Growing up, talking about hormones, menstrual health and sexual health were not topics discussed in our household. I honestly don’t think my parents knew about these subjects enough to chat about them, and if they did, they were too reserved to discuss them. Admitting your daughter is having sex isn’t an easy pill to swallow I am guessing. Hormone health wasn’t something on their radar at all…nor on my doctor’s. In fact, the first time I started to learn anything about hormone health was when I became a Certified Integrative Nutritionist…in my 40s while pregnant.
A hormonal imbalance happens when you have too much or too little of one or more hormones — your body’s chemical messengers. It’s a broad term that can represent many different hormone-related conditions. Hormones are a huge area to cover as they include things like sexual hormones, insulin levels, cortisol hormones and adrenaline. For the purpose of this blog I want to start the conversation about female hormone imbalance.
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, your symptoms can be drastically different. For women, the most common hormonal imbalance is PCOS – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and affects one in 10 women of ‘childbearing age’. I use that term loosely as that is a massive range. Young girls as early as 12 are having babies, and I for one had a baby in my 40’s.
That said, your normal hormonal cycle naturally changes during puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause – and let’s not forget pre, peri and post menopause too. If you are in any of these areas right now, your hormonal balance is a key part of your daily life.
Symptoms of a hormonal imbalance specific to women can include:
- having heavy or irregular periods, including missed periods, stopped period, or frequent period
- excessive hair on the face, chin, or other body parts
- skin issues including acne, dry skin, feeling puffy in your face, skin tags, darkening of the skin along crease areas such as the neck or under your breasts
- thinning hair or hair loss
- weight gain, trouble losing weight or unexplained weight loss
- vaginal dryness, pain during sex, decreased sex drive
- night sweats and increased sensitivity to cold or heat
- constipation or more frequent bowel movements
- muscle weakness and/or pain, stiffness, or swelling in your joints
- increased hunger and thirst
- depression, nervousness, anxiety, or irritability
If you can relate to these symptoms, your first step should be to speak with your doctor or healthcare practitioner. You can request blood work to check things such as your hormone levels, vitamin D levels, and your liver enzyme levels. It might also be time to consider how your nutrition is affecting your hormone balance. In January for 2023, I am co-hosting the Women’s Wellness Event in Winnipeg, Canada. I will be giving a talk on hormone balance. In the mean time, here are my top six tips on how nutrition can help.
1. Reduce your consumption of heavily process foods. We want to be eating whole foods versus a list of ingredients. Aim for 5 ingredients maximum when reading labels.
2. Reduce your meat consumption. This one is hard for so many, but can make a huge difference when we talk about hormones and inflammation. When you do eat meat, you should look for grass-fed, local, hormone and antibiotic free meats.
3. Evaluate dairy. What I mean by this is really start to pay attention to how dairy makes you feel. For example if dairy is causing more painful periods, more hot flashes, or issues with your skin, it might be time to shelve dairy for a while. Look at the symptoms list above and start to track how you feel after you eat dairy both physically and mentally.
4. Try eating more vegetarian-based proteins like chickpeas, tempeh, tofu, black beans, hemp seeds, spirulina and quinoa.
5. Eat more healthy fats! These are the building blocks of healthy hormones and need to be in your belly every day. Nuts, fatty fish like mackerel or salmon, avocado, seeds, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and full fat yogurt (plain Greek is my favorite!) are all great examples. Aim for 5 – 7 servings per day of healthy fats for hormone health.
6. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake every day. The goal is to eat 7 – 9 servings per day. For many, that is a big jump. Don’t let the number scare you off – it is a goal and will take time to get there. So for now, get to two per day for a few weeks, then to three, and so on and so forth. When you can, try to choose Organic to avoid those pesty pesticides and get the most nutrients out of your food. Raw is best, then lightly steamed and roasted. Boiling them tends to remove much of the nutritional content.
Hormonal balance is such a big topic and I want to help you learn more! On January 14, 2023 join me at the Women’s Wellness Event where we learn more on this topic for your optimal hormonal living. Find out more information and purchase your ticket today here.