Hormones are the drivers of our bodies’ mental, physical and emotional states. So, are we out of control if our hormones have all of the control? Let’s take another step back. Food provides the information that our bodies read, interpret and apply. What, when and how we eat provide integral pieces of information which drives the cascade of hormone production. In short, food is the head honcho of hormones. Many other epigenetic factors play a part in the production of hormones: stress, sleep, exercise, current health status, age, and sex. Additionally, food drives the production of mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. The mood-food or gut-brain axes are convergent theories that place huge importance on diet when discussing your levels of weight, anxiety, depression, and stress. In a previous post I discussed the hormones of weight management. This post will focus more on hormones specific to women, PMS, and hormone-related genetics. I sat down to chat about these topics with the ladies of SolSpace for a second podcast interview. I’ll discuss a few of their questions below:
Being a woman we’re pretty familiar with hormone surges, especially now that we’re pregnant, but tell us what is going on with our bodies when we’re having a hormonal moment: moodiness, crying, unexplained rage.
-“Simply, these erratic changes in mood can be attributed to surges of neurotransmitters and hormones.”
What exactly is PMS? What tips do you have to balance your hormones during this stage?
-“ Premenstrual syndrome, titled that way to account for the many symptoms that typically occur together: pain/cramps, bloating, moodiness, gas, headaches. Many of these symptoms share a root cause, inflammation. Through that lens we can aim to alleviate the systemic inflammation through diet and lifestyle in hopes to ameliorate the many symptoms. Prostaglandins are a group of anti- and inflammatory compounds. During PMS they begin to produce more inflammatory than anti-inflammatory compounds leading to an overall imbalance. Let’s break down each symptom with strategies to prevent them.
Bloating: decrease gut inflammation by decreasing sugar, a naturally inflammatory food, use probiotics like pickled veggies and kefir. These tactics will also help to minimize hormonal acne, which is linked to gut health. The lining of the gut shares cell types with that on your skin so when your gut is inflamed it sends similar antibodies to the skin surface.
Moodiness: mainly a neurotransmitter issue, rooted in the gut-brain axis. 70% of serotonin is produced in your gut. That happy, overall-wellbeing-serotonin-sensation can only occur with a healthy gut.
Pain/Cramps: can be due to mineral insufficiencies like calcium or magnesium. Try an Epsom salt bath with essential oils and/or CBD. Avoid long-term or repetitive use of NSAIDS (Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs) as they decrease fertility after only 7 days! They also damage the lining of your gut, exaggerating symptom intensity.
Stress: adaptogens provide regulation of stress hormones like cortisol. Interestingly, they can increase or decrease your hormone sensitivity based on your current needs.
Sleep: practice sleep hygiene techniques like decrease caffeine, alcohol, and adding resistance exercise to fatigue the muscles and promote mental fatigue. Sleep is the time your body allows for recovery and removal of excess hormones and inflammatory molecules that drive the issues of PMS.
Exogenous hormones: remove outside sources of hormones that disrupt your endocrine system. These endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) lead to estrogen dominance a state that worsens PMS symptoms by increasing the lining of the uterus making it more difficult and painful to expel, increasing breast tenderness and weight gain, especially around the midline. They act like estrogen on steroids, damage your DNA, and TURN ON obesity-promoting genes! Sources are plastics, phthalates, processed foods, poor oils, artificial sweeteners, and antibiotics. Make sure to boost your intake of dark leafy greens, onions, garlic, legumes, fiber, good oils like walnut and avocado, nuts and seeds, and plenty of lean meats. Another helpful approach is to minimize stress, which exacerbate all of the above symptoms.”
How do genetics play a role into hormones? Specifically, hormones like estrogen. Are there any connections to genetics and mood swings?
-“Genetics, mood, and hormones are inextricably linked. One gene in particular links all three: COMT. This gene plays a major part in both hormones and mood. Imagine a teeter-totter with excitatory compounds on one end and calming compounds on the other. When the teeter-totter is tilted due to an excess of excitatory molecules that would present itself as anxiety. Conversely, excess calming molecules present depression. COMT has two roles: the first in metabolism of catecholamines like serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine, the molecules atop the aforementioned teeter-totter. The second role is in estrogen metabolism. It helps to break down estrogen into harmless metabolites ready for excretion. If it isn’t metabolizing correctly, due to genetics or other biochemical issues, it can create an environment of estrogen dominance. How can we ensure this gene functions properly? Have a diet rich in detoxifying foods like cruciferous veggies, garlic and onions, which help to clear toxins. Add adaptogens to help regulate the stress systems of the body. Ensure adequate B vitamins, with magnesium, protein, water and fiber, all integral pieces of detox and metabolism. You can learn how to use and maximize your environments’ influence on you! Nutrigenomics is this amazing arena in which your DNA does not equal your destiny, but a template from which you can manipulate (GOOD or BAD) its impact on your overall health."
What does it mean when someone says his or her hormones are out of balance?
-‘'Two things can be happening here. 1. Hormones function within a feedback loop, that switches the production “on” or “off”. Picture the HPA axis. Beginning with the Hypothalamus, then the Pituitary gland, ending with the Adrenals. Down their cascade they produce cortisol, which communicates back up the ladder to shut off its own production when there are sufficient levels. If they body has been too stressed for too long the feedback loop malfunctions leading to an overproduction of cortisol, further perpetuating a negative cycle of stress, stress hormones, weight gain, and fatigue. 2. Hormones become imbalanced due to poor nutrition. Enzymes are required for hormone function and those enzymes require cofactors and coenzymes in the form of minerals and vitamins, respectively. Estrogen, for example, requires vitamin B6 and magnesium for its metabolism. As mentioned before, protein, water, and fiber assist with metabolism as well as detox. Adding avocado, lentils, herbs/spices, and vegetables weekly is an easy way to promote proper function of your hormone metabolism and detoxifying pathways."
Join Genetic Garden to learn about how your genetics play important metabolic roles, what foods you could benefit from most to ensure proper detox and metabolism, or discover if your hormones are out of balance!