’ve been watching what I’ve been eating and I’m exercising and yet I gained twenty, twenty five pounds.”
That’s when I first realized that it was not at all about calories in minus calories out equal’s weight loss. I realized that these hormones are really powerful things. Actually what I was doing to try and get myself back in shape and back in balance, I actually made the problem worse because cutting my calories so much and over-exercising actually raised my stress hormones and that suppressed my thyroid hormone even more. That was my first indication that hormones are really powerful things.
Then I graduated from naturopathic school in 1999 and another stressful event I guess and at that time I started gaining weight again, I started losing my hair, I started getting irregular periods and all of these types of hormonal mishaps again and I got diagnosed with polycystic ovarian disease, which is associated with insulin resistance and too much estrogen. So again I got this label of a metabolic disorder related to hormone disruption and that’s when I started seeing patients in my practice and I started to see that everybody had so many hormone problems and no one was really looking at the big picture and really considering the type of approach that we need to use to focus on balancing all the hormones not just one – because all the hormones communicate together. That was really the process and the journey.
Jonathan: Dr. Turner, it’s so fascinating and it’s so unfortunate how common of a story, sadly, this is becoming. An analogy I love, a gentleman by the name of Adam Kosloff (?? 0:04:10) introduced me to this analogy. Imagine you have an individual who is struggling, like yourself in this instance, struggling with gaining weight and then they just try harder. They eat less, they exercise more and that causes the stress, which fundamentally ironically gets distressed it’s a hormonal dysregulation.
Actually, it’s the root cause and the “treatment” actually exacerbates the underlying issue and the analogy that Adam uses which I think is so profound. Is it’s like sticking something when he has fever and submerging them into an ice bath for the idea that it would cool them down, which it will, but then they end up getting sicker because they get hypothermia and it’s this endless cycle that they then get the sense of learned helplessness, like I’m trying harder and I’m doing worse; therefore, this is hopeless and I might as well just give up. Whereas in reality it’s just that they’ve essentially been written the wrong prescription.
Natasha: That’s exactly right. Honestly this whole process of getting rid of body fat and maintaining balance becomes so much more difficult when we age and I think getting into your thirties, your forties, your fifties, your sixties, you have to become aware of the things that you’re doing that are just disrupting your hormones and causing so much more of the problem. The huge thing is the way people choose to exercise and the way they try to cut their calories and they skip meals, it’s just like it definitely perpetuates the problem and it gets worse with age.
Jonathan: Absolutely. Dr. Turner, that’s one of the things that I think is such a struggle with this because of a couple of things one is, when we’re younger there’s things that we can do that “work” that we can’t do when we’re older. The surprising thing is, for example, we may perceive when we’re younger excessive exercise – I call it chronic cardio as the reason we’re staying slim. However, it is probably just the fact that we have a different hormonal balance and it’s actually not that chronic exercise so the things we think are keeping us healthy actually aren’t.
The things that are keeping us “healthy and slim” are these systemic hormonal things which actually we want to modify later in life. We don’t do things like chronic cardio and we do things like change the quality of the food we’re eating and do potentially lower-impact but higher-intensity exercise. So we can relate the things which we did when we were younger with the cause of our slimness when in reality it had nothing to do with our slimness.
Natasha: Yeah that’s true. I tell patients I don’t want you to go longer, I want you to go harder. I totally agree with a short, high-intensity circuit training. The Hormone Diet, I recommend cardio maximum once to twice a week and never longer than 30 minutes and always intervals training. When I started doing that strength training workout in the book, that’s what cured my polycystic ovarian syndrome. My excessive carb cravings, my hair loss, my burning feet, my belly fat – everything went completely away when I started to do that.
I couldn’t believe it. I actually was exercising half the time and I was ripped and I felt amazing and I didn’t have as many injuries. I couldn’t believe that I actually needed to exercise less. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that it was such a bad thing if I added a half an hour of cardio to the end of my half-an-hour weight-training session. I stopped doing all of that and raising the stress hormones and I felt so much muscle and it balanced all of my insulin levels. All of the symptoms of polycystic went completely away. Just between changing the exercise routine and becoming very carb conscious.
Jonathan: Dr. Turner I think the thing that is such essentially a challenge for some people is that like you said, “I couldn’t believe this!” There’s this intuitive…. Especially in the Western culture where more is better. I think if we can do a little mental gymnastics and bring in a different model like, let’s use the model of pharmacology. We all understand that more isn’t better. If some penicillin is good for you that doesn’t mean that taking more penicillin will make you better faster. In fact, it will make you worse. So if we can start thinking of exercise, in many ways as a very, very potent medicine….
