This is Part Three of my Wellness Series featured on Glass House Journal. The article shares my top nutrition and lifestyle tips for re-balancing your hormones or hormonal management.
Our hormones have the power to make us feel amazing or to wreck havoc in our lives. All too often I see the latter having its effect in my client’s lives; they feel exhausted, their moods and emotions are like a roller-coaster, and they often experience terrible PMS leading up to menstruation. Let this be music to your ears - it doesn’t have to be like this! By balancing our oestrogen, progesterone, and cortisol levels we can experience increased peace, greater energy, reduced period pain, and enhanced wellbeing!
Oestrogen and progesterone are our female sex hormones. They are both produced in the ovaries but with slightly different purposes in mind. Oestrogen’s role is primarily associated with reproduction, heart health, and bone growth. Progesterone also plays a role in reproduction, as well as balancing our moods (anti-anxiety and antidepressant), burning fat, and removing excess fluid form the body. Cortisol on the other hand is secreted from the adrenal glands and is released in response to stress. In small amounts it is extremely helpful for metabolism and weight management. As you can see, in the right doses, our hormones exist to serve us, not to harm us. After the body has used these hormones effectively, the liver works to break them down into non-harmful substances to be eliminated from the body.
However, when our hormones are unbalanced we can experience an array of symptoms - excess abdominal fat, anxiety, PMS, tender breasts, fluid retention, unstable blood sugar, bloating, and an inability to lose weight. Recognise any of these? Very often these symptoms are a result of oestrogen dominance; where oestrogen levels are too high or progesterone levels are too low. On the other hand, excess weight and fatigue can be symptoms experienced by those whose adrenal glands release too much cortisol, which occurs during extended periods of stress.
Depending on which symptoms my clients present with, they are quickly put on a Nutrition and Lifestyle Plan to help effectively balance their hormone levels. Here are four key areas to keep in mind when trying to balance hormones:
Vegetables are fabulous at supporting oestrogen reduction. Cruciferous vegetables - that delicious cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and cabbage family – contain indole-3-carbinol that helps to reduce the oestrogen load in the body. Citrus fruits contain d-Limonene, which also aids oestrogen detoxification, and green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, chard, silver beet, and herbs contain oestrogen-detoxification promoting nutrients. Our bodies love to consume vegetables at every meal.
Ground flaxseeds bind to oestrogen in the digestive tract and remove oestrogen from the body. I tend to sprinkle ground flaxseed over salads or add a tablespoon to my smoothies at breakfast. Also, by drinking 2 – 3 cups of dandelion tea each day you will help to clear oestrogen from the body by supporting the liver.
The liver plays a central role in maintaining hormonal balance as it manages our detoxification pathways, which essentially work to eliminate harmful substances from the body. When the liver becomes clogged it has a difficult time getting rid of these harmful substances, and in particular oestrogen. Oestrogen then builds up and is recycled back into the body causing oestrogen dominance. We can support liver detoxification processes by eliminating refined and processed carbohydrates and foods, excess alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and managing environmental factors. B-vitamins aid liver detoxification and they also help to support the adrenal glands during times of stress. Another reason to limit caffeine is because it stimulates the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol, which as we know can increase fatigue and leads to excess body fat.
Excess Body Fat
Not only does oestrogen increase body fat, but body fat also produces more oestrogen. I find with clients who want to lose weight but struggle with oestrogen dominance, that getting diet right – eliminating alcohol, take away foods, processed and refined foods, sugar, and increasing their consumption of wholefoods with plenty of vegetables – is the best treatment for this conundrum. Once the diet is corrected and the liver has had some cleansing, the body is usually more able to use its fat stores for energy, and therefore burn body fat.
Oestrogen is found is the strangest places. London’s water is one of the most highly concentrated liquids of oestrogen in the world. Drink filtered water whenever you can. Plastic drink bottles and kitchen storage containers often contain BPA, which has the same effect as oestrogen on the body. Find a BPA-free bottle and store food in glass. Xeno-oestrogens are chemicals found in pesticides that coat inorganic vegetables. It is best to wash inorganic vegetables in water and vinegar to get rid of pesticides.Improving digestion can help the liver to breakdown oestrogen to be excreted from the body. My top three tips to improve digestion include; chew every mouthful well before swallowing, correct the pH level of the stomach by drinking 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before consumption, and avoid water during meals as this dilutes our stomach acid making it difficult for food to be broken down. For client’s who experience food siting in their stomachs after eating, if they follow these three simple tips they notice a dramatic change to digestion, and therefore their hormone health.
Sleep is the time for our bodies to produce hormones, which is why getting enough quality sleep promotes healthy hormones. See more on sleep here.
Reducing stress has a significant impact on reducing the amount of cortisol present in the blood, helping to manage hormone levels. A recent client of mine found that by implementing mindfulness practices like walking and yoga into her week, her experience of stress and anxiety decreased. Read more about mindfulness in my guide to tackling anxiety. Exercise can also reduce stress and help eliminate excess oestrogen as breathing and sweating are both methods of detoxification.
Recently a wonderful woman who had been seeing me for a couple months arrived at our consult looking fresh, happy, and beautifully energised. She then proceeded to tell me how she had been mindful of these four areas over the last month and was feeling like a new woman. For some people, balancing their hormones can be the key to claiming back their health and wellbeing, which essentially leads to a flourishing life.
Feed, nourish, value yourself.