s5 e22: Light, Your Circadian Rhythm, & Your Hormones with Carrie Bennett

Light, Your Circadian Rhythm, & Your Hormones with Carrie Bennett

Light, Your Circadian Rhythm, & Your Hormones with Carrie Bennett

In this episode, I am joined by Carrie Bennett, to teach you about light, circadian rhythm, and how these impact your hormones. As a college athlete, supposedly at the pinnacle of health, Carrie began suffering chronic joint issues and insomnia. After her first child was born, she developed debilitating stomach pain, adrenal fatigue, and brain fog. Armed with a BS in Biology, an MS in Nutrition, and certifications as a personal trainer, massage therapist, and breathing coach, she still couldn’t find the root of her issues. That’s when she found quantum biology. Now, as an online educator, clinician, and faculty member of the Quantum Biology Collective, Carrie’s mission is to teach her clients how to create a healing environment by applying quantum health strategies around light, water, electrons, and mitochondrial support. Given these tools, clients who have spent years trying to improve their health—just as Carrie did—finally experience powerful healing and lasting benefits.

As always, everything shared in this episode is for informational purposes only. We encourage you to do your own research and talk with your healthcare provider to figure out what’s best for you.

What we cover:

  • Why circadian rhythm is important for our health, especially hormones
  • How our light exposure impacts circadian rhythm
  • How to optimize our CR in the modern world
  • Healthy light exposure and support CR during the winter months

Thyroid Mineral Training

Connect with Carrie:

Website: https://www.carriebwellness.com/

Online Courses: https://www.carriebwellness.com/store

Online Community: https://www.carriebwellness.com/community

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carriebwellness/

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@carriebwellness

Quantum Biology Certification Course for Practitioners: https://www.appliedquantumbiology.com/institute-of-applied-quantum-biology?affiliate_id=3816502

Free circadian start kit: https://www.carriebwellness.com/start

Circadian app


Master Your Minerals Course
My Favorite Paleovalley Products

Free Resources:

Free Healthy Period Starter Guide
Mineral Imbalance Quiz
Mineral Training
Thyroid Mineral Training
Feminine Periodical (monthly newsletter)

Listen Now

Apple Podcasts



Amanda Montalvo [00:00:01]:

Welcome to the are you menstrual? Podcast, where we dive deep into all things women’s health to support you on your healing journey. I’m Amanda Montalbo functional and integrative dietitian, also known as the hormone healing Rd.

Amanda Montalvo [00:00:13]:

If you enjoyed this podcast and you.

Amanda Montalvo [00:00:15]:

Want to keep learning, check out the podcast Patreon, where I share a bonus episode with additional downloadable resources each week. You can go to Patreon.com forward slash Hormone Healing Rd or check out the.

Amanda Montalvo [00:00:27]:

Link in the show notes. All right, I have an amazing episode for you today. I’m doing the intro after just recorded it with Carrie. It was so good. I’m excited to share this with you. In this episode, I am interviewing Carrie Bennett, and she’s going to teach you about light, circadian rhythm, and specifically how these impact your hormones. We’re definitely looking at this from more of a hormonal lens, and if you do not know who Carrie Bennett is, I think you will probably be as obsessed with her after this as I am. She’s amazing.

Amanda Montalvo [00:00:59]:

She is a really great practitioner. Her story, I think, is a lot of women can relate to. She was a college athlete. She was definitely at the pinnacle of health, supposedly, which very similar to my story. And she started suffering from chronic joint issues and insomnia, which I feel like we kind of gets normalized. And then after her firstborn child, she started developing debilitating, stomach pain, adrenal fatigue, brain fog. She talks more about this in the episode, but it really brought her to a point in her health where she’s like, how can I fix this? And she does have a bachelor’s in Biology and a master’s in nutrition. She was a personal trainer, a massage therapist, so she was a body worker as well.

Amanda Montalvo [00:01:43]:

She has a very unique background that just brings everything together so beautifully. Breath coach. And she could not figure out the root of her issues. She did see some success, but she still was like, I’m still not feeling as good as I feel like I should. And meanwhile, she’s, like, working one on one with people, helping other people improve their health. And then she stumbled upon quantum biology, and now she is an online educator, clinician, and faculty member of the Quantum Biology Collective. Carrie’s mission is to teach her clients how to create a healing environment by applying quantum health strategies around light, water, electrons, and mitochondrial support. And given these tools, clients who have spent years trying to improve their health, just like Carrie did, finally experience powerful healing and lasting benefits.

Amanda Montalvo [00:02:29]:

She’s super passionate, and she’s a really great educator. Sometimes the topics are dense. When talking about circadian rhythm, we do get into hormones and stuff. I think that her analogies are easy to understand. You may have to listen to this episode twice. I tried to make this as simple and straightforward as possible, but it’s a big topic. But I feel like we deserve to understand this kind of information and I tried to summarize and reiterate things to keep it all simple, so hopefully that helps. Throughout the main areas that we covered, we talked about what circadian rhythm is and why it’s important for our health, especially our hormones.

Amanda Montalvo [00:03:06]:

We then get into how light exposure impacts our circadian rhythm. And then Carrie really digs into how can we optimize our circadian rhythm in the modern world, which was the big goal. There’s a lot of practical takeaways and things that I’m hoping you guys can all start doing during this episode. And then we talk about how light exposure and in the winter months, how we can support healthy light exposure and have a healthy circadian rhythm and how that can shift in the winter months and how it’s supposed to shift during that time. So I really hope you guys enjoy this one. As always, everything shared in this episode is for informational purposes only. I encourage you to do your own research, talk to your healthcare provider and figure out what’s best for you. But thank you for listening and I hope you enjoy the episode.

