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Balancing your hormones

Ben Warren explains hormone imbalance, and gives his top tips to get you back in balance.

 Hormones are chemical messengers that tell your body what to do. Everything that is fun in your life is dependant on hormones… great energy (cortisol), feeling happy (serotonin), sleeping well (melatonin) and of course, your sex hormones.

Much of the latest research shows that even weight gain and loss is related to hormones. It’s the hormonal response to food that triggers how much gets stored in fat cells – which means it’s as much about what you eat, as it is how much.

When it comes to hormonal balance the difference between men and women is dramatic. A man’s hormonal system is like a Toyota Hilux – you can pretty much do what you like to it and it will still run fairly well until one day, in many years’ time, the engine blows up without any warning (heart attack). The hormonal system of a woman is more like a Formula One racing car – it’s incredible what it’s capable off (grow a baby, for example), but it doesn’t take much to throw the timing out.

Much of the latest research shows that even weight gain and loss is related to hormones. It’s the hormonal response to food that triggers how much gets stored in fat cells – which means it’s as much about what you eat, as it is how much.

For me, this explains my clinical experience that women find it harder to lose weight than men. In my books, weight loss and gain are primarily linked to hormones.

One of the biggest hormonal imbalances I see is oestrogen dominance. Oestrogen is predominately a female hormone, but men have a little of it.

The signs of oestrogen dominance for women are increased fat storage on the hips, increased premenstrual tension, heavier periods, difficulty losing body fat and, in extreme cases, conditions like endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

For men, signs of oestrogen dominance are more likely to be increased fat storage on the chest (man boobs) and a lower libido.

Clinically, I have seen a dramatic increase in cases of oestrogen load over the last 10 years. This is partly due to environmental oestrogens (xeno-oestrogens) that are sitting on our oestrogen receptor sites, driving a perceived oestrogen dominance. The other main reason is liver load. Most people’s livers are already so backed up they cannot neutralise oestrogens so they often end up back in the bloodstream in a more active form.

There are many aspects to maintaining hormonal balance, from ensuring we are eating enough of the raw materials to make hormones (high quality fats and proteins) to ensuring adequate vitamin and mineral co-factors for hormone production, to adequate detoxification systems for dealing with hormones once they’ve done their job.  

Here are my five top tips for helping hormonal balance and lowering oestrogen load:

1. Move away from re-using plastic water bottles

The thin plastics are only designed for single use and they leach xeno-estrogens (BPA and dioxins) into the water that add to the oestrogen load. 

2. Avoid unfermented soy 

Soy has strong phytoestrogens, which can compete with your own oestrogen. Traditionally, soy has only been consumed fermented, as the fermentation process breaks down these strong oestrogens. Ditch the soy latte unless you are thin and post menopausal (as these people generally benefit from the extra phytoestrogens). 

3. Eat cruciferous vegetables 

Eat your broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage (ideally lightly steamed). Cruciferous vegetables have compounds in them called DIM (Diindolylmethane) and sulfuraphane, which increase the liver’s ability to detoxify oestrogen. Three-day-old broccoli sprouts pack the most detoxification punch.

4. Take a close look at your skincare products

Eighty per cent of what goes on your skin will be absorbed into your bloodstream. Many of the chemicals in skincare products contain phthalates and parabens that act oestrogenic once in your bloodstream. Look for 100 per cent natural products. 

5. Reduce and ideally eliminate alcohol consumption

Alcohol is really hard on your liver and if you are exhibiting any signs of oestrogen dominance and difficulty losing weight, then alcohol really needs to go.  Swap it for Kombucha, a fermented, sparkling cold tea drink, which assists in detoxification of oestrogens.

Ben Warren is a nutrition and holistic health expert. For more visit bepure.co.nz

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