NUTRITION Rx: HORMONE BALANCE
By Ellie Freeman on September 30, 2016 in Blood Sugar Regulation, Functional Medicine, Sleep, Stress
Hormones have us wrapped around their little fingers as they communicate with each other thousands of times per second and their messages coordinate exactly how we feel on a day-to-day basis. Having spent YEARS pining after answers about hormone balance and being told that everything was “normal,” I’m here to tell you that pain, anxiety, exhaustion, and uncontrollable weight gain is NOT normal and your body is capable of SO much more.
“The linchpin to transforming normal to optimal is something we all have in common and typically ADORE… food!”
Hormones alter the expression of genes. And if you’re experiencing a nudge that things are optimal as outlined in the quiz below- it’s time to take a magnifying glass to the foods you consume on a daily basis AND the way you live your life.
While there are numerous hormones that play a role in hormone balance- estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are easy to spotlight because they play such prominent roles in the regulation of your cycle, mood, weight, and much more. Unfortunately, age + stress are like packman and eat at our hormones on a daily basis leaving us with as little as 60% of what our normal reserve is by the age of 50. Do not let this be discouraging. There ARE tactics [simple ones!] that we can use to mitigate this depletion, but before we dive in, let’s get to know our 3 sex hormones more intimately:
Estrogen is the “joyous” feel good hormone. When she’s on board, your mood is more vivacious, your joints are lubricated, and your face is relatively wrinkle free.
- Produced in the ovaries but also in smaller amounts by the adrenal glands and in fat tissue
- Most abundant in the first half of the menstrual cycle [follicular phase]
Progesterone is the “practical” hormone. She keeps an eye on estrogen, making sure that she doesn’t get overly emotional or excited and makes sure that you are at peace + sleep soundly. Without enough progesterone, you feel emotional, gain weight around the mid section, and go through life under a dark cloud.
- Produced by corpus luteum [ruptured follicle] and adrenal glands
- Dominates second half of the cycle
Testosterone is the main source of focus + function + sex drive. She alerts the other hormones when there is danger, rushing them to the scene or filling in for them if they are absent.
- Produced by ovaries and adrenal glands
- Surges at the time of ovulation and slight rise just before the menses
FOOD IS MEDICINE
The balance of estrogen + progesterone + testosterone, in particular, depends the consumption of adequate nutrients, liver support, adrenal support, and stress RELIEF. Homing in on these areas of deficiency or suppression will UNLOCK your potential to be your vibrant self.
Use the following 6 steps to support the secretion + preservation of hormones and you might just find a bit more spring in your step + room in your jeans!
EAT HEALTHY FAT: The creation of every sex hormone depends on the consumption of healthy fats such as coconut oil and avocados. Not only are these essential fats fundamental building blocks for hormone production, but they keep inflammation levels low, boost your metabolism, and promote weight loss. My four favorite sources of anti-inflammatory, healthy fats include: coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed butter or ghee and wild-caught salmon.
—> action step: include 1-2 servings of healthy oil to your
AVOID SYNTHETIC SOURCES OF ESTROGEN: There are 3 types of estrogen and it just so happens that the forms of estrogen we DON’T want to come in contact with are hidden in plastic + chemical cleaning agents.
—> Action step: swap chemical cleaning agents + plastic food storage containers for more natural alternatives like Boulder Cleaning Products, 7th Generation and glass storage containers.
SUPPORT THE CONVERSION OF ONE ESTROGEN TO THE OTHER by supporting the liver. One of the best ways to do this is with milk thistle and cruciferous vegetables. Milk thistle renews the liver while cruciferous vegetables support the conversion and elimination of more dangerous estrogens out of the body.
—> Action step: roast one batch of cruciferous veg weekly and consume on a daily basis. Boost your liver support by incorporating the herb milk thistle into your daily regimen. Talk with your health practitioner about amounts and sources.
PRESERVE PEACEFUL PROGESTERONE WITH STRESS RELIEVING SELF-CARE DAILY: If you are experiencing overt amounts of stress on a daily basis progesterone easily converts into cortisol, exacerbating the decline in progesterone you are already experiencing as you age. Preserve your progesterone by incorporating 1-2 daily self care modalities into your life such as a morning daily quiet time, calming music, essential oil therapy or bathing.
—> Action step: SCHEDULE self care daily.
SUPPORT ADRENAL SECRETION OF TESTOSTERONE WITH ADAPTOGENIC HERBS: Gentle as they may be, adaptogenic herbs can play a POWERFUL role in the secretion of sex hormones [specifically testosterone] from our adrenal glands. Daily consumption of Ashwaganda or Maca may just be the missing link you’ve been craving as it pertains to muscle mass maintenance, waning libido, and energy production. Target all three by supporting your body’s capacity to adapt to stress.
—> Action step: include adaptogenic herbs like maca + ashwaganda into your daily routine to support adrenal secretion of hormones.
SLEEP: I know you’ve heard me say this before but hormone balance DEPENDS on sleep. Even if we’re supplying our body with all the “right” nutrients, the production of the hormone itself is performed at night when our bodies are given the CHANCE to produce them.
—> Action step: OPTIMIZE your sleep environment by turning the temperature down, BLOCKING out light, and downloading f.lux onto your computer to block blue light [which is stimulatory to your neurons]