You may not believe this
make me kind of…
I know, it’s very shocking, but true. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not alone on this one.
The upside is that we are designed to have hormones. They are normal, alright?! Hormones are an important part of the body’s natural, physical processes, and we need them, no matter how pesky they are!
Hormones are our body’s chemical messengers. They are created by the endocrine system and travel throughout the bloodstream to tissues and organs. Hormone production and their efficiency affect growth and development, homeostasis (the internal balance of body systems), metabolic function, adrenals, sleep, moodiness, stress levels, sexual functions, and many other bodily processes. Supporting hormone function and, thus, the endocrine system, can have a positive effect on overall wellbeing and be particularly helpful during the nasty week or so pre-menses and during.
Regulated Hormones = Happy Humans
How and what we eat can largely affect the functioning of these hormones, aiding them in their natural processes or interfering and throwing them off course.
Get off the rollercoaster. Find better balance.
Natural Ways to Mellow Out Your Hormones
Eat the Right Fats: Too much of the wrong fats can increase estrogen levels, but a good balance of healthy fats can help regulate them. The buzz about fat is ongoing and can be overwhelming, I know. A simple rule with fats is to stick with the ones that we know are beneficial: coconut oil, olive oil, flax/hemp/chia seed oils, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish, and stay away from the ones we know are not. Anything hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, margarines, vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, spoiled/old oils, and deep-fried foods are best to steer clear of (eating rancid or modified fats is incredibly harmful to the body, increasing risk of disease, obesity, cardiovascular stress, and interfering with our production and regulation of natural hormones). For a healthy oil guideline check this out: Choosing Oils.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Long story short, reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake during the week prior to and during menses can reduce excess bleeding, mood swings, and emotional upset, increase deep sleep and relaxation, and decrease swelling, which can reduce cramping and lower back pain. There is much talk about how regular use of stimulants and alcohol are quite taxing on the liver, kidneys, heart, and blood transportation, but we are not often informed about their ill-effects on proper hormone function. As they put strain on the endocrine system, increasing inflammation and negatively affecting fluctuating blood sugar levels, it is best to keep these to a minimum.
Encourage Better Sleep: Hormonal fluctuations are stressful on the body, demanding more energy to divert emotional upsets, anxiety, and prepare the body for menses. We are naturally more tired during this time in the cycle and require rest. Getting into bed a little earlier with a cup of raspberry leaf tea (reduces inflammation and eases cramping) and a hot water bottle is a great way to nurture the female process and wind you down for a solid night’s rest. Make sleep a priority during this time.
Exercise Gently: The female body does not need to endure strenuous cardiovascular activity or heavy weight bearing exercises during a time of regeneration. Walking, yoga, swimming, and gentle dance, are all good ways to keep the body moving without causing further stress. DO keep moving though, regular exercise positively impacts regularity, duration, and quantity of flow, and many women notice improvement in their pre-menopausal symptoms when every day exercise levels are increased.
Nourish Your Soul: Relax, listen, talk, read, meditate, journal, and practice compassion for self. It is during emotional outbursts and upsets that we will often have insight into deeper issues or ones that have been set aside. Take the time to listen to what your inner wisdom is trying to tell you and acknowledge what comes through. Talk about it, write it down, and breathe it out. Remember that being emotional makes us human, not out of control or unreasonable.
Reduce Stress: Living in that fight or flight, sympathetic nervous system dominance, exacerbates symptoms of all kinds, particularly when it comes to hormones. In reaction to stressors, the body releases hormones such as cortisol, causing a temporary increase in energy production, often times at the cost of other bodily process, such as digestion, immune system function, and hormonal processes. Stress can disrupt the natural hormone cycle, contributing to increased symptoms of pms, sleep irregularities, shortened or more frequent periods, excess bleeding, and in extreme cases, loss of periods all together. If your stress levels are getting in the way of balanced health, maybe it’s time to take a load off: reduce your load at work, let go of an extracurricular responsibility, take a day off to have a long bath and read your novel, meditate, deep breathe, and get yourself to that Restorative Yoga class you keep avoiding!
