Knowing what to choose to nourish your hormones with can be a confusing process. With so much information out there, how are you meant to know what to eat?
Our hormonal health is so important when it comes to your libido and your overall wellbeing, and making the right choices now will serve you exponentially in the future.
It takes roughly 90 days for our ovarian follicles to fully develop, so what we eat in January will play a role in our hormonal and sexual health in April.
Our hormones are the scaffolding of our sexual health and wellbeing. Optimising your hormonal levels mean we can work on creating the libido you dream of.
No more painful sex, greater satisfaction and ample lubrication are all yours – are you ready to learn how to make this a reality?
Everyone’s ideal level of sex hormone oestrogen differs. Incorporating these nutritional tips into your life means you’re giving your body the best fuel possible to produce your own optimal levels.
What do we need in order to make oestrogen?
There are certain nutrients that our bodies require in order to optimise your oestrogen levels. A lack of these nutrients can lead to
- Impaired menstrual cycles
- Painful periods
- A lack of lubrication leading to vaginal dryness
- A lowered libido and desire level
- And other side effects, such as moodiness, brittle bones, PMS and more
So, what do we need crucially to make our oestrogen?
- Cholesterol and Healthy Fats
Synthesized by our liver, cholesterol also comes from our food choices. Too much cholesterol and you start having problems, but too little and its goodbye hormones. The is because cholesterol get shunted into oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone production. Healthy fats (our omegas) are needed to optimise hormone transport and communication.
Healthy food sources of cholesterol include free range eggs, ghee, grass-fed butter and lean meats. Healthy fats include omega rich fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines), hemp seeds, nuts and seeds.
Zinc is such a crucial element when it comes to our sex hormones. It’s involved at nearly every single enzymatic process on the journey from cholesterol to oestrogen.
Foods rich in zinc include oysters, salmon, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, garlic, wheat germ, beef, egg yolks, turkey, spinach, lamb, kidney beans, peanuts, flax seeds and brown rice.
Selenium is a nutrient that helps our body metabolise oestrogen. Our soils are lacking in selenium, so choosing foods that can give you your daily dose of this hormone building nutrient are crucial.
Food sources of selenium include brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, tuna, sardines, salmon, oysters, mussels, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, mushrooms, wheat germ, barley, brown rice, oats, and onions.
One of the big players, magnesium helps with the production of oestrogen. Magnesium is involved in so many processes within the body, and a lack of it can lead to cramping, painful periods and more.
Magnesium is found in brown rice, wheat, oat bran, dried coriander, basil, pumpkin seeds, cacao, flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, and molasses.
If you’ve got a history of hormonal birth control (HBC), or are currently on the pill, you’re more likely to experience certain nutrient deficiencies than those who’ve never used HBC.
Common deficiencies related to the pill and other HBCs include
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Folic acid
Along with reduced availability of nutrients in our soils, the standard Australian diet also lacks zinc, omega 3’s so it’s double-ly important to ensure you’re eating a wide range of foods with these nutrients.
Oestrogen excretion and elimination explained
Once our sex hormone oestrogen has served its function and acted upon its targeted tissues, the body begins to break it down in order to be eliminated as a waste product. If this process didn’t occur, we would have limited ability to exert our hormonal messages, and we would experience the side effects of hormonal imbalances.
The break-down of our libido lovin’ hormone oestrogen occurs in two stages, via the liver and the gut. If one of these stages isn’t working effectively, our health can suffer.
The Stages of Oestrogen Metabolism
This stage begins when the liver inactivates the oestrogen molecule by attaching a molecule to it, in a process called conjugation.
In order for this step to occur, our body needs to have adequate supplies of nutrients including
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
Endocrine disrupting chemicals such as BPA, chemicals in pesticides, solvents and other plastics can affect this process, as can alcohol consumption.
The second stage of oestrogen excretion and metabolism occurs in the gut. For this process to happen effectively, we need to make sure our gut bacteria are healthy and thriving.
If we have an unhealthy gut with more “bad” bacteria are present, the removal of oestrogen isn’t so straight forward. The unhealthy gut makes an enzyme known as beta-glucuronidase, which removes the molecule that was added to the oestrogen in stage one and re-activates the oestrogen.
This reactivated hormone now is reabsorbed by the body and can lead to relative oestrogen excess and symptoms such as heavier periods, PMS, breast tenderness and fibroids.
When our gut is healthy and working optimally, it helps the body safely remove these oestrogens in order to prevent side effects and oestrogen build up.
Optimising these Pathways
So how can we support these pathways to optimise our hormone levels and support our perfect libido?
- Ensure our body is getting enough of the nutrients needed to complete stage one of our hormone clearance
- Support optimal digestion and gut health via plant fibers, pre-biotics and plenty of water
Nutrients needed to oestrogen metabolism and elimination
Folate rich foods
Leafy greens, avocado, sunflower seeds, peanuts, almonds, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, romaine lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, okra, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and carrots.
Vitamin B6 rich foods
Bananas, brussel sprouts, avocados, pork, baked potatoes, beef, rockmelon, cottage cheese and tomatoes.
Vitamin B12 rich foods
Fortified nutritional yeast, oysters, mussels, liver, octopus, mackerel, salmon, tuna, sardines, beef, certain cheeses and eggs.
Optimising gut health via nutrition
Our gut bacteria need food in order to carry out their jobs. Prebiotic food is the primary food source for our healthy gut bacteria and provides our microbes with the fuel needed to optimise hormone elimination.
Fibrous plants such as garlic, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, purple sweet potato, red rice, purple carrots, red cabbage and our yummy berries are delicious ways to ensure our gut is getting the attention it deserves.
Ensuring adequate hydration is also important when it comes to the elimination of oestrogen waste products from the body. An adult who is relatively active should aim for a minimum of around 2L per day (varies by individual).
Preparing to go off the pill (or another HBC)?
This information is so important. My recommendation would be to start implementing enough of these food choices prior to stopping pill, so the side effects of returning to your natural cycle after so long on synthetic hormones aren’t excessive and send you running for the hills.
We need oestrogen to ovulate. We need oestrogen from vaginal lubrication and we need oestrogen in order to maintain the elasticity of our pelvic floor and vaginal walls (important to increased pleasure with penetration). Essentially, we need oestrogen in the optimal range to prioritise our libido.
Optimising hormonal levels is a balancing act – not too much of this, but not too little of that. By eating a wide variety of nutrients and foods, we are giving ourselves the best scaffolding for our ultimate hormonal and sexual health.
The take-away message?
Eat a variety of foods, mostly plants. Nourish your hormones with colourful, fresh produce and reap the rewards.
Are you ready to address your hormonal and oestrogen levels but aren’t quite sure where to start?