How To Consume For Improved Hormone Health 2023
Hormonal health is often overlooked until it becomes noticeable. How well do we understand how hormones affect the menstrual cycle? They affect mood, energy, libido, and appetite more than we realize.
“As women, I don’t think we have enough understanding of the immediate and long-term impact our hormonal health has on us,” says Pauline Cox, nutritionist, integrative medicine fellow, and author of Hungry Woman: Eating For Good Health, Happiness And Hormones.
“Rather than fighting our physiology, it’s about trying to understand and work with it to alleviate some of the self-destructive emotions we can feel toward ourselves, whether that’s frustration or shame.”
Oestrogen, progesterone, and metabolic hormones like insulin all affect our health. “It’s really important for women to work with their hormones in their twenties, thirties, and forties to capitalize on the window before menopause, which can then determine how we transition through menopause and how that affects our longevity,” adds Cox.
Restore hormonal balance? First, balance your lifestyle. We haven’t altered genetically since caveman times, so our bodies have to deal with lengthy workdays, stress, and blue light. Cox says sleep supports hormonal health.
“Start a good sleep/wake pattern early. Go for a morning walk to set your circadian rhythm and increase serotonin, which converts to melatonin and promotes sleep.
Our meals fuel our body’s processes, thus they’re crucial to hormonal wellness. Cox thinks a healthy diet and lifestyle may control perimenopause and PMS symptoms. Our bodies have an inbuilt intelligence and mind-blowing physiology that helps us navigate our lives according to our stage.
Inflammation from a high-sugar, processed, nutrient-deficient diet worsens PMS symptoms. She also says that HRT can be good for certain women but isn’t a fast cure and that food is more crucial for long-term health.
Balance blood sugar.
Blood sugar controls insulin and sex hormones. “If our bodies have had lots of exposure to high blood sugar and our insulin is not working as it should be (i.e. its resistance worsens), perimenopause and menopause become prolonged,” says Cox.
It also affects inflammatory levels, tissue degradation (especially reproductive tissues), and overall health. As we reach perimenopause, uncontrolled blood sugar and insulin sensitivity will produce a double whammy.
A well-balanced diet of plants, vegetables, and quality protein can help control blood sugar. Avoid processed, sugary, and carb-heavy meals since what goes up must come down (causing mood swings, overeating, and inflammation). Maintain sleep, stress, and exercise.
Carbohydrates are unfairly demonized, yet eating them mindfully can help regulate hormones. Cox suggests substituting veggies with spaghetti and crackers.
“Emphasize colorful, cruciferous [broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and turnips] and fermented vegetables.”
As we become older, we cease manufacturing growth hormone, so consuming extra protein is essential to growing muscle, adds Cox. “If we don’t get enough protein and lose muscle mass, our blood sugar levels start to rise because muscles are very big glucose users.”
Due to lower muscular mass, they turn into fat. Cox notes that throughout their thirties and forties, many women don’t modify their diet or exercise yet gain weight, which may be disheartening. Protein is a nutritional priority because it builds neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, and GABA.
Cox recommends intermittent fasting to improve metabolism, mood, and weight. “Oestrogen helps get glucose into our brain cells, but as it drops due to perimenopause, suddenly the brain cells worry that they’ve got no fuel, which is when we start to see emotional issues, memory problems, brain fog, prolonged hunger, and vasomotor symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Providing an alternate fuel source eliminates the need to transport glucose. Ketones, additional fuel, are needed.” When we stop eating, our bodies burn fat, produce ketones, and fuel the brain.
Find a window that works for you and ease into fasting. You might stop eating at 7pm and start again at 9am. This allows the body to become insulin-sensitive, enhance glucose tolerance, and burn fat.
Eat nutritious foods.
Cox’s favorite book recipe? Beetroot and goat’s cheese cauliflower rice risotto is tasty and nutritious. “Beetroot is packed with nitrates, which builds nitric oxide that’s incredibly important for female sexual health—it helps blood flow to our pelvic organs, improves cardiovascular and skin health,” she explains.
I enjoy cauli rice and goat’s cheese, which has MCTs to boost ketone levels. It helps the liver, is low in carbohydrate, high in fiber, and vitamin C, making it a hormone-healthy meal.”