There are a myriad of twists and turns on the journey through menopause and many different options that claim to get rid of the symptoms that trouble women the most.
The truth is there are no magic pills, no instant hormone balancing cream, no sleeping potions that can restore your sleep. Nor are there elixirs that can instantly end night sweats and hot flashes or make you completely energized and symptom-free.
In my work with women from all cultures, I’ve uncovered the 3 essential factors that must be present in order to balance our hormones.
A Healthy Gut
‘Healthy gut, healthy life’ is a mantra I’ve heard most of my career as a Holistic Health Coach.
The gut or digestive system is where nutrient absorption occurs after your food has been eaten and digested. Your gut can become unhealthy because of inflammation, which happens frequently in women once they reach 40. The flora or bacteria in your gut which acts to digest food and extract nutrition can also become insufficient due to poor nutrition, taking antibiotics, or excess alcohol, for example. As a result, your digestive health suffers.
Women in any stage of menopause often become more at risk for metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of metabolic disorders that lead to a higher risk of visceral or abdominal fat (belly fat we often complain of, which can lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol). These are all risk factors for heart disease in women in their 40s, 50s, and beyond which can be impacted by gut health.
Another essential step is balanced cortisol and stable sugar levels.
You’ve probably heard of insulin as the hormone that controls stable sugar or blood glucose levels in your body? But it’s cortisol, often called the ‘stress hormone’, which is equally important. The rollercoaster ride of menopause can cause high levels of stress which can produce an overabundance of cortisol.
Almost every cell has receptors for cortisol. Cortisol regulates metabolism, controls the body’s blood sugar levels, acts as an anti-inflammatory and controls memory formation, salt and water balance, and influences blood pressure. Too much cortisol causes weight gain, mostly around the midsection and upper back. It can also manifest as headaches, high blood pressure, irritability, severe fatigue, and more. These are all symptoms that my clients complain of during perimenopause.
Needless to say, managing stress and the production of cortisol can promote stable blood sugar and reduce inflammation, whilst also improving immune function, boosting metabolism and balancing blood sugar. (Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/high-cortisol-symptoms; Source 2: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol#1)
Lastly, a well functioning liver is essential for hormone balance.
The liver produces bile, which breaks down fat while also working like a filter to clean toxins (like excess estrogen which accumulates in a woman’s body as she goes through menopause). Excreting excess estrogen improves energy levels and more, so optimizing your liver health can help you lose weight and meet your athletic goals. The liver’s role is therefore crucial for efficient circulation, metabolism, fat breakdown, and the excretion of excess estrogen during menopause. (Source: www.medicinenet.com/liver_disease; https://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/5-liver-health-tips-for-weight-loss-875431; (Cooking for Hormone Balance – Wszelaki, Magdaena – April 2018)
These 3 pillars of hormone balance are essential to reset, restore, and replenish a woman’s body during menopause. The very foundation of this process uses food as medicine to restore gut flora and improve digestion, stabilize blood sugar, reduce cortisol and naturally detoxify and nourish the liver.
A big step in finding hormone balance is connecting to the body’s innate wisdom. This requires a roadmap and a step-by-step plan to guide the body so it’s systems work in harmony.