Managing female hormones with food and lifestyle
How are female hormones made?
Sex hormones are produced by the adrenal glands and ovaries from cholesterol. This means if you are not eating enough cholesterol and beneficial fats your body will not be able to generate sex hormones!
Cholesterol has had a bad reputation, and for years it has been incriminated as a culprit in cardiovascular disease.
Actually, it is not so much cholesterol itself that is responsible; it is the type of lipoprotein your cholesterol will attach to.
The “bad protein” is called LDL for Low Density Lipoprotein. If you have high levels of this protein (above 2 mmol/L) you are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Why do sex hormones decrease during menopause?
Your ovaries are the siege of sex hormone production; oestrogens are produced by the ovarian follicles (eggs) as well as progesterone. You reach menopause when your ovaries stop producing eggs, hence your hormone levels fall gradually and you end up having hot flushes at night, mood disorders and your bone density decreases, because these oestrogens have a protective effect on various organ systems.
Why are some women prone to PCOS and endometriosis?
In some women, due to genetic predisposition, lifestyle and diet habits, the levels of oestrogens become imbalanced and levels of testosterone (male hormone) can rise, while progesterone levels can decrease. There is often insulin resistance, which is linked to PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).
You can help your body produce sufficient oestrogens and the right type.
Typically, there are 3 different types of oestrogens:
So what makes you produce one type rather than another?
Your liver health!
By having optimal liver function, your body will manufacture the right type of oestrogen, so this is why it is important to look after it. Some beneficial foods and herbs will help you achieve this.
Here are the foods that you can you eat to promote optimal levels of oestrogens:
#1 Linseeds, Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
These little seeds are grains of magic. They contain substances called lignans which are similar action to oestrogens. Studies have found their efficacy not only in increasing the levels of type 2 oestrogens, but also in improving cholesterol levels and oxidative stress. . They also promote a healthy nervous system due to their essential fats. Jackpot in a seed!
Eggs have had a bad reputation for their cholesterol content, but they are exactly what you need to make sex hormones. They also contain antioxidant vitamins A and E and choline, a precious nutrient for healthy liver function.
#3 Bone broth
Bone broth made in a slow cooker for 2 days contains the amino acids glycine and glutamine which are essential for liver detoxification. If your busy lifestyle does not allow enough time to make bone broth, you can find an organic dehydrated form at www.brothoflife.com.au
#4 Cruciferous vegetables
Cauliflower, broccoli, bok choi, cabbage, brussel sprouts belong to the same brassicaceae family, and are commonly called cruciferous vegetables. They play an important role in liver detoxification due to a common ingredient, sulphoraphane.
Similar to ginger, this orange root used in Indian curries has astonishing properties; amongst these, it promotes bile secretion from the liver, turns off anti-inflammatory molecules and promotes the production of type 2 oestrogens.
This famous herb is not only good for cooking lamb. It actually promotes type 2 oestrogens and has wonderful detoxification properties. You may use it in a herbal tea if your liver is playing up or if you suffer from periodical acne.
#7 Bitter herbs
Rocket salad, mustard greens, dandelion leaves are classified as bitter herbs due to their taste. They are great for your liver by promoting bile production and supporting your digestive system. A healthy liver means healthy hormones!
#8 Legumes and wholegrains
They contain substances called lignans and fibre which are necessary for sex hormone balance. Always soak them overnight before cooking to improve their digestibility.
This fabulous product is found in soybeans and egg yolks. It has shown to restore liver enzymes. You may find it in granules form at the supermarket health section. A teaspoon or two a day sprinkled on your cereals or in your smoothies is all what you need. Check that the lecithin is from non-GMO soybeans.
Your lifestyle is also important.
Stress interferes with hormone production in great extent so it is important to find time to relax and break the daily routine through pleasurable activities.
Take time to eat in a calm environment and have a non-processed nutritious diet. (see below)
Eating enough fibre is necessary for gut health and elimination of unnecessary fats. Half of your plate should consist in vegetables raw and cooked.
Exercise plays a big role in balancing hormones and reducing stress levels, so make sure you have an active lifestyle and exercise at least three times a week.
Most of all, reduce all sources of refined carbohydrates in your diet – Pastries, cakes, lollies, soft drinks and chocolates, which are high GI foods. High GI (Glycaemic Index) foods promote quick rise of blood sugar, since this type of sugar is easily digested. On a long-term this will promote insulin resistance, which means that the insulin receptors will no longer work to get that sugar out of your blood to your cells and you will end up with PCOS or worse type 2 diabetes!
What can you do if you have sugar cravings?
It probably means that you are stressed, depressed or malnourished. This is what is commonly advised:
For Further Reading
1-Alipoor, B, Haghighian, MK, Sadat, BE & Asghari, M 2012, ‘Effect of sesame seed on lipid profile and redox status in hyperlipidemic patients’, International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, vol. 63, no. 6, pp. 674–678.
2-Islam, MS, Akhtar, MM, Ciavattini, A, Giannubilo, SR, Protic, O, Janjusevic, M, Procopio, AD, Segars, JH, Castellucci, M & Ciarmela, P 2014, ‘Use of dietary phytochemicals to target inflammation, fibrosis, proliferation, and angiogenesis in uterine tissues: Promising options for prevention and treatment of uterine fibroids?’, Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, Vol.58, pp.1167-1684.
3-Miller, D 2002, ‘Health benefits of lecithin and choline’, Cereal Foods World, vol. 47, no. 5, pp. 178–184.
4-Wu, W-H, Kang, Y-P, Wang, N-H, Jou, H-J & Wang, T-A 2006, ‘Sesame ingestion affects sex hormones, antioxidant status, and blood lipids in postmenopausal women.’, The Journal of nutrition, vol. 136, pp. 1270–1275.
5-Zhang, Y, Cao, H, Yu, Z, Peng, H-Y & Zhang, C-J 2013, ‘Curcumin inhibits endometriosis endometrial cells by reducing estradiol production’, Iranian journal of reproductive medicine, vol. 11, no. 5, pp. 415–22.