Happy Tuesday, everyone! Today’s question is a special little sumthin’ for the ladies.
Q: “I’ve been seeing a Naturopath for a couple of years now and she’s been treating me for hormonal imbalances. What are some of the things I can change in my diet to help restore balance to my hormones? Is there a specific diet or supplement that should be followed depending on which hormones are out of whack or is there a general diet or supplement that will help restore order to my crazy hormones?” —Renee from Timmins, ON
A: (As complex and amazing humans, we have many different types of hormones in the body. For the purpose of this question, we will address nutritional support for sex hormones in women of reproductive age. Not to be confused with nutritional support for sexy time, which can be a topic for another day.)
Many women suffer from hormonal imbalances in the body, whether too much or too little estrogen or androgens, and for a variety of reasons. It’s not surprising, especially for those of us who live, work, and play in busy cities or manufacturing and mining communities where the exposure to environmental toxins is greater. Every day, our endocrine system works to neutralize a variety of assaults against it: we’re stressed, we are exposed to chemicals at home, at work, outside, and foods of “convenience” don’t provide the nutrients we need to fuel our tired hormone machines. On top of that, we may have inherited a genetic predisposition to endocrine-related conditions such as terrible PMS, PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), or worse, reproductive cancers. That being said, healthy hormonal function definitely benefits from both nutritional and lifestyle support.
People who have read the few small articles and newsletters that I’ve previously written over the last year know how much I am a fan of the Brassica, also know as “cruciferous”, family of vegetables for hormonal support. These veggies contain Indole-3-Carbinole, which is a substance that has been studied for its ability to fight reproductive cancers (in women and men) by altering our metabolism of estrogen and at the same time, detoxifying toxic (xenoestrogens) or excess estrogens from the body. One note of caution with regard to these vegetables is their goitrogenic effect when eaten raw, meaning that they can suppress thyroid function and are not suitable for those who have low thyroid function, unless cooked. Some examples of these super awesome healthy estrogen-loving veggies are:
– and brussels sprouts.
And not only do they contain I-3-C, these vegetables also are high in vitamin C and fibre, which help to give the boot to any free radicals and toxins that may be trying to crash your hormone-balancing party. Worried about having to eat broccoli and brussels sprouts every day for the rest of your female life? Don’t be! If you’re stumped as to how to get these foods into your diet, feel free to be creative! Sneak them into your sauces, soups, casseroles, stews, and stir-fries. Here is one of my favourite vegan broccoli soups to get you started: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2011/11/vegan-cream-of-broccoli-soup (Shown in photo below.)
And who doesn’t love kale chips? (Try it with coconut oil, instead of olive oil): http://suite101.com/article/roasted-kale-a25130
Now for the second part to this answer: some of the key hormonal reactions, including the synthesis of hormones via cholesterol and saturated fats and neutralization of excess or toxic hormones, occur in the liver, ladies. So that means we must also be sure to provide our liver with a lot of support when seeking to balance hormones because the liver is already a busy place and we’d like for it to do its best work possible.
So! In addition to cruciferous veggies, the liver also likes it when you eat your organic greens, organic fruit, whole and unprocessed foods, fibre, high-quality protein (if you’re an omnivore: organic, hormone-free, and pastured meat), healthy fats (plenty of avocados, Omega-3s, and use coconut oil for high heat cooking), and drink a lot of pure, clean water (a trusted spring source or reversed osmosis are best). In addition, a probiotic and a fibre supplement are helpful in removing and reducing the incidence of reabsorption of any excess estrogen that likes to linger in the large intestine.
So a few key things to remember to support a healthy female hormonal system:
– Limit your exposure to chemicals, especially at home, in household cleaning products and beauty products. (Check out a good book called “There’s Lead in Your Lipstick”.)
– Manage stress. Do things you love.
– Eat your cruciferous and leafy green vegetables.
– Support your liver by eating a clean, whole foods diet.
– Take a deep breath, implement the changes at your pace, and don’t feel like you need to go it alone. Find a qualified practitioner, like a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, who can provide you with support and guidance to ensure that you are following the best nutritional and lifestyle protocols for your best hormones yet!
Thank you for participating in Q+A Tuesday! Remember to keep sending in your questions! See you next week!
Much love and wellness,