Happy, healthy hormones

Our experts offer their best natural health advice for balancing your hormones at all ages



“The cause for PMS is simply that your hormones become unbalanced, your oestrogen levels increase and progesterone levels decrease,” explains Marianna Sulic, nutritionist with Cleanmarinekrill.co.uk. “Common symptoms are irritability, depression, fluid retention, abdominal cramps, breast tenderness, headaches, sugar cravings and more. Eating a balanced diet containing complex carbohydrates, vegetables, protein and healthy fats is key to balance the symptoms associated with PMS. Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with reducing inflammation in the body and may prevent or alleviate bloating and pain caused by PMS. Studies show omega-3 fatty acids EPA/DHA have been proven to significantly reduce painful menstruation and the emotional symptoms of PMS. Other natural compounds that have beneficial properties with reducing PMS symptoms are rosemary extract (Rosmarinus Officinalis) and the phytoestrogen isoflavone. Isoflavones from soy improve oestrogen detoxification, reducing symptoms of headaches and breast tenderness while emerging research is showing that rosemary extract in humans has anti-depressive effects. Additionally, you might want to consider a B complex containing at least 50mg of B6 per day, which is needed in the liver to process oestrogens. Supplementing 150mcg of chromium per day helps to reduce sugar cravings and adding 600-800mg of magnesium daily for the entire month will help reduce symptoms of PMS.”

20s - 30s


“Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder in which follicles form around the outer edge of the ovaries and start to cause hormonal imbalances, which lead to a series of other symptoms,” explains nutritionist Sandra Greenbank (www.sandragreenbank.co.uk). “It causes the body to produce excessive amounts of testosterone in relation to the other female sex hormones. This explains some of the classic symptoms of acne, excess hair growth, thinning hair and weight gain around the middle. This hormonal imbalance can also interfere with ovulation and increase the risk for miscarriage. The best way to manage PCOS is to lose weight, and I advise doing this by balancing your blood sugar. This means cutting out sugar and starchy foods while making sure you have a portion of protein and healthy fats alongside plenty of colourful vegetables with every meal. Up to 85 per cent of women with PCOS are low in vitamin D so it’s important to have your levels assessed. It’s worth trying a herbal remedy such as agnus castus or black cohosh, alongside the dietary measures. Always consult with a qualified herbalist or nutritional therapist before trying any supplements as they can interfere with medications or be unsuitable for other reasons.”

30s - 40s

Fertility issues

“Hormonal balance is essential for fertility,” explains Sandra Greenbank. “PCOS, endometriosis and thyroid issues, which are all hormonal disorders, are some of the main reasons why women struggle with sub-fertility. Another major reason is stress as stress raises the levels of cortisol, which in turn knocks the other sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen out of balance. Pick the stress reduction techniques that work for you – whether it’s meditation, journaling, yoga or walking – and make them a daily priority. Plastics in our environment can act as oestrogens and wreak havoc with our own hormones. In order to avoid these xenoestrogens, don’t put your food in plastic containers or use plastic wrapping, take the lid off your takeaway cup before drinking your coffee out of it, and never ever microwave a meal in a plastic container. It’s also important to eat a nutrient-dense, wholefood diet, avoid caffeine and alcohol, exercise regularly, and have a minimum of eight hours sleep each night. Fertility problems are usually very individual, so if you are doing all of these things and are still struggling after three months, book an appointment with a nutritional therapist to help uncover and target the root cause of your problems.”



“By your forties, things can get really tricky – you are officially entering peri-menopause, where your ovaries are coming to the end of their usefulness!” says Nicki Williams, nutritional therapist and founder of Happy Hormones for Life. “Your oestrogen levels are roller-coastering, as progesterone, DHEA and testosterone are generally declining. Symptoms include PMS, irregular and/or heavy periods, mood swings, insomnia, weight gain, hot flushes, night sweats, low libido, vaginal dryness and brain fog. Stress hormones may have been raging for some time and your thyroid might be struggling to cope, making you feel sluggish, miserable and unable to lose weight no matter what you do. By now, you may have built up a store of toxins putting a burden on your liver (so it’s harder to detox your hormones properly). Don’t suffer in silence! Get some help from your doctor or a qualified nutritional therapist who can get you tested for hormone imbalances. Cortisol, thyroid and sex hormones are all under pressure in your forties and need to be supported with a nutrient-rich, low-sugar, organic diet. Reduce the alcohol and it’s definitely time to ditch the smoking if you haven’t already. This is when you could look into trying yoga, Pilates, meditation or relaxation techniques to manage stress levels. Supplements are recommended for general support – a good multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D during the winter, and herbal remedies for hot flushes can be very effective.”



“During and after menopause, when oestrogen levels are low, the process of bone loss starts to speed up and it can lead to osteoporosis,” says Michela Vagnini, nutritionist at Natures Plus (www.naturesplus.co.uk). “That’s when women should keep their bones healthy and strong by following a healthy diet and maintaining a good exercise routine, including weight-bearing exercises.” If you are experiencing hot flushes, leading women’s health expert Dr Marilyn Glenville (www.marilynglenville.com) recommends watching what you eat and drink. She says: “A hot drink before bedtime can often trigger night sweats or even make them worse. Try to stay away from caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods. You can also take vitamin C – bioflavonoids help to strengthen the capillaries, improving blood flow and so reducing hot flushes.” Another major symptom of the menopause is fat around your middle.

“This is because fat is a manufacturing plant for oestrogen, which will help protect your bones from osteoporosis,” explains Dr Glenville. “The combined effect of female hormonal changes, slower metabolism and stress with high cortisol levels create a bigger likelihood of fat around the middle. Add protein to each meal as protein slows down the rate that the stomach processes food and delays the passage of the carbohydrates with it. The good fats – essential fatty acids, found in oily fish, nuts and seeds – help to boost your metabolism so don’t forget to include them in your diet. Physical activity has never been more important. If you have fat around the middle of your body caused mainly by the activity of your stress hormones, exercise must become one of your priorities.”

Supplement spotlight

“Women have taken evening primrose oil for decades,” comments Emma, Efamol evening primrose oil nutritionist. “Evening primrose oil contains a unique, rich combination of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids which are traditionally credited with helping women to maintain their normal hormone balance throughout their cycle. These omega-6 fatty acids have also been shown to keep skin looking nourished and supple. I would suggest, however, that you look out for better quality evening primrose oil with a high GLA content.”

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