Balance Your Hormones with Diet & Lifestyle
May 5th, 2014
Many female patients come to see me initially because they believe that they have some level of hormone imbalance that has not been adequately addressed by their ‘regular doctor’. PMS, painful or heavy periods, irregular menses, low libido, sexual dysfunction, migraines, acne, mood swings, hot flashes, sleep issues, brain fog, fatigue (and the list goes on) can all be due to hormonal changes.
Conventional medical doctors often offer birth control pills, antidepressants, sleep aides, and hormone replacement, all of which may be necessary, but diet and lifestyle can make profound changes for many women. Going back to the basics – diet, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, and emotional connection – can often help the body come back into balance on its own.
If you’re already taking birth control or hormone replacement, it’s worth looking at these recommendations as well. Oral contraceptives have been shown to lower levels of riboflavin (B2), B6, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin C and zinc. These are important nutrients for healthy mood, immune function, and hormone metabolism. Hormone replacement of any kind stresses our bodies’ natural detoxification mechanisms, which can luckily be supported with proper diet and lifestyle. Also, when it comes to hormone replacement, I believe that bio-identical hormones are the best available option when it comes to safety and ease of dosing. Your naturopathic doctor or integrative practitioner can help you decide if bio-identical hormones are right for you. In the meantime, consider the following:
– Consume whole unprocessed food
– Buy organic to avoid chemicals that impact your hormones
– Eat regularly throughout the day
– Drink half of your body weight in ounces of water a day
– 10+ servings of vegetables and fruits daily
– Include protein with each meal – choose animal products from grass-fed pastured animals fed organic feed
– Be sure to get plenty of good quality fat from fish, nuts & seeds, avocado, coconut, olives, and olive oil
– Choose complex carbohydrates over simple/refined carbs, ie: whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, etc.
– Minimize sugar & sweeteners, refined flour products, caffeine, and alcohol
The Six ‘F’s’ for Hormone Balance
1. Flax: ground flax is an excellent source of omega-3s and fiber. The lignans in flax favorably alter estrogen metabolism to less biologically active estrogens. They also help decrease free circulating hormones. Try to include 2-3 Tbsp ground flax daily on food.
2. Fiber: Inhibits an enzyme called beta glucuronidase that results in decreased absorption and increased elimination of toxins and hormones. Include 25g of soluble and insoluble fiber combined daily.
3. Soy IsoFlavones: help balance hormones while supporting heart health. Choose whole soy foods like edamame, soy nuts, and fermented soy foods like tempeh, miso, and natto.
4. CruciFerous vegetables: improve detoxification and estrogen metabolism and seem to have a role in the prevention and treatment of many cancers. Look to include 4-5 servings a week of broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, turnips, etc.
5. Fish: omega-3s have been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer, heart attack, and stroke. They are critical for the production, release and balance of hormones, and are also helpful for mood and cognition. Look to include 2-3 servings of cold-water fish a week.
6. Fermented foods: like sauerkraut, kim chi, miso and tempeh help with digestion and vaginal pH.
Specific Nutrients for Balanced Hormones
– B-vitamins: Brewer’s yeast, sesame seeds, walnuts, black-eyed peas, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, buckwheat, avocadoes
– Vitamin C: guava, red peppers, kale, parsley, green peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, red cabbage, strawberries, spinach
– Zinc: Pumpkin seeds, gingerroot, pecans, oysters, Brazil nuts, pecans, whole wheat, oats, lima beans, almonds, hazelnuts, parsley, potatoes
– Folic Acid: Brewer’s yeast, black-eyed peas, soy flour, wheat germ, kidney and lima beans, lentils, walnuts, spinach, kale
– Carotenoids: Carotenoids are found in yellow and green vegetables like carrots, squash, and cabbage
– Garlic and onions to support hormone detoxification in the liver
– Find time for activities that help you relax and rest
– Get adequate sleep
o Focus on hours BEFORE midnight
– Women need oxytocin to manage stress properly. Adequate oxytocin levels are maintained when we give and receive nurturing support. Most of us are great at giving it and not nearly as good at receiving it. Figure out the people and activities in your life that make you feel nurtured and prioritize them!
– Consider evaluating your body’s ability to handle stress, also called adrenal function
– Aim to exercise 4-6 days a week for at least 30 minutes at your target heart rate (which is 220 – your age)
– Remember that exercise has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression!
Relationship, Sex, and Connection
– As stated above, prioritize relationships and activities that nurture you so that you have plenty of oxytocin to manage stress and balance testosterone (needed to manage households and exist in the workforce). Oxytocin also enhances libido for women.
– Have great sex with someone you love (or at least think about it)! Studies show that the chemicals secreted when we have or think about good sex, make us more confident, creative, and assertive. If you’re not currently partnered, pleasuring yourself can achieve this, too! Sex is a wonderful way to connect with your partner, but also essential for individual health.
o Sex shouldn’t hurt. Talk to your doctor about any pain, dryness, or discomfort you may be experiencing. Chances are, we can help you fix it!