Our sex hormones can impact our mood, sleep, whether we feel anxious or calm, happy or sad and even whether we burn body fat or store it.
Our two main sex hormones are oestrogen and progesterone.
Oestrogen is necessary for our reproductive system, our cardiovascular health, new bone growth and affects your brain (including mood), skin and other tissues.
For many reasons, your body can make too little oestrogen or too much. It also fluctuates during your menstrual cycle.
Symptoms of low oestrogen:
Less frequent menstrual periods or none.
Hot flashes or night sweats
Dryness and thinning of the vagina
Symptoms of excess oestrogen:
Weight gain mainly on your waist, hips and thighs
Worsening of premenstrual symptoms
Fibrocystic breasts (non-cancerous)
Fibroids in the uterus
Feeling depressed or anxious (2)
Progesterone is our calming hormone, it helps stimulate your thyroid, so can influence metabolism.
The more you have the less likely you will suffer from PMS. Progesterone counterbalances oestrogen.
For many women oestrogen and progesterone begin to fluctuate greatly during your 40’s and with this comes a variety of symptoms. Through diet, lifestyles, herbal medicine/supplements we can better adapt to the hormonal fluctuations?
I believe women these days are under far more stress than their mothers and grandmothers. Stress can be the cause of anovulation (no ovulation), amenorrhoea (no periods) and other menstrual irregularities. It also steals your progesterone, your calming hormone.
Cortisol is a hormone made by our adrenal glands. Cortisol increases your heart rate, raises your blood pressure, increases blood sugar to provide energy to your muscles and helps you feel more alert. Short term activation is beneficial but when it stays high throughout the day it can make you feel anxious in the day and make it hard to go to sleep at night.
Exercise as well as getting enough sleep helps to regulate cortisol and your stress response.
A class of herbal medicine known as adaptogens can also help you better adapt to ongoing stress. Some of my favourites are Withania, Licorice and Rhodiola. Always consult with a health care professional before taking any herbal supplements.
Sleep is so important to our hormone health. Sleep disturbances are twice as common in women than in men. Not getting a good night’s sleep can also affect, what food we crave, our immune system, concentration, mood, energy and increase inflammation.
Aim for 7-8 hours of good quality sleep. If you are having trouble falling asleep, turn off the screens an hour before bed. To help reset circadian rhythms, within the first half an hour of waking you need natural light. It is good to sleep with curtains open or go for a brisk walk as soon as you wake in the morning light.
Some wonderful herbs can help with sleep issues such as Kava, Zizyphus, Passionflower and Valerian.
3. Environmental toxins
Environmental toxins are endocrine disruptors. This means they can cause adverse health effects by altering the function of the endocrine system, your hormones.
Environmental toxins can increase some of your hormones and decrease others. They can mimic oestrogen and reduce oestrogen detoxification.
Even small quantities of these toxins can affect your hormones.
Environmental toxins are found in plastics, canned foods, pesticides, phthalates (found in fragrances), flame retardant chemicals, many cleaning and gardening products. Wash hands after handling receipts as they contain bisphenol A. Avoid large fish such as tuna, swordfish and marlin as they contain higher concentrations of mercury.
Minimise your exposure by purchasing a good quality reusable drink bottle, drink filtered water, buy grocery items in glass containers rather than plastic or tins, don’t reheat food in plastic containers, use more natural cleaning products around the home, when you run out of beauty products purchase more natural ones, pull weeds out of the garden rather than spraying with pesticides and buy organic fruit and vegetables where possible.
The following are considered the clean 15 because they have the least contaminants:
Frozen sweet peas
Healthy liver function is necessary to metabolise excess oestrogen. Liver supportive foods include dark leafy greens, onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, beets, carrots, avocado and green tea. Start your day with fresh lemon juice and warm water.
Indole-3-carbinol is a compound found in the Brassica family that aids with detoxification. Eat more of these vegetables. They include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale.
Increasing phytoestrogens as these weakly bind to your oestrogen receptors and outcompete oestrogen. These include nuts, flaxseeds and brightly coloured vegetables
Limit alcohol as it reduces glutathione, a powerful antioxidant necessary to fight off free radicals and eliminate toxins.
Exercise and sweat! Yes, when we sweat, besides regulating temperature, we detoxify all those nasties. Remember to drink plenty of water after.
Nourish your body with food. Eat a whole food diet as close to nature as possible including good quality proteins, healthy fast and lots of vegetables and salad. Keep hydrated with filtered water.
Some meal options include
Scrambled eggs with a handful of rocket/spinach and ¼ avocado.
Summer granola (see recipes) with natural yoghurt and fresh berries
Poached egg on wholemeal sourdough, smeared with goats feta and a side of sauteed mushrooms with garlic.
A large salad with a variety of mixed greens, grated beetroot, goats feta and shredded chicken. Serve with a little olive oil and lemon juice dressing.
Kale, quinoa and avocado salad with lemon, dijon dressing. (see below)
Barbequed salmon steaks with steamed vegetables.
Beef stir fry with broccolini, cabbage and snow peas served on cauliflower rice.
Kale, Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Lemon, Dijon Dressing
2/3 cup quinoa
1 bunch of kale cut into bite-sized pieces (stems removed)
1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 cucumber, quartered and cut into slices
1/2 red capsicum deseeded and sliced
1/2r ed onion quartered and sliced.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
1 /2 tbs dijon mustard
Cook the quinoa as per packet directions. Set aside to cool.
Steam chopped kale till just wilted.
Top kale onto quinoa, add red capsicum, red onion, cucumber, avocado and crumbled feta.
Combine dressing ingredients., whisk well.
Add to the salad. Toss well. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.
Serve between 2 bowls.
For any more information or you would like to see me for a consultation, please get in touch.
Have a great day.
Briden, L. (2018). Period Repair Manual. Sydney: Pan Macmillan Australia.
Oxford Academic. (2014). What Does Estrogen Do? The Journal Of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 99(4), 31A-32A. doi: 10.1210/jc.2014-v99i4-31a
Weaver, L., & Bannard, S. (2016). Dr Libby's women's wellness wisdom. The Green Frog Publishing P/L.