Amanda Montalvo [00:03:51]:

Welcome Carrie. Thank you so much for being here. I am incredibly excited to do this interview. It feels like when I interviewed Irene Lyon and I was know, kind of nervous and really excited leading up to it. I’m so inspired by your work. I think that you do a really good job at education, providing the science, but making it digestible, which can be incredibly challenging. So I’m thrilled to have you here today. Do you want to give people a little bit of your background and how you got into the light circadian rhythm stuff? Quantum biology.

Carrie Bennett [00:04:22]:

Yeah. And Amanda, I’m so excited to chat with you. Thank you for having me. And I’m really grateful because this stuff is life changing for me. So I’m really excited to share this with more know, like, I guess my journey is a very typical journey that one takes when they’re looking to heal their bodies, right? Something’s wrong. And whether you get a diagnosis or you just have a constellation of symptoms where you don’t feel great and you’re searching for answers, that was me, right? And I could slowly see it evolve, actually, from college onward, where my joints got deteriorated, I had really horrible bouts of insomnia. But I reached a point after my first child was born where I couldn’t eat anything without just massive stomach pains and horrible digestion. And then the fatigue would set in and I just would felt like I was kind of like walking through life where I was in a dark movie theater and my eyes could close at any time.

Carrie Bennett [00:05:16]:

But that’s tough, right? Because new mom. Well, and then I’m also dealing with a child who didn’t sleep either, like he wouldn’t sleep, so he had kind of an insomnia as well or was very challenging, let’s say, like the ones where you bounce them for 3 hours only to sleep for 20 to 40 minutes. And so there I am, up at night then too, like trying to search for answers. And so there’s a lot of things that I tried in order to support myself. I have a background as a personal trainer, I went to massage therapy school and in the midst of all this I also got a master’s degree in clinical nutrition. And so I felt like I was very well equipped to help myself, help my child. And I tried to implement all the things like the Elimination Diet, the Gut Health Protocol, appropriate movement and mindfulness and I felt a little better, but it wasn’t anything life shattering or shattering for me. And I thought to myself there has to be something even more fundamental and foundational regards to health than what I’m aware of right now.

Carrie Bennett [00:06:17]:

I just had this nagging feeling. And so one night as I was scrolling my phone trying to figure out why my child wasn’t sleeping and what was wrong with me and how to support us, I stumbled across a blog by a neurosurgeon named Jack Cruz who really started connecting dots about how light was impactful to know you. And I got to chat a little bit before we hit record. As we were talking. Yes, light was mentioned before in terms of fluorescent lights really aren’t necessarily you don’t feel great under fluorescent lighting or yeah, it’s important to get that morning light because it can help balance hormones but it was kind of glossed over. So I had heard about light, but no one had gone into light. The depth with which I had learned, starting with Dr. Cruz and then all of the amazing researchers I dove into Dr.

Carrie Bennett [00:07:07]:

Woonch other biophysicists who talked about light and things like water in our bodies. So I went down that rabbit hole, right, that’s called quantum biology. And I’ve never left. I am still deep in the hole because I started to apply things related to light and using light to support my body and my circadian rhythm and within three days I was myself again. Like three days. And that’s not a unique story, believe it or not. I’ve had many people who have contacted me and been like I couldn’t work or I was just walking through life in a fog. And then after three days of really implementing these things, I could tell there was a difference.

Carrie Bennett [00:07:45]:

I’ve gained my life back and so I knew it wasn’t just a random thing and that this needed to get brought to the masses. And so I’ve been really excited just to educate people and inform people about light and their light environment and this burgeoning field we call quantum biology and how that can be applied for health.

Amanda Montalvo [00:08:04]:

So awesome. And I can attest to the light thing. I shared this. I did like a pregnancy update and kind of compared my two pregnancies in an episode, which was fun, but a big shift. I made postpartum for sure, but then it kind of went away. Like, I got started with the life stuff because I wanted my daughter to have good circadian rhythm and I wanted her to sleep, and she did. She slept so much at night, and I was like, okay, that was a really good motivator when you have a newborn. But then I started working more and my light exposure went down, right? It’s just like trying to find a new routine.

Amanda Montalvo [00:08:39]:

We had a nanny for a little bit and so it was, like, totally changed up my routine. I didn’t even think about the light piece. I was not really thinking about it. And then we ended up conceding again. And I have a whole history with thyroid health hypothyroidism. That’s kind of my first main concern when I found out I was pregnant. And my labs looked good before, but then I started implementing more of the light stuff again because that was in June and that’s when I was starting to dig in to all this light stuff. I found you on some random podcast and I was like, oh, my gosh, Carrie Bennett, this is the information that it’s like, again, things I kind of knew.

Amanda Montalvo [00:09:18]:

But I’m like, this is really important. Why don’t I focus on this more? Why is this not a bigger thing for me? And so I made it one. And my thyroid labs, when I did them during my first trimester, better than they have looked in like seven to eight years. That’s amazing. And I’m not taking meds. I am doing a small dose of iodine, so I’m still nursing my other daughter. But I was like, oh, my gosh, I really think crazy intentional about the light. So I really think that that has had a big difference in this pregnancy.

Amanda Montalvo [00:09:52]:

And I feel really good. I did a lot of prep and stuff going into it on gut health because that was like an issue in my first pregnancy. But I really cannot be like, listen, everyone, I know that it can seem like it can be really difficult and challenging, and we’re going to talk about all that stuff and how you can. Carrie makes this very practical and we’re going to do A-Q-A for patreon, so we have a ton of great questions there, but we’re going to cover a lot in this episode and we’re going to teach you how to apply this to your life and make it realistic. You don’t have to spend hours outside if you can, cool. But you absolutely do not have to. But it really does make a difference. So I’m like, I have to share my kind of testament to that, too, because I can totally relate to everything you went through.

Carrie Bennett [00:10:35]:

Oh, that’s so cool. And yeah, it’s really inspirational, I think, for people to hear stories like that to be able to say, okay, all right, this is something I really want to try. It’s not something I’ve tried before. So maybe this can shift my health in that correction. I want to see it move. I love light. Where do you want to start with light? Where do you want to start?

