Episode 1 | Karen Martel


Hormone Balance: Understanding Your Body as a Woman with Karen Martel 

About This Episode

Not feeling well but not knowing why? Feeling fatigued, irritable, painful periods, and bloated?

If you have cycled through various diets and stepped back into your fitness regime but still have not found relief, it could very be because of hormonal imbalance.

Great news is that we have Karen Martel to shed some light on the topic of hormones & how they affect women’s bodies.

Together, we will give you all the information you need to improve your hormone health, so you don’t have to suffer in silence like millions of women do!

Show Notes

Hormones can make you feel like you’re swimming against the tide. But WHY?! And HOW?!

Karen Martel is a Certified Hormone Specialist & Transformational Nutrition Coach and women’s weight loss expert. 

Founder of the revolutionary program OnTrack a women’s hormone balancing & weight loss program. Host of the top-rated women’s health podcast The Other Side of Weight Loss.

I was very eager to have this intimate conversation with Karen about hormone balance because she is a person who I know will be changing the way that women look at hormonal issues. 

After struggling with her own health issues, Karen was determined to bring her knowledge to others with a bold new approach to women’s health and weight management. Karen’s passion lies in helping women breakthrough weight loss resistance and find their personal weight loss code through diet variation and hormone optimization. Karen is a health leader and researcher determined to revolutionize weight loss for modern women.

What you’ll learn from Karen’s story

  • Karen’s story on why she choose to be in the field of health and nutrition (2:53)
  • When Karen started digging deep into her weight problems (5:42)
  • Changing the next generation’s view on self-image (16:23)

Women’s confusion surrounding weight loss and how Karen addresses it

  • Understanding what estrogen dominance is (18:31)
  • Why do women experience cramping and abdominal pain (22:15)
  • Exploring what xenoestrogen is and how it relates to weight gain (23:35)
  • The only way to test how does your body break down estrogen (27:48)
  • Know the certain food that you can eat when you’re estrogen dominant (28:17)
  • Karen’s three-week estrogen detox program (30:17)

How hormones play a role in almost everything we feel in our body as women

  • Premarin and the lack of correct information on hormone replacements (33:25)
  • Getting to know what bioidentical hormones are and what most physicians know about it (39:30)
  • Why blood work is not an accurate way to test your hormones (40:08)
  • Touching on the topic of adrenal fatigue and what cortisol has to do with (42:09)

What it takes to improve our well-being and not suffer in silence like millions of other women

  • What makes us shift from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic (44:35)
  • Rethinking weight loss (47:20)

I hope that you’ll agree that knowing more about your body will ultimately empower you to make better, more informed choices about your health and wellness. 

Believe me, it’s so worth the effort! And I’d wager that learning about this information now is way better than stumbling upon this information later in life…


Luella Jonk


Karen Martel

New Ways of Dealing with Stress

New Ways of Dealing with Stress

By now I think we have all heard something about the gut/brain connection. That is, how the food you eat affects your thoughts and emotions and how your thoughts and emotions affect the health of your gut.

How is this possible? There are a few ways.

One of the main vessels of communication is via the vagus cranial nerve. It travels from the brain and innervates the digestive tract. You can now probably relate – at some point in your life you may have received some bad news, followed by a terrible sensation in the pit of your stomach. Have you ever heard of irritable bowel syndrome or IBS? This is a common bucket term in medicine for when a patient comes in describing bouts of loose stool or constipation. Well, it turns out this condition has a lot to do with your thoughts, emotions, and feelings you are experiencing.

How about the messages from the gut to the brain? If things are not right in the gut, such as bad bacteria or inflammation due to toxins or food sensitivities, our head doesn’t feel right. The vagus nerve also secretes cytokines (chemicals that carry information) into the intestines, which impacts the health of the bacteria and lining of the intestines.

