5 Foods to Balance Your Hormones
As we approach menopause, we experience huge hormonal fluctuations as our ovaries decrease our body’s endogenous estrogen production, while our fat stores continue to produce some estrogen. These hormonal changes can lead to the symptoms of peri/menopause, including hot flashes, skin changes, mood swings, among others. There are several supplements and hormone replacement options that your Naturopathic Doctor can discuss with you to help ease you into this next stage of life but there are also changes you can make to your diet to help your symptoms. Adding more phytoestrogens, balancing your blood sugar, increasing fibre intake, and eating more cruciferous vegetables and fatty fish are some changes that will not only help balance your hormones, but will also improve your overall health.
Phytoestrogens are a type of compound present in the foods we eat that strongly resemble the estrogen we produce in our bodies. The funny thing about these food compounds is that they can behave as either estrogen enhancers or estrogen blockers depending on the tissue receptors they bind to and on your own endogenous concentrations of estrogen. Put simply, they bind to estrogen receptors and act as “modulators.” Considering the fluctuations in hormones that occurs as we age, the intake of these foods can have a balancing impact on our hormones and in turn, a beneficial impact on our health and quality of life. Research has demonstrated their protective benefits against cardiovascular and bone diseases as well as menopausal symptoms and cognitive function decline. Although there are various classes of phytoestrogens, some easy foods to get into your diet include soy products, flaxseeds, clover sprouts, legumes, tomato, alfalfa, and seeds. Try to go for the less processed versions of any of these foods. One caveat, however, appears to be that the availability of these phytoestrogens depends on your healthy gut bacteria to transform these phytoestrogens into metabolites that have various estrogen receptor binding power. It all starts with a healthy gut! Your naturopath will be able to guide you to improve the health of your gut and allow these foods to work their magic.
Balancing Blood Sugar
As your body’s estrogen levels decline, so does your body’s sensitivity to sugar. This means that it takes more insulin to get the sugar into your cells for fuel. It’s best to focus on foods that don’t spike your blood sugar but rather keep a steady stream of fuel for your body to keep you energized. Try to choose carbohydrates that are low on the glycemic index – this means stay away from the more processed foods and those with added sugar. Opt for foods with more fibre such as sweet potato, oats, quinoa and of course, lots of vegetables. Add a little bit of fat or protein to every meal to keep you full longer and stabilize your sugars. This can be as simple as adding a handful of nuts and seeds or a spoonful of almond butter to your snack. If you eat these foods in small amounts but more often, it will be easier for your body to maintain stable blood sugar.
Fibre is another key player in balancing our hormones. It helps balance our blood sugar, helps keep us full and also keeps our guts healthy. An important aspect of hormonal balance is excretion! When your body is excreting what it doesn’t need effectively, it is easier for it to maintain balance. And those gut bacteria we mentioned earlier? Fibre also helps feed those beneficial bacteria to keep our guts in optimal health. There are some great and simple ways to increase fibre. Try adding flax seeds – which are also phytoestrogens – to your diet. They can be ground and easily added to smoothies or oatmeal. Avoid highly processed grains and eat lots of vegetables. One thing to remember when you increase your fibre intake is that you also need to make sure you drink enough water.
Indole-3-carbinol is a molecule found in the cell walls of cruciferous vegetable such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts. It is beneficial to our metabolism of hormones in the liver, contributing to hormonal balance. It also has the added benefit of protecting estrogen-sensitive tissues such as the breast. As mentioned above, phytoestrogens bind to and inhibit or activate receptors differently depending on the tissue – indole-3-carbinol works a little bit differently but disrupts the estrogen receptors at the breast tissue. Although there are many wonderfully healthful phytoestrogens that we consume, there are also detrimental xenoestrogens that are often unavoidable in our environment such as BPAs in plastics or parabens in our skincare products. These act as estrogen mimics and can cause damage to our bodies, especially our hormones. Indole-3-carbinol is also beneficial with helping excrete these harmful compounds. Try increasing the amounts of cabbage, Brussels sprouts and broccoli into your diet and it will help in more way than one! An added bonus is that these veggies are also rich in calcium which is beneficial for your bones.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids have been touted for their health benefits for years now but did you know that they have also been researched for their benefits to menopausal symptoms? This has been especially true for hot flashes but they have also been shown to improve mood issues, which are often a complaint in peri/menopause. Add some fatty fish to your meals a few times a week to supplement your diet with omega-3 in the form of EPA and DHA. Flaxseeds and nuts are also a nice addition of omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Try having a small handful of nuts as your afternoon snack - this will also give you those blood sugar balancing effects we discussed earlier!
Looking for help with your menopause symptoms? Book an appointment with Dr. Harmonie Eleveld, ND, TODAY!
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