By Amy Nolan
Hormone Health Week is taking place from March 25 and we have some expert advice from the Cleanmarine team – supplements for women’s health.
Ah hormones, those pesky little buggers we have to contend with. We often blame them for experiencing negative emotions, skin breakouts or water retention, but in fact, they play a vital role in our body’s functioning and once understood and regulated a bit, need not cause us to sigh in dismay.
There are four sex hormones involved with the female menstrual cycle and each hormone contributes to our wellbeing, with a unique set of health benefits and functions. These comprise of oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone and follicle stimulating hormone. Oestrogen, apart from playing a vital role in things like ovulation, is also important for heart health, stimulating collagen production and sharpening our minds (who knew, eh?) Progesterone is produced after ovulation and prepares the body for pregnancy but it also helps to calm the mind (more of that, please!). As we know, testosterone is also a male sex hormone but women also produce small quantities which contributes to developing things like a healthy sex drive and lean muscle mass. FSH is produced in the pituitary gland and kick starts puberty. It is also important during ovulation.
As women, there are five significant stages in our lives and in each phase, our hormones perform differently. During the teenage years for example, the influx of hormones can be difficult to contend with and indeed take time to regulate. In our later years, hormone production decreases and this brings with it a possible myriad of side effects.
Whatever the stage you currently find yourself in, it is important to take a proactive approach to your hormone health and look at your diet, exercise and stress levels. Like anything in life, the key lies in striking a balance – as the saying goes:
“All things in moderation and moderation in all things”.
If you’re feeling a bit out of kilter here are some do’s and don’ts that are key to maintaining good hormone health:
Do: make sure you’re incorporating foods with vitamin B6 into your diet. Vitamin B6 supports the regulation of hormonal activity. It also is important in normal red blood cell formation. B6 naturally occurs in chickpeas, pinto beans, fish, beef, turkey, chicken, wholegrain rice, pistachios, sunflower seeds, seasame seeds and avocado (rejoice!)
Do: try and manage stress. During times of stress, the body deprioritises female hormones and prioritises the production of “fight or flight” hormones (adrenaline, cortisol). Try listening to an audiobook or podcast, colouring, doing yoga or catching up with a friend – whatever works.
Do: exercise. It’s good for our overall health and wellbeing and helps to manage stress. Fitness expert, Orla Hopkins is an advocate of strength training as the more muscle mass you develop, the more efficient your metabolism is.
Don’t: drink excessive amounts of caffeine (I feel personally targeted by this one). Cleanmarine nutritional therapist Sarah Brereton explains, “caffeine increases the production of adrenaline in our cells. This sets the fight or flight mechanism running, causing stress in our system, which can increase symptoms of PMS.”
We also caught up with Dr Mary Ryan, Consultant Physician and Endocrinologist at the Bon Secours Hospital in Limerick who answered some hormone FAQs for us:
Would you recommend that all women take a supplement such as Cleanmarine to regulate hormones and achieve optimum health?
Yes, all women can take a supplement like Cleanmarie, provided they check with their doctor or pharmacist. Cleanmarine is a very good supplement as it has omega 3 which is good for the heart and women are more at risk of developing heart disease after menopause. It also has B6 and B12 which are good for nervous function. It also contains Vitamin D which is very good to prevent against osteoporosis, which is more prevalent in women post menopause. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption. Cleanmarie also has isoflavines and natural Phytoestrogens which help ease menopausal symptoms of flushing, sweating and vaginal dryness. Cleanmarine Menomin also contains biotin which is very good for hair.
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Can taking supplements lessen PMT and side effects such as skin breakouts and mood swings?
Yes, provided they are taking them as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle and appropriate rest.
Is there such a thing as post menstrual tension or should hormones have regulated again once your period has begun/is just over?
Hormones do not settle after a period if there is a hormone imbalance. Hormones are always more imbalanced around mid-cycle as the hormone control centre is under pressure secreting a high concentration of LH luteinizing hormone to cause ovulation, hence PMT.
I understand that there is an increase in cortisol when we get less sleep, but does a lack of sleep impact upon other hormones in the body?
Your sleep is very necessary to recharge the hormone control centre.
There is a lot of research into gut health lately and I am just wondering if taking a probiotic supplement has any positive effects in regulating hormones?
Probiotics and healthy eating with rest help hormone regulation.
Indeed, whether it be making small changes to our diet and lifestyle or looking into taking a supplement, we could all be more conscious of our hormone health. Of course, if you have any symptoms you are concerned about, it’s always advisable to visit a doctor.