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7 ways to happier hormones

7 ways to happier hormones

Your hormones are responsible for how you think, feel and look. A woman with balanced hormones is sharp and upbeat, has a good memory, feels energetic (without caffeine), falls asleep quickly and wakes feeling refreshed.

Your period is not just your period, it’s an indication of your underlying health. When you’re healthy, your menstrual cycle will arrive smoothly, regularly and without undesirable symptoms. Think of it as your monthly report card.

When your periods are painful, irregular, heavy or non-existent, you grow horns and fangs just prior to your period, or find yourself crying at ads on TV or at the drop of a hat, your period is trying to tell you that something. Your hormones are out of balance and this warrants attention.

Hormones are tiny chemical messengers produced by a network of glands that make up the endocrine system. These glands include the pituitary, adrenal, thyroid and pancreas, along with ovaries in women and testes in men. Hormones are released by the glands, into the blood stream and are carried to organs and tissues in the body to perform their function. Hormones don’t exist in isolation. They work together like musicians in an orchestra and one when hormone is out of sync it throws off other hormones in seemingly unrelated body systems. The major hormones for women include oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

There are several reasons for hormones to be out of balance. These may include medications such as birth control and antibiotics, toxins found in food, skincare and house-cleaning products, poor food choices, chronic stress, lack of sleep and even some genetic predispositions.

Some symptoms of hormone imbalance include:

  • Weight gain/weight loss
  • Anxiety/depression/PMS/mood swings
  • Hair loss
  • Insomnia
  • Infertility
  • Lowered immunity
  • Heavy, painful menstruation
  • Infertility
  • Colds hands and feet
  • Hot sweats/flushes
  • Heart palpitations

Oestrogen excess is responsible for many of these symptoms. You may not necessarily have too much oestrogen, but it may be low in comparison to progesterone. Oestrogen excess is caused by a combination of higher production by your ovaries and impaired metabolism or detoxification. Oestrogen metabolism is the healthy removal or detoxification for your body and it’s a 2-step process.

  • Step 1 – your liver inactivates oestrogen by attaching a molecule handle to it. This is called conjugation. To do this effectively, your liver needs vitamins and nutrients such as B6, folate, B12, zinc, selenium and protein.
  • Step 2 – the elimination of the conjugated oestrogen out through your bowel. Healthy elimination requires you to poop daily and to have healthy intestinal bacteria or a healthy gut microbiome. When your gut is healthy it assists with the safe removal of conjugated oestrogens out via the stool. If you’re not pooping daily this elimination isn’t happening and the oestrogens can be reabsorbed across the intestinal wall and moved back into circulation, leading to oestrogen excess.

The following 7 steps below will help your body to detoxify and safely remove oestrogens to prevent oestrogen excess and support healthy hormonal balance.

  1. Eat cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cauliflower, rocket, cabbage, bok choy, kale, turnips, and collard greens contain plant nutrients known as glucosinates. Glucosinate gives these vegetables their mild peppery taste. When they are broken down by chewing (digestion), chopping or blending, glucosinates are converted to indole-3-carbinols which have a potent detoxification effect on the liver. Aim for 1-2 serves daily. These nutrient powerhouses can be easily incorporated into your daily diet. Try swapping potato mash with a tasty cauliflower mash or add a head of broccoli to a stir fry.
  2. Increase fibre intake. Fibre aids bowel function and helps to ensure a good daily poop. This helps to ensure that you are moving toxins and excess oestrogens out of the body. Consume 2 to 3 tablespoons insoluble fibre such as ground flaxseeds, soaked chia seeds or psyllium per day. Make sure to drink plenty of water to avoid constipation, which may result in the reabsorption of hormones and toxins through the intestinal wall.
  3. Include protein in your diet. Protein is an important component of every cell in the body, and it’s also an important building block for hormones, bones, muscles, skin, hair and nails. The body requires protein for detoxification as many of the liver detoxification pathways are protein dependent. Aim for a palm sized portion of protein at each meal and don’t forget vegetarian protein sources of lentils, chickpeas, beans and pulses. Whilst containing good amounts of protein they are also a valuable source of fibre.
  4. Reduce stress. Chronic stress diverts pregnenolone, the precursor hormone of cortisol and progesterone. When stress is high and unrelenting, the body is unable to make progesterone as it’s too busy making cortisol. This is known as the pregnenolone steal.  Progesterone helps you to stay calm, clear-headed and to fall asleep easily. Low progesterone is often responsible for low mood prior to menstruation. Be gentle on yourself and avoid excessive exercise. You should feel rejuvenated after exercising, not tired. If your cardio or CrossFit workout is leaving you exhausted, try switching to Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, swimming or walking. Eliminate physical, emotional and chemical stresses and aim to spend 10-15 minutes outside daily.
  5. Eat healthy fats. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid, meaning we must obtain it from our diet, as the body cannot synthesize it. Omega-3 has a primary role of dampening inflammatory processes in the body however it also has an important role of providing structural integrity to our cells, which is important for optimal hormone production.   Increasing Omega-3 consumption can reduce skin breakouts, ease PMS, period and ovulation pain and promote more regular ovulation. Omega-3 is found in small oily such as sardines, herring, blue mackerel, anchovies, blue eyed cod, salmon (wild caught), flathead and snapper. Sticking with smaller fish is recommended as they are lower in mercury and contain other happy hormone nutrients such as protein, iodine, calcium, and zinc. Aim for 3 serves of fish a week.
  6. Reduce coffee and alcohol. Coffee and alcohol inhibit the metabolism of used hormones and the production of new ones. Switch to matcha green tea or caffeine-free herbal teas. Roasted chicory or dandelion root tea have a lovely bitter taste without the caffeine. Limit alcohol to no more than two glasses of wine per week.
  7. Be in bed by 10pm. During the night your body is very busy repairing and regenerating. Liver detoxification happens between 1 and 3am during deep sleep and cortisol resetting takes place at midnight. If you’re busy burning the midnight oil, then many of these important restorative functions just aren’t happening. Try getting to bed earlier and notice the improvement in your energy levels on waking.

Rebalancing hormones takes time (after all we only have a period once a month, right!) however when hormones are balanced your period is lighter and less painful, your mood is improved, and you feel more emotionally stable. You have better control of your body weight, you sleep better, and your hair skin and nails will grow, shine and glow. Hormone balance is also essential for bone health, so a healthy menstrual cycle now helps to reduce your risk of osteoporosis later.

If you need help with your hormonal health get in touch with your local Naturopath or Nutritionist.

During the month of September, all clients of Health Space can have the opportunity enter them and a friend to WIN a free nutrition consult, month of sauna, 2 weeks of a detoxification supplement program, and gut health ebook. Enter your name and your friends name in clinic, or at this link.

Kerryn is a Naturopathic Nutritionist at Health Space Clinics Mona Vale with a special interest in hormones and women’s health. Appointments are available Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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