Most of us don't think about our hormones that often, but I assure you, they play a huge role in our lives! When we're feeling great, chances are our hormones have something to do with it. If we're feeling chronically unwell, our hormonal health could probably use some attention. This is particularly true for women, as the "dance" our hormones do is especially intricate.
It's not just about maintaining homeostasis, as it generally is for men; our bodies must prepare for pregnancy each month. This means at any given point in the month our estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels will fluctuate. Every step of the delicate dance our hormones do must be perfectly choreographed. Having excess estrogen paired with insufficient progesterone (what experts call "estrogen dominance") is a common form of hormonal imbalance for women.
Chronic stress is one sure-fire way to get it. Exposure to xenoestrogens, or synthetic estrogens, which are found in a wide array of plastics (your water bottle!), toothpastes, deodorants, sunscreens, canned food linings, preservatives, and cosmetics, is another. Eating meat and dairy from conventionally raised (factory farmed) animals is another source of exposure.
Some women have a genetic predisposition to hormonal imbalance, which may become more noticeable as they age. If this is you, don't worry! It doesn't mean you can't enjoy having healthy hormones, but you might need to pay a little more attention to it than others. Symptoms of excess estrogen can include
- heavy, painful and early periods
- a light period followed by a heavy one
- endometriosis, water retention, breast tenderness and cysts
- trouble loosing weight
- hair loss
- brain fog
- mood swings
Wow, that's a long list of things no woman wants to experience! Aside from what's listed above, balanced estrogen and progesterone levels will ensure that you have strong and flexible bones, smooth and tight skin, a good metabolism, and arteries that are free of debris.
Ok, so you've read through the list of symptoms and thought, "That's me!" and you're anxious for me to tell you how to get your hormones back in check. My first recommendation is to add the herb Vitex, also known as Chasteberry, to your daily regimen. Vitex works by supporting your pituitary gland to balance your hormones on its own. This strategy works particularly well for women who have not yet gone through menopause. Hang tight if you decide to try Vitex - it can take a couple of months before you really start seeing results, but trust me, you will.
Secondly, eat more cruciferous vegetables and turmeric. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower all contain DIM, a phytonutrient that promotes normal estrogen levels. Turmeric prevents estrogen from encouraging growth in cancer cells, which it tends to do when present in excessive amounts.
Try this delicious, easy recipe for a great way to get a hormone-balancing dose of turmeric and cruciferous veggies:
Sautéed Cabbage and BroccoliIngredients
- 2 or 3 heads of broccoli, chopped into bite sized pieces (use the stalks too!)
- 1/2 of a green cabbage, chopped into long, thin pieces
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped small
- 2 or 3 tsp. ground turmeric
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat skillet on medium heat, add enough oil to coat (use one that can handle the heat- like safflower oil)
- Add in broccoli, cabbage and onion and sautee, letting the cabbage brown a bit.
- Add in turmeric, salt and pepper. Continue sauteeing until vegetables have reached desired texture (do you like them well cooked or al dente?) You can add more oil as you cook if it looks like your vegetables need it.
- Serve over pasta (I love gluten free pasta made of quinoa), rice or quinoa and enjoy!