Can What You Eat Affect Your Hormones?

The modern world and its expectations are not conducive to women producing adequate levels of progesterone. The raw materials for our stress hormones and progesterone are the same. This means that if your body perceives stress, whether it is in the form of a deadline or whether it is financial stress, the body will often use raw materials to produce cortisol (the major stress hormone) rather than progesterone.

Progesterone is incredibly important for many functions. It is a predominantly female hormone, produced in a woman’s ovaries and also in the adrenal glands, that plays a large role in fertility.

On top of this, progesterone is also important for mood. It is vital we have adequate levels of progesterone for our neurotransmitters to function. Progesterone exerts an anti-anxiety effect by acting on GABA receptors in the brain, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that aids in relaxation and sleep. Low progesterone also plays a role in PMS symptoms, such as irritability and mood swings. Progesterone should be highest in the second half of your menstrual cycle. However, for a lot of women, this is not the case.

A few lifestyle changes can go a long way to improving this imbalance.

  1. Take time to breathe

    Take 10 minutes twice a day to bring your attention to your breathing. Focus on breathing right into your belly. Imagine it is a balloon inflating and deflating. Breathing into your belly ensures you are breathing deeply, which is the best way to send a strong signal to the nervous system that you are relaxed.

  2. Ensure you have adequate nutrient levels

    Ensure you are getting adequate Vitamin C and Omega 3 Fatty Acids to optimise progesterone production. The research is strong around Omega 3 and its mood-boosting properties. Vitamin C is heavily required for much of our hormone production including the conversion of tryptophan into our ‘happy’ neurotransmitter, Serotonin.

    The key to getting as much Vitamin C as possible is making sure your fruits and vegetables are as fresh as possible.

  3. Learn to say no

    Most of us don’t like to let people down - but experiment with saying ‘no’. It encourages you to slow down and gives you the space you need to rest and restore.

  4. Exercise for you

    If you are under stress in your everyday life, it is unlikely that you will benefit from extra stress of enforced exercise. A more restorative, slower-paced exercise is going to suit you better ( a walk in nature or some yin yoga).

  5. Eat right for you

    Eat foods that balance your blood sugar levels and in turn help balance your hormones and neurotransmitters. These include foods containing Vitamin D such as salmon, sardines and eggs. Get out in sunshine or use a nutritional supplement to boost levels further. Gentle carbohydrates such as sweet potato are important for our neurotransmitter, GABA. Look to start you day with a wholefood, balanced breakfast like poached eggs, sweet potato and some lightly cooked greens on the side.