You don’t feel like yourself. Your gut feels like it’s all over the place or you’re still getting awful pre-menstrual symptoms.
There is increasing scientific evidence proving that gut health is the main cause of female hormonal imbalance. You can thank estrogen dominance, thyroid and leaky gut!
Gut problems and hormone imbalances can cause a whole host of health concerns.
If left unchecked, they can become serious.
However, like most things, it's fixable. Balancing hormones can be achieved by healing our gut health through diet, probiotics, prebiotic and more.
Let’s dive in, shall we?!
Menstrual cycle's and women's health is an extremely overlooked problem, leaving millions of women to be affected by hormonal imbalances and painful menstrual cycles without knowing there is a way out.
It's astonishing that the main reason we all exist in this world, is the same thing that isn't studied nearly enough.
I have searched the internet and will do my best to present the findings and research behind it, but if there is something I have missed feel free to let me know in the comments below.
Many women have no idea that certain foods and lifestyle choices are damaging their gut health and therefore setting them up for painful menstrual cycles each month.
However, the beauty of having a monthly period is that woman also have what Lara Briden calls 'A monthly health report card'. We can literally use our periods and symptoms associated as an opportunity to understand more about our overall health.
Our My Lady Box subscribers receive a monthly tracker in their box.
Common premenstrual symptoms that your gut health is affecting your hormones:
- Bowel changes
- Heavy periods
- Irregular Periods
- Pre-menstrual Acne
- Pelvic floor pain
- Constipation or Diarrhoea
- Sleep disturbances
- Constant fatigue
- Food intolerances
- Autoimmune conditions
Whether it’s migraines, menstrual pain or PCOS. These conditions are so common because they have an underlying common denominator - gut health.
The root problems causing gut health can be treated effectively through consistently eating nutritious foods, supplements, and easy lifestyle changes you can make to deliver the results you deserve.
4 things to remove: Dairy, Gluten, Sugar, Processed Foods
Firstly let's look at what needs to go and why.
In the book ‘The Period Repair Manual’ Dr. Lara Briden recommends removing dairy from cows, gluten, sugar, all processed foods and taking up intermittent fasting (IF), in an effort to reduce menstrual cycle symptoms by encouraging a healthy gut microbiome.
We have a post with a lot more detail about how fasting with your menstrual cycle can reduce menstrual symptoms.
Let's begin with cow dairy.
Lara Briden suggest that A1 casein protein which is present in cows milk not only affects hormones through insulin, but also raises the risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, strokes, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.
It is the first food group she recommends to remove, however it's not all bad news. Easily switch out cow dairy for Goat or Sheep dairy.
Switching to goats & sheep's dairy may significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular disease
If you have ever eaten feta, halloumi or pecorino cheese, then you have eaten goat & sheep's cheese.
Hmm seems like the Mediterranean were onto something!
Plus who can resist the creamy texture goats cheese gives to enhance a meal. It makes sense why it is a favourite among many of the world's best chefs. The super creamy texture melts through quiches like a dream, while adding it on top of anything avocado will give an extra bite of bon vivant.
Avoid common hormone disruptors by eating gluten-free foods
Yes. I said it. Let me tell you that making the switch from gluten to gluten-free is so damn easy, I genuinely don't know what people complain about.
Firstly, white bread is considered the most unhealthy bread. I'm always surprised when an adult tells me they eat white bread, apart from having no nutrition it also (in my opinion) has no depth of flavour, unlike sourdough or rye breads.
Secondly, gluten is bad for hormones. Gluten causes inflammation that can contribute to iron deficiency, irregular periods and psoriasis.
In a study conducted with non-celiac participants it was found that 'Symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity are similar to gluten-related disease, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.'
By eliminating grains, you reduce your carbohydrate load, which reduces blood sugar spikes and the need for insulin to govern your body. This also reduces chronic inflammation, that leads to poor gut health and leaky gut syndrome.
Recommendation: Switch it out. Aim for gluten-free foods made from rice flour, it's less processed than most other gluten-free foods.
Recovering from gluten can take several months.
Studies show reduced inflammation & bloating, more energy without the crashes, healthier weight management, less irritability in the morning, and overall better regulation in all areas of your life (stress levels, energy levels, libido, etc..) when gluten is removed from the diet.
Next up, Sugar!
Eliminating blood sugar spikes, leads to significant improvement in female hormone regulation
Sugar tastes great but it’s highly addictive and sends blood sugar soaring right after eating it, which again interferes with insulin resistance and therefore hormone balance.