Natasha: It is a medicine. I completely agree. That’s the whole reason why I set my clinic up in Toronto. That I had to have the strength training facility in a clinic because every doctor tells their patient how to exercise. How to exercise as you age is… You’re right it is medicine and you have to do it properly. When you do it properly you require so little of it.
Jonathan: Let’s continue the pharmacology analogy because I think it fits so well. Imagine we actually, sometimes Dr. Turner, I’m sure you’ve heard this, you hear the message of just go do something. Just go do something. That would be analogous to you telling one of your patients or me telling one of my clients, “Hey, just open up a medicine cabinet and just take something. Just take something. Just put a pill in your body.” No, no! Like what we’re actually doing, the quality of what we’re doing compares immensely. Just like you wouldn’t take any random prescription because you know it could make you worse, just like doing any random exercise routine can in fact make you worse.
Natasha: And it does. I looked at the hormonal response to exercise with men and women. We’re all looking to boost our growth hormones so that you build muscle and repair bone and repair skin cells and burn fat and trying to lower cortisol. How you do your strength training, if you don’t know what you’re doing you’re not going to get that hormonal response and even the number of sets you do, the number of repetitions, the amount of weight that you use, I really looked into all of those factors so that I could put together the best recommendations for each person so that when you do your training like this, you’re going to get the best hormonal response.
The great thing about that workout is it’s so short and it’s fun, it’s so easy to do. I’ve been doing the same workout for fourteen years. [Unintelligible 10:45] and stuff like that but overall it’s the same. There’s a really great example. This woman from Vancouver she actually used to be a model when she was younger and she saw me on a TV show and then when she contacted me and I was counseling her as a patient from the East Coast or West Coast I never met her.
She had dieted obviously. She used to eat Kleenex wrapped in lettuce, that’s what they would eat to stuff their stomach because they were trying to eat no calories and she for her lifetime was an excessive exerciser and she cut her calories significantly and I got her to stop going to the gym. I reduced her days to only 4 days, maximum half an hour each time, and I got her eating every 3 or 4 hours with protein and she lost thirty pounds and gained muscle and she was exercising less and eating more.
Jonathan: Well that is the tag line of my first book, Eat less, exercise more, but do it smarter. It’s just shocking how it’s not even…..
Natasha: [Unintelligible 11:53]
Jonathan: Dr. Turner, one other thing that I wanted to mention because I know we have a lot of wonderful female listeners and you mentioned something about having the way you exercised all focused on triggering certain growth hormones and growth-related hormones. Just quickly to make sure that we’re all on the same page here and certainly please chime in. When we talk about growth hormone we’re not talking about a video link for an individual to build muscle such that a woman looks like a man or a man looks like a bulldog.
But rather this is kind of a morbid analogy, feel free to disagree with me if it’s too morbid. But after we’re born, once we reach adulthood it’s natural to essentially be on a slow path towards decline that is the natural order. In some ways, this is again, we’re going to make it happy. If we don’t do something, we’re just slowly dying. Every day, we’re a little bit closer to dying. But we can stop that and we can make every day a day of growth and a day of development.
That doesn’t mean we’re going to look like monsters; it just means we’re not going to look like we’re dying anymore. We’re going to stay looking healthy and stay in a state of growth rather than a state of decline.
Natasha: What causes the decline is obviously the hormones that allow your tissues to break down and weaken and high cortisol and high insulin, low growth hormone and low DHEA, which is anti-aging and anti-stress hormones. That’s what causes the decline but you’re absolutely right, we can do things on a daily basis to modify the hormonal changes and I say ‘live longer and build strength’. That’s what we want to look younger longer.
Jonathan: Doctor what have you found to be the most effective way with your clients to help shift our mind from thinking of food as a source of calories and exercise as a way to burn calories this ‘calorie mindset. Instead of thinking of food and exercise as a control system for our hormones. How have you helped people to get that to shift?
Natasha: I do a lot of lecturing and I found this one study that I think really clearly shows people that it is not about the calories it’s about the source of your calories and how you consume those calories and when and which combination. I found a study where everybody in the study was overweight or obese and they were all given cereal for breakfast. However, half of the subjects were given two eggs to consume in addition to the cereal so they are eating more calories. At the end of the study the people that were consuming the two eggs in addition to the cereal lost 65% more weight and their cholesterol panel was better and their insulin levels were lower.
