I feel like most women at some stage in their lives experience hormonal-related health concerns. Whether it be pre-menstrual, during reproductive years or menopausal years. Assessing a woman’s hormonal health is very broad and includes such areas as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS… or just PCO, without the syndrome aspect), PMS, endometriosis, menopausal symptoms or preparing for a smooth transition to menopause, fertility, hormonal acne, metrorrhagia (irregular periods), menorrhagia (abnormally heavy periods), and amenorrhoea (absent periods). Herbal medicine, nutrition and lifestyle play an enormous role in the regulation of our hormones. Some of the many factors effecting our hormone balance include; stress, environmental toxins – such as BPA plastics, poor absorption of all our vital nutrients (here we need to look at our gut!), liver health, diet and exercise. Some of Nutmeg’s quick tips for happy hormones include;
A restorative night’s sleep (approx. 8 hours/night) - Have you ever noticed that your period might be irregular or delayed when you are experiencing acute or chronic lack of sleep? This is highly likely due to the fact that your sleep circadian rhythm is off…and thus, so are your hormones! Melatonin (our sleep hormone) is heavily involved with the sleep-wake cycle and plays an important role in the regulation of menstruation. Furthermore, sleep allows for our body systems to repair and regenerate, including all of our beautiful hormones. Factors to help achieve a good night’s sleep include; going to bed at the same time each night, waking up at the same time each morning, daily exercise in the sunshine, no screens at least 1 hour before bed, restful bedroom decor, and not going to bed on a full or empty stomach (eating dinner at least 2 hours before you go to bed).
Stress Management - Stress is a big contributor to hypothalamic (brain) dysfunction and consequent hormonal imbalances. Perhaps partake in some gentle exercise, yoga, meditation and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or talking to close friends/loved ones. Do more of what you love and what makes you happy and less of what doesn’t! Essential oils can also be added to baths or splashed on your pillow to help relieve tension/anxiety and ultimately reduce stress. Such oils include lavender and lemonbalm.
Encouragement of Mediterranean diet principles -The Mediterranean diet consists of an abundance of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, beans, nuts and seeds), seasonal/fresh and locally grown foods, fish, poultry and olive oil (as main source of essential fatty acids). The Mediterranean diet consumes minimal processed foods and controlled consumption of dairy, red meat and wine. This diet is rich in essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and plant fibres, all essential to happy hormones.
Anti-inflammatory Diet - Pro-inflammatory foods are encouraged to be avoided as hormonal imbalances tend to have an inflammatory component, such as PCOS and endometriosis. An anti-inflammatory diet consists of limited pro-inflammatory foods such as meat, alcohol, wheat, dairy, processed foods & caffeine, and plenty of anti-inflammatory foods such as oily fish, nuts/seeds, wholegrains, fruits, olive oil and vegetables.
Diet with plenty of protein, essential fatty acids and complex, unrefined carbohydrates - An appropriate mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats are required for an optimally functioning reproductive system. Good fats should constitute (30%) of energy intake, proteins should constitute 40 % and complex carbohydrates, 30% - this ratio is of particular help for all the PCOS ladies out there!
Daily sunshine and exercise