Balance Your Hormones Naturally
For many women, menstruation is the dreaded time of pain, mood swings and fatigue. The secret is – it doesn’t have to be like this. Understanding what a normal period looks like and the key hormones at play throughout your menstrual cycle can help you identify underlying hormonal imbalances that are causing your monthly symptoms.
Your period should be occurring on a monthly basis, anywhere between 21-35 days, with the average being around 28 days. Ovulation is always followed by your period around 10-16 days later. Since your cycle is a key indicator of your health, it is important to know when menstruation is occuring.
There are several key hormone players when it comes to women’s health. Let’s have a look at the different hormones and what can happen when these hormones become unbalanced.
The first hormone is oestradiol – this is the form of oestrogen produced in the greatest amounts by women of childbearing age. This is considered the happy hormone, because it boosts neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which gives us a sense of pleasure and motivation. It is also great for your bones, heart, muscles, sleep, skin, and metabolism. When there is an excess of oestradiol in your system, this can lead to heavy and painful periods, sore breasts, PMS, and weight retention around thighs and hips. The causes of oestradiol excess include higher production from ovaries and poor metabolism and detoxification. Low oestradiol can also have negative effects on your health, which include low libido, missing periods, or very long cycles. The causes for low oestradiol include under-eating, over-exercising, stress, and smoking.
The second key hormone is progesterone. The key role of this hormone is to sustain pregnancy, therefore it is involved in sustaining a healthy uterine lining – which is shed in the form of your period if your egg is not fertilised. Some of the benefits of progesterone include:
- boosts body temperature
- reduces inflammation
- builds muscles
- promotes sleep
- protects against heart disease
- helps us deal with stress and anxiety
The consequences of low progesterone include PMS, spotting before period begins, anxiety, and prolonged bleeding. The causes of low progesterone include stress and not ovulating.
The third key hormone is testosterone. Although testosterone is usually associated with men, women need it too. In healthy levels, testosterone supports:
- Muscle building
Having high testosterone can cause acne, male pattern hair growth, hair loss, and irregular cycles. It is associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is associated with irregular cycles and excess androgens (male hormones).
The final key hormone for your menstrual cycle is insulin. The role of insulin is to stabilise blood sugar levels, support energy production and distribution, and support your metabolism. When blood sugar levels are not stabilised (think chronic indulgence on high starch and sugar foods), insulin becomes less responsive in the body and can cause the following:
- Poor blood sugar control
- Mood swings
- Poor concentration
- Sugar cravings
- Feeling sleepy after eating
- Abdominal fat
- Increased testosterone from ovaries
- Irregular cycles
Ways to balance your hormones naturally:
#1 Get off the sugar roller coaster
Excess sugar can lead to insulin resistance and inflammation which can lead to impaired ovulation and increased testosterone. Get rid of refined sugar, but enjoy complex starches.
- Soft drinks
- Lollies, chocolate
- Pastries, cakes
- Added sugar (e.g. in your coffee and tea)
- Alcohol, particularly mixed drinks
#2 Balance blood sugar
Having balanced blood sugar will mean your body can produce a normal insulin response. A balanced meal includes good quality fat, protein, and fibre. A balanced plate would look something like this:
- ½ of your plate being greens and vegetables
- ¼ of your plate being protein
- ¼ of your plate being good carbs
- And 1-2 tablespoons of good fats
#3 Support hormone detoxification
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Start the day with one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water or the juice of half a lemon to stimulate liver detoxification
- Enjoy bitter foods
- Reduce the load on the liver
- Easy to digest, nourishing foods: soups, stews, bone broth, casseroles
- Enjoy fermented foods like cultured, unsweetened yoghurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut
- Reduce refined and added sugar intake
- Try collagen powder to support the gut lining (1 Tbsp a day mixed in to hot or cold foods)
- Slippery elm bark powder – soothes an irriated gut: 1 tsp in glass of cold water
#4 Manage stress
How to deal with stress:
- Learn to say no
- Improve coping ability
- Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises
- Protein with every meal to stabilise blood sugar and moods
- Regular exercise that you enjoy
- Time outdoors: barefoot on the ground
#5 Consider Supplementing
- Magnesium: bisglycinate 300mg/day
- Zinc: 30mg/day citrate or picolinate after food
- Iodine: (Only if checked for thyroid antibodies: your GP can do this with a simple blood test) 300mcg/day
- Iron: bisglycinate 24mg every 2nd day away from caffeine
#6 Tune in to the subtle energies throughout your cycle
Women are not designed to be energetic throughout the entire month. Try and slow down at menstruation. This is where you should be getting rest and restoring energy. Your highest energy level will be during ovulation (mid cycle) so that is where your productivity should be the highest. During this time is where you should be scheduling meetings, presentations, and any big decisions. Menstruation is a time where you should be clearing your space and focusing on taking care of yourself.
Tamika Woods is a clinical nutritionist and Fertility Awareness Educator, practicing in Bondi Junction. Want to get to the bottom of those pesky hormonal or period symptoms once and for all? For more information on nutrition or fertility consults with Tamika, check out her website here.
Written by Jason Nowak
Information provided by Tamika Woods BHSc (Nutrition and Dietetic Medicine), B. Ed