The second way the gut affects the brain is through inflammation. The gut will send out pro-inflammatory cytokines (again, informational molecules) – which activate the stress response by signalling to a region in the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus then starts communicating to our pituitary gland to help regulate hormones (again, informational molecules) so it can start doing the work it needs to do. In the case of inflammation, the hormone cortisol will take priority. This intricate system communicates so well, it prioritizes an urgent response by setting off vagal tone. When cortisol production is in high gear, the vagal tone is low. It is the vagal tone that ‘reads’ the health of your microbiome, which then modulates inflammation. Overall, a low vagal tone will impact not only your mental health, but also blood sugar regulation (contributing to high cholesterol), autism, migraines, diabetes, heart health, and autoimmune diseases. Therefore, as the frequency of cortisol (stress, trauma) increases, our health decreases. It is important for you to understand this delicate ‘wiring’ and method of communication is our body’s way of protecting us from danger. If our bacteria are not balanced (more bad bacteria than good) then it will want us to ‘wake up’ by secreting more cortisol and take action.

“Inflammation can be sourced via gut health (through food choices) just as much as it can be from the brain (through uncomfortable thoughts).”

via @luellajonk

The PROBLEM is if we make this more of a chronic condition (ongoing) rather than an acute condition (how it evolved to be) we are going to slowly adapt to this condition. This is an important point for both your overall mental health, as well as for your physiology.

Let me provide you with an analogy. If you often have joint pain or headaches, you might be a frequent user of an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Aleve, etc.). The more you mask the inflammation, the more you will normalize the inflammatory response and the more drug you will need to get the same ‘effect’ from the drug. Sadly, this is how addictions start taking over your life. Dampening the response system (remember that alcohol and nicotine are toxins), the more you will need this drug to feel a response (whether that be a sense of calm or a sense of excitement). Similarly, if you continue to ignore the stress (toxic thoughts) in your life, the more you tolerate the stress response and the more this becomes your normal.

Our bodies have an amazing way of adapting (surviving). We naturally adapt to small amounts of stresses to be resilient. The problem (toxic thought) is sometimes so small (think of it as a tiny leak behind a wall), we don’t even realize it is there until it is too late. Your thoughts are following a trend over the long term and that trend is not going in the right direction. Your contentment, or happiness, is trending down. Think of adverse child experiences (ACE). Every client who sees me needs to fill out an intake form on ACE. I have seen it myself and literature shows it as well, the higher your ACE score, the more your health suffers.

Thus, the moral of this story is … pay attention to what signals your body is sending. Do not ignore. Remember acute cortisol from time to time is normal – chronic is not. However, I understand how it is not always easy to detect low lying cortisol – just as it is not easy to detect low lying inflammation. If we pay more attention to what we are putting in our bodies every day, the puzzle becomes less difficult. If you want more information on what foods you should be choosing, I can easily help you out. A lot of this is not rocket science, as you know. Despite what you hear out there, this is not about choosing a certain ‘diet’. As Michael Pollan stated so well, eat food (a.k.a. nothing made in a production plant). Not too much. Mostly plants.

Then there are the other lifestyle factors we can easily modulate to keep our stress in check. These include sleep optimization, securing healthy relationships (this includes with yourself), exercise, and a strong sense of community. I interchange community with spirituality. The more you feel you are not alone, the healthier you become.

In summary, inflammation causes disease. Today I explained how inflammation can be sourced via gut health (through food choices) just as much as it can be from the brain (through uncomfortable thoughts). How you choose to perceive your thoughts and how you pay attention to your thoughts will affect the health of your microbiome. It will either cause your healthy bacteria to thrive or your bad bacteria to increase, causing downstream effects. The vagus nerve will sense the health of your gut and start communicating to your hypothalamus to choose a high or low vagal tone.

As a functional medicine practitioner and therapist, I simplify inflammation as having four sources: Food, bugs, toxins (environmental), and traumas.

On the next blog post I will provide you with tips on how to improve vagal tone. Until then, if anyone wants to get a head start on bringing down body inflammation, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.