Are your hormones responsible for your last 5 pounds?
The balance between the two female sex hormones – estrogen and progesterone – is critical to maintaining optimal health.
A relative excess in estrogen, known as estrogen dominance, can cause an increased risk of breast cancer, fibroids, ovarian cysts, and endometriosis. These are some early warning signs of estrogen dominance: PMS, loss of sex drive, cravings for sweet taste, heavy period, weight gain, breast swelling and fluid retention.
A low progesterone level can create a condition called luteal phase defect – typically defined as having less than the normal 12 to 14 days between the time of ovulation and menstruation. Luteal phase defect can cause fertility problems, making it challenging for women to conceive.
Estrogen dominance can be caused by excessive exposure to estrogenic substances – which are found in conventionally raised meat (which is most likely hormone-fed), dairy products, many pesticides and soft plastics (BPA, PVC), as some of the chemicals can leach into food when used as containers or for wrapping.
A low progesterone level can also cause estrogen dominance. Stress can affect the production of progesterone by raising the level of cortisol, which competes with progesterone for DHEA (a precursor of progesterone).
To help balance your hormones, make sure to have sufficient intake of these nutrients:
- Essential fatty acids
- Vitamins B3, B6, C, and E, biotin
- The minerals magnesium and zinc
Try to avoid high-fat animal foods (where most toxins with estrogenic effects are stored) as well as plastic containers and wraps for food storage – never heat up foods in plastic containers. Eat soy foods in moderation – substances in soy have an estrogenic effect, and the impact of a large quantity of soy on our hormonal balance is still inconclusive.
There are also herbs that can help us balance hormones, relieving PMS and menopausal symptoms:
- Agnus castus
- Dong quai (avoid during luteal phase if you are trying to get pregnant)
- Black cohosh (avoid during luteal phase if you are trying to get pregnant)
- St. John’s wort (can interact with birth control pills)
Note: if you are taking any medications or supplements, it’s best to consult a qualified herbalist to ensure that there is no interaction