More and more women are recognising that just putting up with the symptoms or going on HRT are not the only options when it comes to hormonal changes and that a perimenopause diet could be the answer to managing the symptoms.
But there is so much advice out there and articles telling you about different diets you should follow that you can get totally overwhelmed by all the information. The good news is that I’m going to break it down for you into 10 simple steps so you can get started and feel confident you are making the right changes for where you are currently.
Here are the 10 steps I take with my clients when changing their diet to manage the symptoms of the perimenopause.
- Cut back on sugar
When we eat sugary foods it spikes our blood sugars and triggers the hormones Insulin to kick in to bring them back down. This affects our ability to lose weight, causes low energy levels and can make you grumpy and unfocused. It also affects how our bodies produce oestrogen and as levels are declining anyway, this can make symptoms worse.
- Increase healthy fats
Our bodies need fat. Yet for so many years the diet industry has been making fat the enemy and loading the supermarket shelves with low fat and fat free products. Of course there are some fats I would recommend avoiding but the healthy essential fats that support our cells and help promote the production of our hormones have also been demonised. Getting more essential fatty acids such as avocado, coconut oil, nuts and seeds can be really beneficial for hormonal balance.
- Eat more fibre
Fibre helps to keep our blood sugars stable by slowing down the release of Insulin into our bloodstream and is also important for helping our bodies to eliminate waste through our digestive system. Toxins and excess hormones bind themselves to the waste to excrete them from our bodies. When this doesn’t happen they will circulate round our bodies causing hormonal havoc.
- Reduce your caffeine intake
Never a popular one! We Brits love our coffee but when it comes to our hormonal health caffeine can seriously disrupt your endocrine system. When we drink coffee our body will focus on dealing with that over doing all the jobs its meant to be doing. It makes you crave carbs and sugar (see point one) and depletes your body of nutrients that are essential for optimal hormone balance. Start by swapping out for some alternatives such as green tea, herbal teas and plenty of water.
- Cycle those seeds
No I’m not going mad. Seeds are really beneficial for hormone balance but did you know that different types are better for certain times in your menstrual cycle? If you are still having regular periods, try consuming 1 tbsp of raw flaxseeds and 1 tbsp of pumpkin seeds during the first 14 days of your cycle (day one being the first day of your period) to help boost your oestrogen levels during the ovulation phase. Then day 15-18 balance out your progesterone by consuming 1 tbsp of sesame seeds and 1 tbsp of sunflower seeds daily. Cycling these seeds helps your body to naturally produce more oestrogen and progesterone in sync with your body. If your periods are irregular (or non-existent) don’t worry you can still do this and cycle the seeds starting on any day and rotating every 14 days.
- Boost those Vitamin D levels
This essential vitamin can’t be made in the body so we need to get it through other sources. It’s so important to have good levels of Vitamin D as it impacts your sex hormones; particularly oestrogen and testosterone, as well as your mood. You can get it through eggs, wild salmon and fortified dairy free milks but the best source is the sunshine, which is why it’s nickname is the sunshine vitamin! Aim to get 15-30 minutes daily in direct sunlight (with bare arms or legs to soak up those rays) and remember to apply sunscreen AFTER as it won’t absorb if you have it on already. Of course if this isn’t possible, and let’s face it sun can be lacking in this country especially during the winter months, then a Vitamin D spray can help to boost levels.
- Have protein with every meal and snack
When you eat protein it provides your body with amino acids which are the raw material to make and balance your hormones. Not getting enough protein not only means our body doesn’t manufacture hormones at the levels it needs but also leads to premature ageing (not just our looks but eggs and health too) so it’s essential to make sure you are getting plenty in your diet. Good sources include meat, fish and eggs as well as vegetarian sources from pulses and lentils, nuts and seeds, avocado and spirulina.
- Raise magnesium levels
Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquilliser’ due to it’s calming properties and let’s face it, we definitely need those during the perimenopausal years. Low mood, depression and anxiety along with extreme mood skins and irrational rage are all very common complaints of women during this time and they can have a major effect on your daily life. Magnesium is also really important for the production of energy and promoting good sleep patterns which again are common symptoms of the perimenopause. Magnesium is one of the most common deficiencies in the western world but is fairly easy to maintain levels through your diet by eating plenty of green leafy vegetables, lentils, pulse and nuts and seeds. To boost low levels I also recommend having a magnesium bath 3 times a week for 20 minutes or using a magnesium spray which goes directly onto your skin as the topical application means it absorbs well and goes straight into the bloodstream to increase levels.
- Avoid xeno-oestrogenic household products
Not strictly part of your diet but as you do ingest it, I think it’s worth including. Many of the common cleaning and beauty products contain chemicals which can artificially raise our oestrogen levels and cause hormonal havoc. Switching chemical laden products for natural ones and skincare and make-up for paraben free versions can help ensure that you are not increasing oestrogen levels synthetically which can cause oestrogen dominance. Also make sure that any plastic products you use are BPA free and reduce use of cling film and plastic bags.
- Start your day with a green smoothie every day
I’ve left this one till last because it contains so many of the things we’ve talked about already! I’m a HUGE fan of a green smoothie and the benefits for hormone balance are immense. You can pack so much goodness into them, they are super easy and quick to make and if made correctly, they can fill you up till lunchtime. The green leafy vegetables (I like spinach and kale) help to support your liver detoxification, as do chia, flaxseeds and oats. You can get plenty of healthy fats and protein in via nuts and seeds, and give them a real nutritional boost with superfoods like hormone balancing maca powder which helps relieve PMS and spirulina which has loads of iron and essential fatty acids as well as helping the liver to metabolise and excrete any excess oestrogen. Here’s one of my favourite recipes to get you started. Super Green Smoothie
If you want my help with balancing your hormones through a perimenopause diet then, book your free 30 minute Heal Your Hormones Strategy Call here.