8 Natural Ways To Balance Female Sex Hormones
If you have ever suffered from severe menstrual cramps, irregular periods, breast tenderness, acne and anxiety around that time of the month, endometriosis or infertility, then this article is exactly what you need to read.
Let us begin by learning more about female sex hormones- what are they and what is their role. Have you ever heard of the master gland? No, the name is no coincidence! The master gland, also known as the pituitary gland, is a pea-sized gland located in the brain. By producing two hormones (FSH and LH), it regulates the hormonal activity of the ovaries. FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) stimulates follicle development in the ovaries. As the follicles (fluid-filled sacs) mature, they produce estrogen, and eggs are readied for ovulation. LH (luteinizing hormone) triggers ovulation of an egg from the ovary and causes the ruptured follicle to produce progesterone and some estrogen .
As you could have already guessed, estrogen and progesterone are the stars of the article today. Both being steroid hormones, they are synthesized from cholesterol in the body. Estrogen is a pro-growth hormone, it controls the first half of the menstrual cycle when the endometrium thickens  and causes the appearance of secondary sex characteristics in the young woman- development of the breasts, widening and lightening of the pelvis, etc. Estrogen also plays a role in sustaining bone density and maintaining low total blood cholesterol . Progesterone on the other side, has nothing to do with the secondary sex characteristics. It controls the second half of the menstrual cycle, when the endometrium secretes nourishment into the uterine cavity to sustain a fertilized egg until implantation .
The balance between estrogen and progesterone is crucial for optimal health. Nowadays, a very common condition appears to be estrogen dominance. Either due to excess estrogen or not enough progesterone, a higher estrogen to progesterone ratio could contribute to the symptoms mentioned at the beginning of the article. In the next part, let's explore the most common factors linked to estrogen dominance, as well as what could be done in order to support a healthy hormonal balance.
1. Support the liver function
An overloaded liver can not properly conjugate, excrete and clear estrogen from the blood. So avoiding artificial additives in the diet, preservatives, colourants, trans- and oxidized fats, drugs and alcohol puts less burden on the liver and thus supports the efficient turnover of estrogen . Of great benefit for the liver function is also milk thistle and dandelion tea.
2. Manage stress and get ample regular sleep
Lack of sleep results in decreased amounts of the hormone melatonin. Since melatonin naturally opposes estrogen, the lack of it contributes to excess circulating estrogen . That is why getting at least 8 hours of sleep is essential in order to balance sex hormones. Another underestimated factor when it comes to hormonal balance is stress. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, shares a metabolic pathway with progesterone. Therefore, high levels of stress, and cortisol respectively, lower the body's level of progesterone. This inevitably contributes to estrogen dominance, since there isn't enough progesterone to oppose the estrogen in the body .
3. Manage constipation and balance the gut flora
Certain types of gut microbes (especially candida) are able to produce estrogen-like substances and even allow for the reabsorption of estrogen from the gut into the bloodstream, where it can be used again. Constipation, due to the slower transit times, gives gut microbes even more time to do so . Make sure to consume enough fiber in order to prevent this from happening. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. Adding some fermented foods into the diet (tempeh, kombucha, sauerkraut etc.) positively affects the gut flora in case an imbalance is suspected.
4. Avoid exposure to synthetic xenoestrogens
Xenoestrogens are known hormonal disruptors with estrogenic effects. They are found in commercially grown fruits and vegetables containing pesticides, dairy products, commercially raised cattle, cosmetic and cleaning products, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, plastic containers etc. They are pretty much everywhere around us. But don't get overwhelmed yet. Start by switching to organic produce, natural beauty and cleaning products, alternative contraception methods and using glass containers.
5. Manage excess body fat and get regular exercise
A high body fat content is linked to a higher conversion of DHEA to estrogen. DHEA is a hormone synthesized in the adrenals and a precursor to other hormones. Combined with a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight increases the likelihood of having excess estrogen in the body .
6. Avoid caffeine
Since caffeine encourages higher cortisol levels, the adrenals might convert progesterone into cortisol in order to meet the increased needs for it . Recent studies also support the theory about caffeine increasing estrogen levels in women when consumed in higher amounts (4-5 cups per day) .
7. Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables
Consume at least 3 times per week vegetables from the cruciferous family- broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, Brussels sprouts etc. They are rich in indole-3-carbinol, a substance that supports the detoxification of estrogen from the liver .
8. Try seed cycling
Alternating flax seed oil and evening primrose oil can be used to help balance female sex hormones. To support estrogen production, take the flax seed oil from day 1 to day 14 of your cycle. To support progesterone production, continue with evening primrose oil from day 15 until your menstrual flow resumes. Repeat . Make sure you keep your oils in a dark and cold spot (fridge preferably), since they can easily go rancid. Please follow the dosage instructions on your bottles.
I hope this information is going to help you feel your best! Don't hesitate to leave me a comment if you have any questions. Until next time!
Sending you love,
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 Perrault, Danielle, R.H.N. Nutritional Symptomatology (15th Edition). Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada: CSNN Publishing, 2016, page 190.
 Dr. Lessard-Rhead, Brenda, BSc, ND. Nutritional Pathology (3rd Edition). Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada: CSNN Publishing, 2015, page 307.