The female hormonal balancing act

Many women experience female hormonal imbalances and as a result will experience conditions such as PMS, painful periods, fibroids, endometriosis and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).

The female hormonal cycle is a complicated system of different hormones that work together in synergy to create balance. Often there is a “wobble” in the system resulting in a cascade of hormonal imbalance.

All hormones rely on essential fatty acids and protein to be made and there are numerous enzymes that work to help the hormones do their jobs effectively. These enzymes rely on their own nutrients in order to function. Often when the female hormonal system has become out of balance, specific nutrients can be included in the diet in order to put the biochemistry back into balance again. What you eat matters.

Let’s have a look at some of the hormones involved

Pituitary gland The master gland, the pituitary, sits in the brain and tells all the other glands in the body what to do. It acts like a thermostat in a central heating system, constantly monitoring its environment ready to either tell the radiators to turn off as the temperature is warm enough, or to tell the radiators to turn on because the room is cold. So, all the other hormones are sending their messages back to the pituitary gland so that they can be instructed what to do next.

Thyroid Gland The thyroid gland is situated in the throat near the voice box and plays an important role in the balance. An under-active thyroid will affect the balance of progesterone and oestrogen and has been associated with infertility and miscarriage. As nutritionists know that the whole of the hormonal system works in synergy, treating the thyroid is often required in the protocol for addressing female hormonal complaints. The thyroid itself relies on many different nutrients such as iodine, selenium and tyrosine.

Adrenal glands The adrenals sit like little hats on top of the kidneys and are responsible for producing stress hormones and a small amount of sex hormones. Stress hormones have a significant effect on the rest of the hormonal system. For example, too much of the stress hormone, cortisol, can lead to an imbalanced menstrual cycle. The adrenal glands reply on specific nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B5 and tyrosine.

Pancreas The pancreas secretes insulin in order to regulate blood sugar levels. Imbalanced blood sugar levels cause insulin and cortisol overproduction, leading to the ovaries producing too much testosterone. This will lead to menstrual imbalances. Conditions such as PCOS are an example of this.

It’s all in the balance

So, there is a complex intercorrelation of different hormonal glands and all of them need to be functioning at their best to achieve overall hormonal harmony. If any one part of the system is affected, everything else will change. If any imbalance occurs, everything will be thrown slightly out of balance. Nothing operates in isolation. It’s an inter-related hormonal cascade.

Nourishing nutrients for the hormones

All hormonal imbalances can be helped with the right mix of nutrients. Thyroid function, adrenal function and the female hormones themselves can easily become out of balance if the body is not receiving enough of the correct nutrients.

Foods for the hormones

  • Oily fish
  • Flax oil
  • Flax seeds
  • Raw seeds, such as pumpkin and sunflower
  • Raw almonds
  • Raw walnuts
  • Lean protein such as organic chicken, fish and tofu
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Unrefined foods
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Chickpeas
  • Seaweed
  • Broccoli
  • Blueberries

Supplementation to the rescue

Introducing specific nutrients via supplementation can work wonders alongside food nutrients to correct hormonal imbalances. For example, quality fish oils, B complex vitamins, vitamin C and the herb Agnus Castus, may be used along with foods to support hormonal function.

Article by Jo Rowkins dipNT MBANT, nutritionist, founder of awakening health & executive health adviser at The Spa Resorts.

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