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Hormone Balance for Women is Critical

graphic of a hand holding a female symbol with the words estrogen dominance, when hormones go off balance, hormone imbalance
Hormone Imbalance Creates Emotional and Physical Havoc

Hormonal health is all about balance – but striking the right balance isn’t always easy, particularly for women who are perimenopausal. Women whose estrogen and progesterone balance is off-kilter provide one of the most striking examples of the importance of this dynamic. The wide range of resulting hormone imbalance symptoms can be debilitating. Many women find themselves battling heavy periods, disruptive PMS, fatigue, and many more symptoms.

How can hormone balance be restored for optimum well-being? Let’s take a look at how hormones influence your health and how a healthy lifestyle helps.

The Role of Hormones In Your Health

Your body contains over 50 different types of hormones. Hormones all act as chemical messengers to other parts of your body. Hormones are secreted by your hormone-producing or endocrine glands, including your:

When hormones are released by these glands, they travel to specific receptor sites, where they “plug into their receptor” and transmit a message to the receiving tissue to tell it to perform a specific action.

What does this mean in practical terms? Your hormones control almost every function in your body, including:

  • Maturity and growth
  • Metabolism of food items
  • Sexual function
  • Reproductive health
  • Fertility
  • Mood
  • Cognitive ability
  • Hunger
  • Sleep
  • Stress response
  • Appetite

Hormones also work in tandem with each other. A good example is the relationship between progesterone and estrogen. These are two of the hormones produced by your ovaries that work together to regulate your menstrual cycle.

Estrogen and Progesterone Balance Each Other

Estrogen and progesterone have complementary and opposing functions. Estrogen is the more energizing of the two and helps with memory, mood, libido, sleep, and many other functions. It protects bone density and promotes youthful skin and hair, mental sharpness, and healthy cholesterol levels. Estrogen levels rise in the follicular phase, which is the first half of the menstrual cycle, up to the point of ovulation. Estrogen dips after ovulation and then rises to a lower peak a week after ovulating, and then drops just prior to your period starting.

Progesterone is produced after ovulation occurs. This portion of your cycle is called the luteal phase. Progesterone has a more calming, anti-anxiety function. Progesterone levels peak about midway through the luteal phase, then drop off before menstruation occurs. This sudden drop in progesterone or inadequate levels can contribute to symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Progesterone helps regulate the effects of estrogen on the body. It moderates the growth of the uterine lining that is caused by estrogen, it increases your body temperature and metabolism and helps regulate the timing of menstruation.

As you see, both hormones play vital roles in a woman’s body, but they must be balanced. Having inadequate levels of progesterone is not only problematic on its own, but estrogen doesn’t function as well with low levels of progesterone. When your levels of estrogen and progesterone aren’t balanced, estrogen dominance can occur.

Estrogen Dominance: When Hormone Balance is Off

Without the balancing influence of progesterone, estrogen’s unchecked effects lead to symptoms of estrogen excess. Women who previously hadn’t experienced trouble with their periods may find themselves with very heavy bleeding. They may struggle with PMS or wonder where their wild mood swings are coming from. The symptoms of estrogen dominance include:

What Causes Estrogen Dominance?

Many factors lead to estrogen imbalance, and it’s not uncommon for a woman to experience more than one cause.

  • Problems in other parts of your body can contribute to estrogen dominance, including poor liver function since the liver helps eliminate excess estrogen.
  • Other hormones also influence estrogen and progesterone production, particularly insulin and cortisol. When those hormones are disrupted, there can be a trickle-down effect on estrogen and progesterone.
  • Chronic stress leads to harmful hormonal fluctuations.
  • A poor diet leads to hormonal problems, because magnesium, zinc, protein, and B vitamins are involved in estrogen and progesterone metabolism. In addition, since fat cells produce estrogen, obesity can contribute to excess estrogen levels.
  • Normal age-related fluctuations in hormone levels create hormone imbalance, particularly during the perimenopause years. Women suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are vulnerable to low progesterone. To make progesterone, you need to ovulate. Women with PCOS will ovulate irregularly or not at all.
  • Interestingly, sometimes estrogen dominance isn’t caused by estrogen itself. Xenoestrogens, such as BPA from plastic, are compounds that mimic the properties of estrogen. They can be absorbed by your body and trigger estrogen-like effects, leading to further imbalances. Many common products contain xenoestrogens, including plastics (watch out for plastic food containers in particular), pesticides, factory-farmed meat, car exhaust, and emulsifiers found in shampoo and other beauty products.