Amanda Montalvo [00:10:49]:

Let’s talk about light exposure. It’s relation to what is circadian rhythm. Just tell people basically what is that? How does light impact that? And then why does this matter for our hormones? Why should we care if we have hormone concerns?

Carrie Bennett [00:11:05]:

Okay, yeah, that’s a perfect question. I love it. So I would say number one, we have built into our bodies something called a circadian rhythm, which just means that we’ve got a body clock that measures a 24 hours day. So it knows that there’s a period of daylight and it knows that there’s a period of darkness and it gets more specific than that. It knows that the day is starting and the day is getting to the midpoint and then that the day is ending. And the reason why that’s important is because I’ve got so many cells running literally 100,000 tasks every single second of every single day. And if I didn’t have something coordinating all of that, like a signal that was telling my body what to do when it would be utter chaos. And so that’s what my circadian rhythm is.

Carrie Bennett [00:11:54]:

It is the director of all the cells of my body, the organizer. I liken it to the conductor of a symphony or the air traffic control tower where, yes, the planes can arrive and land, but it might look or land and take off. It might look like a disaster though, like not an airport that I would want to fly out of. And so same thing with my body. I’ve got this control tower that tells time called my supra Kiasmotic nucleus, which you just think of that as a clock in your brain. And that clock in my brain communicates via vibration or oscillation. That’s a fast form of communication in the body. It signals hormones and it supports hormones, but it has instantaneous communication to every cell via a vibration.

Carrie Bennett [00:12:39]:

And that vibration then changes based on the time of day that my eyes perceive. And so how does that happen? Well, my eyes actually have in the backs of my eyes if I were like to cut the eyeball in half, you would see in the backs of the eyes these little sensors for light. And in particular, there’s a bunch of sensors for a specific color of light called blue light. And so we’ve all seen light split through a rainbow or through a prism. It’s like, yes, there is a chunk of that light coming from the sun that has the color blue. But that blue light coming from the sun is the perfect light to sense and tell time because that light varies very predictably by not being present during dawn, right during the early morning hours, there’s no blue light that’s being picked up by the sensors in the backs of my eyes to the sun rises over the horizon. And now blue light starts to appear to blue light, elevates its amount and intensity all day long until the sun reaches its high point in the sky at solar noon. And then it goes back down until after sunset when the sun crosses the horizon, no blue light is being picked up.

Carrie Bennett [00:13:49]:

So that’s how I can tell time. My eyes capture the varying amounts of blue light photons. Those blue light photons then, and those sensors have a direct pathway, fancy word retinal hypothalamic tract, a fancy pathway. But it’s a direct link from my eye to the clock in my brain. So that’s how I tell time. My eyes pick up the amount of blue light in my environment. They communicate that to the clock in my brain, which oscillates, and then my cells have a sensor for it. I’ve got clock genes and things like that that need to know the time in order to say, oh, run this program, shut that program down, make this protein, don’t make that protein.

Carrie Bennett [00:14:26]:

All of that comes into play based on the oscillations from the clock in my brain, including things like hormone release. And that’s, I think, where we want this discussion to go.

Amanda Montalvo [00:14:35]:

Yeah. And even it’s like I feel like people kind of know circadian rhythm. It’s like, okay, it’s a clock. And everything shifts in my body around that time, like even your gut bacteria. People think about detoxification. Yes, it happens a lot, primarily at nighttime.

Carrie Bennett [00:14:49]:


Amanda Montalvo [00:14:49]:

So all these shifts are happening and it’s because we’re getting that signal from the light in our environment. So that was beautiful. Hopefully people grasp that you might have to rewind and listen to it a few times. That’s typically what I do with podcasts with Carrie. I’m like, Wait, that was such a good analogy. I need to go back and listen again. Let’s talk about that. And we’re going to go into different how we’re getting that blue light in our eyes.

Amanda Montalvo [00:15:14]:

We have a lot of questions from the Q A going into like, okay, do I have to not wear glasses? All that sort of is this is why your eyes are so important. It’s not just our skin. It’s because the eyes are taking in that signal and communicating the rest of your body. So I just want to reiterate that. So let’s talk about the hormone signaling. So we’re getting this information, our body’s getting the information. What kind of hormones is it signaling? Especially when we first wake up, I.

Carrie Bennett [00:15:44]:

Think most of us have heard we get a cortisol surge in the morning or we have a cortisol awakening response, or we should. Right. And that was part of my issues, actually, with health, like adrenal fatigue, I had flatlined cortisol all day long. So this is a really keyed interest of me to go into and kind of test and see. And what happens is when the sun crosses the horizon and that blue light starts to get picked up by my eyes and talks to my brain, that clock in my brain has a very close connection to a part of my brain called the hypothalamus. And so literally, it’s right above the hypothalamus. So as soon as the day starts and that clock starts to oscillate, the hypothalamus wakes up and says, it’s morning. Let’s kick start some really key pathways in the morning, one of which is called the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, which is where the hypothalamus communicates to the pituitary gland, communicates to our adrenal glands to make cortisol.

Carrie Bennett [00:16:37]:

And so we get this beautiful cortisol search, but what most people don’t know is that it’s not cortisol that’s first influenced with that pathway in that pathway, and then also the pathway involving the reproductive organs as well. So the hypothalamic pituitary reproductive axis also gets signaled, and the mitochondria, which are just organelles that live inside of those cells, in those glands, they first make a master hormone at that time of day called pregnant alone. And if anyone has ever worked with hormones or hormone imbalances, you might have seen, like, pregnant alone is like, up here in terms of this cascade of all the different steroid hormones and sex hormones we have. And so that pregnant alone then is what becomes cortisol. It surges into cortisol in the morning, but then it gets ferried out to become a balanced amount of the other steroid hormones. So it becomes DHEA, it becomes estrogen, progesterone, testosterone. All of those steroid hormone pathways really get upregulated and balanced first thing in the morning. And so if we consistently miss that morning light signal, that pathway is underactive, that pathway gets down regulated or Dysregulated.

