Estrogen is the hormone that most defines you as a woman. It gives you curves. It also builds and maintains the structure of our sex organs and regulates the menstrual cycle. Just as important, it protects our hearts, bones, brains and eyes. Estrogen also helps to keep our cholesterol levels down and plays a role in our longevity.
As we move past menopause, our ovaries start producing less estrogen naturally. But luckily our adrenal glands and our fat stores help to keep us protected. Sometimes it’s not enough, though, and we can get symptomatic.
Some of the most troubling symptoms of low estrogen include weight gain (in all the wrong places!), mood issues such as anxiety and depression, brain fog, loss of memory, fatigue, low libido, dryness, rapid heartbeat, and hot flashes or night sweats. And of course, insomnia.
Here’s the challenge: I think we (and the medical community) often confuse low estrogen with the aging process, thinking there is nothing we can do to about it. I don’t agree. Managing your food, supplements and lifestyle can go a long way toward helping you with many of these symptoms. Menopause is like our second spring. Let’s use every resource we can to stay on top of our game.
Food that can cause problems:
Gluten—If you are sensitive to it. There is a link in the scientific literature between gluten sensitivity and ovarian reserve where imbalanced estrogen is a common side effect of gluten intolerance. Most of my clients who come to me for weight management start with a 2-week elimination diet which excludes gluten among several other foods that can cause sensitivity and inflammation. When we add those foods back to the diet 80 out of 100 of my clients find they are sensitive to gluten.
Coffee—Both caffeine and coffee have been shown to lower estrogen levels. A couple of great alternatives include a product called Dandy Blend and another called Teeccino. Dandy Blend is made of water-soluble extracts of roasted roots of dandelion, chicory and beets, and the grains of barley and rye. I also like Teeccino which is a chicory blend herbal tea. Both are gluten free and promote digestive health. Dandy Blend is great support for your liver which is where estrogen gets metabolized and Teeccino is a good source of inulin, a prebiotic soluble fiber, which feeds your gut flora.
Foods that can increase healthy estrogen levels:
Studies conducted by the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University indicated that eating plant-based foods that contain phytoestrogens may help women raise estrogen levels. Phytoestrogens are a group of natural estrogen receptor modulators found in various foods.
Seeds: flaxseeds and sesame seeds
Fruit: apricots, oranges, strawberries, peaches, dried prunes, pomegranate
Vegetables: yams, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, kale, celery
Soy: Old fashioned soy such as miso, tempeh, natto, tofu and soy sauce* (unprocessed or non-GMO soy)
Dark rye bread – Careful, it contains gluten
Legumes: lentils, peas, pinto beans
Olives and olive oil
Culinary herbs: turmeric, thyme, sage
It’s simple to incorporate these foods in your daily life. Flaxseeds can be added to smoothies, soups, salads and casseroles. Sesame seeds are a great addition to cooked veggies. You can make a simple salad dressing using miso. Peas and beans are a cinch to add to salads and soups or just eat some hummus as a health snack with cut up veggies. I also love a “mocktail” of grapefruit seltzer, about an ounce of pomegranate juice and fresh squeezed lime with a drop of DoTerra lime essential oil. Keep it simple and use your creativity.
Advance Notice! Watch in May for my eRecipeBook, Cool the Fire Within: Balance Hormones and Curb Inflammation with Food.
In case you missed them, here are the links to my earlier letters in this series on Balancing Your Hormones: Healing Adrenals #1, Healing Adrenals #2, Estrogen Dominance, Adaptogens. Check out all my posts HERE.
And stay tuned for my next email: Tried and True Remedies:Hot Flashes, Fatigue, Depression, and Insomnia.
*A word about soy. Some people don’t digest it very well. If you have a sensitive digestive system, it is probably best to avoid it. Soy is also controversial. Stick with non-GMO, organic, unprocessed and mostly fermented soy. Limit your consumption to less than twice per week.