Do your hormones feel out of balance?
We’ve all been there sometimes – feeling moody or upset for no obvious reason, craving sweet or salty foods, feeling like we’ve put on some weight, getting spot breakouts, headaches, breast tenderness…the list goes on. Whether it’s pre-menstrual syndrome that starts a week or so before your period is due or hormonal changes due to the menopause, when our hormones start to get out of balance it can make us feel awful. Hormonal imbalances can also drive conditions like endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome, so if we can start to address the imbalances, we can start to get these conditions back in control.
The good news is that there is a lot we can do through diet and lifestyle changes to help get our hormones back in balance.
Here are a few tips to help you start to feel more like yourself and reduce the hormone imbalance:
- Eat more cruciferous vegetables – cruciferous vegetables really are your best friend in terms of helping to manage hormone imbalances. A compound within cruciferous vegetables helps the liver to break down hormones and so clear them out of the body. They are particularly good for balancing oestrogen dominant symptoms like PMS and conditions like endometriosis. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, watercress and rocket. Try to get these vegetables into your daily diet. You can try them in soups, smoothies, salads, stir fries and stews. Have a look on my website for some recipe ideas about how to use them.
- Keep your gut healthy – once we’ve broken down used hormones, they then go to our intestines ready to be excreted out of the body. But if we are not having daily bowel movements, there is a risk that these used hormones can get re-absorbed and re-used by the body. See my previous blog to find out more about the link between gut health and hormone health. Keep your gut moving by making sure you are well hydrated and eating plenty of fibre.
- Reduce your sugar intake – foods high in sugar or white carbohydrates like cakes, biscuits and crisps can spike your blood sugar levels, only for them to quickly fall again once the food is broken down. This makes us keep wanting more of those foods to get our blood sugar levels back up again. But these swings in blood sugar can actually make hormonal imbalances worse – read my blog on blood sugar balance to find out more. These are the very foods we crave when we have PMS, but changing to protein rich snacks like nuts and seeds can actually get our blood sugar levels more balanced and in turn help balance our hormones. Try my energy ball recipe for a sweet tasting but more protein based snack.
- Eat more phytoestrogen rich foods – these are compounds found in plants that help regulate our oestrogen levels. When oestrogen levels are low, for example during the menopause transition, they can lock onto our cell oestrogen receptors to give them some oestrogen. When oestrogen levels are high, for example when we have PMS symptoms or endometriosis, they can lock onto the cell oestrogen receptors and give them a much lower plant based source of oestrogen than they would get if our own natural oestrogen locked into the cell, and so help to lower oestrogen levels. Good sources of phytoestrogens are flaxseeds, chickpeas, lentils and beans.
- Watch your stress levels – when we are feeling stressed we pump out the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is our dominant hormone and when this is high, it can unbalance levels of sex hormones and put is in a position of oestrogen dominance – which causes PMS and endometriosis. Read more about this in my blog on stress. Try to manage your stress levels by building something relaxing into each day, for example, having a soak in the bath, a walk in nature or doing some yoga or breathing exercises.
- Reduce exposure to xenoestrogens – these are external chemicals that can mimic and disrupt our natural hormones. They are numerous different types, but key ones to look out for are parabens and phthalates found in cosmetics and toiletries which can be absorbed through the skin. Try to use natural products instead. Another offender is BPA which can be found in plastic water bottles, so aim for metal or glass where possible.
Hopefully that will give you a few things to try, but if you are struggling with your hormones and would like some help in putting a personalized plan to get them back on track, then do book a free 30 minute hormone health review to find out how nutritional therapy may be able to help you.