One of the questions I get asked most often in my clinic is ‘can you balance hormones naturally?’ Well, that’s not strictly true. The question usually goes something like ‘I’ve got bitchin’ PMS. CAN YOU HELP ME???’.
The answer is yes. Yes, I can help you. There is lots that nutrition can do to help with symptoms of hormonal imbalance such as PMS, mood swings, acne, painful or heavy periods, skipped periods, PCOS etc. Unfortunately, many of these issues may have been masked over the years by taking the contraceptive Pill – the ‘cure’ for any type of hormonal imbalance. Sadly the Pill doesn’t actually balance your hormones, it just stops them from working so that you don’t get the symptoms anymore. It really only papers over the cracks. The minute you come off the Pill, hey presto, so do all of your symptoms.
I’m not a paper over the cracks kinda gal. I’m a get down and dirty and figure what’s causing the cracks in the first place kinda gal.
Your reproductive hormones all work in symphony with one another. They are part of your wider endocrine system which also encompasses your thyroid and adrenal (stress) hormones, as well as insulin which controls your blood sugar. If one of these areas is not functioning optimally, there is a domino effect on the rest. This is how stress or an underactive thyroid can contribute to infertility; or why your blood sugar seems to go a little haywire before your period. This is where a naturopathic, whole body approach to health care works so wonderfully.
So if you’re also a get down and dirty kinda person, you’ll want to hear my top 5 tips to balance hormones naturally:
Cut back on sugar
Ok, so I realise that this is not going to be a popular choice, but sugar does have a huge effect on all of your hormones. At the root of polycystic ovarian syndrome is insulin resistance – the precursor to type II diabetes. Cut back on the white stuff and watch for an improvement in your monthly madness. There is so much in the media now about the harmful effects of sugar. Even Jamie’s at it, so people are starting to take notice. Check out I Quit Sugar for an 8 week sugar detox, and my posts how to avoid sugary snacks and ways to reduce sugar how much sugar you drink.
2. Manage your stress
I realise that there’s not a whole lot you can do about your two bickering toddlers, your insensitive boss, your cancelled train or your broken heel. But there are ways to weave stress management into our stressful lives. Pumping out cortisol 24/7 is a surefire way of knocking out your female hormones too. Have you ever skipped a period during a particularly stressful time in your life? Or do you find your PMS is worse or your periods more painful if you’ve been burning the candle a bit too much? Take up a yoga class, practise some guided meditation like Headspace, take a regular Epsom salt bath, go for a long walk. Find ways to find calm. Your body and mind will thank you.
3. Eat your greens
No, this isn’t your grandmother speaking, it’s your nutritionist. Dark green leafy vegetables, ‘cruciferous’ or ‘brassica’ vegetables contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol which supports healthy oestrogen metabolism in the liver. So make sure you consume a daily portion of broccoli, kale, spinach, watercress, rocket, spring greens, bok choy as well as cabbage, cauliflower and radish which aren’t green but come under this category. A daily green juice or smoothie can be really beneficial, add to salads, stir fries, curries or simply steam a portion and drizzle with olive oil.
4. Get your good fats
Fat is not the enemy. Fat is your friend. Hey, guess what hormones are made of? FAT! Guess what your cell membranes that allow the transport of nutrients in and out of your cells are made of? FAT! Ever heard of female athletes not getting their periods? NO FAT! You get the picture. Our bodies need fat for existence. This whole low-fat, fat-free ridiculousness has got to stop. If you have to eat dairy (and to be honest it’s not the best food for hormonal balance) made sure it’s full fat and organic. Ensure you are consuming your oily fish – salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and anchovies – at least twice a week. Cook with coconut oil, snack on raw nuts and seeds, add chia seeds and flaxseeds to your breakfast, eat avocados with everything. Unfortunately, processed foods and anything with a long shelf life are all made with hydrogenated or trans fats which upsets the balance of good and bad fats in the body. Redress the balance with the suggestions above.
5. Make sure you are “regular”
Again, something your nana might say. Bowel movements, poo, number 2s, Mr Hankey, whatever you want to call it, you need to be doing at least one good one every day. We don’t want little rabbit droppings every 3 days, we want a good solid (not too hard!) formed stool. Or two. A healthy digestive system is essential for the elimination of unwanted toxins which can upset hormonal balance. Make sure you are getting enough water and herbal teas, and fibre from plenty of fruits and vegetable and foods like oats, brown rice and flaxseeds. A good probiotic can also help. If you are doing all this and still not managing to produce a decent daily stool, your digestion may need further investigation.
If you are concerned about your hormones and are experiencing regular symptoms which suggest a hormonal imbalance then do book in for a consultation and we go can through your case in lots more detail.