Hormonal health, for some women, can be challenging. And experts agree there is no one-size-fits-all approach. But with some hormone-healthy choices, the right information and support, you can help your hormones to give you greater health and happiness. Learn more about the important role hormones play in your daily life.
Get to know your hormones
Your hormones can have a big impact on your overall health, so it's helpful to know a bit more about them. Get to know them a bit better with these nine facts (and one myth) about your hormones.
Food & your hormonal health
In this video, Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella shares five ways that food can improve your hormonal health (originally streamed via Facebook live for Women's Health Week)
PMS & nutrition
If there was one magic nutrient that could cure all cases of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), chances are we would have heard of it by now. Unfortunately, the research on PMS and nutrition is in short supply, often poor quality and produces conflicting results. However, here is a sum-up from our experts of what we do know:
Drinking alcohol increases your risk of PMS – heavy drinking especially so.
A healthy body weight may be an important factor in managing PMS symptoms.
One of the better-researched areas in PMS and nutrition is calcium supplements. Studies have found they may improve PMS-related fatigue, appetite changes, anxiety and depression.
Caffeine intake (from coffee, tea, etc) is not linked with developing PMS, even with a higher intake of 4 cups a day.
Happy hormone slice recipe
B vitamins are needed to keep your hormonal and mental health in balance, and this nut and seed slice is choc-full of Bs!
As well as doing a million and one tasks in a day, your brain is in charge of making 'happy hormones' – natural chemicals that can ward off depression, anxiety and decrease pain. The B vitamins are a group of nutrients that are essential to this task.
Science suggests that having a short supply of happy hormones is a key to the mood-based symptoms of PMS, such as increased stress, worry, depression and anxiety.
So here's a delicious recipe that's choc-full of vitamin Bs and includes raw cacao – because who doesn't crave chocolate premenstrually? As a bonus, raw cacao is higher in the muscle-relaxing mineral magnesium, often used in treating PMS, for added ahhh-factor!
'Safety first' for natural medicines
The herbal medicine Vitex agnus-castus, also known as Chaste tree, has been shown in clinical trials to be an effective treatment for PMS. However, it's important to know that over-the-counter herbal products can differ a lot in terms of quality. And just because it's 'natural' does not mean it is safe for you. This herbal medicine, and all herbal medicine, should only be prescribed under the guidance of a qualified health practitioner appropriately trained in herbal medicine.
Spotlight on... bioidentical hormones
In recent years, bioidentical hormones have gained popularity as a more 'natural' alternative to menopause hormone therapy (MHT) – formerly known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – for treatment of menopausal symptoms. However, the facts may surprise you.
Perimenopause: the change before 'The Change'
One experience that can be a very clear example of hormonal imbalance is perimenopause. Known as the beginning of the journey to menopause, perimenopause begins as a woman's ovaries begin to wind down and stop releasing eggs. It usually begins in a woman's 40s, but occasionally can start in a woman's 30s.
Like any health issue, perimenopause is different for every woman. For some it may last one year, for others 10. And symptoms can vary greatly from woman to woman.
If you are troubled by symptoms, rest assured that you don't need to put up with them. Speak to your doctor about what treatments may be right for you.
Explain this: Menopause
In this segment from ABC Radio's 'Explain This', Dr Sonia Davison joins comedian, Jean Hailes ambassador and guest presenter Nelly Thomas to explain what menopause is, how it's identified and the treatment options available to those experiencing it. Listen now:
It's all about balance
"Don't do too much but definitely don't do too little," advises Jean Hailes hormone specialist Dr Sonia Davison, on physical activity levels. "For hormone health it's all about balance. Too much or too little exercise will affect hormone production and general body functioning."
For most women, the sweet spot starts around 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week (that's about 20 minutes a day) and goes up to 300 minutes per week, according to the Australian National Physical Activity Guidelines.
Happily, most women who completed our national survey – more than 70% – reported doing at least two hours of moderate physical activity each week. Women aged 66-79 were most likely to clock up at least two hours a week (75.6%), while women aged 36-50 were least likely (64%).
Following the physical activity guidelines can improve hormonal health in more ways than you can count. But some of the big benefits of physical activity include the following:
- A 25% reduction in breast cancer risk
- In women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), physical activity and weight loss can restore the regularity of menstrual cycles and ovulation
- Increasing your muscle mass through exercise can help control your blood sugar levels and improve how the hormone insulin works in your body
- It's an effective stress-buster and may help to manage PMS – recent research found that high stress levels mid-cycle worsens PMS symptoms
- Studies show that regular exercise can aid women going through menopause by improving quality of life and increasing feelings of happiness.
This content was originally published for Women's Health Week 2018 on the womenshealthweek.com.au website