Tag Archives: estrogen

Balancing Female Hormones with Food

Perhaps it’s TMI…but this past summer after weaning my son, my hormones went bonkers. Not just for a month or two. For a while. And it drove me INSANE. Per usual, frustrating experiences with my health cause me to dig my feet into the ground a little harder and push like a bull-headed Taurus (which I am) to find information and natural remedies to help my body. The experience catapulted my understanding about several female hormones and how we can help them normalize.

Upon opening up about my own experiences, I discovered a trove of women dealing with equally pesky ups and downs with female hormones. And not all of them were moms who had recently stopped breastfeeding. Some of these women were trying to conceive and others were simply adjusting to new norms as they inched closer to 40 or 50 years old. Still others were feeling the uncomfortable symptoms of severe menstrual cramps, bloating and acne every month, or extremely long and heavy menstrual cycles. All of these women, in different walks of life, made me realize that very few of us actually know how to help our bodies find hormonal balance and wellness. While it’s true that we can’t control every aspect of our hormones, there’s still a lot we can do to take over the reigns. (Frequently, this kind of holistic advice isn’t readily available or discussed. We have to go hunting for it.)  

So, here are the three hormones that can cause us woes and foods we can eat to help them find balance in our bodies:

 

Prostaglandins

These hormones play a major role “in a wide range of body functions such as the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle, the dilation and constriction of blood vessels, control of blood pressure, and modulation of inflammation.” Prostaglandins are also involved in the start of labor for pregnant women, causing the uterus to contract. In fact, semen contains a lot of prostaglandins in it and may be one of the reasons that sex around the timing of one’s due date is said to jump start labor for some women. Forgive me, I had to throw out that weird but interesting factoid. Lastly, prostaglandins play a major role in inflammation in the pelvic region, especially. An imbalance of the different types of prostaglandins (PgE1, Pg E2 & PgE3) can lead to increased local inflammation and heavy menstrual cramps.

Prostaglandins can become out of balance and cause pesky, painful PMS symptoms when fatty acid supplies are too low. Essential fatty acids include both Omega-6 fatty acids and Omega-3 fatty acids, and they operate best in our bodies when they’re in balance with one another. When fatty acids are available within the body, The Center of Genetics, Nutrition and Health (based in Washington, DC) has found additional benefits for the reduction of breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma! This is pretty mind-blowing and awesome (to me). So, even if your menstrual cycles are pain free and regular, there are still many benefits to eating a diet with plenty of fatty acids of both kinds. But note: Most people are deficient in Omega-3s and need to eat more foods chocked full of them. This begs the next question; Where can we find these foods?

 

Omega-6 Fatty Acid Foods

  • Flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, flaxseed meal
  • Hempseed oil, hempseeds
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Seeds such pumpkin seeds and raw sunflower seeds
  • Nuts, including pignolia (pine) nuts and pistachios
  • Borage oil, evening primrose oil, black currant see oil
  • Acai
  • Corn
  • Sunflower
  • Soybean
  • Cottonseed oil

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Foods

  • Salmon Fish Oil and Alaskan Salmon (wild-caught)
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Walnuts
  • Chia Seeds
  • Ground Flaxseeds
  • Albacore Tuna
  • Hemp Seeds
  • White Fish
  • Anchioves
  • Egg Yolks

If you’re hesitant about adding any of these important Omega-3 foods to your grocery list then you can check out one of two convenient options for an Omega-3 boost to your system:

  1. Oatmega – a protein/snack bar full of fish oils that comes in a variety of flavors (don’t worry, you can’t taste the fish oil)
  2. Daily Harvest – a monthly, smoothie-delivery company that has creative, delicious and healthy ingredients, and several smoothie flavors that include omega-rich foods (I’m debating stocking my freezer full of these yum-yums)

 

 

Estrogen

For a long time women have naturally assumed that the aging process is accompanied by a precipitous decline in estrogen as we creep towards menopause (or sometimes fall headfirst into it). We hear that the older we get the less estrogen we have. In fact, by about 50 years old, women have approximately 35% less estrogen than they did in their “younger years.” But that’s not the full picture of what’s happening in our bodies…

As the female aging process begins around 35 years old (i.e., when fertility shifts due to changing hormones), women experience a much more dramatic dip in progesterone than estrogen. Progesterone actually drops by approximately 75% (!!!!!!) in the same amount of time that estrogen drops by 35%. This creates an imbalance in the two hormones that unfortunately leads to estrogen dominance. And “ED” isn’t any fun. Trust me, after weaning my son my hormones swung hard one direction (low estrogen) and then right back the other way (high estrogen). Both ends of the spectrum feel pretty crappy. Let’s just be honest.