Carrie Bennett [00:17:51]:

And so we’re not making that pregnant alone. And so then all of a sudden, we’re trying to have energy and make cortisol. It’s not happening. We’re trying to get pregnant. It’s not happening because we’re lacking the light signaling to tell our body to do just that.

Amanda Montalvo [00:18:06]:

I love like and I know Carrie’s mentioning all the hormones and stuff, I wouldn’t even worry about that, but it’s like, it affects your sex hormones, it affects your stress hormones. And those are probably two of the topics that I get the most questions about. We like to isolate them, right? We love to. Oh, I have low cortisol, or I have high cortisol, I have low estrogen, highestrogen low progesterone, whatever it is, we like to isolate them. But I think this is a perfect light, is a beautiful example in circadian rhythm of how they really do all work together and they’re going to impact each other. Can you talk about thyroid health and how the light will impact that thyroid health, especially in the morning?

Carrie Bennett [00:18:44]:

Yeah. So that same hypothalamic pituitary communication those two pathways kick start a bunch of other pathways in the body. They’re called axes or paths. So that hypothalamic pituitary thyroid axis also gets kick started in the morning. And so you get the hypothalamus saying, okay, pituitary gland make TSH. The pituitary gland knocks on the thyroid gland and says, okay, let’s start making thyroid hormone. And so that happens in the morning as well, and gets optimized a little later in the morning. So while the pathway gets kick started with that kind of what I call sunrise eyes, it gets kickstarted, then it gets optimized a little later when the sun gets a little higher.

Carrie Bennett [00:19:28]:

When the sun reaches a little higher in the sky, you get UV light to appear. And that UV is a really important light signal, again, through the eyes because it starts to optimize the conversion of tyrosine into thyroid hormone. And so that’s where you get a really good thyroid support, is where you optimize what I call UVA rise in the morning. And I don’t know if you’ve played around with the circadian app at all, but yeah, maybe, yeah, that’s a great app that you can get where you can plug in your location and you can see these times that I’m talking about, like, when is sunrise? When is UVA rise, when is sunset? And you can start to say, oh, okay, let me get outside during some key windows, or Let me block light at certain times as well, the artificial light, in order to optimize and balance all of these systems.

Amanda Montalvo [00:20:15]:

And thyroid is such an interesting one too, especially when you think about how it gets produced throughout the day, because then it’s like, oh, when I get my blood work done, I just test it whenever. I always ask, what time of day did you get these test results done? It’s so important. It can have a huge impact on what your TSH level. People don’t realize it fluctuates throughout the day. It’s not just like one flat level that you have for six weeks straight until you get your labs retested. So I think that’s such a fun thing to kind of highlight and bring to life, like, oh, okay, so a lot of that’s happening in the morning, and we’ll go into more like UVA light and stuff. So we have this circadian rhythm, this clock in our brain. It is communicating via the light signals that it’s getting, and it’s leading to all these hormonal cascades, stress hormones, sex hormones, thyroid hormones.

Amanda Montalvo [00:21:07]:

It’s so important right now. Let’s bring it to our environment, which is where I think most people struggle, because most people, I think, are very removed from getting a lot of natural light exposure. And it’s just kind of become accepted and the norm. And I totally get it. I mean, I worked clinical positions for a very long time before I had my own business. And then you start your own business, and I feel like I was outside even less because you’re trying to figure out what the heck you’re doing, and you taking on way too many clients and all that stuff, the growing pains. So even then, it’s like it can be very challenging no matter what kind of job you work. But let’s talk about how the blue light in our environment so we’re talking about blue light from the sun that we’re getting, how that kicks off signals.

Amanda Montalvo [00:21:54]:

How does the blue light in our environment, especially, like, indoor impact, that circadian rhythm? Like, why should we care about know?

Carrie Bennett [00:22:02]:

Yes, that’s a great question, Amanda. And it’s because of the fact that that blue light because that blue light is such a timekeeper, right? And it’s always changing from sunrise to solar, noon to sunset. When we’re dealing with artificial light, whether it’s coming from bulbs or screens and devices, that light, it never changes. It has a very big what’s called blue amount, an intensity of blue coming from it. Like, I could take this fun little device called the spectrometer, and it’ll show me the blend of light coming from anything. And you point it at a screen, it’s like blue, a ton of blue. It basically signals that amount of blue signals our body that it’s the middle of the afternoon, and it never changes. So it’s kind of like being stuck in this time warp, right, where you’re just like, in this chaotic signaling where the brain’s like, okay, it’s still the middle of the afternoon.

Carrie Bennett [00:22:54]:

Okay, we just slept, but all of a sudden, it’s the middle of the afternoon. Oh, we’re going to bed, but I think it’s the middle of the afternoon. And so you can kind of understand what chaotic signaling can happen because of the intensity of that blue light. That never changes.

Amanda Montalvo [00:23:10]:

Thyroid health is essential for healthy hormones, digestion energy, and more. Our thyroid is so important because it sets the metabolic pace of our body, which controls how every single system functions. Whether you think you may have some thyroid dysfunction going on based on symptoms you may have or have a confirmed diagnosis, chances are you haven’t been given the best tools to address your thyroid health. I’ve been there. Thyroid is a big part of my health journey and something I’ve been optimizing for the last decade. I’m very passionate about this topic, which is why I created a free thyroid training that walks you through how to assess thyroid health. All the labs I do cover blood work and what the optimal ranges are. I just want to say that I think we have to look beyond blood work when it comes to assessing our thyroid health.

