As women we know that hormones play a huge role in our lives … our moods… and our bodies! And yet many of us would struggle to explain HOW our hormones are impacting us – let alone how we can get them back in check.
Oestrogen is one of our star hormonal players. All of us have heard of it. And yet what role does it actually play in our body? When we have too much, it can lead to weight gain, breast tenderness and impact our mood. But then we can miss it dearly when it is low or starts to fluctuate during phases like perimenopause, when perhaps we notice hair loss or lower sex drive.
While we can’t fight Mother Nature entirely, nor do we want to, the good news is there are natural ways to help us ‘rebalance’ when things have been thrown out of whack.
Honing in on that female hormone: oestrogen
Oestrogen tends to be known for its role as a sex hormone, meaning it contributes to our reproductive and gender specific functions. However it is less known for its other star roles in the body like skin health, heart health and even on our urinary tract!
So firstly, the reason why the levels of oestrogen in our body can affect us so dramatically is that there are oestrogen receptors all across the body including the brain, the ovaries, our bones, in our liver, and even in the heart. These are points in the body where oestrogen’s ‘message’ can take effect, and it is this reason why oestrogen can affect our;
- cardiovascular health
- bone health
- menstrual health
… to name a few. Its effects are so far reaching across the body.
If you think about it, as our levels of oestrogen fluctuate throughout our monthly cycle, and across our lifespan, each of these areas in the body are experiencing an effect. This is why during perimenopause ‘otherwise known as our second puberty’* when oestrogen levels go on a rollercoaster ride, we can experience a whole range of symptoms like weight gain, hot flashes, mood upset and sleep disturbances.
There are 3 different types of oestrogen which are produced predominantly by the ovaries:
- Oestrone (E1): the only estrogen your body makes after menopause.
- Oestradiol (E2): the most common type in women of childbearing age,
- Oestriol (E3): the main estrogen during pregnancy
Help in unexpected places
Interestingly, the ovaries are not the only place where oestrogen is produced. Particularly after menopause the small amounts of oestrogen that is produced is done so by the adrenal glands; which is why not overloading your adrenals with high levels of stress during perimenopause is so important.
Fat cells are also responsible for oestrogen production and can therefore impact oestrogen levels in the body. Finally xenoestrogens are environmental compounds which can imitate the effects of estrogen in the body. They are a category of EDC’s (endocrine disrupting chemicals) which are found in everyday items like makeup, plastics and cleaning products. Reducing exposure to these as much as possible can have a huge impact on your hormonal health.
In clinic, we will often use salivary testing to test your hormonal levels via the DUTCH Test screening tool (Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones). Standard blood tests for hormones can only offer a snap shot of the particular moment bloods are drawn, whereas urinary hormone profiles collected at different times of the day gives us a true picture of the overall orchestration of hormonal activity. Reproductive hormonal issues are often interwoven with stress hormone imbalances, so the DUTCH test offers a full insight to both of these areas.
Natural Ways to Find Your Balance
The following are some of the important ways we look to support our clients’ hormonal health:
- Increasing foods containing Phytoestrogens: these are plant-based oestrogens that can modulate (lower or increase) oestrogen activity in the body. They can be naturally found in wholefood sources like chickpeas, flaxseeds, soybeans, grains, olives and other seeds.
- Liver support: oestrogen is metabolised via the liver. To do this effectively it requires vitamins B6, B9 and B12, zinc, selenium, magnesium and protein in good supply. So a nutrient rich diet is key to maintaining healthy levels of oestrogen. Its also important to free up your liver from working on other things like alcohol and caffeine so reducing your consumption is great for clearing excess oestrogen
- Fibre: Excess oestrogen is excreted via the bowel and so ensuring we are consuming a fibre rich diet is essential for regulating oestrogen. Aim for every main meal to have half of your plate filled with a variety of vegetables. Especially high fibre foods include oats, chia seeds, kiwi fruits, legumes (like chickpeas and beans), avocadoes and bananas. Of course this approach needs to be supported by adequate hydration (doesn’t everything?).
- Anti-inflammatory foods: hormones are like chemical messengers in your body and if inflammation is present, other inflammatory chemicals, called cytokines, can interrupt our hormonal messengers doing their job. Try incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods into your day like turmeric, ginger and omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish and flaxseeds.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or conditions you could be feeling the effects of hormonal imbalance and there are many natural ways we can support you and reduce symptoms. For a personalized consultation on your hormonal health, please book an appointment with our resident clinical nutritionist, Leanne Myliotis.
- Irregular periods
- Heavy, clotty &/or painful periods
- PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, PMD
- Suspected peri menopause
- Acne& acne flairs with menstruation
- Unexplained rapid weight gain or loss
- Hair loss
- Irritability / mood fluctuations
- Poor energy or fatigue, or conversely jitteriness and anxiety
- Excessive feeling of hot or cold
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Sleep disturbances / insomnia
*Term taken from Lara Briden’s book: Hormonal Repair Manual