Diet & NutritionHormone Health

Women's Health: How To Keep Your Hormones Balanced

Hormones are our body’s chemical messages. They relay vital information to the rest of the body – for example, melatonin increases at night to help the body sleep, and cortisol pumps through the body before an important meeting. 

Unfortunately, when our hormones are imbalanced, they don’t function as they should. Hormonal imbalances can cause fatigue, weight gain, acne, painful periods and mood swings – if you’ve ever cried at a TV ad about puppies a few days before your period arrives, you’ll know what I mean.

Let’s look at four essential hormones and see how we can balance them.

Cortisol - What is it?

Normal cortisol levels help us get up in the morning, control our metabolism, regulate our blood pressure, increase our immune system and help us adapt to stress.

Elevated Cortisol:

The problem with cortisol is when we have too much of it, like in cases of chronic stress. (1)

Symptoms of elevated cortisol include:

  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal problems, e.g., bloating, constipation or diarrhoea
  • Irregular periods or amenorrhoea
  • Low libido
  • Poor sleep
  • Skin changes
  • Weight gain

How to manage elevated cortisol:

  • Stress management: Implement stress-management techniques such as journaling, meditation, yoga and deep breathing.
  • Implement an anti-inflammatory diet: fill your plate with nutrient-rich vegetables, a quality source of protein and fat.
  • Prioritise sleep: Ensure you’re getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night by making your bedroom a gadget-free zone and sleeping in a dark, cool room with minimal sound.
  • Have fun: Doing activities that make you happy can regulate cortisol. So, this is your permission to spend time outdoors, go to a comedy show or have a laugh over lunch with your friend.

Progesterone - What is it?

Progesterone helps regulate our cycles, supports the early stages of pregnancy and calms us down. After ovulation, progesterone rises to prepare for the implantation of the embryo. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, progesterone drops, and we experience menstruation.

Low Progesterone

Decreased progesterone can be triggered by menopause, PCOS (2), hypothyroidism (3) and elevated prolactin.

Low progesterone can cause:

  • Anxiety
  • Breast tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Low moods
  • PMS
  • Short menstrual cycles

How can we balance low progesterone?

  • Stress: Stress significantly affects progesterone production, so ask yourself what you can do to manage your stress. Perhaps it's deep breathing, meditating, slowing down, going for walks or seeing a therapist.
  • Zinc: Zinc-rich foods include red meat and poultry, beans, nuts and whole grains.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium can regulate the actions of hormones and decrease PMS symptoms. Consume nuts, legumes, tofu, seeds, avocado and whole grains.

Oestrogen - What is it?

Oestrogen is essential in regulating the menstrual cycle and controlling the uterus' lining in the first half of the menstrual cycle. Oestrogen can reduce bone loss, control vaginal and bladder functions, regulate a healthy weight and support balanced moods.

Low Oestrogen

Eating disorders, excessive exercise and autoimmune conditions can decrease oestrogen levels.

Symptoms of low oestrogen include:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Irregular or absent periods
  • Mood swings and mental health changes
  • Painful sex

How can you increase oestrogen?

  • Minimise exercise: Excessive exercise can cause stress on the body and decrease oestrogen. If you’re prone to overexercising, I recommend limiting exercise sessions to 2-3 days a week.
  • Increase your overall calorie intake: Ensure you’re eating enough calories to support healthy oestrogen production by consuming starchy vegetables like sweet potato and pumpkin and healthy fats like avocado, tahini, olive oil and nuts.

 Oestrogen Excess

Impaired liver detoxification, exposure to environmental oestrogens, an inadequate diet, low progesterone and poor gut health can cause oestrogen excess.

Symptoms of oestrogen excess include:

  • Acne
  • Breast tenderness
  • Fluid retention
  • Heavy periods
  • PMS
  • Unexplained weight gain

How can we balance oestrogen excess?

  • Cruciferous vegetables: Increase your intake of cruciferous vegetables, including cauliflower, broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts, to assist liver detoxification and clear out excess oestrogen.
  • Environmental oestrogens: Avoid excess chemicals from perfumes and household cleaners and minimise your use of plastic.
  • Resistance training: Incorporate weight training or Pilates into your regime.
  • Linseeds: Consume one or two tablespoons of ground linseeds daily to regulate oestrogen metabolism.

Testosterone - What is it?

Did you know women have and need testosterone?

Testosterone in women is crucial for an active libido, brain function, lean muscle development, a supported cardiovascular system and healthy bones.

Low Testosterone

The oral contraceptive pill, ovarian failure (4) and certain medications can cause low testosterone.

Low testosterone can look like:

  • Dry skin
  • Low libido
  • Mood changes
  • Poor memory
  • Thinning hair
  • Weight gain

How to balance low testosterone:

  • Rest: Aim for seven to nine hours of restful sleep a night.
  • Moderate exercise: Moderate resistance training builds lean muscle, which is crucial in balancing testosterone levels.

Elevated Testosterone:

Elevated testosterone is seen in women with PCOS and those who experience chronic stress.  

Symptoms of elevated testosterone include:

  • A deep voice
  • Acne
  • Excess hair growth
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Oily skin
  • Weight gain

How to balance elevated testosterone:

  • Exercise: Moderate exercise can cause weight loss, decreasing testosterone levels.
  • Cut the sugar: Reduce your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates. These increase insulin which causes the ovaries to produce excess testosterone.
  • Spearmint tea: Drink 2-3 cups of spearmint tea daily to lower testosterone.

Bottom Line

The world of hormones can feel complex but remember, you don’t need to navigate it alone. If you’re ready to take the next step to balance your hormones, I recommend speaking to a healthcare professional.

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