How To Balance Estrogen and Progesterone

1 – Reduce your stress.

Stress, particularly chronic stress, impacts cortisol production, which in turn impacts other hormones, including progesterone. Stress reduction techniques such as meditation and yoga can help regulate stress and hormone levels. Sometimes, a simple attitude shift slows down the “flight or fight” response that produces cortisol. To do this, try considering a stressful event in a more positive light – perhaps as an opportunity to grow or prove your strength. Meditation, yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, going for a walk outdoors, and exercise are all excellent ways to lower your stress and cortisol.

2 – Maintain a healthy liver and digestive tract.

Your liver metabolizes estrogen. Every menstrual cycle estrogen rises to a peak and then drops to its lowest level just before your period comes. How it drops is by your liver processing it for removal. It’s imperative to maintain optimum liver health by reducing your exposure to toxins and minimizing your alcohol intake. In addition, your gut microbiome also plays a role in estrogen regulation. Probiotic supplements, fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut, and drinks like kefir help maintain the “good” bacteria in your gut. Fiber consumption triggers the production of more bacteria, so increase your fiber intake with a focus on eating lots of produce. High amounts of fiber also lead to more regular bowel movements, which helps your body to eliminate excess estrogen.

3 – Get enough good quality sleep.

Hormonal imbalances cause sleep disturbances. At the same time, you need adequate sleep to maintain a healthy hormonal balance. If this seems frustrating, it is! Work with me to sort out your sleep issues.

4 – Improve hormone receptor function with exercise.

Some research shows that regular exercise can make your body more receptive to the messages carried by hormones. Plus, exercise reduces excess body fat that makes estrogen.

5 – Eat for hormone health.

The traditional Western diet of highly processed, high fat, and high sugar foods is linked to higher estrogen production. In contrast, a Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce estrogen levels. The Mediterranean diet centers around whole grains, brightly colored vegetables, olive oil, and fish. Green, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, and cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are particularly beneficial.

Protein is essential for the production of amino acids, which are the building blocks of hormones.

Omega-3 fatty acids help regulate insulin and cortisol production and reduce inflammation, which has a beneficial effect on estrogen. Foods high in omega-3 include chia seeds, many nuts, and fatty fish.

If you recognize any symptoms of hormonal imbalance, I can help! Reach out to get a comprehensive assessment of your hormones, and a customized plan to achieve optimal hormone balance. You don’t have to live with an imbalance in your hormones! Call me at 416-481-0222.

By Dr. Pamela Frank, ND

Hormone Imbalance Resources

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Layman DK, Anthony TG, Rasmussen BB, et al. Defining meal requirements for protein to optimize metabolic roles of amino acids. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;101(6):1330S-1338S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.084053

Sánchez-Zamorano LM, Flores-Luna L, Angeles-Llerenas A, Ortega-Olvera C, Lazcano-Ponce E, Romieu I, Mainero-Ratchelous F, Torres-Mejía G. The Western dietary pattern is associated with increased serum concentrations of free estradiol in postmenopausal women: implications for breast cancer prevention. Nutr Res. 2016 Aug;36(8):845-54. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2016.04.008. Epub 2016 Apr 26. PMID: 27440539.

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Gorbach SL, Goldin BR. Diet and the excretion and enterohepatic cycling of estrogens. Prev Med. 1987 Jul;16(4):525-31. doi:10.1016/0091-7435(87)90067-3. PMID: 3628202.

Sánchez-Zamorano LM, Flores-Luna L, Angeles-Llerenas A, Ortega-Olvera C, Lazcano-Ponce E, Romieu I, Mainero-Ratchelous F, Torres-Mejía G. The Western dietary pattern is associated with increased serum concentrations of free estradiol in postmenopausal women: implications for breast cancer prevention. Nutr Res. 2016 Aug;36(8):845-54. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2016.04.008. Epub 2016 Apr 26. PMID: 27440539.

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