So that I think helps people see that it’s not about the calories it’s about how you consume them and in the proper proportions and when and all of that alters your hormones. I think it’s a slow and steady process and I think anybody that has read my book certainly I’m not at fault for not having enough information but I really feel good about the process that I layed out in there because each step of the three-step process, there’s things you’re doing alright.
The whole program starts with sleep and then it goes into stress management and then detoxification and optimizing your digestive system function and your liver because your digestive system is the largest hormone-producing tissue in your body and your liver is your major fat-burning organ. I get people to understand the relationship between their toxins, their stress, their sleep, and the impact on their hormones and their body composition and then I get them to move from that step into the middle stage, which is that’s when I teach people how to eat for hormonal response. What are your best proteins, carbs and fat, why do you need these and how do they impact your hormones and which combinations and then finally I go into exercise because we know that people who are sleep-deprived or don’t sleep well will have an increased body mass index regardless of their diet and exercise habits.
I like to get people to focus on building a foundation for the perfect hormonal response once they start to implement exercise and I like to tell people that ‘you have a whole life to be healthy you don’t have to do everything all at once’. So focusing on phasing things in over a period of about 6 weeks becomes a lifestyle habit and becomes something that you can manage. It’s really nice to kick in and exercise in the right way after you’ve done 4 weeks of changing your diet and changing the foods that you eat and improving and altering your metabolic response.
Gradually I think I’ve succeeded in getting the picture across to people that everything you do, think, say, or feel is impacting your hormones from one minute to the next. So you’ve just got to learn how to do the right things to optimize hormone balance and that’s what the program does. It really teaches you all the things you need to do. You can’t just focus on nutrition, you can’t just focus on exercise, you have to really focus on everything. Even your skin care can alter your hormones.
Jonathan: Absolutely. It’s really the hormones that in some ways people can think, “Well, you’re just saying everything is hormones” but in some ways it is. Everything that happens in our body in essence happens because there is a hormonal communication going on saying ‘do this’ and really everything we do, our mood that’s all tied, like everything we do influences our hormones and our hormones influence everything we do.
Natasha: I think what sets my clinic apart is that we have a treatment philosophy and it is all aimed at restoring optimal hormonal balance and restoring the imbalances. M Maybe the nutritional deficiencies or these types of things that cause hormone disruption and can increase your risk for diseases associated with aging from everything from Alzheimer’s to osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke.
I know everything is controlling your hormones from one minute to the next, but the unique thing I think that we have is that we restore these imbalances in a certain order because one hormone impacts the other. For instance, I know that I have to balance your blood sugar and your insulin levels along with your mood hormones. People can’t follow a diet if they’re anxious and they’re worried or they’re depressed because they’re naturally going to create more carbohydrates or they’ll have an excessive appetite and they won’t be able to stay on track.
But before I even balance your blood sugar and insulin I know I need to improve your sleep because if you don’t sleep enough you’re going to wake up that day with higher cortisol levels, you’re going to wake up that day with higher hormones that make you want to eat and not just eat broccoli you’re eating comfort foods and you’re eating way more of the comfort foods. That just gives you an indication of the steps that we go to. When you go through the whole process, you end up restoring the balance of all of the hormones and you restore the balance of all of the hormones in the right order.
I’m recognized as one of the top thyroid doctors in North America and when people come to see me I don’t do anything for their thyroid until much later because your stress hormones, your sex hormones, your insulin, your inflammation, your sleep patterns, your exercise habits, all of these impact your thyroid. Sometimes I have patients that do the Supercharged Hormone Diet approach and they cut their thyroid prescription and actually lower the dosage because they restore the balance of so many other hormones that improves the function of the thyroid.
Jonathan: Dr. Turner, it’s literally amazing and empowering to know that there is an alternate approach to this ‘eat less, exercise more’ dogma that is not just a theory. In many ways is old news, the actual experts, correct me if I’m wrong, but at least in my research the actual experts have known this for decades and decades and decades. It just seems that when people who are not tapped into science a.k.a. politicians a.k.a and potentially even celebrities start trying to dapple in this arena, that it started to become a lot more confusing and a lot more calorie-based. If that works for you I guess, keep it up. This is such a more scientific-backed and frankly, simpler approach. Is it not?