Amanda Montalvo [00:23:53]:

That’s why I also cover hair mineral testing, urine testing, and then basal body temperature, which is a measurement you can do at home to assess your thyroid health. I’ve had so many people reach out and say they can’t believe that this training is free. I promise you won’t be disappointed. I also cover nutrition tips for optimizing thyroid health. You can head to the link in the show Notes or to my website hormonehealingrd.com to watch the training. There’s just so much lacking when it comes to helpful info on thyroid health. So I’m really hoping that this training helps you and fills that gap.

Amanda Montalvo [00:24:29]:

Yeah, so if we think about ideally because we’re going to talk about how we can mitigate this blue light, right? How can we practically do this in our day to day life? But before we get there, what would be an optimal day of light exposure for the average person? And it doesn’t have to be like according to any schedule, job or anything, but it’s like what would be considered enough adequate in order to get your brain that signaling from the light and get matching up your body’s clock with the light outside?

Carrie Bennett [00:25:01]:

Sure, that’s a great question. So I always say it’s about consistency more than anything. So I would rather you do these small amounts that I’m talking about consistently most days than just on a Saturday. Get 2 hours outside first thing in the morning. Right. It doesn’t work as well that way, believe it or not. And so first and foremost, we’re going to have to block the artificial light when the sun isn’t out. So that means before sunrise or after sunset, you have to prevent those blue wavelengths coming from bulbs and screens from entering the eyes.

Carrie Bennett [00:25:33]:

And I do that with orange tone blue blockers. These are yellow, believe it or not, right. People are like, those are yellow, these are my daytime ones, but my nighttime ones are orange. And so lots of different options there. But you want to get a really good quality pair of orange tone blue blockers. You put them on first thing in the morning before you look at your cell phone or before you go to the bathroom and flip on the lights. So you protect your eyes and then you go about your morning, which for me looks like waking up, getting some water, getting the kids situated, going to the bathroom, packing lunches, making sure everyone has all their homework, all the things right.

Amanda Montalvo [00:26:08]:

Carrie’s a mom, if you guys didn’t know. She has three children.

Carrie Bennett [00:26:10]:

Yeah, I got three children so I get it. Right? I get have I wouldn’t even call it a luxury. I love being a mom, but I don’t spend 3 hours outside every morning or know all the well intentioned, lovely human beings who are like, well, I start my day off with an hour of meditation followed by a cold plunge.

Amanda Montalvo [00:26:25]:

Followed by I’m like, what is that like?

Carrie Bennett [00:26:29]:

Yeah, that’s good for you. I’m really happy that that is what works for you. I get it. Right. I get the busy life and so what that’s going to look like is blocking it. And then as soon as I’m driving my kids to. School, I take the orange show blue blockers off because it’s dangerous to drive with them on. Sometimes it’s not sunrise yet, okay? And that’s okay as soon as sunrise hits.

Carrie Bennett [00:26:51]:

And sometimes sunrise, it happens because I’ve got the sunroof open and the windows down, because windows will change the signaling. It’s not ideal, right? We want windows open if at all possible. So sometimes I’m driving and it’s sunrise time, or sometimes I get home or it’s in the summer, and even before the kids go to school, I can step outside. My goal is to get three to five minutes with naked eyes outside. I don’t have to sky gaze, I don’t have to stare at the sun. I don’t have to see the sun coming over the horizon. It can be cloudy, rainy, snowy, foggy. It doesn’t matter.

Carrie Bennett [00:27:25]:

I’m just outside and my eyes, because the moisture in my eyes actually helps to draw water or to draw the light in. And so that’s all I have to do is be outside for about three to five minutes at sunrise. And I tell people you have about a 20 minutes wiggle of time. Sunrise plus 20 minutes, right? Give yourself a little bit of leeway. But it is key if you’re new, to reestablishing your circadian rhythm and implementing these, it is important to get into that window of time consistently, if possible. And then typically, I’ll go inside and maybe I’ll do some work, computer work, which, you see, I mitigate with this, people don’t necessarily have to. And then at UVA rise, which is another window of time, 20 minutes is ideal. There is such magic that happens at UVA rise.

Carrie Bennett [00:28:10]:

And I don’t know if you’ve experienced any of that, but I just feel so good if I typically schedule about a 20 minutes walk then and then I’m back here, right? And I am I’m in front of a computer now. I try to take mini light breaks. So for me, right before we got on here, I ran upstairs, I peed, I went outside for literally 30 seconds and just got my body into the sun and went like this. And so those little things do matter because my brain will sync up to the signals and then picking my kids up from school in about an hour and a half, and I’ll be with windows down in the parking lot just getting those light signals again. And then around sunset, I also try to go outside to signal to my brain the blue light is gone. And when sunset hits, I’ll put the orange tone blue blockers back on. Middle of winter is a little bit more challenging if I’m like driving kids to and from practices and things like that. But ideally, as soon as I’m kind of home and settled, orange tone blue blockers go on, and they stay on for the rest of the night.

Carrie Bennett [00:29:05]:

And that prevents the blue light from entering my eyes to signal that the day has started again. Because that’s where hormone imbalances can also happen at that end of the day, because we’re designed to get this surge of hormones in the morning, and then all of a sudden, the brain is like, wow, it’s been a long day. I’m getting tired. And then you put on the TV or you look at your phone to try to unwind that shock of blue light starts another cortisol surge that starts another hormone surge. And that’s what keeps us kind of revved up. Or like the symptom that I had with adrenal fatigue was tired but wired. I’m physically exhausted, but mentally I can’t shut it down. And so that’s what happens.

Carrie Bennett [00:29:44]:

That’s why we want to block that artificial light there. And that’s why artificial light can be it’s really being tied to a lot of hormone imbalances these days because that’s what it does. That’s how it dysregulates our hormones. It surges them again as if it was a new day without ever having slept. I feel like if I can do that, the majority of people can. Right? It’s like block it with orange glasses when the sun’s not there. When the sun’s there, try to emphasize some good time outside in the morning. Check in with the sun periodically, call it good.

