Women’s hormones are responsible for menstruation, fertility, weight management, moods and more. Therefore, you can see keeping them in balance is key for good health. This blog post is talking about hormones in relation to exercise and nutrition for optimum hormonal health.
Exercise is defined as a physical effort that improves our health and wellbeing. If we approach exercise from a place of balance combined with good nutrition we can keep our hormones in check as they are so crucial for our health.
A balanced approach to exercise can help to regulate your cortisol levels, lower inflammatory markers and stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system. All of these things are critical for hormonal balance, strong immunity, mental stability and fertility.
Exercise like all things should be balanced. Ideally a mixture of HIIT, resistance training and restorative practices such as walking, stretching or yoga are the best types of exercise for your hormones.
We know there is a long list of benefits to exercise so I will just list some of the main ones that are relevant to your hormones.
Increased bone density
Increased insulin resistance
Increased ability to regulate estrogen
Supports healthy testosterone levels
The exercise that is not good for your hormones is chronic cardio i.e. Running for long periods of time daily. Chronic cardio raises cortisol levels for prolonged periods of time, this pressure on the adrenals causes the sympathetic nervous system to take over during the workout causing the cortisol levels to be raised chronically.
Some side effects of chronically raised cortisol levels are:
Suppressed immune function
Excess fat around mid-section
Dysregulation of blood sugars
Just to be clear all exercise raises cortisol to some degree but it becomes harmful when the rise in cortisol goes beyond the benefits of that exercise and becomes a damaging stressor.
What can we do nutritionally to help keep our hormones in balance and get the most from our training?
Eating is a good start! Under eating is one of the biggest problems I see with women, the 1500 calorie rule is false! This is hardly enough to sustain many women’s basic bodily functions, but add in any kind of strenuous exercise or extra need for healing and its far from enough.
If you are not receiving enough fuel, you send a signal to your pituitary gland that there is famine. The body realises this is a really stressful time to be making a baby. It therefore responds to this threat by down regulating or even shutting off hormone signalling and fertility functions. As we rely on fertility as a marker for optimum health, this affects you whether you are trying to have a baby of not. Under eating is not only a hinderance in balancing hormones it can also be the cause of imbalances. Some of the symptoms you may experience are insomnia, hair loss, weight gain, fatigue, thyroid dysfunction and loss of period.
Another relevant area to your nutrition that you may not think of is birth control. Getting informed about birth control is another way in which we can make sure we have healthy hormones. The pill can mask and exacerbate some common hormonal symptoms such as estrogen dominance, hypothalamic amenorrhea, PCOS and low progesterone. We are often prescribed the pill for everything from acne, PMS, irregular periods and any hormonal imbalance not for just birth control. The belief is that it will “solve” the problem but in actual fact, it is simply concealing the symptoms and can lead to the further imbalances.
Taking the pill is a personal choice but being informed about it effects is smart and can help you to manage some of the side effects should you choose to take it. Some common side effects are long term nutrient depletion of critical vitamins and minerals such as B6, Selenium and Vitamin E. The pill also disrupts the bacteria from your gut microbiome which has consequences for our immunity, skin and mental health. Getting educated about your specific hormonal symptoms means you can get to the root cause and not use a Band-Aid fix such as the pill for hormonal problems.
One of the biggest problems for women and their hormones is PMS, which is usually caused by an estrogen excess or imbalance of estrogen to progesterone. Estrogen excess is very common and getting rid of the excess estrogen is very important for health and hormonal balance.
You can do this by supporting your Liver and your Gut.
Some estrogen clearing tips:
- Drink warm water with lemon upon waking on an empty stomach
- Sweat and move regularly
- Consume potent liver supporting foods like dandelion root, broccoli and beetroot,
- Take magnesium citrate if you struggle with bowel movements
- Consume gut enriching foods like probiotics and sauerkraut
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is one of the best things you can do for your hormones. When inflammation is high, it increases the aromatase enzyme, which takes testosterone and converts it to estrogen. This makes estrogen dominance even worse and increases estrogen metabolites, which makes your PMS worse. When you’re converting and producing more estrogen, with low testosterone, you are likely to experience symptoms such as weepiness, mood swings, fatigue, inability to build muscle, and a low or non-existent sex drive. In order to fight this, we need to increase our consumption of anti-inflammatory foods and decrease inflammatory foods.
Add more of these:
- Fibre-rich and nutrient dense dark leafy greens
- Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon
- Proteins for your neurotransmitter health
- Berries, citrus fruits and vegetables for antioxidants
- nourishing fats like Avocados, coconut oil and olive oil
- starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and pumpkin
- probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, miso and kimchi
Reduce and limit your consumption of:
- Inflammatory fats: seed oils
- Conventional meat and dairy: they are loaded with antibiotics which screw with your natural hormone levels.
- Any food that you have a sensitivity to. Food sensitivities are one of the top unknown causes of chronic inflammation even mild exposure will cause inflammation.
What I would like you to take away from this article? Hormones are very important for our health and we do have control over how much we are affected by them. We can manage our nutrition and lifestyle to support healthy hormone production and metabolism. Society has normalised PMS but it’s not normal, it’s become common amongst women but it is not the natural state for our body. Get your hormones in balance and your body will thank you. Book in for a consultation if you are concerned about your health or want some support to implement these changes
For a Nutrition appointment with Bronwen please book with us on 02 8406 0679 or alternatively book online at Northern Beaches Integrative Practitioners at Northern Beaches Integrative Practitioners | Integrative Practitioners Mona Vale, Northern Beaches – Welcome