Alongside gut health, hormonal imbalance is one of the top contributing factors to health issues in women.
What causes, weight gain, hot flashes, night sweats, cravings, lack of sleep?
The answer is imbalanced HORMONES!
Women’s hormone imbalance occurs when the glands in the body that make up the hormonal or endocrine system produce too much or too little of the particular hormone it is responsible for. This imbalance can occur for many reasons.
In midlife for you to enjoy, sustained energy all day, good sleep at night, digestion with no hiccups (so to speak) and a healthy metabolism that allows you to lose weight easily, it is important to keep these glands happy.
These are the glands that are responsible for all of the functions in our bodies
- Hypothalamus – Bossy dude, tells the pituitary gland to stop and start making hormones.
- Pituitary – brainy dude, uses information from the brain to tell the other glands what to do as well as a role in growth, metabolism, energy among other things
- Pineal – produces melatonin which modulates sleep
- Thyroid – controls your metabolism
- Parathyroid – keeps your bones healthy
- Adrenals – known mainly for making adrenaline that feeds you the extra energy you need to run when confronted by a lion, which is good because in normal circumstances I wouldn’t get one foot to the ground before he had me in between his incisors.
- Pancreas – provides insulin, digestive enzymes and glucagon
- Ovaries – responsible for estrogen and progesterone
To keep these glands healthy there are foods we can eat that help and foods we should avoid.
Of course, the list of foods we should avoid is looooong.
They are easy to spot because every other article on healthy food spouts their evil doings.
- Saturated Fats
- Processed carbs
- Too much caffeine – notice I say “too much” because one cup actually does some good and there is no way in hell or on earth that I will be giving that up! After that there are some very acceptable herbal teas which will do the job of a hot drink quite nicely.
- Excess alcohol
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FOODS TO KEEP YOUR HORMONES HAPPY
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Foods That Help Keep Each Of These Hormone Producing Glands Happy
The pineal gland
is supported by foods rich in B5 and B6 to help with the production and distribution of that all-important hormone, melatonin. Melatonin naturally sets our circadian rhythms helping us to fall asleep and stay asleep. Foods good for these two vitamins are lentil beans, avocados, sweet potatoes, tuna and turkey.
Sleep-deprived mums and women in menopause take note.
If you are in perimenopause or menopause, as your estrogen drops so does the melatonin your body produces. Hello sleep deprivation.
The tiny pea-sized pituitary gland
with the king-sized job of regulating growth.
This needs vitamins D and E, so, meats, fish, eggs, nuts, leafy greens, avocado, and seeds keep it happy.
It also gobbles any Manganese you can give it so again with the leafy greens and almonds. Also pineapple, acai and dark chocolate.
I’m pretty sure there could be a delicious dessert to be whipped up with those last three. In researching this I came across this recipe with the hilarious description of insomnia. I can so relate at the moment.
likes olive oil so go to town. I drizzle it instead of butter. Or, a little tip, if you freeze some in a jar then put in the fridge once it is down to fridge temperature it is like a spread.
For healthy function, the thyroid
likes its nuts and vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli and Brussel sprouts. My favourite veg to eat is baked Brussel sprouts. Quarter and bake them on an oven tray on medium drizzled with plenty of olive oil and salt and pepper. Make sure you throw in all of the outer leaves, when they go brown and crispy they are delish!
Gluten is one you particularly want to avoid for decent thyroid function. I recommend getting rid of it altogether. It has no positive function in a healthy diet.
As with any midlife health regime
It is standard to include exercise. When you start exercising, the thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the body’s temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. The pituitary gland releases human growth hormone while exercising, which tells the body to increase bone, muscle and tissue production.
Your take-home – eat healthily and exercise regularly.
So what happens when these hormones get themselves out of balance?
Natural solutions for women’s hormone imbalance in midlife
As you go through perimenopause and into menopause you will hear terms such as hormonal imbalance, hormonal changes, adrenal fatigue, how hormones affect your health, and many other variations.
Before I became peri-menopausal I didn’t know what the heck a hormone was. All I knew was I felt bloody awful and I needed to do something about it before someone was accidentally on purpose stabbed in the eye!
So what exactly is a hormone? What the hell does a hormone do? What happens when hormones are not in balance? How can I tell if my hormones are in balance or if I have a hormonal imbalance?
What Is A Hormone And What Do They Do?
Simply put a hormone is a chemical substance that acts as a messenger to control functions within the body. Sleep, MOOD, digestion, reproduction, metabolism, and stress are all controlled by hormones.
In the case of hormonal imbalance we can experience a range of symptoms:
- weight -gain
- adrenal fatigue
- dry skin
- fogginess and many more.
These are the hormones responsible for these symptoms
The stress hormone. If this is consistently too high or too low you can feel fatigued.
This is the fight or flight hormone. It is released in response to a stressful, exciting, dangerous, or threatening situation.
Even if minds are only thinking about a stressful situation they can’t perceive that it isn’t happening at that exact moment.
