Amanda Montalvo is a women’s health dietitian who helps women get to the root cause of hormone imbalances and have healthy menstrual cycles. Amanda started off her education in nutrition with the traditional route, but after dealing with her own health problems after getting off hormonal birth control she quickly realized the value of functional medicine. After healing her acne, balancing her hormones, and learning the value of her menstrual cycle, Amanda found her purpose—to help women create a body in balance and not settle for anything less.
We had the opportunity to interview Amanda and ask her questions about gut health, functional lab testing, period health, and her personal experience with hormones. Read the full interview to hear more and to gain insight from Amanda on what steps to take if you suspect you have hormonal imbalance that is interfering with your period and overall health. You can follow Amanda on instagram at @hormonehealingrd or find her page at Hormone Healing RD.
We see you use the Dutch Test, Gut Health and Mineral Testing. How does this functional lab testing that you offer differ from visiting an endocrinologist or doctor instead?
When doctors test for hormones, they usually do blood work. They are looking at high or low levels of hormones. Functional lab tests help analyze where it is coming from and what the causes are. This is the main difference between functional testing and a hormone test from a doctor.
What do you recommend for women who cannot afford those tests and would insurance cover it?
Before you do testing, check the basic things about your body such as body temperature, diet, diet function, sleep cycle, period cycle, etc. It is better to make sure these are checked before getting tested to address a problem that could have been solved without testing.
Which test would you recommend as a priority and why?
I recommend mineral testing- it is the cheapest test that I use and is more accessible to people than other tests. For people that want to check sex hormones, the mineral test shows defeciencies as well. The mineral test shows ratios of hormones to each other which is helpful.
What do you recommend for women who are struggling to figure out the underlying root of their hormonal acne, PMS symptoms, fatigue, etc.?
Many hormonal imbalance issues are usually related to a woman’s level of progesterone and estrogen. We can ask ourselves, what causes these issues in the first place?
Check basic things like:
- Eating enough food
- Eating throughout the day,
- Tracking your period cycle (Is it getting worse? Is it getting better?)
- Documenting irregularities (as well as regularities) in period cycles
- Monitoring your sleep quality
If you’re someone who thinks they are doing everything right, look deeper: stress can also cause hormonal imbalance. If your period cycle is good, check your thyroid health (mineral testing).
What can cause the fly or fight response?
When we don’t have breaks in our schedules- when we are constantly stimulated, we are stuck in a fight or fly place. Try taking breaks from stimulation, put mindful breaks in your schedule, set meal times free from distraction, call someone or a friend to catch up with, reading, practice mindfulness when eating, and sit outside if you can- taking deep breaths before you eat.
When our ancestors stared at something, it usually meant they were focusing on something that caused them stress. Similarly, staring intensely at our phones activates stress hormones in our bodies. Try taking mindful breaks from using your phone throughout the day.
Many women are not able to buy certain foods high in nutrients due to budget constraints, but can vitamins be as effective as the foods that contain them?
I recommend taking animal protein since it is the best source of calories and nutrients. Regarding organic food, do the best you can for organic/inorganic foods depending on your budget. The best supplements are organ meat supplements since they are nutrient dense and since most people usually don’t eat organ meats. Liver heart and kidney contain copper Selenium, Zinc, D vitamins etc.
It is best to take vitamin C straight from food instead of taking supplements if you are able to; supplements usually contain ascorbic acid which is not too good. Vitamin D supplements for PMS can be very effective as well as MCT oil.
Is there anything you wish you knew about when you struggled with hormonal acne and PMS symptoms? ( resources, myths, certain lifestyle practices, etc.)
It’s common but not normal to have these symptoms. I wish I knew more about birth control and the side effects that I experienced. Doctors might say that if you feel bad taking it, but then feel worse after going off of it, you need to go back on it. There’s so many different ways to balance hormonal health without a birth control pill.
I recommend reading Dr. Jolene Brighten’s book Beyond the Pill to learn more about birth control and hormonal balance. However, I would be careful about taking Diindolylmethane (DIM) as mentioned in the book. Vitamin E is better than DIM since it has less side effects and can be as effective. I also have a blogpost about how to transition off the pill on my website.
Some women tend to diet, exercise, or even eat less to feel better, but we know there are obvious health risks associated when these are taken too extreme. What is one thing you wish all women knew about these practices with regards to hormonal health?
Go back to how your body works.
People think we need to eat less and move more to be healthy. Women eliminate gluten and dairy and main food groups- it doesn’t have to be this complex.
Some tips for a healthy diet:
- Balance your diet with proteins, fats and carbs from whole food sources
- Eat consistently throughout the day
- Think about what you’re adding instead of taking away
- Balance stress- be more gentle with your body
- Diets such as the Keto diet reduces thyroid health
How has your relationship to food changed as you learned more about how food affects hormones, mood, energy, and overall well being?
I think a lot of women struggle with their relationships to food. For me, there was a point where every meal was stressful, and I focused more on what I ate instead of using food to change my body. I realized there is no one food that will put hormones out of balance- it’s ok to not be so strict with ourselves. Our body needs food and nourishment as well.
Many people feel they can’t function without coffee or some kind of sugar to get them through the morning, but we know this usually causes a ‘low’ later on in the day. What morning routine do you recommend or foods you eat to kick start your day with energy?
Try to eat within 60 minutes of waking up- it can be hard when you have sluggish energy or low appetite when you wake up. Having a breakfast high in protein, fat and carbohydrates can be a great start to your day for energy. I like to make egg frittatas with eggs, veggies and potatoes in the mornings. You can also make them and store them in the refrigerator for easy use.
I recommend having coffee after breakfast to prevent an energy drop in the day from drinking coffee on an empty stomach. Drinking coffee with food in your stomach can promote metabolism. I recommend trying Savorista coffee as an option for those who prefer low caf coffee.
What advice do you have for women who are recently learning about functional testing or who are not sure which route or resources to look into for hormonal imbalance?
Start tracking your cycle and get to know it. Check your fertility hormones, ovulation, and body temperature. Your body temperature provides an incredible amount of information on your hormonal health. Test your body temperature when you wake up as well. If your optimal temperature is, for example, 98.7 degrees, knowing your normal temperature range can help you manage your thyroid health if your body temperature is out of this range.
I also offer a functional lab test review to better understand your functional test lab results. Testing blood is the most common way doctors check for hormonal health, but it is not always the best. Hair and urine samples are also great ways to test also and can say things that a blood test won’t.
What has been your biggest finding or realization with hormonal health, food, and overall well being?
I was always looking at the best way to eat and the best supplements to take, but I was not looking at stress factors in my life, I wasn’t happy with my job, I wasn’t sleeping well, etc. Working on those were most transformative for me. You can eat perfectly and do everything ‘right’, but stress can also be an underlying cause of hormonal imbalance.
Nutrition Strategies for Better Periods removes the confusion around eating healthy hormones and helps you optimize the food on your plate to feel your best. Inside this course, you will find over 20 video lessons and downloadable resources, including a staples recipe guide, data tracking tips, and so much more on your computer or via an app on your phone. You also get access to the Hormone Healing Community to connect with other women on a similar journey and get expert advice from Amanda Montalvo, women’s health dietitian.
Use the code HORMONE during checkout to receive 15% off Nutrition Strategies for Better Periods
Thank you for reading our interview with Amanda, we hope you learned more about hormonal balance, effects of birth control pills on hormones, and additional resources to learn more.
We aim to share knowledge for other women who are working towards hormonal balance through stories of other women and advice from experts. We hope this interview helps women learn more about functional lab testing and resources to work towards improved hormonal health.