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Balancing Hormones with Nutrition

women's health

Welcome to my blog on Nutrition & Women’s Health.  What you are about to discover is the importance of how nutrition is essential to optimizing your health as a woman at different stages of life – from decade to decade, month to month, week to week, and even day to day.  Why? Because women are awesome but also complex.  

In my years as a Registered Dietitian, I hear a lot of women having concerns in different stages of their lives.

In the teens, girls blossom into womanhood, but may have issues with acne or PMS. 

In the 20’s & 30’s, women have children and may have problems getting back to their pre-pregnancy weight, or women may have concerns with fertility.  Others may be starting to have issues with depression or anxiety.

In the 40’s, the focus is on children or teens, career, and family,  but then suddenly, you may get hit with sudden weight gain, especially around the belly, hot flashes, depression, anxiety and everything else tied to peri-menopause.

In the 50’s, it may be harder trying to lose the weight gained during peri-menopause, combatting insomnia, taking care of aging family members, preserving bone density, and maintaining heart health.

In the 60’s & 70’s, preserving lean muscle mass and having enough energy to keep up with the grandkids and travel may be of concern.

Women have hormones that fluctuate throughout all stages of life. Diet and lifestyle can support healthy hormones and it is also the foundation to balancing hormones. With a diet plan and optimizing your nutrition, you can feel healthy, have energy, sleep well and have mental clarity – just feel better.

Let’s talk about these hormones.

 

HORMONES

What I’m focusing on in this section are sex hormones that women need to feel balanced and to just feel good.  I’m talking about the right kind and amount of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone and the proper ratio between all of them.  When hormones are out of balance, you will feel it and it’s not a good feeling. Not a way to live.  The sad part is that some women will chalk it up to “old age” or they simply learn to live like this.  

Here are some symptoms of low estrogen:

Hungrier

Irritable

Vaginal Dryness

Depression

Bone loss

Hot flashes

Night sweats

Insomnia

Infertility

Joint aches and less flexible

Brain fog

 

Here are some symptoms of high estrogen:

Breast tenderness

Cysts

Fibroids

Endometriosis

Breast cancer

 

Here are some symptoms of low progesterone:

Endometriosis

Endometrial pre-cancer and cancer

Anxiety

Poor sleep

Infertility

Night sweats

Irregular periods

 

Here are some symptoms of high testosterone:

Depressions

Anxiety

Weight gain

Deeper voices

More pubic and facial hair

More muscles

Balding

More aggression

Irregular periods

Infertility

Acne

PCOS

 

Here are some symptoms of low testosterone:

Fatigue

Poor memory

Poor sleep

PMS

Muscle or joint aches and less flexible

Decreased socialization

You may not have all the symptoms, but you may have many that is affecting your quality of life.  

When you are in hormonal balance, you feel good overall and you are alert, happy, energetic, and have good sleep. 

 

INSULIN

I just reviewed briefly about sex hormones but I can’t leave this topic without talking about another major contributing hormone that affects your mood and health – insulin.

Insulin is the hormone that is secreted by your pancreas in response to glucose in the blood.  Your blood gets a surge of glucose after you eat anything that has sugar or carbohydrates, when your body releases glucose from storage (liver or muscle) or when your body converts protein into glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis.  What insulin does is it bring the glucose from the blood into the cells that need it for energy or it is stored in your liver or muscles for use later. That’s what is supposed to happen.

The thing is, you can also get a surge of glucose from your cortisol pumping out glucose in response to a stressor.  When this happens, then cortisol actually inhibits the production of insulin so that you will keep most of the glucose in your blood for immediate use instead of storing it.  This means your blood glucose levels will rise and that’s okay if it’s an acute stressor like you thought you heard a gunshot so you ran and hid, but then realized that it was just a car backfiring.  When you realize this, your hormone levels should all return to normal. However, these days, we are constantly on “stress” mode and so if your cortisol is constantly secreting glucose into your blood because of work or kids and you’re not using the glucose energy your cortisol provided you with for your stress, like actually running away, then your blood sugar will be too high especially since your insulin is inhibited by the signaling of cortisol to get the glucose out of the blood and into fat, liver or muscle cells or stored.  That’s one reason why insulin resistance is on the rise.  

