There are many natural remedies, lifestyle and diet tips that make useful tools to support our monthly female cycle and throughout our different stages of life. Whether that’s the new changes of puberty, monthly ups and downs or our body changing as we move towards the menopause.
Sometimes we may feel our life is governed by the effects of our hormones, but one thing we probably all recognise is the powerful effect hormones have on our mind, mood and sense of harmony, balance or wellbeing. Life can feel more like an adrenaline fuelled roller-coaster when we crave a calm, peaceful lake to float across.
Of course, we’re all unique, as such we have different concerns and a range of things that trigger a sense of imbalance. Luckily, there are many ways we can support ourselves for a smoother ride, no matter what age we are.
General wellbeing and vitality can be supported with simple diet and lifestyle tweaks, topped up with natural remedies to match specific concerns when needed.
A good place to start is getting to know yourself. This might sound easy, but the reality is when we’re in the midst of emotional turmoil, we often can’t see the wood for the trees. A good way to honestly analyse yourself is to write it down. Keeping a food, drink and emotion diary helps you to see the links between what you consume and how you feel more clearly. For example, common imbalance triggers include stress, caffeine and sugar, simply managing these in your life and through diet may help resolve things fairly quickly.
However, some of us may have hormonal imbalances that are more complex or life impacting. In which case, seeing a therapist with experience in women’s health is a good way forward. A therapist is trained to look at a concern from a holistic viewpoint, taking into account how different body systems influence each other in a positive or detrimental way. They’re also on the outside looking in, making it easier to be objective and importantly, a big part of their role is as support, to inspire and to guide you through sometimes life-changing situations. There are many useful therapies for hormonal and women’s health concerns; naturopathy, herbalism, nutrition, homoeopathy and acupuncture are just a few.
Understanding what our body needs to work optimally, can be easier if we think of it as a car. A car needs a plentiful supply of nutrients as fuel, balanced blood sugar levels to keep the fuel supply steady, a clean engine to run smoothly and ideally a good road to enjoy the journey.
Translating this to our wellbeing means: improving our diet and keeping our blood sugar in balance, minimising toxins that need to be eliminated by the body, and looking after our gut health for efficient digestion with regular bowel movements, and last but by no means least – tackling stress or the bumps in the road.
Unfortunately, our world has become a chemical cocktail, many of the chemicals we come into contact with act as hormone disrupters and all of which our body has to process and eliminate. This is done primarily by the liver, kidneys and gut, supported by other organs. Anything we can do to lessen their burden is a very positive move.
This is a massive step in the right direction, as the use of potentially harmful chemicals is severely restricted. This is especially important if you eat meat or dairy, as organic animal rearing does away with the routine use of antibiotics and wormers, important for us when non-biodegradable chemicals are locked up in the animal fat we consume. Our home can be a veritable smorgasbord of chemicals, choosing certified organic products in our homes for cleaning, washing and on our skin has an important role to play in ‘cleaning up’ our personal world.
A simple detox is a good first step in making any change as it helps press the ‘reset button’. In an ideal world this would be every year, think of it is as a holiday for our body. A detox is preferable in the spring, when our body is most receptive and the energy of the planet is surging upwards. A detox works well if it’s gentle but longer, it can be split into four weeks: Week 1 cleans up the diet and adds in super-nutritious foods, week 2 addresses gut health and regular elimination, week 3 focuses on our main organs of elimination supported by herbs which are often bitter, for example milk thistle, and week 4 looks at your long-term goals and setting up good dietary intentions.
To really help your body out avoid plastic packed foods (particularly soft, flexible plastic), these may contain potential hormone disrupting chemicals and avoid highly processed or refined foods which are nutrient poor and harder for our body to deal with. More obviously smoking and alcohol should be kept to a minimum, and if you’re really serious – install an under-sink water filter for pure water.
Maintain your gut health
Our body relies on good digestion for the nutrients it runs on, whilst regular elimination of waste products prevents toxins from building up. Exciting research is revealing the link between a balanced gut microbiome, the wellbeing of our mind and its impact on many other body systems, including our reproductive system.
This is where everything ties in, because a diet that is unprocessed and mostly plant-based is low GI (low glycaemic index), nutrient, fibre and omega oil rich, supplying the resources we need for balance and wellbeing. Including a broad diversity of foods such as nuts, seeds, legumes, pulses, cold pressed plant oils and fermented foods are all a big plus for the gut microbiome. Whilst small quantities of foods like whole tofu, tempeh, miso, legumes, oats, rice and seeds are sources of natural phytoestrogens. Research is still figuring out exactly how phytoestrogens work, but it’s thought they may help regulate our hormones.
A delicate orchestra of hormones govern our body functions, this balance can easily be disrupted by stress. Therefore, another main focus many of us may benefit from is managing long-term stress. This includes our use of stimulants, like tea, coffee and cigarettes which also cause the release of cortisol.
Adrenaline and cortisol are two key stress hormones, adrenaline is produced in acute stress and cortisol is produced with longer-term stress. Both go back to normal levels when the stress has passed, but if the stress continues so does their production.
When we’re in fight or flight mode our body focuses on essential functions only – to get us out of trouble. Our long-term needs, which keep us balanced and healthy, like cleansing, nutrient absorption, repair, reproduction and rejuvenation are put to the bottom of the list.
Simply creating these stress hormones requires nutrients like B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals like magnesium and zinc, by depleting these essential nutrients it can have other ramifications on our wellbeing. It’s easy to see how this contributes to a lack of wellbeing in today’s stress driven world.
Stress impacts our blood sugar. Adrenaline and cortisol cause the release of sugar into the blood stream for instant energy, and when our blood sugar dips we produce cortisol to help get us out of trouble. When stress is acute we often stop eating or if it’s long-term we may crave comfort foods, high in sugar or refined carbohydrates. It’s easy to see how this perpetuates erratic blood sugar and associated cortisol release. A simple supplement called chromium can be really supportive if your blood sugar is erratic or if you’re trying to ditch it completely.
Why is cortisol such a problem? If cortisol levels remain high long-term it can disrupt our endocrine system, blocking progesterone, so there’s less available, causing an excess of oestrogen and even upsetting our testosterone balance. These imbalances may lead to poor ovulation, lower libido and excess facial hair.
Creating your own stress management toolkit may be useful, there are many natural remedies, diet and lifestyle tips available, my suggestions would be:
- A good B vitamin complex
- Vitamin C and a multivitamin / mineral complex
- Adaptogenic herbs which increase resilience to stress like maca, rhodiola and ashwagandha
- Soothing herbal teas like chamomile, lemon balm, rose, skullcap and lavender
- A daily blend of essential fatty acids, preferably one with evening primrose oil, which is a great source of GLA to support natural hormone balance
- A useful remedy for all stages of a woman’s life is Woman Bush Flower Essence, it helps balance mood swings, calms and helps us cope with change
- Essential oils – read on for my recommendations.
Essential oils to help manage stress
Our sense of smell exerts a powerful influence over our mood, choosing essential oils to pop on the diffuser, to use in body care or as Remedies to Roll which are smoothed onto pulse points are useful. You can pop into one of our stores to see what appeals to you, but popular choices include: lavender bergamot, , rose, frankincense, vetiver and neroli, , whilst clary sage, marjoram and geranium have more balancing properties. Many of these essential oils are found in our new Women’s Balance Body Collection and our classic Women’s Balance Aromatherapy Blend and Remedies to Roll.