Carrie Bennett [00:30:18]:

And then throughout the summer, I do try to get some full body sun exposure because I think it’s important to also stimulate vitamin D and other things like that through the skin as well.

Amanda Montalvo [00:30:26]:

Yeah, and I love when you talk about it because you don’t have the ideal schedule. And it’s funny because I’ll talk to a lot of moms and they’re like, oh, I feel like I never get outside because I’m always like, doing stuff for the kids, doing stuff around the house. And I’m like, it has to become a part of culture in your family, in your home. And I just did an episode recorded yesterday with one of my good friends on how to build resiliency in motherhood, and it’s like a lot of it is creating a different culture in your home because we do set the tone of our house as moms and wives, spouses, whatever. I feel like we do have more control. It just takes making little tiny changes for me now that the time changed. It’s like now my daughter gets up super early. I used to do the sunrise by myself for a brief two month period when she started sleeping through the night.

Amanda Montalvo [00:31:21]:

But now it’s like we get up and I just quickly have to let the dogs out anyway, so we just stand out there. I do not put her down because I’ll never be able to get her back inside to make breakfast. But it’s like we stand outside. It’s not even always perfectly at sunrise, but it’s, like, close. It’s usually a little bit before, but it’s close enough. And it’s like, Take my glasses off. We’re getting it in the eyes. I want her to get it, too.

Amanda Montalvo [00:31:45]:

Although kids are much more resilient when it comes to that stuff and like, most things. And then we make breakfast. We eat breakfast outside, and that’s how I get more time, that light exposure. It’s usually like a little bit before, a little bit after sunrise. And that has been absolutely wonderful. I’m in Florida, so obviously we can do that this time of year. I understand a lot of people can’t, and I don’t think you have to. I think your rhythms and everything are going to shift with the seasons.

Carrie Bennett [00:32:13]:


Amanda Montalvo [00:32:13]:

And I think that’s good. Even so, that’s like how we get it in the morning. And then we typically show independent play, all work, and then we go for a walk and it’s UVA time, which UVA has absolutely been transformational, I feel like, especially for thyroid. And it’s one where it’s like she wants to go outside around that time anyway. So I’m like, all right, I’ll just work earlier and then we’ll go out. And then I spend the most time inside when she’s sleeping for her nap. So I do feel like I need a light break, though, after that two hour chunk, I’m like, Man, I really noticed the difference. And I used to go like six to 8 hours just hurled up in my office, getting like, zero light breaks.

Amanda Montalvo [00:32:56]:

But I just love that it can be 30 seconds. It can be just you sticking your head out the window or opening a window, even the screen is fine. You just don’t want the glass. It doesn’t have to be perfect. And some days you might find I had meetings back to back all day. I couldn’t get as much light today. That’s okay. It’s not about being perfect.

Amanda Montalvo [00:33:16]:

It’s just like, how can I consistently try to make this a part of my routine? And I think when people hear we’ll tell clients how it’s only like a few minutes in the morning, they’re like, that’s it. I’m like that’s it.

Carrie Bennett [00:33:29]:

That’s it.

Amanda Montalvo [00:33:29]:

We don’t need to be out there for 20 to 30 minutes. If you can, cool, but you absolutely don’t have to. And I think that brings a lot of relief. And that’s why I was like, I definitely want Carrie to share her day because I think most people will be like, that is doable and even blocking it and stuff. And you can do the glasses. I think that’s the easiest, personally, especially when you have other people in your house that are turning on lights and stuff. There’s only so much you can do. I mean, obviously you can get different light bulbs and things like that, but it’s like the glasses are very practical and no matter what environment you’re in, they can work.

Amanda Montalvo [00:34:05]:

So I think that’s an important and hopefully not super intimidating way to get started with this. You like the Viva rays, right?

Carrie Bennett [00:34:16]:

Yeah, I mean, I love the Viva Rays, but there’s other really awesome brands too, kind of tying into parenthood. And even just with my husband, I never forced blue blocking glasses on anybody in my family, right. I just modeled the behavior. And it’s so cool because my twelve year old son and my husband both reach for them at a certain time of night. They know that if they were watching football together or something like that, that it just feels too intense to their eyes if they don’t have the eye protection. So it’s really awesome, right? This is just modeling behavior. And then they’re starting to see, wow, actually that does feel good to me too. So frankly, for my husband and my kids, they love a brand off of Amazon called Spectra four Seven Nine.

Carrie Bennett [00:35:02]:

They’re like almost like little wraparound rec specs. They’re just very comfortable plastic. They’re not expensive. They bend and they move, and so they’re very reasonable to then we just have baby five pairs all throughout the house, and the kids will start to reach for them at a certain time of night. They know to put them on. And so even now, my seven year old is also starting to my four year old goes to bed typically before there’s any need to do that. Yeah, but you’re right, we can do bulbs and then you can mitigate screens with making screens redder and things like that. But I do find, like you said, kids are resilient.

Carrie Bennett [00:35:37]:

And there comes a certain time of the night where people, once they start to get a relationship with light, which sounds kind of corny, but you start to interact more with your light environment. There’s like this visceral response to what your body needs. Oh, I need time outside oversis. Oh, that is just too intense for me. I have to block that. And so it’s cool. It just naturally happens.

Amanda Montalvo [00:35:56]:

I was at my sister’s that we have like family visiting last night and all the cousins and stuff. Are there lots of babies and kids? And all of a sudden I could feel it. It’s like dark out. She has a lot of windows in her house, and then there’s all these lights still on and I’m like, God, I’m like, I feel weird. And then I find myself dimming and shutting lights off, because I was like, that’s what it is. Because in our house, it’s just me and my 18 month old right now. But when my husband’s home, he’s like the light police. So when I got into all this stuff, he’s like, this is great.

