Spring: Hormone Alert!
March springs to mind; pardon the pun, the cycle of life, of new birth and awakening the spirit after the winter’s hibernation. As women we bring forth this new life, yes men with your help also, and as a consequence have the trials and tribulations associated with our menstrual cycle to contend with. Topping if all off with the hormonal roller-coaster of navigating the symptoms of perimenopause and the menopause. But what exactly are these pesky hormones? Put very simply, they are chemical messengers that are created in various glands which form the endocrine system. These specific substances are secreted into the blood stream and then travel to the specific part of the body and chemically communicate with the cells in the organ or tissue to perform a function. These hormones control most major bodily functions from controlling appetite and growth, they influence mood and help enable reproduction to name but a few. All animals and even plants produce and secrete these communicating chemical compounds.
The most well-known hormones and main players influencing and effecting our menstrual cycle and therefore bodies and mood as women are estrogens and progesterone. These messaging compounds communicate with our reproductive organs and tissues during the average 28 day menstrual cycle. So what’s going on during this cycle? Well quite a lot ladies, I’m not going to bore you with an gynaecological lecture. In brief from days 1-13 (on an average cycle) you are in the follicular phase and estrogen levels drop and progesterone level gradually increase. Days 14-28 your body is in the luteal phase, the hormone estrogen peaks around the ovulation phase which is normally on day 14 followed by the secretion of the progesterone hormone that cause the ovary to release the matured egg ending in the, what I like to think of as natures little joke – the PMT and menstrual phase once again. This is a very basic explanation in lay terms but you get the idea.
Estrogens can also be stored within our fat cells and disrupt all sorts of bodily functions and be a contributing factor to developing other chronic health diseases. This is called being in a state of ‘estrogen dominance’ and men, you can’t escape the estrogen either as you also make this hormone. Estrogen dominance is simply when your body makes too much, is in an unbalanced state and thereby your clever body says, “hey, let’s take these excess hormones to the storage lock-up – the fat cells”. It is very difficult to conclusively know if you are in an estrogen dominate state without a proper test as some of the symptoms can also present themselves for a variety of other conditions. But the common factors are as follows: Low mood, weight gain and difficulty losing weight, irregular cycle, water retention, brain fog, hair loss, fatigue, PMS, insomnia and headaches to name a few. Men also are effected and they also present symptoms of breast growth, loss of sex drive, sluggish metabolism, loss of muscle mass and fatigue. I was personally interested in the hair loss, PMT (pre-menstrual syndrome) and slow metabolic symptoms presenting themselves, which prompted me to do a little more digging into underlying causes.
What causes hormone imbalances? Lots of things according to a wide variety of sources including medically peer reviewed sources such as a paper written by Nashwa M. Saied (2015, www.sciencedirect.com) from the Hormone Evalution Department, National Organization for Drug Control and Research, Giza, Egypt. For further information on this study please refer to the source at www.sciencedirect.com. They are classed as Xenoestrogens, these are natural and synthetic compounds which are able to mimic or interfere with the bodies hormone receptors. These are found in the environment, your cosmetic and cleaning products, plastic containers leaching, drinking water, some diary and the list goes on. Well how the heck are you supposed to combat all that? It’s not easy and you can’t eliminate all sources, but you can actively reduce where possible with simple swaps in your personal care products to more natural alternatives (that’s a whole other blog!), buy organic, local and free range where possible and filter your drinking water for a start. Funnily enough all things that we at Pure Wellness advocate.
What can you do? Firstly, get some professional advice and help. You can speak with your Doctors who are able to request a blood test for the three different types of estrogen, E1, E2 or E3 and if presenting symptoms as described above go and seek medical advice. As previously mentioned, plants also make hormones called phytoestrogens and as communicating compounds can disrupt and influence your bodies’ hormonal functions. Unlike the bodies produced estrogens, however the plant compounds aren’t able to bind to the bodies’ receptors as firmly as our naturally produced hormones. There is a current trend; a popular treatment with naturopath’s, that I happened to come across and discussed with a client who also recommended from our wonderful wellness community called Seed Cycling.
We love seeds here at Pure wellness as they provide so many nutritional benefits; but to specifically use certain seeds during specific times of your menstrual cycle was something I had to try for myself. One cycle on and I’m pleased and a little surprised to say that I have definitely noticed a reduction in my PMT levels, level of fatigue and hair loss slightly reduced. Please note that I made no other change to my lifestyle or diet. Was it easy – yes, you have a tablespoon full of each seed per day. This can be popped into your smoothie, sprinkled on food, or added to fat bomb recipes or get creative and come up with your own recipe. The down side – you need to not have any other types of seeds as this can potentially sabotage the specific effects desired from the seed combination during certain phases of the cycle and also not have an allergy to the seeds.
How does it work? You utilise the plant hormones to influence your bodies’ hormones in order to achieve a more balanced system and reduce negative effects during your cycle, perimenopause and menopause such as hot flushes, PMT, fatigue, cramping etc. Basically within the first part (follicular phase) on days 1-13 you want to boost estrogen levels and then from days 14-28 you want to boost progesterone levels in the second part (luteal phase).
What do you do? If you know your cycle great, if not go online and find out more about the moon cycle which you can go by. You are also able to download a variety of apps such as Lunar Calendar for Women helping you to keep track. Once you know or decide which you are going to follow, purchase the following seeds individually –pumpkin and flax also known as linseed, sunflower and sesame. These are best if organically produced if possible, natural – not roasted, coated, salted or in any form of sugar. Cut out the diagram below for an easy reminder, keep the seeds in separate jars (I’ve labelled mine for ease) then eat everyday as directed. Simple!
If you are interested in giving this a whirl and see how your bodies hormonal balance may be effected there is a wealth of information online, I have listed several sources below for you. Wishing you all a wonderful hormonally balanced day.
Diagram Source: www.themilymarrow.com