In honour of International Women’s Day (or as we think - International Women’s Month!), we think it’s only fitting to spend some time talking about estrogen, the quintessential female hormone that is responsible for making you the badass woman you are. Estrogen is one of two main sex hormones that women have - the other being progesterone. It is responsible for female physical features (you can thank it for your booty and your breasts), it regulates our menstrual cycle and is the magic behind reproduction. Estrogen also helps to keep cholesterol in control, protects bone health and affects the brain influencing mood.
What an incredible thing estrogen is! BUT, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. When our bodies are out of whack for one reason or another estrogen can begin to build up, throwing off the fine balance of hormones needed for optimal health. Hormonal health, and overall health, is all about balance. When your hormones are in balance, you feel great, look great, have sustainable energy, a healthy appetite and a healthy sex drive. On the other hand, when our hormones are not in balance it can have far reaching effects into every system in our bodies. Some signs you might have an overproduction of estrogen include:
Weight gain: mainly in your waist, hips, and thighs
Menstrual problems, such as light or heavy bleeding
Worsening of premenstrual syndrome
Fibrocystic breasts (non-cancerous breast lumps)
Fibroids (noncancerous tumors) in the uterus and/or pain during ovulation
Loss of sex drive
Feeling depressed or anxious
Factors contributing to an overproduction of estrogen include the use of hormonal birth control, the use of conventional beauty products riddled with hormone disturbing xenoestrogens, over consumption of conventional meats and dairy products, overconsumption of alcohol and processed foods as well as diminished digestive health, just to name a few.
So what can we do to keep estrogen in check and ensure we feel like the superheroes we are? Not to worry, here are some easy ways you can help to support your hormones and feel your best:
Support Your Liver
The liver works to both activate estrogen and and to produce bile which carries excess estrogen out of the body. When liver function is compromised hormone imbalance is inevitable. In order to boost liver function try eating more: dark leafy greens like kale and arugula, cruciferous veggies like cauliflower and broccoli any food high antioxidants like blueberries. We suggest you ingest less: alcohol, refined sugar, anything highly processed, conventionally raised meat and dairy.
Optimize Gut Health
Gut health and gut bacteria are the most overlooked elements of hormonal balance. In fact, the microbiome is now actually considered an endocrine organ and some consider it even more powerful than the other endocrine glands. The gut controls the production of hormones and is responsible for the excretion of excess hormones (i.e. are you pooping regularly?). Foods that are good for your gut include: fermented foods and drinks full of healthy bacteria like kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha, foods high in dietary fibre (especially fruits and veggies) which help to keep waste moving through the body and sea algaes like spirulina which encourage the growth of good bacteria. Things to avoid include: refined sugars, alcohol, food additives and highly processed foods, conventional meats and dairy (sound familiar?).
Eat Your (Good) Fats
Did you know that our hormones are formed from fat and cholesterol? Eating enough fats is one of the most important things you can do to balance hormones naturally. In fact, recent studies have linked low fat diets to increased risk of infertility and severe PMS symptoms. Warning: not all fats are created equal! Fats you want to stay away from are: trans and hydrogenated fats, any fats that have been exposed to light, heat and oxygen. Fats to load up on include: avocados, raw nuts and seeds, cold pressed oils and eggs.
So here’s to being the best WOMEN we can be!
Shannon Gilchrist, RHN