You see, estrogen is kept in check by progesterone, especially in the latter half of our menstrual cycles. When estrogen is allowed to “run rampant” it likes to take our bodies on a wild ride. Large spikes in estrogen (both right before ovulation and a handful of days after) can leave us experiencing all sorts of uncomfortable symptoms.

*Some* Signs of Estrogen Dominance:

  • PMS
  • Hot Flashes
  • Infertility
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased libido
  • Increased weight gain, especially around the middle
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Headaches
  • Excessive/heavy/long menstruation
  • Thyroid problems
  • Depression
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances

*Other Conditions That Science Suggests May Be Caused (in part) by Estrogen Dominance: Endometriosis, Fibroids, Fibrocystic Breasts, Cervical Dysplasia, Breast/Uterine/Ovarian Cancer.

Foods That Can Boost Estrogen

(*remember, this is typically the opposite of what people need)

  • Farm-raised, non-organic eggs, meat, fish and dairy products
  • Sugary and processed foods – caloric overload in our diets increases fat mass in the body which leads to estrogen overload (same applies to overeating any foods but sugar and processed foods often have “empty calories” that add up quickly)
  • Produce that has been sprayed with heavy pesticides
  • Soy products, especially when processed
  • Drinking from plastic water bottles – a recent widespread study was conducted investigating major brands like Aquafina, Dasani and Nestle, and found on average 15 free-floating plastic particles in each bottle (I don’t want to drink plastic! If only I could find a crying emoji to put in here…)

For foods that help keep estrogen in check, read on to the next section…

 

 

Progesterone

If you read the section about estrogen, it becomes glaringly apparent why progesterone is so important for women’s health. You’ll also remember that we discussed how much progesterone drops at a ridiculous rate as we women age. Why must every stage of life be complicated as a woman? Seriously. But the good news is that there are LOTS of foods that can help boost progesterone – and they come with a plethora of other health benefits, too.

Please note that progesterone can be too high for some women, although this is a bit less common than estrogen dominance which afflicts many women who are overweight, over-stressed and/or between the ages of 35-60.

A few signs of progesterone dominance include:

  • Weight fluctuations
  • Feelings of sadness or anxiety
  • Sleepiness
  • Bloating
  • Dizziness
  • Waking up feeling groggy
  • Not feeling like you

Foods that Boost Progesterone:

*Note: None of these foods contain progesterone per say, but they have the nutrients required for supporting the hormone’s production in the body, and many of us could use MORE of this particular hormone.

Meats:

  • Red Meat
  • Turkey
  • Oysters
  • Shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Tuna
  • Shellfish

Fats:

  • Olive oil & olives
  • Coconut oil or butter
  • Eggs
  • Avocado – also on fruit list

Veggies:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Leafy greens
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Swiss chard
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Russet potatoes

Fruits:

  • Avocado
  • Kiwi
  • Banana
  • Prunes
  • Lemon

Nuts, Legumes & Seeds:

  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Walnuts
  • Black beans
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Flaxseeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

Grains:

  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Millet

Misc:

  • Cacao
  • Yogurt

 

I hope this is helpful information for you whether you’re a woman hoping to be expecting some day or a woman trying to understand the yo-yo of hormones that IS perimenopause. Godspeed to us all! 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

 

 

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Food Labels, Vitamin Drinks and Estrogen

Today, I will play the role of DJ…

These three articles (summaries below) have been the highlights of my health and fitness oriented reading this summer. They touch on hot topics that women care a lot about. I hope you enjoy the highlights that I’ve included in this post.

If you’re digging for even more juicy details, I encourage you to read the full articles from One Medical, WebMD and PT on the Net (links below).

Now, let the mixing and scratching of today’s burning topics begin… 

 

Food Labels

 The Dirty Secrets of ‘Clean’ Labels

Clean Labels

  • “Clean labeling” involves reducing the number of ingredients in processed foods and making the names of the ingredients easy to read, understand and pronounce.
  • Food companies – not the FDA – now determine which ingredients are safe to use in their products. “GRAS” or “generally recognized as safe” is a term the FDA used while evaluating new or reinvented ingredients. In 1997, the FDA handed over this screening process to companies since there were industry complaints that they were taking too long to approve ingredients. In short, this means that companies can rush to put items in foods (they want to make a profit, after all) without thorough testing and due diligence.

Sweeteners

  • One clean label fix that companies commonly turn to is replacing ‘high fructose corn syrup’ with ‘fructose.’ The former is a mixture of two sugars; fructose and glucose (same ingredients found in table sugar). Even though fructose sounds like a better, simpler option, the name is deceiving; it actually has MORE sugar than high-fructose corn syrup!
  • “Some scientific evidence suggests that calories from fructose are more easily stored as fat than glucose. And fructose may also raise levels of harmful blood fats more than glucose does. The fear is that eating too much fructose may set the body on a path to obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes.”

