Nutrition and Women’s Health
Use the power of nutrition to optimise hormonal health
Women can use the power of nutrition to optimise their hormonal health as they transition from puberty, through the fertile years, perimenopause, menopause and the post-menopausal years. It’s crucial that women understand each life stage and then tap into what their bodies are communicating and respond appropriately with lifestyle and dietary choices.
The balance of female sex hormones in each life stage can be disrupted by many factors such as increased stress, poor diet, reduced digestion, medication, impaired liver function, gut microbiome and environmental toxins.
Dietary choices can of course have a huge effect on the female hormones. Eating lots of sugary snacks, unbalanced meals or restricting diet too much can cause a blood sugar imbalance putting the body into fight or flight mode. This increases cortisol and insulin which can reduce down the bodies ability to produce the sex hormones.
Make sure every mealtime is therefore balanced with a portion of protein and healthy fats, plus quarter of the plate dedicated to slow releasing carbohydrates and another quarter filled with vegetables in a rainbow of different colours to maximise nutrients. Keeping well hydrated is also very necessary not least to support our liver and excrete excess hormones.
Cruciferous vegetables are wonderful for supporting our detoxification pathways needed to excrete excess oestrogen. Vitamin C rich foods contain antioxidants and support the production of another female hormone, progesterone, crucial for fertility and affected during menopause. Iron, magnesium and zinc are all important minerals for women to consume and can affect energy levels (menstruating women’s iron requirements are almost double that of men), fertility and mental health, including PMS and anxiety during the menopause.
A Mediterranean diet high in healthy omega fats, vegetables, fibre rich wholegrains, herbs and lean protein is considered one of the best to follow for women wanting to keep their hormones balanced throughout every life stage.
How women eat is also so important to hormonal health and often overlooked. Fast paced modern lives has resulted in a reliance on convenience foods and there is much less cooking and social eating at a table with families or friends.
Taking the time to prepare food, chewing properly and being mindful of the food we eat is a huge component of digestion. Constantly eating quickly or in front of stimuli such as television, reduces digestion which means less nutrients are absorbed needed to support and balance the female hormones and cycles.
Studies show that the gut microbiome is also extremely important to female health as certain bacteria helps break down and detoxify oestrogen. In cases of imbalanced gut bacteria, the result can be reabsorption of oestrogen back into the body and a multitude of problems including leaky gut, fertility issues, poor mental health and inflammation throughout the body including the reproductive organs.
To support gut health, aim for maximum variety in the diet: at least 30 different plant based foods a week, including a wide range of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. Also consider including probiotic-rich fermented foods and turmeric to reduce inflammation.
Something else to consider when looking at female health are any environmental toxins such as BPAs. These are hormone disrupting chemicals which are found in many everyday items including food packaging, make up, personal care goods, water bottles, cling film and home cleaning products.
BPAs can disrupt the body cells from communicating effectively with hormones, which can wreak havoc on women’s bodies affecting not only hormone balance but also fertility, immune, mental and metabolic health.
Consider swapping out personal care and cleaning products with more natural ones, look at stainless steel water bottles and try and opt for more local foods which are less likely to be packaged in plastic.
Supporting women’s bodies through each life stage using nutrition and lifestyle choices not only leads to a healthier body but a healthier mind both now and in later life.
If you’d like to learn more about how to support your hormonal health with nutrition, why not make an apapointment with one of our nutritional therapists here at NCIM.
Click here to learn more about our Nutrition for Wellbeing offer.
If you’re a member of the Society for Integrative Healthcare log in to watch a play back of our February 2023 Webinar with NCIM Nutritionist Audrey Dickinson talking about Nutrition and Women’s Health.