Amanda Montalvo [00:36:27]:

The light bill is going to be so low. That’s his concern. So he does not care about any of the benefits. He just thinks it’s great that I’m always turning all the lights off and stuff. We’ve always kind of been like that in my house growing up. My parents always did that, not even on purpose, but just like, okay, we want you guys to go to bed soon. So we’re going to start to make a calming environment because that blue light is stimulating, especially for kids. Let’s talk about sleep.

Amanda Montalvo [00:36:57]:

Let’s get a little bit of this in before. And we’ll talk about some tips for shift workers, too, because I know people are probably thinking that I cannot tell you how many people have trouble sleeping now. I mean, that’s probably one of the main concerns outside of hormones, fertility, gut health, usually. Sometimes it’s number one for people, but it’s always in there, in that intake form. I’m like, you don’t sleep well at all. And I feel like it’s become normalized in our society, and so many people think it’s to be expected as you get older. But how can getting natural light, especially in the morning, help with our sleep at nighttime?

Carrie Bennett [00:37:37]:

It’s a great way. No one ever thinks about it this way. But two things happen in the morning when we get that light signaling and we start basically that communication happening. That’s like the start of daytime, and our brain then recognize the brain metabolism revs up. And so we have a timing mechanism in our brain based on a chemical called adenosine that literally pretty much starts to build up from then until about 14 to 16 hours later. It needs to be elevated in the brain in order to help us fall asleep. So that’s one but then with that, that morning light, specifically that UVA light, we start to make serotonin, right? That UVA light is a very key pathway in which we take a breakdown product of melatonin. So we make melatonin when we sleep.

Carrie Bennett [00:38:20]:

That melatonin breaks down into an amino acid called tryptophan, and then that tryptophan, using the light energy from UV light, becomes serotonin. And that serotonin pool that we build with morning light will then become melatonin when we experience darkness. And so that’s a whole cycle, right? You go to sleep at night with your melatonin elevated, you break it down into this amino acid that makes you feel groggy, which is why people who don’t get that morning light tend to feel like are slow starters. That’s one of the questions on my questionnaire, right? Are you a slow starter in the morning? Well, if you’re a slow starter, maybe you’re not converting that tryptophan into serotonin efficiently. So then you’re designed to convert that tryptophan into serotonin. Feel pretty darn good, right? When that serotonin is balanced, that window of time also balances dopamine norepinephrine, which is great for focus and concentration, but that serotonin, then, like I said, you build up enough of it to become melatonin. The other part about that serotonin, which I think not a lot of people realize, but that serotonin also works on gut motility, right? So that’s our gut. We hear, oh, you make the majority of your serotonin in your gut.

Carrie Bennett [00:39:29]:

Yeah, you do. But the light signaling needs to happen through the eyes, right, that circadian signaling needs to happen. And so then it helps with bowel movements and that balances the gut microbiome and all the things, right? All of it’s connected to the light signaling. And so that serotonin is key because you make that melatonin at night, but you only turn it into melatonin at night if you block the artificial light. Because artificial light exposure will suppress melatonin 80% or more. So that’s why I think we’re seeing such an epidemic of all of these interrelated things, right? First and foremost, gut health infertility, but also a lot of anxiety and depression or neurochemical Dysregulation can happen as well. And a lot of it has a light signature, a light connection. And so if we’re not blocking the artificial light at night, we’re suppressing our melatonin.

Carrie Bennett [00:40:17]:

We’re elevating cortisol at that time of night. That actually drives anxiety. So I’ve had a lot of clients who are dealing with insomnia who also start to feel anxious or on edge at night. If we block that artificial light at night, the serotonin begins to get converted into melatonin. It not only puts us asleep, but then it runs some major repair programs. It’s a huge antioxidant. So it runs some major repair programs when we are asleep so that we basically wake up refreshed and feeling better so we can stay in a deep sleep. We can go into the deep phases of sleep where we are doing that deep tissue repair.

Carrie Bennett [00:40:51]:

And our body heals at night. It truly heals at night when we are asleep.

Amanda Montalvo [00:40:55]:

And melatonin is so important for fertility too. I’ve read some really cool research articles. I mean, obviously they’re like doing supplementation, but it’s like, why would we need to supplement? But I wanted to specifically cover that because I feel like a lot of times people be like, well, I do block light at night and I won’t use my phone at this many hours before bed and stuff and I’m still having trouble sleeping. And I’m like, but are you getting light in the morning is the question. Because again, it’s like helping to build it up because a lot of people think, oh yes, your pineal gland absolutely makes melatonin. Your gut is definitely going to affect melatonin, but light affects both of those. It has such a big impact and having a healthy circadian rhythm that’s huge for digestion and having good digestion, which once your digestion is compromised, your gut health cascades from there and it goes downhill. We only have time for one more.

Amanda Montalvo [00:41:48]:

And I’m trying to think, do I want to do shift workers? I feel like we should do winter because we’ll do shift workers for the Q and A because I know I have someone in there that is a shift worker that asked about it. Because when this comes out, it’s going to be December. So we’re full on winter. You’re in Michigan, right? Yeah. You’ve been in winter, right? It was like 50s this morning and I was like, oh, it’s chilly outside, but it’s like nice to feel cold for once. Let’s talk about do you have tips for winter? Because obviously light exposure is a lot easier in the summer months. Spring, there’s more light, there’s more opportunity. How do you get it in the morning time in the winter? Or how do you get it throughout the day and kind of balance that out?

Carrie Bennett [00:42:33]:

It’s still important, right? But here’s what I think people need to realize even more in the winter is that you have to honor the darkness because winter is a time of darkness, which means we can make more melatonin. We can repair a ton. So in the summer, less melatonin, more vitamin D, opportunities to be made in the winter. I can’t make any vitamin D where I live, but massive amounts of melatonin. And so if we can kind of just shift our brains into being like, maybe now is an okay time to turn down a late dinner party, right, or maybe kind of shift your routine, like friends and family know it has to be between breakfast and an early dinner. Basically if you want to hang out with me, like 07:00 at night, no way. I think we just have to recognize that it’s okay to be a little bit more tired in the winter and we have to look at it as an opportunity. So I’m just really more diligent about blocking artificial light at night in the winter and then also getting the light when I can.

