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Hi, pod fam! 

Who else is PUMPED for season 2 of What’s the Juice? The topics, the guests, the juicy juicy nuggets of wisdom dropped by every guest—it’s all SO good, and I can’t wait for you all to listen to allllll of it.

This week, we’re joined by my beautiful friend, Nina Passero. A former speech language pathologist, Nina is now THRIVING in her true calling as a wellness & transformation coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). Nina takes a many-pronged approach to helping her clients heal: functional lab work, emotional & psychological tools, and digging into how everything from the food you eat to your sleep quality to your daily routine makes you feel.

As someone who has had the privilege of watching Nina find her peace after going through her own frustrating and painful wellness journey, it’s incredible AF to see how she’s using the tools and knowledge she learned the hard way to help others every day. And she’s just getting started! 

In this ep, we’re talking about what they don’t tell you about taking birth control; getting in tune with your cycle; and how food can help support hormones, blood sugar, energy, sleep, and stress. And the key takeaway we want you all to get from this? The mindset of and some action steps toward making your life feel more like a vacation. Let’s get juicy! 

On deciding maybe medications aren’t the answer… 

…to Nina’s concerns, at least. For about a decade, starting in her teens, Nina was struggling with her health. From experiencing a ruptured cyst at age 15 (which, WTF?? Why is a 15-year-old experiencing this?) to developing a range of gut health issues to struggling with PCOS after stopping birth control, our gal went THROUGH IT. 

When countless doctors visits, medications, and extremely restricting diets didn’t make her feel any better (not without other consequences, at least), she took her health into her own hands. Relentless in the best possible way. And what she realized is that maybe medication isn’t the answer, so she started to heal herself naturally. And that transformation sparked a career change, giving her the ability to help others in similar situations.

If you’ve been a WTJ listener for a while, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of our guests—especially those in the functional medicine or wellness spaces—went through their own hellish health journeys, and now they’re paying it forward by giving the support they wish they had at the time. And let me tell you: the best insights often come from the people who have been in your shoes, and Nina having gone through all of this makes her SUCH a great resource and guide for her clients because SHE GETS IT. Really. 

Let’s get into some of those insights of hers!

Birth control is often just a band aid.

We’re not anti-birth control as a whole at Team OO, but we’re against how birth control is so often prescribed as a way to just cover up whatever underlying issue is really going on without actually addressing it. And especially after Nina and I both watched a recent documentary called The Business of Birth Control (we talk about this more in the ep), one thing is clear: women need more education, more informed consent, around birth control and their cycles. 

While Nina doesn’t tell her clients to get off of birth control, she does work with a lot of women who eventually come to that decision on their own. And so many women—especially those who have been on it for years and years and years—are scared of how their body is going to respond once they get off of it. A lot of the work she does is giving women the tools to help support their transition off birth control and help them get attuned to their natural cycles. 

So, other than birth control, how can we address some of these all-too-common hormonal issues? Lifestyle & diet changes, lowering/managing your stress, and managing your blood sugar. And food is the real focus a lot of the time. Good thing, since what we eat (and how we eat it) is something we can all control, right?

Food = Medicine

Nina’s own experience—and a lot of her clients’ experiences—centers on using food as medicine. Food is HUGE for hormone health, and that’s because our hormones are made in the gut. So if your hormones are off, it’s likely your gut health is off, too (and vice versa). You could treat the hormonal imbalances, and this might offer some relief. But if you’re not also addressing the cause of those imbalances, you’re not really solving the problem. This is why Nina recommends focusing on gut health and blood sugar regulation first—and, often, the hormones end up resolving themselves. 

Definitely give the ep a listen to hear more about Nina’s food journey—including why she went gluten-free, her experience with veganism, and how eating enough food made a huge difference in her healing process. Here’s the gist of what she’s learned—both through personal experience and in her professional work:

  • Food is fuel – Our body needs energy to heal. And if we’re only eating enough to keep the lights on, so to speak, we don’t have anything left to help heal the gut lining or our hormones. It’s the same concept as Qi in TCM. Our body expends Qi for essential functions first, and only if there’s enough, will it move to non-necessities like hair growth, for example.
  • Fuel your body consistently – Eat breakfast within 30 mins of getting up. After fasting all night long, your body needs fuel to properly make cortisol during the day, which helps with melatonin production at night. And no coffee on an empty stomach! You’ll risk a blood sugar spike, as well as a cortisol spike, which messes with your HPA axis and adrenals. (More on that if you head back to Season 1 Episode 1)
  • Wait, don’t eliminate – Nina’s not gonna dive into food sensitivity testing or start her clients on elimination diets (unless they’re highly reactive to gluten or another food). Because our digestive system can respond differently in different circumstances. You might notice you can tolerate certain foods better sometimes, and that could be related to emotional stress, the order in which you’re eating your foods, or any other circumstances.
  • Build a strong foundation – Don’t add a bunch of supplements in and expect miracles. Instead, start with what you’re already fueling your body with and ask how you can optimize your diet from there. 
  • Audit your food & sleep habits – Your gut health and hormone health can both be linked to food and sleep. Ask yourself some questions: How frequently are you eating? Are you eating enough throughout the day? What are your food combos? Are you sleeping well? Are you feeling refreshed when you wake up? Are you going to bed hungry? 
  • Carbs + protein + fat – Nina swears by this combo, which she recommends every time you’re eating—whether it’s a snack or a full meal. Some of her favorite snack combos:
  • Double up on sugars – Glucose without fructose can create a blood sugar spike, which is linked to a whole lot of issues (including hormonal imbalances). Combining the two sugars anytime you’re eating sugar/carbs can help keep things balanced.

I feel like this is just cracking the surface of all the great insights Nina has to offer in this ep. I would absolutely recommend listening because she’s amazing and you don’t want to miss any of it! But I’ll leave you with one final note from our convo—a question to ask yourself:

How can I make my life look more like a vacation?

Ever wonder why your digestion seems to be better on vacation? Foods don’t bother you as much in a beautiful place than at home? Your bowel movements more regular? When you’re less stressed and free from your normal routine and obligations, your whole body benefits. Try to channel vacation mode in your everyday life to see if your gut and hormone health improve. Slow down, give yourself space and grace. Go for a walk (in nature, if possible) every day. Take a moment to relax before you sit down to eat. Take breaks from screens. Seek joy in people, food, activities, moments.

As always, tune into the episode for allll the juicy goodness in this ep! Be sure to share your thoughts with me on IG: @shoporganicolivia.



Connect with Nina Passero:

Follow @nina.passero on IG

Visit her website

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