Address female health issues (e.g. PMS)
For some women, stress really does cause a shift in female hormone balance and this may apply to you if you experience any of the following issues:
- PMS or history of menstrual problems
- Periods become heavier, more painful, less regular
- Female hormone issues e.g. fibroids, endometriosis, PCOS
- Pre-menstrual or ovulation sugar cravings
- Menopausal symptoms
- Fertility issues
- Long-term oral, IUD or injected hormonal contraception
- Hormonal phases of irritability, crying and/or negative thoughts
The reality is that stress can directly affect the balance of oestrogen and progesterone, often tending towards ‘oestrogen dominance’ over your total cycle if you’re still having periods. This is often seen as weight gain in ‘female areas’ like bum, thighs and hips. Low progesterone in post-menopausal women can contribute to symptoms as it reduces the adrenal glands’ ability to produce this important relaxing mood hormone. Stress can also raise more male ‘androgenic’ hormones in women, leading to male shaped weight around the middle, menstrual and menopausal issues and PCOS.
All of these symptoms can be managed through diet and lifestyle and here are some key points to prioritise if you’re feeling stressed and hormonal.
- Reduce sugar and sweet snacks which interfere with your liver’s ability to balance hormones. Protein with each meal helps to reduce sugar cravings; include organic meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, well-cooked pulses and goat’s cheese. Healthy fats also help appetite satisfaction and are crucial for hormone balance; oily fish, nuts, seeds, avocadoes, olive oil and butter.
- Soluble fibre is particularly beneficial in promoting regular bowel movements – good to balance hormones and clear toxins. Apples, carrots, soaked linseed, vegetables with skins on, garlic, onions and well-cooked pulses all provide good levels of fibre, which bind to oestrogen in the gut, removing it from the body stopping any excess levels to build.
- Beneficial gut bacteria help balance hormones via good digestion and detoxification. These are the probiotic bacteria supported by fermented foods like natural live yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar and sourdough bread.
- The cruciferous vegetables are particularly beneficial for balancing female hormones; eat plenty of broccoli, cabbage, kale, pak choi and Brussels sprouts, but make sure they’re cooked as can hinder thyroid function when raw, having the opposite intended effect. They contain sulphurophanes which help the liver process hormones, remove toxins from the body and may reduce risk of hormone-related cancers. Also rich source of vitamin E needed for all aspects of fertility.
- Move and breathe naturally – walking is our favourite movement for supporting liver function, bringing down stress hormones and encouraging the easy breath patters that positively effect all of our hormonal and nervous system.
- Daily alcohol consumption is a significant breast cancer risk for women. it may seem to relax as gives us a rush of the anti-anxiety neurotransmitter GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid), but ultimately robs our ability to use this fabulous relaxing brain chemical, leaving us feeling dependent. Its better to drink less and find your GABA fixes from a nightly yoga practice, shown to naturally raise levels.
- Include ‘you time’ in the day – a relaxing bath (adding a few drops of lavender oil is highly relaxing), time to read a good book, go for a walk or even chat to loved ones on the phone. Even just take 5 minutes at the start and end of the day to sit or lay quietly with dimmed light and relaxing music, breathing deeply in and out through your nose. This is particularly important if you tend to look after other people more than yourself. This really can create more stress and affect the balance of hormones.