Natasha: It is. Yeah, it is. You feel your best. I tell people, “Don’t focus on weight loss. What you’re going to do is focus on restoring total health and hormonal balance and weight loss becomes a wonderful side effect.” It’s proven. People that focus on restoring their health they are much more successful in achieving their goals. The studies too also show that losing weight doesn’t necessarily make you healthier either.
You’ve got to do it in a way that it isn’t destroying — If you’re doing some excessive diet where you’re losing muscle tissue and you lose muscle tissue then insulin has no tissue to do its work when you start to eat normally again. It’s something that’s not difficult at all you just need the proper guidelines. When I first released the book in 2009 the whole concept of hormones with weight loss really wasn’t out there yet but it’s completely exploded since then. I think that’s probably why the Dr. Oz show found me. This topic just seems something that is more and more on people’s minds.
Jonathan: Absolutely. I love what you said about the whole weight loss ensues because in fact I believe that our focus should really just be restoring the body’s natural ability to be healthy and automatically regulate us around a slimmer, healthier state of weight and hormonal balance. If we’re not doing that, if weight loss becomes our direct pursuit rather than something that ensues, nine times out of ten, if not more, literally we are doing more harm than good because anything we would do to drop weight at the expense of our health will come back to make us heavier and sicker in the long run.
Natasha: Absolutely. When I did my first interview here I did Canada AM it’s our only national morning news show and the woman I was speaking about I said… She said, “Okay, what’s your new book?” I said it’s “The Hormone Diet.” “And what’s the concept?” I said, “Hormones are controlling everything to do with weight loss. How your body responds to a diet, how your appetite, your cravings, where you store your fat, how it responds to exercise, everything is controlled by your hormones.”
She said, “Okay. So you’re saying that weight loss is controlled by your hormones. How do you know if your hormones are balanced?” I said, “Well, let’s look at the symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Do you feel tired after eating? Do you have cravings? Do you have difficulty falling asleep? Being asleep? Do you feel anxious? Do you have headaches? Do you have belly fat?” It’s like, all these people listening, it was ‘check, check, check, check’.
Then she said, “So you mean to tell me if you have symptoms like this that means your metabolism is not optimized?” I said, “Yes, that’s exactly that. So if you think about getting rid of the symptoms of hormonal imbalance, like low libido or PMS or memory loss, all of this stuff, you’re going to fix that hormonal imbalance and your metabolism is going to be better and you’re going to look better and lose the weight.” That day, my book sold out in chapters all across Canada.
Jonathan: I love it. Well it’s very true. I think unfortunately, we have become so used to living in a state of chronic sickness for lack of better terms. That we don’t actually realize that once you achieve hormonal balance you don’t feel tired all the time. If you were not feeling robust essentially 24/7, 365 that is indicative of a deeper underlying problem. If you have the flu you don’t need to eat less and exercise more to cure the flu.
There’s something deeper going on and you need to solve that deeper thing, you need to eliminate that virus or the bacteria. The same thing here. There’s something going on with the system that you feel bad, tired, gastrointestinal discomfort, moody you don’t need to eat less and exercise more, you need to solve that hormonal problem.
Natasha: I ask three questions to every single patient that I see. How is your energy? How is your libido? Do you have any food cravings? If you have change in any one of those things that is a sign that something is out of balance with your health or your diet. I have a class format, I put people through The Hormone Diet approach over a five-week period consistently. That’s in a group format, I’ve been doing it for patients for the last ten years. People cannot believe that they don’t have any cravings and they don’t feel hungry and they don’t get the energy highs and lows and that everything just becomes consistent when you use the nutrition approach that balances your hormones.
People say, “I’ve had a sweet tooth for thirty years.” I say, “You never should have cravings. If you’re craving sugar or carbs, something is out of balance with your diet. You’re either eating too many carbohydrates or the wrong type of the good carbs sometimes even for you or not enough protein or obviously sleep deprivation or stress really triggers cravings. On a general daily basis, if you’ve got cravings every day, your diet is not balanced.”
Jonathan: It is definitely a paradigm shift to understand how simple in some sense health can be once we have the correct information.
Natasha: And how quickly things change. I have a study that shows if you drink a blueberry smoothie every day for 6 weeks, at the end of the 6 weeks, you’re going to have 22% improvement in insulin sensitivity. Which basically means your metabolism is going to be better. It’s amazing how quickly it happens if you give your body the right tools. I tell people, “You can change your hormones by your very next meal.”
