I've always been interested in how food affects the body and the mind. We often hear it said that 'we are what we eat' but I believe 'we are also what we digest and absorb'. Nutrition provides the raw materials for the many hormones that we produce to help the body to operate effectively and maintain good health.
In my work as a Nutritional Therapist, Joyful Eating Coach and Reiki Therapist, my inspiration is to support women to achieve balance in their lives, helping them to experience vitality and ultimate energy. Balancing hormones is the key way to find equilibrium and boost our energy levels, that way we can really transform our health, emotionally and physically.
I've been though most of the life stages of hormonal highs and lows myself! From puberty to chronic PMS, two pregnancies and now riding the waves of the next stage of life! And my experience personally and professionally has helped me to support many clients through their hormonal ups and downs!
What are hormones and what do they do for us?
Oestrogen comes from the Greek word meaning 'to produce desire or madness' hence the importance to balance your hormones!!!
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel around and enter cells to transmit information (like a lock and key). They have the power to change how we look, how we feel and affect our long term health.
There are safe and natural ways to keep your hormones in balance during the menstrual cycle and menopause. This is because hormones are made from food and the body's ability to keep them in balance depends upon key nutrients such as vitamin B6, zinc, magnesium and essential fats. There are also hormone friendly herbs.
There are many hormones but the main ones I'll look at are the following:
- estrogen and progesterone (sex hormones)
- insulin (blood sugar hormone )
- thyroxin, calcitonin (thyroid hormones)
- adrenalin, cortisol, DHEA (stress hormones)
How hormones interact with each other
Some are made from the same raw materials e.g. if demand for stress hormones is high, female hormones may be low. Excess oestrogen or adrenal fatigue depresses thyroid function.
Certain nutrients are required for the production of different hormones, so a healthy varied diet is key. And how well you digest, absorb and detoxify is important too (eliminating oestrogens rather than re-circulating).
Gender bending chemicals
There are a vast array of chemicals around us that mimic female hormones. These are found in the contraceptive pill, HRT and other hormone drugs and these make oestrogen dominant and cause many hormonal symptoms. There are other 'xeno' (meaning outside) oestrogens such as pesticides, industrial compounds, detergents, cosmetics, bathroom products and animal fats.
You can see with all of the above factors, how easy it is to become oestrogen dominant - conditions may occur like polycystic ovaries (PCOS), pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), cancer, depression, osteoporosis etc.
How can we re-balance our hormones?:
Limit exposure to disruptors:
- Foods with pesticides - choose organic where possible
- Reduce animal fatty foods
- Use glass, ceramic, paper or non-pvc packaging instead of plastic containers (avoid heating food in plastic containers or wrapping foods containing fats in cling film
- Avoid synthetic hormones
- Choose eco friendly household and garden products instead of bleached cleaning products
- Choose bottled/filtered water over tap water
What can we eat to balance hormones?
- Eat phytoestrogens which help to block the effect of excess oestrogen and regulate hormone balance according to need. Examples are: soya (miso, tempeh, tofu); beans and pulses, nuts and seeds, wholegrains, herbs and spices (cinnamon, sage, garlic); fruit (apples, plums, cherries, grapes); vegetables (broccoli, carrots, rhubarb, celery); sprouts (alfalfa, mung).
- Eat essential fats: oily fish, nuts and seeds and their oils
- include fibre rich foods (removes estrogens)
- increase cruciferous vegetables
- Eat a low GL diet to balance your blood sugar (you'll get support for this on my Joyful Eating Programme)
- Limit caffeine and alcohol
- If you eat meat or dairy, choose organic
- Supplements: take a mulitivitamin and mineral, extra omega oils and evening primrose oil, milk thistle (to help cleanse the liver) and probiotics. I can plan your supplements specific to your needs. Do a twice yearly liver cleanse (see my Refresh and Reboot programme)
Specific Advice for PMS:
PMS affects 80% of women. Most of the symptoms are associated with high levels of oestrogen and low levels of progesterone prior to menstruation and lasting anything from one day to two weeks. Typical symptoms are: mood swings, water retention, breast tenderness, bloating, irritability, weight gain, anxiety, irregular cycles, weepiness, aggression, insomnia, change in sex drive, back pain or skin eruptions.
In addition to general advice above for balanced hormones:
- Address food intolerances
- Take regular exercise
- Find ways to reduce stress
- Increase foods rich in magnesium (green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds)
- Keep well hydrated
- Supplements: evening primrose oil, vitamin B6
Specific guidance for menopause:
Menopause is a gradual transition, giving the body time to adapt. This period is known as the pre and peri menopause and it can last a number of years. During the menopause oestrogen drops by 40% of previous levels so for once it's good to have an extra 1/2 stone of body fat as oestrogen will be stored in the fat cells! Oestrogen is also produced by the adrenal glands. Progesterone falls to 1 %.
Symptoms: hot flushes, depression, weight gain, migraines, joint pain, decreased libido, memory loss, vaginal dryness. There is increased risk of osteoporosis and heart attack.
As well as general advice for balanced hormones:
- Avoid or reduce salt - replace with sea salt
- Stop smoking
- Herbs: black cohosh, red clover, hops, dong quai, st johns wort, agnus castus
- Avoid carbonated drinks and too much protein (takes calcium from bones)
- Find ways to reduce stress hormones (cortisol)
- Adopt regular weight bearing exercise
- Choose chamomile,sage or lime blossom tea
- Practice yoga for improved flexibility, mental health and better sleep
By addressing the above, along with a low sugar, nutrient dense diet, all hormones will be more balanced. There are specific nutrients needed for the adrenal glands which control stress (vitamin C, magnesium and B vitamins) and thyroid (selenium, tyrosine, glandulars etc).
So overall by adopting the above, you may find that your hormonal symptoms really even out and you can breeze through each stage! Good luck!
To help you get started on the path to good health, I have 2 New Offers this month:
My offers for August:
- 15% off a Joyful Eating 4-session programme (15% off £320 for 4 coaching sessions: face to face for the 1st and 4th session; other sessions by phone or videoconference plus access to your online food diary and my weekly review). Get some good habits into gear in time for September!
- a one hour reiki therapy session for £65, normal price £75)