Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. When kept in check they control practically every physiological process in your body. Therefore, balance is the key to optimal functioning.
Hormones require a harmonious existence – body systems that are stable and proportional. While hormones have individual effects on the body, they also interact with each other to produce dramatic effects, and when balance is lost, hormone deficiencies and excesses can cause chronic symptoms and disorders, as well as increase disease risk.
The good news is that while keeping hormones in balance during menopause can be difficult, the Australian Menopause Centre offer a more natural, individualised program to treat hormone imbalance. Along with this, hormones can be kept in check with attention to diet. Certain foods in your diet can throw off the balance of your hormones, but they can also be used to restore balance when it is lost.
When it comes to eating for menopause, five simple rules will support you in keeping your hormones balanced. These rules are:
- Cut Out Sugar & Refined Carbohydrates
Sugar and refined carbohydrates can raise insulin levels, promote weight gain, and lead to more fat stores, especially around the belly. Those fat stores promote higher levels of estrogen, the primary female sex hormone. The more sugar and refined carbohydrates you eat, the more likely you are to develop an estrogen/progesterone imbalance.
- Add More Fruits & Vegetables
Phytoestrogens bind weakly to estrogen receptors and can help balance estrogen levels making them useful during menopause. Phytoestrogens are found in more than 300 plants including berries, carrots, bananas, beets, oranges, olives and potatoes.
- Increase Fibre, Especially Flax Seeds
Fibre helps to regulate levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone in multiple ways involving your digestive tract, liver, ovaries and blood circulation. Most of us think of fibre as a way to maintain regular bowel movements, but it’s actually an excellent hormone balancer. Flax seeds in particular are good as they are also rich in lignans, which are particularly strong phytoestrogens.
- Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol & Spicy Foods
All heat producing substances, caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods will send you straight into hot flush territory. If you’re looking to add flavour to your food but don’t want the kick, opt for spices such as cumin, curry, turmeric and basil instead.
- Eat Organic Meat & Dairy
Most non-organic animal protein and dairy has been treated with growth hormones, which can contribute to the imbalances in hormones you might be experiencing. Always look for animal products labelled as containing “no added hormones”.
Specific Foods To Balance Hormones
As well as follow the rules, there are certain foods that you should make a conscious effort to include in your diet during menopause. These include:
We’ve already talked about the importance of flaxseed in your menopausal diet, but there’s another seed that’s worth talking about – chia seeds. Chia seeds offer a lower concentration of lignans than flaxseed, but they are also an excellent source of protein and omega-3s.
Avocados contain high levels of monounsaturated fats, fibre and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin E. They’re also an excellent source of carotenoids from which the body can make vitamin A. Containing plant sterols, avocados block the estrogen receptors in our cells and reduce estrogen absorption rates. Avocado oil should also be consumed.
Another seed worth mentioning is pepitas (pumpkin seeds) which are an excellent source of zinc, essential fatty acids and protein. Zinc is an essential nutrient that helps with hormone production, growth and repairment, improves immunity and facilitates digestion. Zinc is actually present in all bodily tissue and needed for healthy cell division.
Sardines are another great source of essential fatty acids but have the added benefit of vitamin D and protein, both of which support hormonal balance.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is mostly comprised of the essential fatty acid – oleic acid – one of the body’s key building blocks for synthesising hormones. It might not be a magic bullet for balancing hormones, but it’s the next best thing.
Sitting at the top of the list in terms of magnesium, raw spinach is recommended for menopausal women. Magnesium is an essential mineral needed for more than one hundred enzymatic processes including hormone synthesis. Kale is another dark leafy green that balances hormones, offering the benefits of zinc and iron to boot.
Portabello mushrooms that have been grown under “real” sunlight contain high amounts of vitamin D. Vitamin D is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin and is crucial during menopause when women are at high risk of developing osteoporosis.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Drinking apple cider vinegar before a meal can help your body to more effectively convert proteins in your food into rich amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks for many bodily processes, including the creation of your hormones.
Wild-caught salmon and other cold water fish like mackerel, tuna and trout are good sources of vitamin D, protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are a large component of brain-cell membranes and are important for cell-to-cell communication in the brain.
Walnuts & Almonds
Packed with antioxidants and protein, walnuts and almonds improve the body’s natural ability to balance hormones. As an added bonus, munching on these foods between meals will limit cravings of hormone-damaging simple sugars and refined carbs.
Oysters and other shellfish provide the body with a strong dose of zinc and other minerals needed for balancing hormones and will help your ability to make testosterone – the hormone responsible for keeping your sex drive and vitality alive.
Mung bean sprouts are perhaps one of the most overlooked foods when it comes to balancing hormones, with this little bean packing a huge punch in terms of regulation. Sprouts restore adrenal gland health and help our bodies cope with excess stress by allowing the glands to regulate production of cortisol and adrenalin.
Tomatoes are rich in flavonoid, good for producing healthy hormones. They’re also a good source of calcium, which aids in proper digestion and assists hormone balance.
Menopause is a highly individual situation and unfortunately, there’s no one blanket recommendation that applies to every woman experiencing it. To discuss the best care for your menopause stage you should speak with an expert today.
Dr Khan has many years experience treating the symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Dr Khan was a General Practitioner in Bangladesh and has full medical registration in the United Kingdom. Dr Khan has also worked as a Medical Officer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. She worked with the Australian Menopause Centre as a Clinical Assistant for more than 5 years and has recently rejoined the medical team as a consulting doctor.