Some of us are digging hormonal jazz vibes while others are experiencing rock ‘n roll. How balanced is your hormonal dance?
As the level of wisdom appears to increase for women over the years, (aka aging), the level of estrogen production gradually begins to decrease. During a woman’s reproductive years, estrogen and progesterone levels are programmed to support the possibility of reproduction.
When estrogen and progesterone (and testosterone) are in the groove, they are in a harmonious balancing act. The amount of each hormone produced depends on a complex feedback system to the brain. Stress and diet affect that feedback mechanism, and can throw your hormonal dance offbeat.
The role of progesterone is critical because it comes on stage during the second half of the menstrual cycle and it “opposes” estrogen, allowing estrogen to be metabolized and therefore maintain the balance. I think of it as a fencing duel but you can create your own visual.
“Unopposed” estrogen usually leads to levels that are too high, which can cause some discomfort and can have a negative impact on health. Like that guy who steps on your toes when you tango.
As the female body enters the perimenopause years it realizes reproduction needs to take a seat and the ovaries produce less estrogen. When estrogen levels start to fall, the smarty-pants female body will just look for other sources of estrogen to maintain normal function.
Where does the search lead? Adipose tissue – or body fat – is also a storage centre for estrogen. More body fat = more estrogen supply.
For some women, their bodies will begin to create more fat cells as estrogen levels fall, so that more estrogen can be stored. While it’s lovely that this process gives your body an increased supply of estrogen, it also can result in weight gain, particularly around the midsection.
If you have excess body fat WHEN you reach perimenopause, you may have higher levels of estrogen compared to your progesterone levels. I often tell my clients (and myself) that it’s extremely helpful to be able to “meet menopause” in optimal physical condition – and that’s where nutrition comes in as your great ally!
There are many nutritional strategies that can support the delicate estrogen balance. But how do you even know if your estrogen levels are high? Well, there ARE a number of ways your physician can test hormone levels, but it’s not necessarily rocket science.
I don’t claim the following to be rooted in science – at all – but here are some clues that your estrogen levels may be high, based on my personal experience:
Sound familiar? It might be a sign your estrogen levels are a tad high.
Fortunately there are things you can do to make your hormonal dance more enjoyable.
Harness the power of organics
Plants that are grown organically are required to naturally fight off disease. When you eat organically grown food you are also getting some of the plant’s inherent ability to fight of stressors. Some key foods to look for organic are berries, apples, dark leafy greens, peppers and tomatoes. Take a look at organics in Canada and the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen (originally posted on David Suzuki’s site).
Manage your stress responses
I know, easier said than done (especially when you are limiting wine due to those “tropical heat waves”). Stress triggers the hormone cortisol which interrupts the delicate feedback process between the brain, pituitary gland and the ovaries which are all involved in hormone regulation. During perimenopause the retiring ovaries signal to the adrenals that it’s time for them to do some estrogen and progesterone production. However, elevated stress levels cause the adrenals to focus on the production of other hormones needed for “fight or flight” responses and therefore will give full attention to creating sufficient amounts estrogen and progesterone.
Take a seat
Hormonal balance also depends on your body’s ability to eliminate excess estrogen and toxins. If you are not enjoying at least one bowel movement per day, your estrogen levels can increase, creating an imbalance. (That’s right, I said enjoying.)
Say what? Xenoestrogens can block the normal hormone pathways contributing to an imbalance (aka endocrine disruptors). Found in pesticides and plastics, they mimic the effect of estrogen in the body (human and animal). Xenoestrogens remain in the body and are stored – wait for it – in adipose tissue (fat). Choose organic when possible, especially for foods considered the Dirty Dozen. Use glass, ceramic, metal, or porcelain to store food and beverages. If you use a microwave use only metal or porcelain containers, not plastic, and definitely ditch the plastic wrap! Fight back with phytoestrogens, plant-based substances found in flax, soy, nuts, sesame seeds, sprouts and many other plant foods. Phytoestrogens bind to estrogen cell receptors and prevent the damaging xenoestrogens from getting the opportunity to hook up.
Go to bed
Did you know that getting enough good quality sleep is also important for hormonal balance? The liver does some of its best detox work while we are asleep. A proper sleep is very important for removing excess estrogen.
There are many reasons why estrogen levels could be elevated, progesterone levels too low, or vice versa. Some of us are digging hormonal jazz vibes while others are experiencing rock ‘n roll.
This is why it is so important to take the holistic view and look not only at eating habits but look eating but stress levels, exercise, love, and joy. Consult your health practitioner team and get those dancing shoes on.
“The estrogen & progesterone dance” was written by Nutritionist & Orthomolecular Practitioner Tricia Pearson. Thanks for reading!
Tricia Pearson is a Certified Nutritionist specializing in cancer and diabetes. Check out Tricia's services and find out how to harvest the best of your health.
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