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Eating Your Way To Hormonal Balance

Eating Your Way Towards Hormonal Health

Midlife women have been led to believe that hormone replacement therapy is an either or proposition:  either you take it or you suffer the symptoms of menopause

In reality, however, women do not have to be plagued by hot flashes, night sweats, brain fog, depression and weight gain as they go through menopause.  A healthy whole foods diet can go a long way in alleviating those discomforts without the need for hormone replacement therapy, whether natural or otherwise.

The menopause is defined as 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, and in the U.S., the average age of menopause is 51 years.

However, peri-menopause, the years gradually leading up to complete menstrual cessation, can begin as early as 35 and stretch for 10 or 15 years. During this time the ovaries slow down production of two hormones in particular, estrogen and progesterone. The imbalance in these hormones leads to the commonly experienced discomforts of mid-life for women.

Here are 5 basic and very simple diet tweaks that are easy to adopt.  In no time at all, these small but nutritious habits could help you gently transition into the sisterhood of wise women.

1. Cut out added sugar and refined carbohydrates. These can raise insulin levels, promote weight gain and lead to more fat stores, especially around the belly.  Those fat stores in turn can promote higher levels of circulating estrogen, driving your estrogen/progesterone balance further out of kilter.

2. Add more fruits and vegetables. Phytoestrogens are weak plant estrogens found in over 300 plants including blueberries, cherries, cranberries, carrots, bananas, beets, oranges, onions, peppers, oats, plums, olives and potatoes.  Phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors and balance estrogen levels by having an estrogenic effect if your estrogen levels are too low, and by blocking stronger estrogens if your levels are too high.

3. Increase fiber, especially flax seeds.  Our bodies dispose of excess estrogen by way of the bowel, and if not excreted, the estrogen will be reabsorbed and continue to circulate.  A high fiber diet will support that process.  Flax seeds are a great source of fiber but they are also rich in lignans (particularly strong phytoestrogens).  Flax seeds and their lignans and have been shown in studies to help in both reducing the risk of breast cancer and slowing the growth of breast cancer tumors.  Lignans not only have anti-viral, anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties but they also help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and raise HDL (good) cholesterol.

4. Avoid caffeine, spicy foods and alcohol. These are all heat producing substances and will contribute to hot flashes. Instead, try cooling foods like melon, bean sprouts, celery, apples, asparagus and grapes.

5. Only eat organic animal protein and dairy products. Most animal protein and dairy has been treated with growth hormones which may compound the estrogen imbalance in your body. Stick with organic meat and dairy that has been labeled "no added hormones" or "no hormones administered."

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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Just from my perspective..

I am grateful for every piece of information that sheds light on this HUGE part of life for women. Peri-menopause, a hysterectomy and now menopause have rocked me to my core. I have had to reach into reserves I didn't know I had and pull myself up by my bootstraps to reclaim my life and my health.  I have changed careers and pursued a path to health - becoming a health coach and inviting others to find their own path.    

What I read here mirrors a lot of my experience. During peri-menopause I discovered the reality of eliminating hot flashes with elimination of white sugar and white flour. Now in menopause that same recommendation helps alleviate severe hot flash symptoms, but not all.

I decided to use bio-identical HRT 20 months ago to alleviate foggy thinking -  I needed my mind back! They made a huge difference in those symptoms plus sleeping better and fewer/no hot flashes.

But your list gave me pause, because across those same 20 months I lost belly fat - 35 lbs. to be exact. When I maintain my weight loss I am symptom free. when I go up a few pounds the hot flashes started to creep back in. Hmmm... 

I can say unequivocably that caffiene - even a diet Pepsi - will increase the severity of menopause symptoms.

Another thing I have done in the last 20 months is eliminate dairy and moved to organic meat only. I did it for other reasons, but again it make me think how those choices might be helping my symptoms.

Symptoms of menopause are so life-altering - impacting relationships, lifestyle, ability and identity - that I would not judge anyone's decision on how to handle them, but I am thankful for every piece of information that can help me choose the best course for myself and give me good recommendations to offer to my friends and clients.

Hormones are so personal...

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, LaRae.  Balancing hormones is a very individual process and by tuning in to your body and its reactions, it sounds as though you've been able to find your own solution.  I hope more women will be inspired by your story!

Hormone Replacement Therapy

First, I believe every woman should have an informed choice regarding HRT or alternatives to menopause, but neither should be judged by the other as "wrong".  I personally do natural bioidentical hormones and it radically changed my energy, moods, libido, hair loss, skin and clarity in thinking.  When big Pharma got a hold of the idea, HRT went south.  They used horse urine!  They have been using Bioidenticals in Europe for years....I'll go with the German and other European studies before I will trust anything that pharmaceuticals try to push on us. 

Either way you go, educate thyself.  :o) 

Your hormones can be balanced and still be deficient.

Women who take hormones live longer. They have significantly less osteoporosis related fractures and death. They develop less heart disease and live longer. This is all in the literature. Promoting no hormones is promoting shorter overall survival.

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