We are going to explore how we can help our body to keep our hormones balanced in two blogs. The subject is wide and Noonie Zand Goodarzi has given us some insides in the matter.
One of the most important things for a woman’s health and wellbeing is to keep her hormones in a state of balance – particularly the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Our weight, our energy, our mood, our digestion, our metabolism and our brains are all at their mercy and so when these hormones are imbalanced it has a systemic, and often dramatic, effect in the body.
In a healthy monthly cycle, oestrogen and progesterone balance each other out. From our forties onwards, however, our progesterone levels start to fall and so instead of opposing oestrogen, we can have lower amounts of progesterone and a relative excess of oestrogen, otherwise known as oestrogen dominance. And this relative excess of oestrogen can go on for many years to our detriment. This will not just cause uncomfortable symptoms, but it also puts us at a greater risk of oestrogen-driven cancers like breast or uterine cancer which is obviously a serious concern.
So, here are two key points we need to look at:
Address your stress levels. Our stress hormone cortisol is converted from progesterone, so if we have high stress levels, or chronic stress, this is going to impact our progesterone levels directly, upsetting the balance of progesterone and oestrogen even more. The other key thing about our adrenal glands is that after the menopause they take over from our ovaries to produce a small, but valuable, amount of oestrogen, vital to our hearts and our bones. Chronic high cortisol can also lower thyroid hormone production which is often why many women around the time of menopause have under-active thyroids. In short, we need to be aware that stress interferes with our hormone levels in a powerful way.
Watch your weight. Our metabolism unfortunately is not as robust from our forties onwards which means that sadly we cannot eat like we used to eat – we simply won’t burn off the calories and we will gradually put on weight. In terms of hormone balance, this is not good news. Probably the most common reason for excess oestrogen in the female body is excessive adipose tissue, or fat cells. These fat cells can drive up oestrogen levels by converting androgens (the male hormones that we all have) into oestrogens. – especially in breast fat tissue or in belly fat.
- The obvious answer to this is to eat fewer calories and to keep making healthy choices, but we also need to ensure that we don’t lose muscle. Studies have shown that losing muscle and being less active are the biggest reasons why your metabolism slows with age. Plus, if you pair inactivity with low protein intake, continued muscle loss with age is inevitable. So, we should not only take regular resistance exercise, but we should also eat good quality protein with every meal (organic lean, grass-fed meat, chicken, fish, eggs, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, quinoa, buckwheat). Aim to eat around 1g protein per kg of body weight.
- Watching blood sugar balance is another important aspect to keeping our weight stable because oestrogen dominance promotes insulin resistance. This is when your cells become unresponsive to insulin [a hormone that processes glucose from food], so you store fat no matter what, especially around the waist. All this insulin floating around also causes even more oestrogen to be made in the body. So, in order to keep our blood sugar balanced, we need to watch our carbohydrate intake (especially processed ones), we need to eat protein with every meal, take exercise and never skip a meal.
Wait for our next blog on ….. the importance of looking after our liver, having a healthy gut and adding some phytoestrogens to your diet.