Our hormones… when they are in balance we can feel energized, healthy, and full of life. When they are off, it can feel like hell. And for women, our hormone balancing act starts when we hit puberty and really keeps coming at us until after menopause. And unfortunately, it is something that we never really talk about, never learn about, and don’t discuss with our doctors or health practitioners until we are experiencing intense symptoms. But we’re going to change all that with this week’s blog dedicated to hormone imbalance in women.

What are the symptoms of hormone imbalance?

Hormones play a very important role in our overall health. Depending on which hormones are not in balance or not working properly, your symptoms can be drastically different. For women, the most common hormonal imbalance is PCOS – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and affects one in every 10 women of ‘childbearing age’. That said, your normal hormonal cycle naturally changes during puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause. And if you are coming into or going through menopause right now, your hormonal balance is a key part of your daily life.

According to Healthline.com, symptoms of a hormonal imbalance specific to women include:

  • heavy or irregular periods, including missed periods, stopped period, or frequent period
  • excessive hair on the face, chin, or other parts of the body
  • acne on the face, chest, or upper back
  • thinning hair or hair loss
  • weight gain or trouble losing weight
  • darkening of the skin, especially along neck creases, in the groin, and underneath breasts
  • skin tags
  • vaginal dryness
  • vaginal atrophy
  • pain during sex
  • night sweats
  • fatigue
  • increased sensitivity to cold or heat
  • constipation or more frequent bowel movements
  • dry skin
  • puffy face
  • unexplained weight loss (sometimes sudden)
  • increased or decreased heart rate
  • muscle weakness
  • frequent urination
  • increased thirst
  • muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
  • pain, stiffness, or swelling in your joints
  • increased hunger
  • depression
  • decreased sex drive
  • nervousness, anxiety, or irritability

That’s a serious list. But if you can relate to even just a few of these symptoms, it might be time to consider how your nutrition is affecting your hormone balance. As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, this is one of my fields of concentration. And I would love to help you! Workshops and free health consultations are coming up… email me at andrea@fitcommunications.ca for more info. But let’s first give you a few great tips on how nutrition can help.

What does nutrition have to do with it? How can nutrition help?

When we have cellular inflammation (which can be due to microbial invasion or diet here) our insulin levels tend to increase. What we need to do is avoid this inflammation and in turn, avoid insulin spikes. We do this by choosing foods to help balance our inflammation and hormone levels all out.

There are a few theories on what foods we can choose to help with hormone balancing, but all really have the same concepts in mind. For example, according to Barry Sears, lowering your excessive carb intake is key. Your plate should be 1/3 low-fat protein and 2/3 colorful fruits and vegetables. Adding in good fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil is also key. He also suggests eating three meals per day, 5 hours apart, and including supplementing with Omega-3 fish oil and polyphenols (this is what makes fruits and veggies so colorful!)

Next, we have to talk about sugar. According to Sarah Wilson from iquitsugar.com, sugar is what makes us fat while adding appetite and hormone havoc to our bodies. According to Wilson, the maximum daily sugar intake should be 6 – 9 teaspoons per day. But the average person eats 23!! This excess sugar intake can cause a host of issues from diabetes to cardiovascular disease to increased inflammation and everything in between. It really is the sweet and silent killer of our generation.

What about menstrual wellness? Can the way we eat affect our periods and pre-menopausal symptoms?

In short, YES. Eating a low-glycemic diet is important, ensuring our liver is working optimally through detoxification. By this, I mean eating an abundance of cruciferous veggies (think broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, bok choy), increasing our intake of phytoestrogens like whole organic soy and flaxseed, and beets seriously becoming your new best friend. We also want to ensure we keep our lifestyle health in check with both stress reduction for 15 minutes per day (walk outside, meditate, yoga, stretch!) and regular exercise.

As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, helping women through their hormone imbalances and figuring out what foods can help and which ones can hinder is an integral part of what I
love to do. Getting on the road to health and happiness by using food as medicine is key. For more information, feel free to contact me anytime at andrea@fitcommunications.ca.