Life, we cannot live it optimally without our hormones. It seems like all over the media when searching women’s health there is a constant discussion about hormones and what can be done to balance them. Yes, this is another article on the subject, but I have a feeling the information in it isn’t something everyone readily knows about hormonal balance, but they should! This information may revolutionize your health, especially if you are one of the millions of women who want to feel great, have a healthy pregnancy and child, and get through menopause relatively symptom free.
1. Liver Health and Your Hormones
The liver metabolizes hormones. That’s right, it isn’t just a filter in our bodies. The liver is going to break down other more vital hormones, such as insulin before it gets to sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. This means if a person has blood sugar issues or high chronic stress, the body is going to deal with the hormones related to those issues first and leave reproductive function to the wayside.
Liver health is critical to hormonal well-being. A liver that is not working as well as it could will likely focus on what is most vital to keep the body alive, and this means fertility may take a back seat to other bodily functions.
2. Xenohormones – Hormones We Don’t Want
Many man-made chemicals mimic sex hormones. These are known as xenohormones. Xenohormones have the key to unlock alpha receptors in many of the cells in our body. Hormones, regardless of what type, are “messengers” and these messengers have a command to give the cell. Once inside of the cell, xenohormones have the ability to give the cells commands. What many people don’t realize is that xenohormones are stronger than our own natural (endogenous) hormones and they can exert a stronger effect on the body.
Now I know this can seem a little sci-fi, but unfortunately this is a reality. To give you a clearer picture, let’s use a subclass of xenohormones known as xenoestrogens as an example. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA food preservative), plasticizers in plastics, parabens in skin products and Erythrosine (FD&C Red No. 3) are known xenoestrogens. In fact, there are more on the list, these are just a taste.
Just imagine how many we are exposed to or directly consume daily. Not only can xenoestrogens mimic estrogen in the body, they can cause our body to produce more of our own estrogen. This creates a situation of estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance is linked to a variety of fertility health issues, namely, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, endometrial hyperplasia and ovarian cysts. Do you know what these fertility health issues have in common? Excessive cell proliferation. Now, can you guess which hormone gives cells the command to proliferate? That’s right – estrogen.
My top 5 tips for avoiding xenohormones:
- Eat organic, especially animal products, avoid GMO foods
- Make foods from scratch, using whole-food ingredients
- Avoid using pesticides, non-organic fertilizers, and herbicides
- Avoid plastics, this includes polyester clothing, feminine products and food storage containers
- Use organic body-care products and learn to make your own body-care products
3. Hormonal Balance is a Team Effort
Our hormones need to work in concert with each other for the body to maintain peak fertility. An endocrine gland in our brain known as the hypothalamus is like a conductor; our hormones are the musicians, our cells the instruments and the music our bodies, working in perfect harmony. Yes, our perfect concert is representative of our health. If one thing is off, so to will be our health.
4. Herbs Are Our Allies
Fortunately, we can turn to our plant allies to help naturally support hormonal balance in a variety of ways. Some herbs can help protect the body from xenohormones, while others are great for liver health. Most herbs have more than one beneficial action on the body. Below are three of my favorite herbal categories for hormone balancing:
Herbal phytoestrogens can help protect cells from xenoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are not as strong as xenoestrogens and are even less strong then our own natural estrogen. Phytoestrogens have been shown to help prevent bone loss and vaginal dryness associated with declining estrogen levels in menopausal women. Consuming phytoestrogens daily is a great way to help protect the body from xenoestrogens and support healthy long-term estrogen levels in the body.
- Red clover blossom and leaf (Trifolium pratense)
- Ground Flax seeds
- Sprouted and fermented soy
- Royal jelly – though not an herb, is rich in flavonoids, a type of phytoestrogen
In order for the body to properly utilize phytoestrogens, the body must have a healthy amount of intestinal flora. Be sure to also regularly consume prebiotics and probiotics which feed healthy intestinal flora – sauerkraut, kimchi, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions, organic raw yogurt.
These support the health of the endocrine system, the glands that produce and regulate hormones. They also help the body handle all types of stress in a better way.
- Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
- Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
- Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
- Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza spp.)
These protect and encourage liver function and health. Remember number one up top? Liver health truly matters when it comes to hormonal balance.
- Milk Thistle seed (Silybum marianum)
- Dandelion root and leaf (Taraxacum officinale)
- Burdock root (Arctium lappa)
- Schisandra berry (Schisandra chinensis)
- Goji berries (Lycium barbarum,L.chinense)
5. Hormone Friendly Foods
There are certain foods you should be consuming regularly to keep your hormonal health in tip top shape. Hormones are made from certain fatty acids and cholesterol. In order to make hormones and maintain hormonal balance, your body needs good fats, clean protein and a variety of antioxidant rich foods.
- coconut oil
- cod liver oil
- organic nuts and seeds, raw, sprouted or made into butter
- grass-fed butter or ghee
- cage-free eggs (yolk please!)
- wild caught fish
- high quality whey protein powder
- organic nuts and seeds, raw, sprouted or made into butter
- beans (limit the amount weekly, as these are also high in carbohydrates)
- organic, free-range meat (chicken, beef, turkey, venison, elk, eggs, etc.)
- organic spirulina
Antioxidant Rich Fruits and Veggies
When it comes to antioxidant rich foods, the way you can tell if they are higher in antioxidants is – color. Try to eat a rainbow of colors daily.
- Dark green vegetables and herbs – broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, parsley, cilantro, asparagus, bok choy, etc.
- Peppers – yellow, red, green and orange bell peppers, mini-peppers
- Starchy veggies – sweet potatoes, beets, artichokes, turnips, carrots, squash
- Berries – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries
Covering these five aspects of hormonal health daily is sure to help keep your hormones in balance at every stage of life. Here’s to your health!
– Helt, Anna-Marija, Ph.D, C.H. (2013). Lecture: Estrogen 101.
– Kelly, M. (1/24/2014). 48 Foods To Balance Your Hormones & Give You Glowing Skin. Retrieved online from: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11983/48-foods-to-balance-your-hormones-give-you-glowing-skin.html
– Winston, David. & Maimes, Steven. (2007). Adaptogens Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Healing Arts Press: Rochester, Vermont.
– Dumanoski, D. & Peterson-Meyers, J. (n.d.). Widespread Pollutants with Endocrine-disrupting Effects. Our Stolen Future. Retrieved from: http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/basics/chemlist.htm