Research has shown that in the last few decades, infertility issues are on the increase. This means that becoming pregnant, or the ability to maintain pregnancy can be very difficult. While there are many different causes for this condition, there is one thing that the majority of them have in common and that is hormonal imbalance.
A woman’s hormones are inextricably connected to her reproductive health. Hormones are responsible for all aspects of her sexual life including menstruation, sex drive and menopause. If one, or more, of her hormones are out of balance then this can dramatically effect a woman’s ability to conceive.
Before we look at some dietary and lifestyle adjustments that can enhance fertility, let’s first take a look at what exactly hormones are, where they come from, and the key roles they play in our health and wellbeing.
The word hormone comes from the greek word ‘hormao’ which means to excite , or to set in motion. Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers and must stay in balance, like a symphony must play in tune, in order to feel well and to maintain vibrant health. They are master switches of metabolism, and are released into the blood stream via a complex physical and energetic network called: the endocrine system.
Each of the endocrine glands are responsible for releasing hormones at appropriate times and amounts, for various bodily functions. For example, the adrenals release cortisol – the ‘fight or flight’ hormones – required for energy and to allow us to flee dangerous situations – while the pancreas releases insulin which regulates glucose and is vital for stabilising blood sugar. Health issues begin when the endocrine glands become compromised and are unable to produce (or over produce) the hormones necessary for health.
The main hormones required for health are: insulin, thyroid, progesterone, oestrogen, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, vitamin D, norepinephrine and growth hormone. The major female hormones and male hormones can be classified as oestrogens or androgens. Both classes of hormones are present in females and males but in vastly different amounts. Unfortunately, the ability to maintain hormonal balance in both genders is becoming increasingly difficult. This is primarily due to the constant exposure of synthetic oestrogens and toxic chemicals found in our food chain and environment – along with the stresses of modern living.
Here are some of the leading causes of hormonal disruption:
1) Food sprayed with pesticides
2) Plastics, including drinking bottles and food containers
3) Birth control pills
4) Eating animals (including dairy) which have been injected with steroid hormones
5) Beauty products containing toxic chemicals
6) Soy products
7) Tap water containing synthetic oestrogen and other toxins
8) Artificial light including computer screens
9) lack of sleep
10) Chronic mental and emotional stress
As you can see there are many causes of hormonal disruption. So what can be done about it? Luckily, there are many dietary and lifestyle adjustments can that dramatically improve your hormonal and reproductive health. A holistic approach is always best to bring about lasting and desired results.
The following tips help to maintain healthy hormonal balance:
Love your liver
The liver is the body’s main organ of detoxification and is responsible for converting hormones and eliminating old oestrogen from the body. It’s important to eliminate food and drinks that challenge the liver such as rancid fats and oils, animal protein (especially land animals), dairy products, glutenous grains, alcohol and fizzy drinks with artificial sweeteners. Swap for liver enhancing foods like: green vegetables, beetroot, artichokes, onions, garlic, lemon and olive oil.
Catch some sun
Adequate sun intake is crucial for vitamin D synthesis which acts as a hormone in the body. During summer, aim for daily sun exposure around midday and gradually work up to 20 mins (to avoid sun burn) without using sun protection. During the darker winter months, it’s a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement on a daily basis.
Eat cruciferous vegetables
Include plenty of vegetables from the cabbage family in the diet like kale, radishes, broccoli and cauliflower (as long as there are no thyroid health issues). These contain indole-3-carbinol compounds which help to clear excess oestrogen from the body.
Include Healthy Fats
Include wholesome saturated fats into your diet like avocado and coconut oil as these are important for hormone production. Additionally, it’s wise to include regular supplementation of EPA/DHA (omega 3 essential fat) from either krill, or vegan algae oil sources. These are called essential fats, and are critical for healthy cell membranes, hormonal production and endocrine system health.
Get some sleep
Hormones are regulated by the circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle. It’s best to go to bed well before midnight and aim for at least 7-8 hours sleep per night. Avoid sleep disrupters like drinking caffeinated drinks, or working on your computer late at night which can disrupt melatonin production, the hormone needed for sound sleep.
It’s important to eat organic as much as possible to avoid pesticides – known hormone disruptors- and other toxins. Clean water is also very important. Consider investing in a quality water filter (reverse osmosis, or distillation are best) to ensure that your tap water flows chemical and synthetic hormone free.
Regular exercise is very important for managing stress and to regulate hormones.
By Elizabeth Montgomery, Holistic Nutritional Therapist. Elizabeth is also offering 6 sessions for the price of 5 until the end of August.