Balancing act - understanding your hormones & how to balance them
For women, our sex hormones impact our moods, appetite, weight, menstrual cycle, ability to fall pregnant and more. Out of balance, they can lead to serious health issues if left unchecked. So, what can we do to support our hormonal needs?
Estrogen and Progesterone – what do they do?
Triggered by the hypothalamus in the brain, our ovaries produce two main female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, which are vital to reproductive development and fertility.
Estrogen regulates the menstrual cycle including the growth of the uterine lining during the first 14 days of a regular 28-day cycle up to ovulation.
After ovulation, progesterone is released when the ovum (unfertilised egg) migrates down the fallopian tube. Progesterone prepares the body for pregnancy by causing the uterine lining to thicken. If the egg is not fertilized, estrogen levels decrease sharply and menstruation begins.
However, estrogen levels can become imbalanced leading to a host of uncomfortable symptoms and potentially serious health conditions if ignored. The most common imbalance is estrogen dominance.
To support healthy hormone production, avoid highly processed foods and opt for nutrient-dense foods that help to promote and regulate hormone production. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale and Brussel sprouts) are high in phytonutrients, particularly indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane, which helps to metabolise estrogen. Healthy fats (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed organic butter, chia seeds, nuts and avocados) help repair the damage caused by over-production of cortisol, boost metabolism, curb your appetite and help promote weight loss.
Sleep & exercise
Lack of sleep is a major factor in hormonal imbalance because without it cortisol levels increase, metabolism is impaired, blood sugar and insulin levels spike, and thyroid function is compromised.
Because exercise helps to reduce stress, improve metabolism and maintain a healthy weight, it also plays an important role in balancing hormones. So, move your body!
A healthy liver is needed to remove excess estrogen and insulin from the body. The liver detoxification process is compromised by the consumption of alcohol, drugs (including pharmaceuticals) and exposure to environmental toxins, such as xenoestrogens.
Vitamins, minerals and herbs
- B vitamins are essential for hormone production, transport and elimination. Vitamin B levels are depleted by stress.
- Magnesium calms the nervous system, reduces sugar cravings, controls blood sugar spikes, and helps to prevent excess cortisol production.
- Zinc, when combined with Vitamin C, helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and promotes ovulation.
- Vitamin C boosts progesterone production, facilitates ovulation and is a strong antioxidant.
- Vitex (chaste berry) supports the production of luteinising hormone, which causes ovulation to occur.