 

INSULIN RESISTANCE

There is a real connection between insulin and hormones.  Now that you have a general idea of what cortisol does with insulin and its production of glucose, you can see why insulin resistance is on the rise.  Your body sees all this blood glucose and so your pancreas will secrete more and more insulin to try and get it into cells or into storage but it’s just not working as efficiently. That’s insulin resistance where you have high insulin and high blood glucose and have a higher chance of having pre-diabetes or full blown diabetes.

Where’s the connection with women’s hormones?  Well, high insulin causes the ovaries to make more androgens (male hormones like testosterone).  Remember, you want all your hormones to be in balance, not too little and not too much. Remember some of the symptoms of high testosterone? Not only that, but high insulin makes you fatter, especially belly fat, because insulin is a fat-storing hormone.  

How nutrition is important to optimize women’s health in all stages of life.

The good news is, you don’t have to just settle with your suboptimal health.  In fact, you absolutely can live a life where you are  alert, happy, and full of vitality.  How? By balancing your hormones with nutrition.  Yes, food is like medicine to help you rebalance your hormones.  

Food and good nutrition should be your foundation to being healthy so that whatever you want to layer on top of your foundation will be that much better and easier.  Here’s what I mean:

Have a Varied Diet That is Nutrient Dense from Whole, Real Foods – Not Processed. 

Having a nutrition plan so that your diet is complete with a variety of foods to give you the vitamins, minerals, energy, water, and antioxidants and phyto chemicals that you need on a daily basis, will give you the raw materials to make hormones, to activate pathways, to build proteins and enzymes, to support all your organs, and to support your mitochondria (your cell’s powerhouse to give you lots of energy). This way of eating will give you the Vitamin C you need to boost progesterone, or give you the B12, folate, and amino acid methionine to help produce “good” estrogens, or fiber to help you poop out the “bad” estrogens.  And there’s so much more when you eat a variety of nutrient dense, whole foods.  Forget the refined carbohydrates coming from foods like pizza, pasta, crackers, white bread.  Cut these kinds of refined foods out and you’ll decrease the risk of getting such conditions as diabetes or PCOS.  

Once again, I will keep repeating myself: Have a diet that has a variety of nutrient dense, whole, real foods.  That’s how you can be on your way to achieving optimal health.  You’ll feel good and look good and you are good. 

What is Good Food and Good Nutrition?

What I mean by good food is eating real, organic produce that you can eat raw or cooked together with spices and herbs using healthy oils (extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil) that is nutrient dense.  Make every bite count so that it is full of good stuff for your body to use such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phyto chemicals, protein, carbs, good fat, or fiber.  Do not choose foods that is processed and stripped of its nutrients with cheap nutrients, chemicals, and preservatives added to it. That’s just companies using the cheapest “ingredients” and adding stuff to allow their “food” product to stay longer on the shelf and not spoil.  Keep those healthy oils healthy by avoiding using high heat and frying. Again, those kinds of foods give very little nutrients, if any, for every bite. 

What I mean by good nutrition is having a VARIETY of real and healthy food.  So when you find a menu that is awesome and chock full of nutrients for every bite, don’t just stick to that one day’s menu, but rotate your menu so that you have a variety of healthy foods.  This way, you get a variety of nutrients too.  You need a variety of healthy, nutrient dense foods to provide all the raw materials your body needs to help you restore, rebalance, rebuild your hormones and stay healthy.  

What Causes Poor Nutrition…

 

STRESS

Who lives without stress these days, right? Stress can be from a physical stress such as obesity or injury.  Stress can also be from a chemical or environmental stress such as adrenaline or BPA.  Stress can also be from emotions such as a death of a loved one or going through a divorce.  Your body deals with stress similarly whether it comes from physical, chemical, environmental or emotional stress.  