Prioritize Good Food Choices: Chocolate you say? There’s a reason women crave chocolate during the week leading up to menses. As the body prepares to lose extra volumes of blood, it demands more nutrients, particularly minerals, and real, unprocessed, high-cacao content chocolate is very high in minerals and the perfect mineral booster pre-menses (in small doses of course!). Eating a particularly nutrient-dense diet during this time encourages regular hormonal function, decreasing excess inflammation and reducing stress on the adrenals and the endocrine system.
“If a woman is upset, hold her and tell her how beautiful she is. If she starts to growl, retreat to a safe distance and throw chocolate at her.”
Foods to include:
Fibrous Vegetables: Add broccoli, carrots, leafy greens, cucumbers, cabbage, and kale to your regular diet in order to increase fiber and antioxidant intake, and increase high nutrient dosage, and improve digestion.
Beneficial Fats: As mentioned above, good sources include avocados, salmon, coconut oil, olive oil, chia seeds, good quality nuts and seeds.
Complex Carbohydrates: Beneficial for balancing blood sugars and reducing sugar cravings, some of my favourites include quinoa, brown/wild rice, oats, and millet.
Magnesium-Rich Foods: Magnesium can calm the nervous system and relax blood vessels. Good sources include: pumpkin seeds, bananas, dark leafy greens, fish, avocados, beans, and (drumroll please) chocolate.
Quality Protein: Keep energy reserves stocked and maintain stabilized blood sugars. Sources include eggs, ethically sourced chicken, fish, lentils, beans, nuts and seeds.
Beneficial Herbs & Spices: To reduce swelling, pelvic pain, and support liver function, super-charge the diet with garlic, ginger, turmeric, red raspberry leaf tea, chaste tree berry, milk thistle, dandelion root, maitake mushroom, and shisandra berry.
Magnesium. Magnesium is crucial to pituitary health and regulation of critical hormones that signal other glands in the endocrine system to perform optimally. Low levels of those foundational hormones can cause irregular ovulation and thyroid function issues, which can lead to bigger hormonal issues. Most women are deficient in magnesium and many have reported reduced symptoms with supplementation. Magnesium is also an amazing nervous system regulator and can be beneficial for stress reduction, mood enhancement, and calming for the mind and body, particularly when taken before bed.
Maca: Maca is an endocrine adaptogen, gaining a gleaming reputation for its positive influence on hormone regulation. Maca stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which can have positive influences on the thyroid, pancreas, adrenal, ovarian and testicular glands.
Spirulina: This beautiful blue-green algae contains large amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium, all of which are essential hormone-balancing nutrients. This bright green powder can contribute to a reduction in cramping, mood instability, breast tenderness and overall inflammation. Spirulina can also be beneficial for blood sugar balance, increased energy, and weight management.
B-complex: Beneficial for energy production, metabolic function, nervous system function, and progesterone production, the B vitamins work with the liver enzymes to remove excess estrogen and boost the immune system. Supplementing with a B-complex can improve energy levels, mental clarity, and provide better overall hormone management.
Probiotics. A healthy micro-biome is essential for balancing hormonal processes. Healthy gut bacteria supports the metabolization of estrogen, helps to control cortisol levels, contributes to regulated insulin levels, and regulates adequate melatonin levels which may increase sleep.
Primrose Oil: Effective in proper prostaglandin regulation, this powerful, essential fatty acid has been shown to improve skin quality, mitigate PMS symptoms, lessen the severity of periods, regulate hormone production, improve insulin sensitivity, and reduce systemic inflammation.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D can be particularly beneficial for hormone balance, as it has anti-inflammatory effects, is helpful to maintain proper blood sugar balance, is known for its antidepressant qualities, and is beneficial for estrogen dominance rebalancing. Vitamin D can also be beneficial for cancer prevention, anti-aging, and is gaining popularity for its role in autoimmune conditions.
Note: Always check with a health professional before starting a supplementation regime in order to receive proper guidance on what may be the best choices for you!
Emily Courtney, https://www.hyperbiotics.com/blogs/recent-articles/balance-your-hormones-by-restoring-your-gut-health
Mara Belzer, https://hormonesbalance.com/articles/how-to-replenish-your-vitamin-d-levels/
Katie Wells, https://wellnessmama.com/8254/maca-herb-profile/
Stephanie Ruper, http://paleoforwomen.com/evening-primrose-oil-for-acne-estrogen-dominance-pms-and-inflammation/
Robyn Srigley, https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-20217/6-hormonebalancing-foods-for-women.html