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Autumn Musings - Foods & Nutrients for Hormonal Health



As the seasonal wheel slowly begins to turn and the arrival of the cooler autumn days are just a whisper away, we are reminded of the power and beauty of the natural world. The time of year has come to begin to draw our energy slowly in, to pause, to reflect, and to slow down as the colder months approach. Much like the trees that are slowly pulling their energy inwards, away from the leaves and into the trunk and roots, so we are being called to do the same. To come in closer, as the energy of the inner wise woman arises, and the time for deeper contemplation through the autumn and winter months slowly stirs within and without.


As the first leaves just begin to turn from their vibrant greens to dusky oranges, reds and yellows and begin to fall, we are offered a moment to reflect on our harvest and the bounty that we have created in our lives. In the same breath, we are being asked to also consider what needs letting go of, what is no longer working for us, what deadwood needs pruning, and what needs to be grieved for, for not having grown, so that it can be returned to the earth and the greater cycles of life? So, some quiet time with a lovely cup of herbal tea, a journal and some time to reflect as we move into this quieter time of the year, may allow some insight on what is being called up in you as we shift into the beginning of the descent.


 


Nutrients for Hormonal Health


Whether it is debilitating premenstrual syndrome, painful periods or menopausal hot sweats, so many of us experience uncomfortable symptoms as a result of dysregulated hormones. I wanted to share some simple ways to ensure you have the tools you need to begin regulating the production of hormones and rebuilding your hormonal health and resiliency. 


Healthy Fats


Cholesterol has spent a very long time being demonised and I think it is time to rewrite this story. What most women do not know is that cholesterol - or more precisely, pregnenolone, a cholesterol based neuro-steroid - is the backbone of all of our sex hormones. Diets very low in fat and cholesterol can reduce the production of oestrogen, progesterone and other hormones because cholesterol is needed to make these hormones. This wreaks havoc on the menstrual cycle, sometimes causing it to cease entirely. A diet abundant in healthy fats is an easy way to ensure you are giving your hormonal health the best opportunity to thrive.


Unsaturated fats are vital for hormonal health, as well as being anti-inflammatory and satiating. Monounsaturated fat sources include olive oil, avocadoes, nuts and seeds. Polyunsaturated fats, including the anti-inflammatory omega-3s, can be found in fatty fish like salmon, rainbow trout, herrings and sardines, while some plant sources include flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds. Healthy cholesterol sources include high quality, organic grass-fed meat, organic free range eggs and organic full fat dairy foods. 


Vitamin B6


Vitamin B6, otherwise known as pyridoxine, is highly supportive for hormonal health in women. B6 helps to support progesterone production, balancing a dysregulation between oestrogen and progesterone, which is seen in many suffering from PMS. Progesterone is the calming hormone within the menstrual cycle and low levels can disrupt mood, contributing to the anxiety, anger and tension in the week before menstruation. The relative dominance of oestrogen, caused by low levels of progesterone, can contribute to heavy, crampy menstrual bleeding. A therapeutic dose of vitamin B6 is 50mg per day for 3 months, and B6 can also be found in foods such as high quality, organic grass-fed meats, dark leafy greens and chickpeas. 


Zinc


Zinc is an absolute powerhouse nutrient! It functions as a cofactor for hundreds of enzymatic reactions in our bodies, which contribute to immune function, wound healing and healthy hormone production. Zinc plays a significant role in glucose and lipid metabolism and is also an important antioxidant nutrient involved in reducing inflammation throughout the body. Issues with glucose metabolism and lipid metabolism, along with elevated inflammation, can have a significant flow on effect on hormonal health and can contribute to conditions such as PCOS, period pain and irregular periods.


Zinc can be found in an easily absorbable form in animal foods such as organic grass-fed meat, organic free range eggs and organic full fat dairy foods. It is also present in smaller amounts in nuts, seeds and legumes. A zinc supplement such as zinc picolinate or zinc glycinate at a maximum dose of 50mg per day can support long term hormonal health and has been shown to improve conditions such as painful periods, PCOS and hormonal acne.  


Phytoestrogens


Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that have a similar structure to oestrogen, acting as a weaker form of oestrogen when taken. In young women with high oestrogen, these plant compounds can help to reduce the effects excess oestrogen by binding to cells instead of oestrogen. In older women with lower oestrogen, phytoestrogens have the opposite effect, reducing the impact of declining oestrogen levels. This effect is a wonderful example of the way that nature just knows what to do to support us.


Eating foods high in phytoestrogens can help to balance out relative excess oestrogen levels, supporting a reduction in heavy, crampy periods, regulating the cycle and reducing menopausal hot flushes. Some examples of phytoestrogens are organic soy products including soybeans, tempeh and tofu as well as alfalfa, flaxseeds, lentils, chickpeas and flaxseeds.


 


Gut-Loving Stewed Apples


Ingredients

1 - 3 apples

A drizzle of raw honey

A sprinkle of ground cinnamon

A small handful of cried currants (optional)


Method

Dice the apples into approximately 1cm pieces. Combine in a saucepan with a pinch of cinnamon, dried currants and half a cup of water. Cook on medium to high heat, stirring consistently to ensure the apple pieces cook evenly, more water can be added if needed, but go slowly. Remove from the heat once the apples are easily pierced by a fork. Garnish with a drizzle of honey if desired. Use as a generous topping with nuts and seeds for a beautifully nourishing breakfast of soaked, organic, gluten free oats, porridge or untoasted muesli.


Why apples?

Apples are rich in a prebiotic fibre called pectin. Pectin, like other prebiotic fibres, nourishes the bacteria of our gut microbiome. These beneficial gut bacteria produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which keep the lining of the gut strong, reduce inflammation and are important for healthy and regulated immune activity in the gut. SCFAs are also involved in modulating the gut-brain axis and supporting overall metabolic health. Eating prebiotic foods like stewed apples is an easy and simple way to support your digestive function and overall wellbeing. 


I look forward to seeing you in clinic or online very soon.


Take gentle care,


Kerri.

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