Mental, physical, and emotional factors all affect our overall health as women, but there’s another factor you’ve probably heard of but may not be paying enough attention to: balanced hormones.
Hormones are chemical messengers made in glands and are secreted in the bloodstream into cell receptors throughout the body. You could think of the hormonal system as the body’s physiologic “internet,” a web of signals that communicate with all of the other systems, affecting immunity, metabolism, reproduction, and more.
Balanced Hormones: Estrogen and Progesterone
A woman’s hormonal system is complex and fragile. A little refresher in case you forgot everything from physiology 101: The two main female sex hormones are estrogen and progesterone. When they’re balanced, most of us feel really good.
We need much more progesterone than estrogen. The problem is that this can be hard to achieve because the environment in which we live is saturated with xenoestrogens, chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body. (Xeno means “foreign,” because they come from outside of the body.) Here are a few places xenoestrogens are found:
—Mercury in fish is considered a metalloestrogen, AKA a metal that can act like estrogen.
—Bisphenol-A or BPA, found in many plastics, has been shown to activate estrogen receptors.
—Parabens and phthalates, found in many skincare and cosmetic products, are considered exogenous sources of estrogen which can disrupt proper hormone signaling.
5 Smart Tips for Balanced Hormones
It’s a challenge to be hormonally balanced these days, but smart women don’t lose hope. Instead, they proactively care for themselves, because they know that hormones control everything in the body.
How to do that? Start with these five simple changes to your daily routine.
1. Diligently work on balancing your blood sugar.
Balanced blood sugar underpins hormonal balance. When we eat too much sugar or refined carbs, excess insulin is produced, which in turn increases the production of an enzyme called aromatase. And guess what? Aromatase is the main enzyme responsible for estrogen creation.
2. Keep your gut health in tip-top shape.
The gut is an important site for estrogen detoxification. What does that mean? The liver sends excess estrogen to the colon for removal from the body, but if you are constipated, this can slow down its exit. Not a good thing. Also, if bad bacteria rule your gut, those buggers might be producing an enzyme called beta-glucoronidase. The enzyme un-couples estrogen from its bond in the gut and allows it to roam free again. Again, not good.
3. Get rid of your personal care products that contain parabens and phthalates.
Instead, use products made by brands that are committed to clean, safe ingredients. Remember that the skin is porous and that using safer products reduces exposure to estrogenic chemicals.
4. Never microwave your food in plastic.
Put it on a glass or ceramic plate before you heat it up, okay? Plastic, especially when heated, can leach into your food and have estrogenic activity.
5. Avoid factory-farmed meat.
While this may not be enough to completely balance your sex hormones, it is a darn good start.
For more information on individualized nutrition and lifestyle changes tailored to women in midlife, visit Maria at Wise + Well.
Maria Claps is a certified health coach, Functional Diagnostic Nutrition practitioner and hormone coach for women 45+.
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