Balance your hormones naturally
The subject of hormones can leave many women fearful and confused, many women believe monthly symptoms of hormonal imbalances are normal. Millions of Australian women battle conditions such as painful periods, migraines, weight gain, fertility issues, fatigue and depression without knowing how to fix the problem. It’s often the case that no matter what you eat or how much you exercise your weight never shifts, or perhaps your stress levels at work and home are causing havoc with your hormones.
The majority of our patients are highly stressed corporate workers who are juggling a family with a busy career. Stress can negatively affect fertility, with research showing that women working in stressful jobs being twice as likely to have a short menstrual cycle as women working in non-stressful jobs1.
Stressful events activate pathways such as the Sympathetic Adrenal Medulla (SAM) axis and the Hypothalamus Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis. The SAM axis is responsible for the short-term stress response, whilst the HPA axis is the long-term stress response, commonly referred to as “Adrenal Fatigue”. Chronic activation of these pathways can negatively affect fertility2. Stress is so damaging for fertility and female hormone balance that some studies have suggested that before commencing any type of medical fertility treatment, women should undergo treatment for chronic stress3.
Stress and the effects of cortisol can play havoc with your hormones and reproductive health. The results may be an increased risk of;
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Estrogen dominance
- Metabolic Syndrome
- Migraine Headaches
- Water retention and bloating
- Fatigue Mood swings
- Food cravings
Adrenal gland function has a huge impact on your reproductive hormones, yet many women have not tested their cortisol levels. The DUTCH method of testing, which our clinic utilizes measures estrogen, progesterone and cortisol all in the one test.
Stress during pregnancy has also been shown to negatively affect the child in some cases. Elevated HPA activity is associated with altered functions of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and gonads. Moreover, the offspring of stressed mothers can present with abnormalities including reduced birth weight, higher levels of anxiety, higher levels of HPA axis function, and are at an increased risk of developing various physiological diseases4.
90% of Australian women experience at least one symptom of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) each month and approximately 50% of women experience multiple symptoms each month. Symptoms include; bloating, water retention, breast tenderness, fatigue, mood swings, depression, anxiety, irritability and food cravings.
PMS can be extremely debilitating with around 10% of women with severe symptoms having reduced quality of life, days off work and impacting their social activities. Stress and disturbances in the HPA axis have been linked to PMS and other reproductive disorders. Our supplement and nutritional based programs can help with symptoms of PMS via supporting healthy estrogen metabolism5.
POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine condition among women of reproductive age, affecting up to 10% of Australians. Diet and lifestyle interventions are among the first-line treatments for PCOS, and weight reduction through energy restriction has been shown to exert positive influences on both metabolic and hormonal aspects of this condition. Alterations in carbohydrate amount and type have also been investigated, and more recently, dietary fatty acids, with a particular emphasis on PUFA, have been shown to have a positive impact within this population group6.
Estrogen dominance can negatively affect fertility in both women and men. Endometriosis, weight gain, reduced sex drive and fibrocystic breast are some of the most common symptoms of estrogen dominance. Sulforaphane and 3,3'-diindolylmethane found in cruciferous vegetables has been shown to aid in estrogen metabolism and thereby lower the risk of estrogen dominance5. Nutraceutical sources of sulforaphane are often more effective than via vegetables themselves due to the dosage required.
NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE
Whilst we can’t change things like aging and our genetics, there are a number of lifestyle factors that can be addressed, and this is where Functional Medicine and Clinical Nutrition excels in helping women with hormonal imbalances. Nutrition and stress reduction play an important role in fertility and female hormone imbalances.
Nutrition plays a major role in enhancing the reproductive ability in both men and women. Multiple studies have proven that a healthy diet with the ideal levels of micro and macronutrients increases the chances of conceiving7. The people I see in clinic are often confused by what constitutes a healthy diet, especially in women and men who are wanting to conceive. Nutrigenomics or the way in which your genetics interact with the food you eat is also an important factor.
Hormone disrupting chemicals often found in the home and cosmetics can have a major impact on hormonal balance. Oxidative stress from heavy metals, pollution, drugs, chemicals, cooking of food, alcohol and tobacco can all disrupt the normal hormonal balance and damage DNA8. Dietary and supplementary antioxidants have been shown to reverse some of the markers of oxidative stress and help to support female reproductive health and balance estradiol9.
1. Fenster, L. et al (1999) Psychological Stress in the Workplace and Menstrual Function. American Journal of Epidemiology 149(2) 127-134
2. Palomba, S. et al (2018) Lifestyle and fertility: the influence of stress and quality of life on female fertility. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology 16:113 1-11
3. Campagne, D.M. et al (2006) Should fertilization treatment start with reducing stress? Human Reproduction 21(7) 1651-1658
4. Joseph, D.N., Whirledge, S. (2017) Stress and the HPA Axis: Balancing Homeostasis and Fertility. Int. J. Mol. Sci 18(2224) 1-15
5. Rajoria, S. et al (2011) 3,30 - Diindolylmethane Modulates Estrogen Metabolism in Patients with Thyroid Proliferative Disease: A Pilot Study. Thyroid. 21(3) 299-304
6. O’Connor, A. et al (2010) Metabolic and hormonal aspects of polycystic ovary syndrome the impact of diet. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 69. 628-635
7. Silvestris, E. et al (2019) Nutrition and Female Fertility: An Interdependent Correlation. Frontiers in Endocrinology 10(346) 1-13
8. Silvestris, E. et al (2016) Oxidative stress (OS) and DNA methylation errors in reproduction. A place for a support of the one carbon cycle (1-C-Cycle) before Conception. Women’s Health & Gynecology. 2(4) 1-8
9. Schisterman, E.F. et al (2010) Influence of Endogenous Reproductive Hormones on F2-Isoprostane Levels in Premenopausal Women. American Journal of Epidemiology. 172(4) 430-439