I’m a little woo. That’s become clearer since I returned to the East Coast after spending my formative mid-to-late 20s in NorCal. I regularly use my Android to find out the moon signs of near-strangers, and if I could be reborn anything, straight up–I’d want to be a mystic. So, when I began taking T in June, I got interested in holistic care for some of the more common side effects. I bought tea tree shampoo to deal with my oily scalp, ate tons of bananas to increase potassium for my cramps, and listened to my body when it told me I need like like 10 gallons of water in order to function. I focused on meditating to work with hormonal rebalancing and I increased lean protein to help deal with my sudden desire to eat like I’d never see food again.
My instinct to do this got me thinking: a lot of us feel deeply connected to our bodies for the first time in our lives, and it follows that now would be a good time to develop habits of self-care that are empowered and healthy. I’ve been working hard around to do so, but not everybody has been immersed in the world of slow food, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and acupuncture, so I thought I’d do a little practical alternative medicine/nutrition information gathering and bring the woo to you.
For help, I spoke to my friend, the brilliant Sara Seinberg, Holistic Health Coach. Here’s her explanation of her work:
“I help clients discover and live the lives they have always known they could have: healthy, energized, honest, authentic and joyful. Using nutrition as a starting point, I work with clients to employ new ways of eating that support making these amazing changes and provide sane and sustainable modes of self care for each person.”
Sounds good! So, what should transitioning folks keep in mind? “Cooking at home might be the single most heroic action of self care a transman can take,” Sara says.
“Cooking at home guarantees that your food is prepared with care and with as many organic ingredients as possible. In the big picture, it’s also of note that cooking at home cuts costs, even organically, as compared to eating out. You can choose healthy oils to cook with (cold-pressed and organic), whole grains, and eat as much in-season, fresh produce as you can. When buying produce, choose food that has traveled the least, and looks the most interesting to you.
“Chew more. Your body will adjust to the food entering it and respond at a respectable rate, cutting down on overeating and intestinal distress. And try to always eat sitting down, but in your car doesn’t count. Eating is the thing that fuels your ENTIRE LIFE. If we respect it, our lives will reflect it.
“Put as many colors on your plate as possible: dark greens, yellows, and reds. More colors equals more nutrients. And of special note to all transmen, especially vegetarians: avoid soy. It is one of the most genetically modified crops in our country, and it is often over processed. It also contains phytoestrogen (plant-based estrogen). Try almond milk or hemp or hazelnut, switch out your tofu to quinoa, a superhero, as a perfect protein.”
Raise your hand if this is news to you. I am shocked. Soy! Fattening, and full of estrogen and modified crops. Boo.
“And while we’re talking about it, guess what else has estrogen in it? Beer, people. According to the phenomenal herbalist Dori Midnight, ’3.5 oz of hops contains 30, 000- 300,000 IU of estrogen, including estradiol, which lowers T and binds to free T in bloodstream, making it unavailable.’
What should trans guys in particular focus on in our diets? ”Most Americans in generally amble through the world in a state of dehydration to some degree. With the introduction of T into the system along with the stress of a massive change in life, flushing out toxins is imperative. Try to slowly add water consumption into life. Tote a stainless steel or glass water bottle with you. Its presence and weight serve as a reminder to drink it. You don’t have to push yourself from one glass a day to eight. Work slowly in a way that you can maintain. Go from one glass to two. Do that for four or five days. Then try three. And so on.
“Also, in the world of H2O, when cooking your whole grains at home, make sure to rinse them first. Phytic acid is contained in the hulls of nuts, grains, and seeds and is indigestible in our systems. And even more, it is a bully of an acid that renders the body incapable of absorbing Iron and Zinc, which are important for our health, especially for bodies in transition.
“For extra intense hippie cred: sprout that shiz. Sprouted grains retain their natural plant enzymes which are beneficial for helping digestion. In addition, sprouted grains support the growth of good bacteria, help to keep the colon clean, and are high in protective antioxidants, which bind to free radicals in the system, man.”
What else does Coach Seinberg prescribe for a body in transition? Duh.
“Exercise, exercise, exercise! Stretching is of terrific importance, with muscle mass increasing and shifting locations as well. Keeping your body stretched out will ease the pain of growth spurts and provide some good time for sustained and even breathing, bringing your mind into a more serene place to have multi-dimensional perspective on all the changes you are shouldering. Aerobic work for raising the heart rate can be a productive place to put temper management skills into place and creates a better sleep environment.
“While you’re at it, the pesky second round of acne you may be suffering through will find a valiant opponent in sweat. This salty work partner cleans out pores and tightens skin. In addition, physical endurance work can translate well into the bedroom for newly brightened libidos. Just saying’
“If you have always been a person who liked exercise, try to switch up your routine some. Add in strength work or tack on ten minutes to your cardio routine. If you are new to moving your body, give yourself room to grow. If you have the opportunity to work with a trainer, do that. If that’s not possible, find a support group online or add an affirmation app to your phone for support.
“Start with realistic goals you can stick to. Maybe decide to do ten modified push ups a day with a friend and text each other each day when you finish. Get off the train one stop early and walk further. Take the stairs. Work your way up. You’ll be surprised to find out just how much your body can do, how great it feels, and to realize how much impact exercise has on your life not just during it, but for the other 23 hours a day as well. Star right where you are. Start today.”
Right now I want to run home and work out, which means Sara’s work here is done. But what about supplements?
“There are great medical and supplemental resources out there for transmen. Intended for other doctors, Dr. R. Nick Gorton and Dean Spade Esq. penned Medical Therapy and Health Maintenance for Transgender Men: A Guide for Healthcare Providers which is also helpful for transmen who, like so many, have had less than ideal experiences with the world of healthcare. It is available for free online.
“Another book I love is The Family Herbal, a classic by Rosemary Gladstar which can guide people to herbal remedies and support for a stressed system. Finally, The Male Herbal by James Green gives men recipes for tinctures and tea and a comprehensive plant based cornucopia of information for herbal health.”
Thanks, Coach Seinberg! If you’d like to talk to her more about your personal healthcare goals, consider becoming a client! And dudes–be well! The world needs you.