Jonathan: Absolutely. Let’s wrap up here, Dr. Turner, with I think an interesting example of how much promise and how much hope I think our listeners should have with this new hormonally-based versus caloric approach. Just a little example. We may, as individuals, have experiences or know someone who does, let’s go back to the beginning of the podcast and talk about the wrong kind of exercise being counterproductive. Dr. Turner, how many people have you met or maybe you even were this individual at one point in time, where you would wake up early or go to bed late a.k.a. you would sleep less so that you could exercise more?
So, now you wake up at 4 a.m. instead of a reasonable time so you can do a bunch of cardio and then you can shower and blah blah blah and because you’re doing that cardio, now you’re craving the very types of inSANE foods which caused these hormonal problems in the first place. So you’ve taken sleep which is something you do need and something that will heal your hormones, and you’ve reduced that so that you can do more of an activity that increases stress hormones and causes you to crave foods that cause further hormonal damage.
Natasha: That’s right. I have a patient of mine, she’s 5’8” and she does that. She gets up every morning at 5 a.m. and goes to the gym and she was doing tons of cardio and then she was coming home, she would feed her kids, then she’d have to go to bed for two hours in the morning because she was exhausted. I said, “Listen. Sleep in. Sleep in, feed your kids breakfast, and then go and do your workout for a half an hour when you were napping before. That is so much better for your body.” She just couldn’t wrap her head around the fact that she didn’t need to get up that early and she didn’t need to do all the cardio and that what she was doing for the last five years was actually making her worse.
Jonathan: To be fair when we’re given this incorrect information like if we all believe that it’s all about calories then your client was doing the right thing. Then everything should be about burning more calories and taking less in. But the science has shown that is not the approach. So if that is not the approach, then we have to take a different approach because we’re not worried about that anymore. Right?
Natasha: That’s right.
Jonathan: Well Dr. Turner, this has been just wonderful. I know you and I could probably talk for twenty four hours straight. We wouldn’t get any sleep and our hormones would just go completely down the tubes because we are both passionate about this new hormonal approach. Folks, if you want to learn more about Dr. Turner, I would highly recommend checking out her wonderful bestselling books. She’s got three The Hormone Diet, Supercharged Hormone Diet, as well as The Carb Sensitivity Program.
Check them all out as well as her website which is DrNatashaTurner.com. Dr. Turner ,thank you so much for sharing this with us. I really think this information can truly unlock so much that seems impossible for so many because they’ve felt like they’ve tried everything and frankly they have in the calorie model. Once you get into this hormonal model it’s just like you’re driving north instead of driving south and you’re going to get to a totally different destination.
Natasha: You’re exactly right. If you go on Amazon.com and click and look at the reviews of the book you’re going to see story after story of people saying ‘I had no idea. I’ve tried everything and it’s not worked and now I’m doing this and I feel amazing and I get now what I was doing was wrong before.’ There are lots and lots and lots of really good success stories there too if people want to check it out.
Jonathan: I love it. What’s next for you, Dr. Turner? You’ve obviously written some wonderful pieces of literature The Hormone Diet, Supercharged Hormone Diet, and The Carb Sensitivity Program. What’s next?
Natasha: I just came up with a couple of book ideas, so I just pitched my agents to approach Rodale and Random House here in Canada. I’m published by Rodale in the United States and Random House in Canada. I’ve got a couple of ideas for a book I’d like to start writing again I think in December if I could. It’s still on the hormone thing because this area intrigues me, so I think I’ll still be writing on this topic. Right now I actually just filmed a little bit of a piece for a documentary done by a Paramount Pictures producer. It’s called Balance. It’s on hormones. So there’s lots of really neat things that are happening and I’m never short of ideas so it’s good. That and I am passionate for my work so I don’t mind doing all this all the time.
Jonathan: I love it, Dr. Turner. Well we certainly appreciate you because you’re spreading a message that enables health and enables happiness and it’s rooted in science as well, so I really do appreciate that. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Natasha: Thank you so much. You have a great day.
Jonathan: You too. Everyone, thank you so much for listening. I hope this was incredible for you as it was for me. Please do check out Dr. Turner’s website at DrNatashaTurner.com. Remember for all of this week and for every week afterwards – eat more and exercise less, but smarter. Talk to you soon!
Jonathan: Wait, wait! Don’t stop listening yet.
Carrie: You can get fabulous free SANE recipes over at CarrieBrown.com.
Jonathan: And don’t forget, your 100% free Eating and Exercise Quick Start Program as well as free fun daily tips delivered right into your inbox at BailorGroup.com.
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