For women to feel good and balanced, we need the right ratio of oestrogen to progesterone (two key female hormones). So if this ratio goes off balance, what can we do about it?
In nutritional medicine, a nutritional therapist may adopt a functional medicine approach to bring oestrogen and progesterone back to a healthy ratio by using the principles of the 5 R'S . These 5 key principles explain how you can begin to do this yourself.
Oestrogen is a naturally produced female hormone that has many essential functions in the body. But when levels get too high, especially in relation to progesterone, this may cause various problems, from irregular menstrual cycles and mood swings to more serious conditions like endometriosis.
To balance oestrogen levels, we first need to take away anything that may be contributing to excess. Chemicals are the first culprit, such as those found in plastics and cleaning products, as well as non-organic meat and pesticide-sprayed vegetables. Some of these chemicals are termed ‘xenoestrogens’ – substances that actually imitate the effects of the body’s own oestrogen, disrupting natural hormone levels. Choose natural household cleaners instead, avoid plastic food packaging where possible, and choose organic foods. Avoid tap water too, as it can also contain traces of hormones and chemicals – drink mineral water or filtered water instead.
The health of your digestive system and liver also affects your oestrogen levels. Sugary foods and yeast in your diet can feed ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut, which in turn can have a negative impact on the liver and one of the processes it uses to detoxify oestrogens from the body, called glucuronidation. Also watch your tea, coffee and alcohol intake, which can have a similar effect on the gut and liver – either cut down or cut out (but in the case of coffee and tea, only do this very slowly to avoid caffeine withdrawal effects). You might want to consider using Caprylic Acid, which very gently works on reducing and inhibiting the growth of non-beneficial bacteria.
Replace the bad with the good! Foods that can help to balance oestrogen levels include the brassica vegetables (broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens and cabbage) – aim for two servings every day, and vary your choices. Have a green smoothie each day to boost your vitamin B6 levels. Eat lots of healthy protein-rich foods including beans, lentils, fish and organic meat and eggs – the liver needs plenty of amino acids (from protein) such as glutathione and methionine to effectively detoxify unwanted oestrogens. And eat vitamin C-rich foods such as berries and kiwi fruit: vitamin C acts as an antioxidant and supports the first phase of liver detoxification.
Excellent supplements to support this stage include Food-Grown Vitamin C and Balance Multi-Nutrient, which has been formulated to replace vital vitamins and minerals as well as betaine hydrochloride for digestive support and key botanicals to support female hormone balancing.
Having gone through the process of reducing sugary foods and yeast in your diet and tackling the ‘bad’ bacteria, we now need to think about putting back some ‘good’ bacteria. The beneficial gut flora have many roles, including helping to break down food for absorption, and reducing the growth of any harmful bacteria. Using a probiotic without added FOS and with the correct strains and strengths of beneficial bacteria such as Wild Nutrition’s Multi-Strain Biotic can effectively encourage good bacterial balance and in turn, support healthy oestrogen levels.
At this stage, keep eating lots of brassica vegetables, and dark green vegetables in general to keep your vitamin B6 levels up. Essential fatty acids are also vital to make the right hormones in our body, including progesterone, so eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or sardines twice a week can be helpful. If you don’t fancy eating this much oily fish, take a daily Omega 3 Supplement providing at least 1000mg of cold-extracted Fish Oil from the smaller fish such as sardines or anchovies to avoid unwanted pollutants.
Excess oestrogens (that women manufacture themselves or those from the external world around us, i.e. xenoestrogens) need to make a sharp exit from the body. This cannot happen effectively if we don’t have a liver that runs like a well-oiled machine. Get your liver kick-started with a well formulated liver complex such as Wild Nutrition’s Total Cleanse Complex. We also need to protect the body against free radicals produced during the detoxification process, so as well as vitamin C, you can take a Food-Grown antioxidant formula for extra support. Lastly, regular bowel movements (one to two good bowel movements a day) are necessary to ensure those old oestrogens are finally moved out of the body. For this purpose, increase your fibre and water intake and your essential fats such as those from fish or fish oil.
Wild Nutrition have combined three products (Total Cleanse Complex, Antioxidant Boost and Balance Multi Nutrient) in a set called ‘Total Cleanse Programme’. This is an easy way to complete a cleanse, knowing you are supported from every angle. It also includes a special daily menu written by Wild Nutrition co-founder, Henrietta Norton.
We could all do with loving ourselves a bit more – so many of us work too much, don’t get enough sleep and generally feel strung out. Personal emotional experiences can also cause ups and downs. Our adrenal glands and nervous system can suffer at this time, and the adrenals release lots of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol interferes with the natural production of progesterone, further impacting the delicate balance of oestrogen and progesterone.
The mineral magnesium is vital for supporting the adrenal glands and reducing unwanted rises in cortisol, as well as for keeping us calm and ensuring good sleep. Magnesium-rich foods include green vegetables, nuts and seeds; you can also take a gentle Food-Grown magnesium supplement to top up your levels. B vitamins are also essential for adrenal and cortisol balance, so make sure you are eating plenty of vegetables, whole grains, eggs and some good quality meat. The Wild Nutrition Balance Multi Nutrient capsules provide B vitamins, as well as delivering extra support from Maitake and Reishi medicinal mushrooms. Be nice to yourself: go to bed early, relax more, laugh, go for countryside walks and stop checking your emails late at night!