THE WORLD OF HORMONE IMBALANCES
Do you ever suffer from mood swings or low energy particularly around your menstrual cycle? Or have you perhaps passed the age of 40 and all of a sudden you have started to suffer from night sweats, hot flushes and weight gain around your middle? These are all symptoms that potentially indicate hormonal imbalances.
Hormone issues can affect women of any age from puberty and onwards however, it is often menopause and the time leading up to menopause, i.e. peri-menopause that tend to be more difficult to manage. This is often between the ages of 40 and 55.
There are many ways is which Nutritional Therapy and Functional Medicine can be used in addressing hormonal imbalances on a biochemical level however, there are also simple initial steps that you can take yourself to address some of the underlying causes.
1. Stabilise Blood Sugar Levels
Blood sugar imbalances for instance can increase insulin levels, this can lead to low-grade inflammation and issues with reproductive hormone imbalances. This issue is very common in all forms of PMS and plays a main feature in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is also strongly linked to insulin resistance and high testosterone levels. To improve blood sugar imbalance, ditch processed foods, particularly refined foods such as bread, pasta, cakes, keep intake of sugary foods down and replace them with plenty of non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber, courgette, tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, sprouts, fresh herbs and mushrooms. The fibre in these foods help slow down the uptake of sugar into the blood. Consume starchy foods such as potatoes, butternut squash, brown rice and quinoa in smaller amounts. The idea here is to eat the rainbow! Aim to eat something green, yellow, red, orange, white, blue / purple every day, this will enable you to consume a goof amount of fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all important for hormonal health.
2. Consume Protein
Also make sure that you consume protein with every single meal and snack you have. With this I mean animal protein such as fish, egg, chicken, seafood or red meat or plant based proteins such as beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seed, the choice is yours.
3. Consider Your Intake of Alcohol and Caffeine
Alcohol and caffeine can adversely affect your sleep which has a negative knock on effect on hormones so if you are suffering from any hormonal imbalance symptoms you should consider your intake.
4. Be Mindful of Endocrine Disruptors
Certain chemicals in our environment act as endocrine disruptors, i.e. they can alter the normal functioning of our hormones. Xenoestrogens are a sub-category of these endocrine disruptors and by mimicking the effect of our natural oestrogen they can block and bind our hormone receptors and thereby increasing our own oestrogen levels potentially leading to oestrogen dominance. Build-up of xenoestrogens have been indicated in many conditions including breast, prostate and testicular cancer, obesity, infertility, endometriosis, early onset puberty, miscarriages and diabetes.
As it happens we are subjected to these xenoestrogens in the environment, man-made products and foods on a daily basis however, by being more aware you can reduce the amount that you are subjected to. For instance consider using skincare products free of parabens, phthalates, sodium lauryl and more. Avoid wrapping foods in plastic and instead store and even cook foods in glass containers and dishes. Also avoid using aluminium for cooking and wrapping foods.
By choosing organic as much as availability and budget allows you can reduce intake of pesticides and herbicides which are both xenoestrogens. It may be useful to know for plants, if they have thick skin which you can peel off such as bananas, pineapple, papaya, avocado, there is less need for going organic. If you cannot find and / or afford organic plants, then either peeling them or cleaning them properly can help to at least reduce the amount of toxins you are subjected to. You can either get a vegetable cleaning liquid from a health store or use a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a bucket of water. However, if you are dealing with more fragile plants such as leafy greens and berries, which are rather difficult to clean, then I would recommend going organic wherever, availability and affordability is present.
5. Love Your Liver
The liver is the organ that breaks up excess hormones before they are eliminated through the digestive system. For this reason it is important to make sure you have a bowel movement at least once a day and that you supply your liver with the nutrients it needs to function properly. You will find many of these nutrients in leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables in particular however, also in most other plants, herbs and spices.
6. Poop Every Day
If you for some reason is suffering from constipation, consider the amount of fluid that you consume, bearing in mind that coffee, normal tea, soft drinks and alcohol are all dehydrating. Make sure to consume at least 2 litres of fluid per day, more if you do vigorous exercise as well as plenty of fibre in the form of vegetables in particular.
7. Reduce Stressors in Your Life
The final major factor that has an influence on hormone health is stress. When we are stressed the body is pushed to favour stress hormone production at the expense of progesterone. This can then lead to a relative oestrogen dominance with subsequent trouble sleeping, heavier and more painful periods, breast tenderness and inability to deal with stress. Making sure you take time out for yourself whatever that means to you, perhaps it is doing 5 minutes of guided meditation per day, prioritising weekly yoga classes or even relaxing in a tub of Epsom bath salts at the end of a busy day. Find what works for you and when you do find it, stick with it!
8. Seek Further Advice
Implement the above steps for a month or two, if you still have issues after that, you may benefit from seeing me to investigate and deal with other potential underlying causes.