Fats

  • A full 10 years after ‘trans fats’ were required to be listed on food labels, they have been formally declared by the FDA as not meeting GRAS standards (the public was notified in June, 2015). These fats negatively impact cholesterol levels (raising the bad kind and lowering the good kind), and, yet, they were included in foods and have been suspected to contribute to obesity-related deaths.
  • Companies are struggling to find a healthy replacement for trans fats and have not found conclusive evidence to support that alternatives are safe. These include palm oil and interesterified fats, which consists of fats that have undergone this kind of processing, for example: soybean oil.

Meats

  • Many consumers have become cautious of cured meats because of nitrates (linked to cancer and heart disease) and, thus, food companies have sought to rid their labels of the stuff. Only problem…how to preserve freshness and color? Answer: Celery Extract. This is now on the ingredient labels of many “uncured, organic” meat products. The issue? In spite of sounding more consumer-friendly, celery extract is apparently full of nitrates.

WellnessWinz’s Perspective: Try to stick to unprocessed foods as best you can. Don’t think you’re a failure because you can’t cook from scratch all day, every day…if ever! Just try to make modifications in your diet to allow for more wholesome foods. 

nutrient overload

Are Vitamin Drinks Healthy?

Added Nutrients 

  • Many “performance” or “functional” drinks get a bad reputation because of sugar content, but that’s not the only issue….
  • Many vitamin-enriched beverages contain 2-3x as many nutrients as required for the average adult.
  • Over 50% of Americans consume multivitamins and/or dietary supplements. A recent study found that these individuals were already getting substantial nutrition from their food alone.
  • The Institute of Medicine has found that many people are exceeding the safe limits of nutrient intakes. For example, antioxidants are very popular additives (and they’re important to the body too), but overdoses can cause major health issues.
  • Shocker: A large study examining 6,000 heart disease patients found that those patients given folic acid and B12 on a daily basis had higher mortality and cancer rates over a period of seven years.

WellnessWinz’s Perspective: This article is from my doctor’s office, One Medical, and I completely agree with their statement “It’s important to talk to your health care provider about any vitamins or supplements you’re consuming regularly, including fortified beverages.” Many of us like to think that we’re doing ourselves a favor by taking lots of supplements and drinking protein shakes with added vitamins and minerals, but, as this article suggests, there may be more to the story when we tinker so much with mother nature…

Estrogen and Exercise

Estrogen, Menstrual Cycle and Exercise

Estrogen vs Progesterone

  • Estrogen deficiency (caused by irregular or missing periods due to intense training) is the most significant risk factor for osteoporosis in women who exercise.
  • The first half of a woman’s monthly cycle is more dominated by estrogen, while the latter half is when progesterone takes over. Although each woman is unique, in general, the most energized workouts are possible during times when estrogen is highest.

Estrogen and Exercise

  • Easy to moderate workouts may help alleviate physical discomfort associated with PMS and menstruation, and may even lift a woman’s mood, when estrogen is low.
  • A woman may have greater strength gains if she trains more heavily during the estrogen dominant phase of her cycle. This is due to how estrogen and progesterone impact the body’s ability to recover from workouts and build muscle.

Metabolism

  • In general, women use less carbohydrates (glycogen) and protein to fuel submaximal exercise when compared to men. A woman’s body recruits more energy from fat to delay fatigue.
  • Progesterone is catabolic (i.e., it breaks down molecules for energy), thus, it’s important during high-progesterone weeks to eat adequate protein before and after a workout to help the body recover and build muscle.

WellnessWinz’s Perspective: If this is information overload, don’t let it stress you out! Instead, simply listen to how your body feels each day and week as you exercise. On the flip side, if you’re really looking to maximize your training potential, you may consider tinkering with your workout schedule according to some of these facts.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

wellnesswinz blue sea

 

References:

http://www.ptonthenet.com/articles/estrogen-menstrual-cycle-and-exercise-3980

http://www.onemedical.com/blog/newsworthy/vitamin-drinks/?utm_source=MASTER+One+Medical+Group+Members+List&utm_campaign=07a993a781-newsletter_aug15_dc&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_27da5a82f1-07a993a781-260543749

http://www.webmd.com/news/breaking-news/food-additives/20150723/foods-clean-labels?ecd=wnl_spr_072515&ctr=wnl-spr-072515_nsl-ld-stry&mb=wQVJ3eV0OU9AW%2feJzUtN7OHnVev1imbCxyiAn4yebB0%3d