Carrie Bennett [00:43:36]:

Because here is I used to have seasonal affective disorder, and I had this bright old light box on my desk and yeah, it kind of shocked me awake, right? And I did feel a little bit more energized, but it doesn’t feel anywhere near what it feels like to still go outside in morning time in the winter. You still just got to do it. And I don’t care if it’s gray, right? If it’s gray outside, it still is going to be 10,000 times brighter than it is in your interior environment. And not only do you get that bright signaling, which is what a light box does, that stimulates, dopamine and makes us feel better and more energized, but we also get the actual signals from the light, all of the colors from the light. Whereas this light box is just like this vicious amount of one type of light entering my eyes. I can get the same thing from nature. So just because it’s cold, just because it’s gray, we still have to go outside. And so if we can do that and still make sure we make that a priority in the winter, that is how seasonal affective disorder disappears.

Carrie Bennett [00:44:36]:

That’s how we actually get some really deep repair by maybe saying, okay, it’s okay to go to bed early if my schedule allows and my body feels the need to. And then that’s where it’s like, winter is an opportunity. I can still stay happy and energized when I get into the light, but I can also honor the fatigue that I might experience earlier in the evening as an opportunity.

Amanda Montalvo [00:44:57]:

Yeah, I feel like people talk about eating seasonally and the shifts of the seasons. I’m like, our lifestyle can shift with that as well. I mean, think about it. This time of year, it’s like, even when I had family visiting and stuff, I’m like, I want to slow down. I want to be more present. And our days definitely feel like, shorter somehow because the darkness and everything is starting to change. But it’s like, that’s okay. It’s okay to do less if you can and then just maybe you didn’t quite plan for it.

Amanda Montalvo [00:45:30]:

If you have kids and they’re in a bunch of things, maybe the next year you rethink that and you’re like, how did that serve us? How did it serve the kids? Is it something that we want to continue with or do we want to maybe load more things in the summertime, whatever that might be? But I just love to mention that I love when you talk about that because I’m like, it is so true. It could be a season of deep restoration, but a lot of times we just don’t like people. They’re like, I need vitamin D supplements or vitamin D light or something like that. And it’s like but do you is this the most appropriate thing for your body during this time of year? Or could it potentially be very confusing?

Carrie Bennett [00:46:08]:

Do we have time for me to say one thing? Now, we know that the research is showing that melatonin docks to the vitamin D receptor. So melatonin and the vitamin D receptor was misnamed. It was named vitamin D receptor when we only thought that one thing docked to it, meaning that the benefits of vitamin D are also achieved by melatonin. So we can get them both. But we try to live in perpetual summer all winter long. We elevate the temperature. We’re not aware of all the brightness of our light environment. And so if we can honor the winter and support melatonin levels in our bodies, we get the same benefits.

Amanda Montalvo [00:46:42]:

Yeah. And it’s okay to be cold. Just want to say that I know I live in the south, guys. I know. But I’m from Connecticut, so I spent my whole life being very spent. It didn’t matter. My mom had a home daycare. We were always mean.

Amanda Montalvo [00:46:57]:

It didn’t matter if it was like a ton of snow. We all had snowsuits. It’s like we lived outside growing up, and the time of year didn’t change that. And I know that that can be challenging with kids. There can be more of a mess. It can change things. But I think it’s so helpful to hear this perspective, and I hope that it shifts things for people, maybe gets you thinking a little differently and not so scared because I think there’s a lot of fear around vitamin D levels in the winter and illness and that sort of thing. And I’m like, I’d be way more concerned with that perpetual summer and having that have a negative effect on immune system function and stress in the body and inflammation versus trying to keep vitamin D levels within a certain range.

Amanda Montalvo [00:47:38]:

And I have heard you talk about vitamin D and Carrie, if you will come back on, you are going to come back on and we’re going to do a podcast on this because I get a lot of questions. I don’t love vitamin D. I think it can be appropriate in low doses in certain situations. But I’m like, no one understands vitamin D. And I’ve talked about how it’s more like a hormone and everything and it has cofactors and all that stuff, but then when you bring light into the picture, it’s like there’s even more guys. So I’ll have Carrie come back on and we’ll talk about vitamin D. That was a little teaser. That melatonin also binds to the vitamin D receptors.

Amanda Montalvo [00:48:14]:

Fascinating. We’re going to go record the Patreon Q A now. So we’ll cover the shift worker question there. We have a lot of great questions from listeners. So if you guys want to get access to the Patreon bonus episode, you can go to Patreon.com slash hormonehealingrd. But thank you, Carrie, for coming on the podcast. I appreciate you so much.

Carrie Bennett [00:48:34]:

Thanks for having me, Amanda. Yeah, let’s do this again.

Amanda Montalvo [00:48:38]:

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Are You Menstrual? Podcast. If you want to support my work, please leave a review and let me.

Amanda Montalvo [00:48:45]:

Know how you like the episode.

Amanda Montalvo [00:48:46]:

This lets me know what you guys want more of less of.

Amanda Montalvo [00:48:49]:

I read every single one and I appreciate them more than you know. If you want to keep learning, you can get access to the bonus episode.

Amanda Montalvo [00:48:56]:

And additional resources on Patreon.com hormonehealingrd. I’d love to have you in there. Thanks again and I will see you.

Amanda Montalvo [00:49:03]:

In the next episode.

Amanda Montalvo

Amanda Montalvo is a women's health dietitian who helps women find the root cause of hormone imbalances and regain healthy menstrual cycles.

Master Your Minerals

Created by
Hormone Healing RD