Aging is not the only thing that impacts hormone production and metabolism. Environmental influences and lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, stress levels, and sleep habits also play a key role.
For example, did you know that regular physical activity can help reduce estrogen levels? Studies published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute and Cancer Biomarkers Preview have shown if you exercise 30 minutes five days per week, you can drop your estrogen levels an average of 13%.
Aside from exercising, sleeping 7-8 hours every night also helps promote hormonal balance. And like anything else, your diet will also impact how well you deal with menopause.
High-carb low-fat diets have been found to upset hormone balance. So you definitely want to avoid simple carbohydrates, such as white flour, white rice, pasta, and bread. They raise cortisol levels, which can make perimenopause symptoms much worse. They also spike blood sugar, which can lead to cravings and overeating.
Try swapping grains like bread and white rice for quinoa. Unlike other grains, which are higher on the glycemic index and can raise your blood sugar, quinoa is a complex carb high in protein, so it helps keep blood sugar stable.
Eat lots of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, Brussel sprouts, celery, beetroot, kale, cabbage, parsley root, radish, turnip, collard, and mustard greens. Scientists have isolated a constituent in cruciferous vegetables called Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) that is especially beneficial to estrogen metabolism. When I3C combines with stomach acid it creates 3,3-Diindolylmethane, or DIM.
DIM has unique hormonal benefits. It supports the activity of enzymes that improve estrogen metabolism by increasing the levels of 2-hydroxyestrone, e.g. the “good” estrogen metabolite. When taken as part of a healthy diet, we have found that DIM helps support PMS symptoms, fat loss, and healthy estrogen metabolism.
Eat legumes, such as beans and lentils. They’re high in fiber, which has been shown to help balance the production of estrogen. In fact, high-fiber diets are associated with less weight gain, healthier cholesterol levels, and reduced constipation. They will also keep your blood sugar stable, helping prevent cravings and mood swings. Legumes are also rich in B-complex vitamins, which support estrogen detoxification. For example, if your body is deficient in B vitamins, you will have higher levels of circulating estrogens. As I mentioned before, increased estrogen levels lead to estrogen dominance and the inability to lose weight.
Eat ground or milled flaxseed, sesame seeds, and flaxseed oil.
They’re high in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant versions of the human hormone estrogen. But they’re much weaker than human estrogen. When there are low estrogen levels in the body, these weak ‘estrogens’ make up some of the insufficiency. When the body is estrogen dominant, however, the lignan ‘estrogens’ bind to the human body’s estrogen receptors thereby reducing human estrogen activity at a cellular level. In other words, they can be beneficial when estrogen levels are either too high or too low. Much research shows that women in Asia experience less menopausal symptoms because their diet contains a higher concentration of phytoestrogens, compared to women who adopt a North American diet.
Eat healthy fats each day.
Fat is not the enemy. We’ve all been lied to. Essential fatty acids (EFAs), namely omega–3 and omega–6 fats, are needed to assist the body in many important functions, including those of the brain and nervous system. Good sources of EFAs include eggs, high-quality flax seeds, soybeans, walnuts, and wild-caught salmon and sardines. Omega-3 fats can protect the heart, promote smooth skin, and help to counteract inflammation from omega-6 fats (found mostly in refined oils and low-quality meat). A study from the Journal Menopause reported that omega 3 decreased depression, hot flashes, and brain fog.
Healthy fats are also building blocks for hormone production. They keep inflammation levels low, boost your metabolism, and promote satiety that is important for preventing weight gain. Unrefined oils provide essential vitamin E that helps regulate estrogen production. Look for virgin coconut oil, palm oil, extra-virgin olive oil, and flaxseed oil. Other sources of healthy fats include avocado, coconut milk, nuts, seeds, and wild seafood.