The Role of Nutrition and Lifestyle in Bioidentical Hormone Therapy
The fact is that hormone balance isn’t just about hormones – it requires healthy digestion, stable sugar levels and a well-functioning liver. Balanced hormones make us feel sharp and focused, naturally energetic and able to sleep well, blessed with good hair and skin and able to maintain the weight at which we feel good. Here are some of the critical ways that nutrition and lifestyle affect your hormone balance:
The microbes in your gut also regulate your oestrogen levels . There are specific bacteria in the microbiome that are responsible for regulating oestrogen through the production of the enzyme β-glucuronidase. They can signal to other glands to increase or reduce production of hormones. Your microbiome needs the right bacteria in the right amount – if this is disrupted by stress, infection, antibiotics or a parasite your gut can’t regulate hormones properly and you may get a buildup of hormones in your system. Then you might notice an increasing list of food reactions, skin outbreaks and weight that won’t budge.
Hormones and the gut depend on each other to work properly and if one is disrupted so too will the other be. Most commonly problems in the gut cause hormonal imbalances as opposed to the other way round, though that is possible too.
Stable Sugar Levels
A diet that is low in healthy fats and excessive in refined, processed carbohydrates can cause blood glucose levels to spike. In turn insulin spikes in order to rapidly drop blood glucose levels, and this triggers a compensatory rise in cortisol which repeats the cycle. Over time your cells can stop listening to insulin – now insulin can no longer pack glucose away and both blood glucose and insulin levels remain high. Someone with insulin resistance has high blood sugar levels but feels starved of glucose and exhausted and wants to eat carbohydrate heavy foods. Weight gain means that fat cells will produce more oestrogen. High cortisol levels also disrupts the sex hormones – for example high cortisol causes low progesterone, which puts us in a state of relative oestrogen dominance.
Our liver and our hormones
Oestrogen is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat tissue and circulates in the blood. Eventually, oestrogen travels to the liver, where it’s broken down, and deactivated and detoxified oestrogens are deposited in bile which exit in the stool.
However, in today’s world our livers are under pressure. We face many environmental toxins such as BPA in plastic water bottles, parabens and phthalates in skincare products and pesticides and herbicides. We may consume too much alcohol and caffeine or not enough nutrients.
Without adequate nutrients, the liver is unable to successfully detoxify toxins from the body and its also unable to detoxify hormones. The liver then recirculates partially detoxified hormones which in turn contributes to a hormone imbalance.
Addressing nutrition and lifestyle is a key part of hormone balancing therapy.
Some things that can help are the following:
Eat foods with a low glycemic impact and those that are high in fibre. Choose plenty of vegetables which will also help keep the microbiome healthy. The cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale and broccoli are excellent for healthy oestrogen clearance.
Eat good amounts of protein and choose healthy fats such as sardines, mackerel, herring and wild caught salmon, flax seed, nuts, olives and cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, avocado, macadamia and coconut oils. Avoid refined oils.
Avoid all sweetened drinks and all artificial sweeteners.
Regular exercise improves insulin sensitivity – but without dietary change as well it won’t do enough.