By Sue Bedford (Msc Nut Th)
It starts with the gut! There is increasing evidence emerging from studies to suggest that one of the key factors involved in balancing hormones is a healthy gut containing a wide range of bacterial microflora.
The menopause can affect many aspects of health and wellbeing including our mood, intestinal permeability, the absorption of nutrients from food, immunity and weight. Our gut health can be affected too which can cause a series of issues such as bloating, acid reflux and constipation which can lead potentially to more complicated issues if left unchecked.
During the perimenopause there are fluctuating levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone and on transition through the menopause these hormones start to decline. Oestrogen and Progesterone have a direct effect on hormone receptors found in the gut which can influence movement and sensitivity in the digestive system. There are a number of factors that can affect the gut such as lack of sleep, stress, food intolerances which could lead to inflammation in the gut.
Some recent studies have linked oestrogen directly to gut flora, discovering that a decline in oestrogen levels during the menopause may impact on important gut bacteria increasing the risk of osteoporosis, obesity and cardiovascular disease. When there is a healthy microbiome in the gut, oestrogen balance can be maintained and so the incidence of oestrogen related symptoms kept in check.
What to eat to help to balance hormones
- Plenty of fibre from fresh vegetables, seeds, pulses, wholegrains
- Drink plenty of fresh water – up to 2 litres a day
- Include plenty of green leafy vegetables in your diet wherever you can- include them in juices, smoothies and stir fries as these vegetables contain a nutrient called Indole 3 Carbinol which helps the liver detoxify waste and hormones.
- Omega 3 containing foods are important for reducing inflammation – include oily fish such as wild salmon mackerel, herring, Some oils including flax (also known as flaxseed oil and linseed oil), walnut, soya, pumpkin, krill and algal oil, Green leafy vegetables, Nuts, especially walnuts, pecans and hazelnuts, Seeds, especially flax (linseed), pumpkin, chia and hemp seeds and Soya beans and soya products such as tofu.
- Eat plenty of foods containing B vitamins and magnesium to aid liver detoxification and the removal of circulating hormones.
It is important to keep a sufficient balance of good gut bacteria as this needed to ensure that waste hormonal products are eliminated from the body. If this does not happen the waste products produced by the gut can be absorbed back into the body due the production of an enzyme called beta glucuronidase, leading to a manifestation of hormonal symptoms associated with the menopause (more on this in a further article to come). Certain foods help to keep increase and keep a balancer of good bacteria in the gut such as natural live yoghurt, leeks, onions, garlic and fermented foods to name a few.
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Coming soon – which are the good and bad bacteria in the gut microbiome. Which foods can help the microbiome flourish and which are the ones to avoid.