by Mukilteo Natural Health on
September 12, 2018
Estrogen & Progesterone
After menopause, it is common for progesterone and estrogen decline to cause symptoms. Many women experience migraines, hot flashes, inflammation, brain fog, and irritability during this period. In the short term, hormone supplementation with progestin creams, DHEA, and other herbs and minerals can help boost levels. Long term, it is possible for most women to balance hormone levels through diet and lifestyle.
Hormone balance through diet, lifestyle, & herbs
Although progesterone is not found in foods, there are many ways to balance progesterone decline. Primarily, if the body is in an estrogen dominant state, balancing excess estrogen metabolites is the first step. Post-menopause, too much of 4 and 6 hydroxy-estrogen is inflammatory, and also antagonizes remaining progesterone. Adding in nuts and seeds helps lower estrogen metabolite dominance. If you are approaching menopause and still have an active cycle, then adding flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds days 1-13 will boost healthy estrogens, then shifting to sesame and sunflower days 14-28 will boost progesterone. After menopause, including all seed types in the diet is beneficial.
Foods high in selenium support the corpus luteum, which is the region of the ovaries where progesterone is formed. Adding four Brazil nuts to the diet will provide enough selenium, or supplementing with 200 mcg per day.
Vitamin B6 also supports the corpus luteum. To build levels, supplement with B6 in the short-term. Then, add in foods rich in vitamin B6, which include turkey, wild-caught tuna and salmon, beef, chicken, pistachios, chickpeas, potatoes, eggs, and dark leafy greens. Adding in 3-4 servings per day of high B6 foods will help sustain healthy levels. Beyond progesterone, B6 also supports serotonin balance and melatonin conversion, promoting sound sleep and nervous system health.
Speaking of sleep, getting enough sleep supports neurotransmitter and hormone balance, along with healthy weight. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Check out “Natural Medicine for Sleep Health” by Dr. Shawn for a guide to addressing insomnia.
Herbal medicines can help with menopausal transition and treating symptoms. In particular Vitex, or chasteberry, supports progesterone production and decreases symptoms of menopause in clinical trials. Try 80 mg of a standardized extract daily. Black cohosh and blue cohosh balance estrogen dominance and decrease hot flashes and help reduce spasm in the female reproductive system. Raspberry leaf is another uterine tonic that is nutritive to the reproductive system. Lastly, adding in botanical phytoestrogens help block estrogen dominant states while promoting higher levels of estrone (E1). Botanical phytoestrogens include alfalfa, broccoli sprouts, diindolemethane (DIM), and soy. Talk with your doctor about an individualized herbal and nutritional approach that works for you.
Focus on healing the GI. If you have a history of GI symptoms and inflammation, soothing the digestive system is the first step in hormone support. Healing the GI is vital to allow for nutrient absorption. Food provides the building blocks for our hormones, neurotransmitters, and connective tissue, laying the foundation for overall wellbeing. To heal the GI, avoid fried foods, refined ingredients, excess acidity, and heavily processed foods. Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, complex grains, and adequate protein (around 60 grams per day). Specific foods that heal digestive function include aloe juice, coconut, cinnamon, turmeric, and probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
Get regular exercise. Gentle exercise supports immune system health, metabolism, and healthy weight, which helps balance estrogen and progesterone. Try hiking, light jogging, eliptical machines, swimming, and resistance exercise. For simple resistance exercise, pick up a theraband for upper and lower body workouts. Avoid overexercise, as this places stress on the body that decreases pregnenolone and hormone synthesis. Long distance running, Cross-Fit, and intense cycling classes may cause more harm than benefit when dealing with low hormone function.
Natural progesterone cream. While implementing these lifestyle steps, adding in extra hormonal support may be necessary for a short period. Natural progesterone creams containing bioidentical progestins help replenish levels without adverse effects with appropriate dosing. Monitoring progesterone levels is important once per month to keep progesterone in a healthy level. Long-term, use of progesterone cream is tapered down. Yam and soy based creams are not effective. Taking pregnenolone and DHEA also supports progesterone by providing the building blocks for synthesis.