Blood sugar and insulin are the two biggest factors in PCOS, adrenal fatigue and adrenal exhaustion.
Maintaining stable blood sugar is a simple way to improve the function of your HPA axis. This can be achieved by eating small amounts of protein with each meal.
Recommendation: Eat sugar that comes with fibre.
Fruit & Vegetable sugar is not as easily absorbed into the body as processed and/or refined sugar.
Say you eat an apple. The sugar in that apple is absorbed by the fibre in that apple and because fibre is a carbohydrate that our bodies can't digest, it takes the sugar out of your body with it.
Recommendation: Next time you want something sweet, reach for a piece of fruit or when baking add blueberries and/or dates instead of cups of sugar.
Also be mindful of maple syrup and coconut sugar, they are better options than normal sugar, but not as good as sugar from a whole fruit.
According to certain studies, eating junk food just once a week can “dramatically” increase your risk for hormone-related cancers
Okay so the last part of this is removing processed food.
An Australian study found eating processed foods can cause hormone imbalances in your gut microbiome (gut bacteria) leading to weight gain and other illnesses. This is because synthetic food additives lead to gut damage, inflammation and hormonal imbalance.
You will feel more energised and at-ease when you make a gradual switch from processed foods to whole foods.
Recommendation: Cook at home, meal prep or aim to order foods with high nutritional value. This is fuel for your body, would you put standard petrol in a Lamborghini?
You live once, you may as well eat well!
Intermittent fasting can boost metabolism, reduce hunger signals, improve gut health & naturally improve hormone levels for women
Intermittent fasting for women is an eating pattern in which you cycle between periods of fasting and non-fasting.
Fasting for women drastically lowers oestrogen levels by sending the signal to your brain that it is in fact starving. The impact of this on health, hormones, weight loss and energy are all remarkable.
Better focus, mental clarity, improved memory & energy levels, enhanced immune system, weight loss and the best part is it can be noticeable within weeks!
It’s a whole other blog post you can read here.
Include prebiotic and probiotics daily to heal your gut & digestive issues
Think of a prebiotic as the seeds you plant in your gut garden, and probiotics as the plant food you feed it to grow into the beautiful and healthy gut garden it was made to be.
Shopping list of Prebiotic's: Eat at least 3 per day
- Anything green
+ more (Google it)
Shopping list of Probiotics: Eat at least 3 per day or 1 supplement per day
- Yoghurt (coconut yoghurt with bacteria)
- Apple cider vinegar
- Water or brine cured olives
- If your not a fan of the vinegar taste most of these foods are associated with, take a pro-biotic supplement once a day
The most important supplement would be a probiotic.
I personally love a product available in Australia called VSL3+. It arrives at your house cold on ice and must be kept in the fridge. It also has the highest amount of bacteria currently available on the market with 450 billion bacteria per sachet. Yes, it's a little pricier than your standard probiotic, but that's because of the high quality.
However, the JS Health Probiotic+ is next on our list to try, as I love her Hair & Energy and saw incredible results with her Hormone + PMS Support. If you have tried this, let us know in the comments what you thought.
Coffee consumption is recommended as part of a healthy diet, since it contains several bioactive compounds with therapeutic properties
Some say to keep caffeine low or out when repairing the gut however, as I am a coffee fiend I cannot do this, but I make sure to have high quality home brewed (beans blitzed all) coffee. I sip on it over the course of a few hours and keep it in this cup which keeps it hot the whole time I am sipping on it.
Then I will move to camomile, green tea or miso soup as I love having a hot drink next to me at all times (which is also great for anxiety apparently, but that can be another post).
For best results with caffeine here are the best pracitices
- Be mindful in choosing your beans for brewing
- Use hot water in moderation and in the right dose
- Drink in small regular doses rather than all at once
- Don't brew an excessive amount of cups that are too large in volume.
I hope this has helped clear up a bit about how your gut health is causing hormonal imbalance during your menstrual cycle and that taking care of gut microbiota first can help balance your hormones. It cannot be the other way around.
If you want to get the most out of your body and hormones, you need to start by supporting your digestion with the right probiotics, prebiotic, and lifestyle choices.
If you want to learn more I would recommend the Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden, a Naturopathic Doctor with a busy clinic in Sydney.
If you liked this blog, check out: Intermittent Fasting for Hormones