Do not underestimate the power of hormones. They affect people in so many different ways, and are crucial to good moods and a healthy body. Hormone imbalances are epidemic these days.
While there are many things that can contribute to an imbalance in our sex hormones, the good news is that many women can fix these imbalances without resorting to medications.
You might never know this from conventional medicine, which seems to subscribe to the idea that women are destined to suffer throughout their reproductive life. Women suffer from mood and behavior swings resulting from the three Ps: puberty ,premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and peri-menopause (the years leading up to and just after their final period), and/or the three Ms: menstrual cramps, menopause and mental anxiety! Oh the fun we have!
To help women balance their hormones I follow the 5 R's Functional Medicine Approach to Balancing Female Hormones
For women to feel good and balanced, we need the right ratio of oestrogen to progesterone (two key female hormones). If this ratio goes off balance, what can we do about it? In nutritional medicine, a nutritional therapist may adopt a functional medicine approach to bring oestrogen and progesterone back to a healthy ratio by using the principles of the 5 R'S . The following explains how you can begin to do this yourself.
Oestrogen is a naturally produced female hormone that has many essential functions in the body. But when levels get too high, especially in relation to progesterone, this may cause various problems, from irregular menstrual cycles and mood swings to more serious conditions like endometriosis.
To balance oestrogen levels, we first need to take away anything that may be contributing to an excess. Chemicals are the first culprit, such as those found in plastics and cleaning products, as well as in non-organic meat and pesticide-sprayed vegetables. Some of these chemicals are termed ‘xenoestrogens’ – substances that actually imitate the effects of the body’s own oestrogen, disrupting natural hormone levels. Choose natural household cleaners instead, avoid plastic food packaging where possible, and choose organic foods. Avoid tap water too, as it can also contain traces of hormones and chemicals – drink mineral water or filtered water instead.
The health of your digestive system and liver also affects your oestrogen levels. Sugary foods and yeast in your diet can feed ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut, which in turn can have a negative impact on the liver and one of the processes it uses to detoxify oestrogens from the body, called glucuronidation. Also watch your tea, coffee and alcohol intake, which can have a similar effect on the gut and liver – either cut down or cut out (but in the case of coffee and tea, only do this very slowly to avoid caffeine withdrawal effects). You might want to consider using Caprylic Acid, which very gently works on reducing and inhibiting the growth of non-beneficial bacteria.
Replace the bad with the good! Foods that can help to balance oestrogen levels include the brassica vegetables (broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens and cabbage) – aim for two servings every day, and vary your choices. Have a green smoothie each day to boost your vitamin B6 levels. Eat lots of healthy protein-rich foods including beans, lentils, fish and organic meat and eggs – the liver needs plenty of amino acids (from protein) such as glutathione and methionine to effectively detoxify unwanted oestrogens. And eat vitamin C-rich foods such as berries and kiwi fruit: vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and supports the first phase of liver detoxification.
Excellent supplements to support this stage include Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C. Daily Power Pack for Women has been formulated with 20 essential vitamins and minerals you need to support the body’s critical processes. Botanicals, probiotics and enzymes, plus bone health and antioxidant formulas which will support female hormone balancing.
Having gone through the process of reducing sugary foods and yeast in your diet and tackling the ‘bad’ bacteria, we now need to think about putting back some ‘good’ bacteria. The beneficial gut flora have many roles, including helping to break down food for absorption, and reducing the growth of any harmful bacteria. Using a probiotic without added FOS and with the correct strains and strengths of beneficial bacteria such as Digestion Plus can effectively encourage good bacterial balance and in turn, support healthy oestrogen levels.
At this stage, keep eating lots of brassica vegetables, and dark green vegetables in general to keep your vitamin B6 levels up. Essential fatty acids are also vital to make the right hormones in our body, including progesterone, so eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or sardines twice a week can be helpful. If you don’t fancy eating this much oily fish, take a daily Omega 3.
Excess oestrogens (that women manufacture themselves or those from the external world around us, i.e. xenoestrogens) need to make a sharp exit from the body. This cannot happen effectively if we don’t have a liver that runs like a well-oiled machine. Get your liver kick-started with a well formulated liver complex such as Wild Nutrition’s Total Cleanse Complex. We also need to protect the body against free radicals produced during the detoxification process, so as well as vitamin C, you can take an antioxidant formula for extra support. Lastly, regular bowel movements (one to two good bowel movements a day) are necessary to ensure those old oestrogens are finally moved out of the body. For this purpose, increase your fibre and water intake and your essential fats.
We could all do with loving ourselves a bit more – so many of us work too much, don’t get enough sleep and generally feel strung out. Personal emotional experiences can also cause ups and downs. Our adrenal glands and nervous system can suffer at this time, and the adrenals release lots of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol interferes with the natural production of progesterone, further impacting the delicate balance of oestrogen and progesterone.
The mineral magnesium is vital for supporting the adrenal glands and reducing unwanted rises in cortisol, as well as for keeping us calm and ensuring good sleep. Magnesium-rich foods include green vegetables, nuts and seeds; you can also take a gentle magnesium supplement to top up your levels. B vitamins are also essential for adrenal and cortisol balance, so make sure you are eating plenty of vegetables, whole grains, eggs and some good quality meat. Be nice to yourself: go to bed early, relax more, laugh, go for countryside walks and stop checking your emails late at night!
If you'd like more information about balancing your hormones, some advice about the recommended supplements or would be interested in booking a nutrition consultation please contact me on: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone me: 07833 348623
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!