So you may not be actually right in the middle of some yell fest with the company that supplies your god awful slow internet. Right now you’re just lying in bed and imagining the call that you are going to make to the company whose contract with you is on shaky ground.
In both cases, adrenaline is released. At night this could cause restlessness and lack of sleep.
Overtime excessive adrenaline can cause high blood pressure, and elevate your risk of heart attacks or stroke. Weight gain, anxiety, and insomnia could also show up.
If this hormone is out of balance you might experience tiredness, depression, dry skin, brain fog and weight gain as well as several other issues.
If your estrogen ratios are out, which can often be the case in perimenopause or menopause then you have quite a few possible side effects to look forward to and vaginal dryness, hot flushes, night sweats, brain fog, and depression are just some of them.
Too much of this and you might notice excessive hair on your face and arms, acne or even polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Not enough and there is the possibility of weight gain, fatigue and low sex drive.
Here it is not a case of imbalance that causes problems but the body is possibly resistant to insulin. The body still makes the hormone but doesn’t use it efficiently which is a pre-diabetic marker. Being resistant can show up as cravings for sweets, tiredness after eating, increased thirst, or difficulty losing weight.
How do we keep our hormones in balance?
Include the foods mentioned earlier and try to do as many as you can of the following:
Eat a healthy diet adequate in high-quality protein
Proteins contain essential amino acids that your body is unable to produce itself. High quality protein will increase fat burning and metabolsim making weight loss easier.
In addition protein makes you feel satisfied and will help keep your hunger hormone in check.
Cut out processed foods and foods high in sugar and refined carbs
Foods high in refined carbs will raise insulin and testosterone levels which is a common factor in PCOS.
You could also: experience intensified menopause symptoms, become insulin resistent, the precursor to diabetes, suffer anxiety or depression, have poor digestion and more.
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Eat plenty of healthy fats…
in the form of fatty fish or other foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. Today women eat far too many Omega 6’s thanks to the advent of seed oils such as canola oil.
Our bodies work best on a ration of 1:1 of Omega 6 to Omega 3 but the average ration is now around 6:1 Omega 6 go 3. The trouble with this is the type of fats high in Omega 6 is the cause inflammation in the body leading to a much higher risk of developing health issues and increased symptoms during menopause.
Eat plenty of healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, fats found in fish which are high in Omega 3.
Also eat, in more limited quantities, good quality animal fats such as organic butter and animal fats.
Drink green tea
green tea has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and lower insulin levels for those who struggle with weight and insulin resistance.
Include soluble fibre in your diet
such as leafy greens, nuts and seeds.
Avoid chemicals that can disrupt hormones
These can be found in pesticides, plastics, household cleaners, skin care products and makeup.
Consider switching to natural skin care products which I personally think are nicer and often far less expensive. See my post:
Avoid heating food in plastic and make your own natural cleaners.
Improve the indoor air quality in your home with plants. The jade, or money plant is one of the highest air cleaners in the plant world so maybe consider a couple of those placed in strategic positions. It helps that they are pretty nice to look at too.
Make your own cleaners with vinegar, bicarb soda and essential oils or opt for a natural cleaner like Koh which I swear by.
Manage your stress levels
Try for 10 minutes minimum of a stress-reducing activity such as yoga, meditation or reading.
Get enough quality sleep
Stop watching Netflix and go to bed at a reasonable time. Try to get at least 7 hours.
While you sleep, your body is going about its business of repair and maintenance which includes removing toxins, recharging the mind, and creating hormones. Losing sleep has a big impact on hormone balance.
For a comprensive look at how sleep can impact your midlife see:
Long and hard exercise can actually spike your stress levels causing hormonal imbalance.
Do a mix of easy aerobic and resistance training. Walk up a hill. Use weights. Try multi-tasking, walk and meditate. Cycle, swim or dance. What ever keeps you moving at an easy pace.
The Bottom Line
You need your hormones to be in balance for your body to function optimally. If they are imbalanced you risk developing health issues such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and more.
Menopause and ageing can make it difficult to keep your hormones balanced but follow the tips here and you should have them doing a happy dance.
Your hormones are involved in every part of your body’s functions. They are delivered to where they are needed in exact amounts so your body can function optimally.
As with any health reset eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, keeping stress to a minimum and getting plenty of sleep can go a long way to getting back ohn track to optimal health and wellness.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can I naturally balance my hormones during perimenopause and menopause?
- Eat a healthy diet adequate in high-quality protein. …
- Cut out processed foods and foods high in sugar and refined carbs. …
- Eat plenty of healthy fats. …
- Drink green tea. …
- Include soluble fibre in your diet. …
- Avoid chemicals that can disrupt hormones. …
- Manage your stress levels. …
- Get plenty of good quality sleep. …
- Move. …
2. What foods cause hormonal imbalance?
- Sugar. …
- Saturated Fats. …
- Processed carbs. …
- Too much caffeine. …
- Excess alcohol. …
3. What foods help balance your hormones?
Good quality meats, fish, eggs, nuts, leafy greens, healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado, seeds, green tea and foods rich Vit b5 and b6 such as lentils and turkey.