Help for your Hormones eat, move, think your way to a more balanced you

Let's face it, hormones are a mystery. From puberty to menopause, conventional medicine seems to offer little to no real help in the realm of understanding or balancing hormonal processes. Birth control pills, Hormone Replacement Therapy, and Hysterectomies are the most prevalent treatment in conventional medicine. The side effects are far reaching and long lasting.

Environmental influences, sedentary lifestyles, changing food habits, decrease in nutrient density, and high levels of stress generate huge shifts in hormone balance resulting in issues like Infertility, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Estrogen Dominance, Peri-menopause, and Menopause.

The message most women receive when experiencing hormonal imbalance is this is just how it is. Yet, in Asian culture, research demonstrates that less the 20% of female population suffer from imbalances common to women in western culture (80%). Why so many issues with hormones in western industrialized culture?

"My fear is the PMS doesn't really exist and this really is just my personality..."

Pre-menstrual Syndrome: 85% women in western industrial culture experience PMS. Mood swings, bloating, tender breasts, fatigue, irritability, food cravings, anxiety, and/or depression.

Current common recommendation for PMS: Contraceptives, Anti-depressants, diuretics, NSAIDS.

Common conventional dietary recommendations for PMS: Eat small meals, avoid salty foods, each calcium rich foods, avoid caffeine.

Potential causes of PMS? Insufficient serotonin production, imbalance of estrogen/progesterone.

Functional and Integrative research suggests eating a diet rich in tryptophan can help increase serotonin; balancing hormones and alleviating the symptoms of PMS.
  • Foods high in Omega 3's - sardines, salmon, flax seeds, walnuts
  • Eggs - be sure to include the yolk, which contain a significant amount of tryptophan and tyrosine.
  • Cheese is a great source of tryptophan and depending on the type of cheese is also pre and pro biotic.
  • Pineapple - contains bromelain, which is effective in reducing inflammation.
  • Turkey - caveat, be sure it's sustainably raised and minimally processed.
  • Soy - naturally fermented, non-gmo. (no soy milk or conventionally processed tofu)

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

A hormonal disorder with varied symptoms, which can make it incredibly challenging to diagnose and then treat. Conventional medicine currently states that PCOS has no "cure".

Symptoms: Irregular or missing menstrual periods, Infertility, Excess or unwanted body or facial hair growth, Thinning hair on the scalp, Weight problems, often including weight gain around the waist, Skin problems, including skin tags, darkening skin and acne.

Current conventional treatments: Birth control pills to regulate menstruation; Insulin-sensitizing medications, Ovulation induction to treat infertility, Androgen-blocking medications, Topical anti-hair-growth medications, Other excess hair treatments, Treatments for hair loss.

Functional and Integrative Medicine recommends treating for Insulin Resistance and Systemic Inflammation first.

Recommended Interventions: Minimize sugar, simple carbs, alcohol, and caffeine Minimize xenoestrogen exposure Use food grade, bioavailable vitamins and minerals if necessary, eat organic as much as possible, support GI health, eat pre and probiotic enhancing foods, eat foods that support thyroid and adrenal function, use only bio-identical hormones

Estrogen Dominance

Deficient, normal or excessive estrogen, with little or no progesterone to balance estrogen effects in the body. Conventional medicine is still behind the curve on this one.

Symptoms: Decreased sex drive, Irregular or otherwise abnormal menstrual periods, Bloating (water retention), Breast swelling and tenderness, Fibrocystic breasts, Headaches (especially premenstrually), Mood swings (most often irritability and depression), Weight and/or fat gain (particularly around the abdomen and hips), Cold hands and feet (a symptom of thyroid dysfunction), Hair loss, Thyroid dysfunction, Sluggish metabolism Foggy thinking, memory loss, Fatigue, Trouble sleeping/insomnia PMS, endometriosis, cysts, and fibroids.

Functional and Integrative Medicine recommends; avoiding xenoestrogens, managing stress, eating foods the help the body process and eliminate excess estrogen, use only bio-identical hormones, eat zinc and calcium rich foods

It is important to note that estrogen dominance often goes undiagnosed and/or is treated as perimenopause or menopause, which can increase symptoms. Be aware that if you have estrogen dominance foods and supplements like: Soy, Maca, Blue/Black Cohosh, Shatavari, can exacerbate symptoms.

Pre and Peri-menopause

PRE-MENOPAUSE is a relatively new term describing a 'syndrome' or series of symptoms relating to menstruation/reproduction that can begin as early as 20 years prior to the onset of menopause.

Symptoms tend to occur any time between the ages of 30-50 years old, though earlier onset is being reported more frequently. They can include fibroids, lumpy or cystic breasts, endometriosis, difficulty conceiving, sudden weight gain, fatigue, water retention, migraine, irregular periods (both in cycle frequency, length, and/or flow), depression or other mood swings, cold hands and feet, unexplained digestive issues, and ovarian cysts.

Experts suggest premenopause is more a syndrome of culture than an actual disease.

PERI-MENOPAUSE is the phase which technically occurs 3-5 years prior to menopause. Symptoms are similar to pre-menopause, with fatigue, mood swings, insomnia, headache and digestive disorder being the most prevalent first symptoms. Consequently, women can end up on several different medical interventions before they realize it is perimenopause or menopause.

Menopause -

Menopause is the term applied once menstruation has been absent for at least a year. It can be induced artificially via surgeries, pharmaceutical intervention, and extreme stress.

Natural menopause begins as a gradual decline of progesterone, with estrogen levels remaining within normal ranges. This results in a 'relative' excess of estrogen, contributing to the symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, insomnia, headaches.

What to do?

  • Manage stress: varying and relative excess of estrogen contributes to increased adrenaline, cortisol and decreased DHEA. Managing stress becomes even more important because your stress hormones are imbalanced simply by the process of menopause, couple that with a stressful life and you are set up for further disease.
  • Leave adequate time for enough sleep. Sleep is one of the most effective ways to decrease adrenaline levels and balance stress hormones. Sound sleep restores adrenal function faster than any other remedy.
  • Move your body - during menopause and even perimenopause it is critical to listen more closely to the needs of your body. Weight bearing movement (dance, tai chi, qigong) and brisk walking are actually the best forms of "exercise" during these phases. They increase bone strength and regulate neurotransmitters in a way that other exercises do not. (including jogging, swimming, and cycling)
  • Support your hormones with nutrition. Eliminate high glycemic foods and processed foods, additives, chemicals, any foods with minimum or low nutrient density. Glycemic stress creates further imbalance in estrogen/progesterone loop with the addition of depleting adrenal function and contributing to atrophy in the amygdala.
  • Estrogen supporting foods: If indeed natural menopause has set in, it can be helpful to support the body with phytoestrogen rich foods. Fermented soy, ground flax seeds, citrus fruits (oranges and grapefruit especially) cherries, blueberries, cranberries, whole grains, grape skins (bioflavonoid rich foods)
  • Even if you are feeling warm, avoid ice and cold foods. Instead try eating cooling foods like: melon, celery, fermented soy, white fish, celery, apples, asparagus, and grapes. Avoid these foods if you are experiencing high stress levels or are estrogen dominant.

Dr. Stephanie Shelburne

Created with images by makunin - "read book reading" • Unsplash - "forest model woman nature" • Praziquantel - "China-Yangshuo woman farmer" • theogeo - "the women" • ACKemp - "Woman's form"

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