But what happens when you are stressed?

You are in a fight or flight mode and so when you eat while you are stressed, your brain tells your stomach to reroute blood flow from stomach to your limbs so that you can run away. This means lowered HCL (the acid in your stomach that helps break down foods and kills bad bugs like parasites) so then you get GERD, poor absorption from your small intestines so you’re not absorbing the maximum amount of nutrients your body needs so then you are malnourished, and a slow down of all things gut related including your migrating motor complex, so then you get constipated. 

Besides that, to put it simply, when you are stress out, your body produces more cortisol to handle the stress and makes less progesterone. Remember porgesterone? It’s the hormone that makes you feel relaxed, allows you to carry a baby, and the opposing hormone to estrogen so you don’t become estrogen dominant with symptoms like PMS, heavy bleeding, and anxiety to name a few. 

 

LIVER HEALTH

Estrogen needs to be metabolized and then pooped out.  Fun stuff! If your liver is not healthy, like you have fatty liver, or if you have gallstones, then your liver isn’t going to be healthy enough to excrete the metabolized estrogen from the bile out to your poop.  This will mean that you are recycling “unhealthy” estrogens that was supposed to be excreted and then may end up with excess estrogen leading to estrogen dominant symptoms.

 

GUT HEALTH

What does your gut have anything to do with women’s health and hormones? Well it has a lot to do with almost everything really.  SIgA or Secretory IgA is a biomarker to see how robust your immune system is.  A lot of your immune system is in your gut because you are constantly putting foreign things in it – food.  You can take a stool test to check your levels of SIgA. If it’s low, then your chances of getting infections, “leaky gut”, gastrointestinal (GI) problems and even brain fog are higher.  How many women have some sort of GI disorder like bloating, Crohn’s, or small intestinal bacterial or fungal overgrowth (SIBO or SIFO)? Gut health is key.  

Also, have you ever heard of the phrase, “You are what you eat?”  It really is, “You are what you absorb and eliminate”.  If your gut, specifically, your small intestine is compromised, then you won’t be absorbing your nutrients efficiently and if you have a “leaky gut” or intestinal permeability where food is not completely broken down and now incomplete proteins are entering the blood circulation via this “leaky gut”, then you will feel bad – like food reactions and skin rashes, but even something more severe as autoimmunity like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Diabetes.

Then there’s the gut microbiome.  These are the trillions of microbes that live in your gut – especially in your cecum and large intestine. The ones that help us stay healthy by helping us breakdown down, make some nutrients for us, and communicate with our immune system to tell them what which microorganisms are good and beneficial or bad and harmful are the “good” microbiome bacteria and we need to feed them with real, whole foods and fiber for them to survive.  They don’t survive on “junk” food that will actually harm them.  Yes, those preservatives and chemicals act kind of like antibiotics killing our “good” gut bugs. The “bad” gut bugs are the microbes that make us feel too gassy, bloaty, tired, have constipation or diarrhea, causes cravings, weight gain and make us sick among other things.  These “bad” gut bugs feed on sugar, especially refined sugar and carbs and empty calories.  Which one will you feed?

 

SUMMARY

Food and nutrition is the foundation towards good health.  Whatever you want to layer on top of a solid foundation of good food and nutrition, then everything else will work more efficiently. The supplement or medication you’re taking will work more effectively or maybe your doctor can lower the dose. Add to it, exercise, stress management, meditation, clean air and water, and checking other root causes, you will be well on your way to optimal health.

I’ve only touched on the basics. Balance your hormones with a personalized nutrition plan.

If you need more help, I would be happy to work with you to help you finally know what to eat and feel energized and healthy. You are ready to start today. Just click on the link below to contact me:

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go to my Contact Page

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functional registered dietitian nutritionist, RDadvantage

RDadvantage – optimizing health

On Ki “Kim” Chan, MS, RDN

Los Angeles, California 91040

(818)335-9457