You know your hormones are out of whack and that you’re heading towards ‘that age’. You feel tired, low and just plain rubbish, and you want to know whether you just have to put up with it and if the only other choice is resorting to HRT.
Well, the good news is that there is another way! And I’m going to share with you the step-by-step approach I take with my clients to balance hormones naturally so you can sail through the perimenopausal years instead of struggling through them.
First, a bit of biochemistry for you!
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel via the bloodstream to our organs and tissues to regulate processes in our body, from our reproduction to controlling our mood, our sleep and stress levels as well as our ability to burn fat.
During the pre-menopausal years, the main sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) fluctuate and decline and these are the main trouble causers! Other hormones that are affects are your melatonin, which controls your sleep, your stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol and your thyroid hormones, which helps to regulate your temperature and metabolsim. When one is out of sync, it has a knock on effect on the rest.
What Causes Hormonal Imbalances?
While your sex hormones do change and decline as we get older, other factors can make the difference between really suffering with the symptoms and going through it with relative ease.
Imbalances can be caused by a poor diet and lifestyle choices which lead to nutritional deficiencies and increased stress levels as well as impaired liver function (meaning excess hormones are not being excreted effectively and are circulating round the body) and xeno-estrogens found in processed foods, cosmetics and household cleaners.
Symptoms vary from woman to woman but the most common ones include:
- Mood swings
- Hot flushes
- Poor sleep
- Sugar cravings
- Weight gain
- Brain fog
This is what you need to do to help minimise these symptoms (and save your sanity and possibly your relationships too!)
Step One – Find out what is going on for you personally
A trip to your GP will possibly give you some answers as to whether you are heading towards the dreaded menopause and this quiz created by Dr. Sara Gottfried can also help identify the cause of your imbalance, as your symptoms can be caused by several factors including oestrogen dominance, high cortisol, low testosterone, to name a few!
More in-depth private tests can also help you to get the full picture of what is happening for you, but these need to be referred by a qualified nutritionist or health practitioner.
Step Two – Balance your blood sugars
Fuelling your body and giving it food that helps keep your mood and energy levels consistent is integral to getting your hormones back on track. When your blood sugar levels spike, it can cause increased mood swings, energy dips throughout the day and cravings for sugar and caffeine. Follow these steps to help balance your blood sugars:
– Eat at least every 4 hours so your blood sugars don’t drop right down causing you to grab the nearest sugary snack to boost your energy levels, your body to send a surge of insulin and send things out of kilter.
– Eat protein with every meal and snack as this doesn’t affect your insulin levels and as your body takes longer to break it down and digest, keeps you fuller for longer
– Consume plenty of healthy fats which are integral for hormone balance and keeping your blood sugar levels consistent
– Reduce carbohydrates and ensure the ones you are eating are wholegrain and not refined white carbs which your body turns to sugar
Step Three – Eliminate foods that exacerbate symptoms
Certain foods can make the symptoms of the perimenopause worse. Sugar, transfats and highly processed foods all have an effect as well as any food intolerances that you may have.
If you suspect you may have a food intolerance, one way of pinpointing the ‘offending foods’ is an elimination diet. Removing things like gluten, dairy, wheat, sugar and eggs from your diet and monitoring how your body feels during this elimination, can help you identify which foods you need to steer clear from. They should be removed from your diet for a minimum of 2 weeks before reintroducing them one at a time every 48 hours and monitoring how you’re feeling with a food and symptom diary, to identify which foods you are reacting to.
Poor digestion can also make hormone imbalances worse, and if you are suffering with IBS type symptoms, a low immune system or skin issues, you may want to consider looking into a Gut healing protocol to improve your digestion and related issues.
Step Four – Correct Nutritional Deficiencies
The quality of food we eat, high stress levels and declining sex hormones can all mean that we are depleted of essential nutrients that have a knock on effect on our hormonal balance. Ensuring you have a balanced diet with plenty of rainbow coloured fruit and vegetables, plant based foods (beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, vegetables etc) and lean proteins is essential to limiting the symptoms.
These essential nutrients have hormone balancing properties and
Phytoestrogens – these naturally mimic oestrogen in your body so help to manage the fluctuations as your body produces less of it. These should be consumed daily and can be found in flaxseeds, sesame seeds, fermented soy, miso and green leafy vegetables.
Magnesium – an essential for hormone balance, managing mood swings, anxiety and sleep problems. Consume daily by including green leafy vegetables, pulses and lentils in your diet.
Vitamin C – important for adrenal support to manage the physical and mental stress which sends our cortisol levels sky high. Good sources include acerola cherries, peppers, broccoli and citrus fruits.
Iodine – good levels of this mineral are needed to support thyroid function which can decline as we go through hormonal changes related to the perimenopause. Try adding kelp flakes, seaweed flakes and wraps to soups, stir fries and salads.
Omega 3 – good levels of this essential fatty acid support hormonal balance as well as helping with brain function and blood sugar balance. We should have a 1:1 ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 but the western diet is often as much as 1:6 in favour of Omega-6 and many of us are deficient in Omega-3. Aim to have 3 portions of oily fish a week (salmon, fresh tuna, herring, mackerel and sardines) as well as flaxseeds and walnuts.
Zinc – helps to reduce symptoms of PMS which can seem worse during the perimenopausal years. It also helps with any skin problems that come up at this time. Found in red meat, poultry, pumpkin seeds and lentils.
Step Five – Reduce your stress levels
I know that this is easier said than done in our hectic lifestyles juggling work, home and children but stress really does increase the symptoms of hormone imbalances and reducing the level of stress in your life can make a real difference to how you are feeling both emotionally and physically. When we are stressed our body releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol over prolonged periods of time, rather than just when we need them which can really impact your health in the long term. Try reducing stress by doing the following:
– Epsom Salt baths are a good way not only to relax and some time to yourself but also because of the magnesium you will get that will also help promote sleep and mood
– Meditation; taking time out to meditate instead of constantly rushing from one thing to the next is a good way to help reduce stress. If you struggle with turning your voices off then try a podcast, app or youtube video
– Mindfulness; being aware of what you are doing, taking responsibility for it is a good step towards reducing stress
– Talking it out; a problem shared is a problem halved. If you’re feeling overwhelmed then speak to a friend, partner, family member or even a professional to help deal with your feelings and minimise the impact
– Exercise; endorphins released and time to yourself can help to reduce and manage stress. try going for a walk, bike ride or run in the countryside for added relaxation!
Step Six – Environmental Changes
Our oestrogen levels can be raised synthetically through various diet and lifestyle factors so taking into consideration our environment and the products we use can help to decrease this and the symptoms associated with excess oestrogen.
– Synthetic hormones found in household and beauty products can increase oestrogen levels and cause all sorts of problems. Reconsider the products you are using for cleaning and cosmetic use to reduce the risk of this happening. There are many products available in the shops today that contain more natural ingredients that don’t have these effects
– Plastic Residues from bottled water, food storage containers etc – Plastic can leak from these into our food and drinks. Use glass containers or BPA free ones and try not to buy bottled water.
– Diet high in dairy and transfats – this can also artificially raise oestrogen levels as dairy so make sure you eat organic dairy or avoid it as much as possible and stick to healthy fat sources.
You’ve read to the end of this post and I know that you really want to make those changes. Book one of my Heal Your Hormones Strategy Calls here and find out how I can support you on this journey.