I regularly had women come to see me in my practice saying, “My hormones are out of control right before my period. I’m snapping at my kids and partner more, my food cravings are ferocious and I’m breaking out.” Another common complaint is, “I think there’s something wrong with my thyroid. I’m so tired all the time and I’ve been trying to lose weight but it just won’t come off and I eat so clean!”
Can you relate to some or all of what my patients were saying? Chances are most women can because almost 80% of women experience some form of PMS or premenstrual syndrome. Typical symptoms include irritability, depression, anxiety, poor sleep, headaches, memory loss, fatigue, acne, breast tenderness, food cravings or bloating.
Each month there is a dance that happens between estrogen and progesterone and this delicate balance has been thrown off. There is too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. This is especially noticeable in the 12-14 days between ovulation and when a period starts.
Estrogen is mostly made in the ovaries and plays an important role in regulating menstrual cycles, pregnancy, bone growth and cholesterol levels.
- Too little estrogen can lead to irregular periods, hot flashes, vaginal dryness and fatigue.
- Too much estrogen can lead to uncomfortable PMS symptoms described above and even breast cancer.
Foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates will spike our insulin and this releases more active estrogen into our system. We also ingest extra estrogen by eating hormone laden foods such as commercial dairy or beef. Xenoestrogens are estrogen-like toxins that are found in a number of everyday products like plastics, pesticides and even those glossy paper receipts. All of this will overload our bodies with estrogen.
Once the estrogen is broken down it goes into our colon, waiting to be excreted. Too much alcohol affects how well our liver can perform this duty. If you are constipated the estrogen can be reabsorbed and recycled to make even more estrogen.
As women age, our progesterone levels naturally fall and the imbalance becomes even more pronounced in our early 40’s. Progesterone is mostly made in the ovaries after ovulation. If you don’t ovulate, you won’t be making as much progesterone each month.
Stress also plays a key role in lowering our progesterone. Our body’s main hormone for dealing with any kind of stress is cortisol. So when you are frazzled by endless to do lists and schedules, you are using up your cortisol reserves. If you run close to empty, your body will reduce the amount of progesterone it makes in order to make more cortisol instead.
Another big drain on your cortisol reserves is caffeine. We’ve all experienced the temporary boost in energy after a cup of java, but if you are prone to PMS then this could further exacerbate your hormonal imbalance and make your symptoms worse. One of the best ways to replenish your cortisol stores is to ensure you get adequate amounts of uninterrupted sleep.
How can you naturally restore the balance of estrogen and progesterone:
- Eliminate refined sugars and processed carbohydrates from your diet.
- Eat on a regular schedule to balance your blood sugar.
- Avoid Caffeine to keep your cortisol stores full.
- Limit Alcohol to optimize your liver’s detox abilities at its best.
- Reduce the use of plastics whenever possible. Use glass water bottles and food containers.
- Choose to eat organic, hormone free foods.
- Make sure you have daily bowel movements. Drink lots of lemon water and increase your fiber intake naturally. (Chia seeds, flax seeds etc...)
- Reduce your stress. Find a practice that’s easy to do and makes you feel connected. It can be anything from walking the dog, taking a bath, prayer or meditation.
What supplements can help?
Although it’s always best to get all your nutrients from food, sometimes a supplement can also be helpful.
- Omega 3 fatty acids (2gm/day) help with reducing inflammation and helps your liver in the detox process.
- Magnesium citrate (400-600mg/day) can help reduce anxiety, improve sleep and keep your bowels regular.
- Vit B6 (50-100mg/d) and Vit B12 (1000mcg/d) will help the liver in the detoxification of the extra estrogen.
- Calcium citrate 600 mg/d and Vit D 1000IU/day to help with the PMS symptoms.
Since embarking on this journey through Functional Medicine and its philosophy of looking for the root cause of symptoms, I have learned so much about our hormones and just how interconnected our body systems are to each other. I love understanding why simple lifestyle changes can have such a profound impact not only on our health but our quality of life. As always feel free to send me any questions or comments to email@example.com
Written by well&tight member and contributor: Dr. Angeline Yee
Bio: Dr. Angelina Yee is a medical doctor trained in both Family and Functional medicine. As a fitness and health enthusiast she enjoys all forms of activity and exploration into physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Angelina is a certified yoga instructor and a national body-building champion. She is happily married and a mom to 6 year old twins and a golden doodle named Marvin. Follow her personal wellness journey on IG @dr_angelinayee.