Heard of them before? If not, then these little compounds in certain foods could help you see big improvements in how you feel each month.
What are phytoestrogens and why do we need them if we have hormonal imbalance?
A phytoestrogen is an oestrogen mimicking compound obtained from plants that is a weaker form of the oestrogen produced in the body by ovaries. That means, when we ingest this oestrogen mimicker, it can dock onto our cell receptors and prevent the more potent form of oestrogen binding with the cell.
This may sound like something bad, but actually it's great for female hormonal balancing.
When we have an oestrogen excess in our body, caused by the more potent form of oestrogen, it can lead to many of the symptoms we know and hate!
Irregular menstrual cycle and/or heavy periods
Weight gain, especially in your hips, thighs and mid-section
Depression, Anxiety, Irritability
Fatigue and low energy
To make things more complicated there's a secondary player in the game to control oestrogen levels. Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) is a protein produced by the liver which controls the levels of oestrogen and testosterone in the blood. When you don't have the right amount of SHBG in the blood, you will experience hormone imbalance;
> Too much testosterone can lead to male pattern baldness and acne
> Too much oestrogen can cause heavy or irregular periods, anxiety, fibroids, breast cysts and even fatigue.
Phytoestrogens help to stimulate the production of SHBG so they are an easy and natural way to balance our sex hormones. The best part is they're available in easy to find and prepare food sources, are inexpensive and natural, so VERY easy to include in your everyday diet.
My absolute favourite source of phytoestrogens is flaxseeds.
Did you know that these little seeds pack the highest content of phytoestrogens in them over any other food!? They're simple to source in the grain or health section of your supermarket, refill store your health food store.
The best way to prepare flaxseeds is to grind them first, otherwise they're able bypass your entire digestive tract as our bodies are unable to break them down. You can use a coffee grinder, blender/smoothie maker or mortar and pestle.
Then, all you need to do is add 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to your diet each day. They add no taste, so can be added to porridge, salad, yoghurt, mixed into sauces, smoothies sprinkled on top of curries or stirfries, or included in any other favourite recipes.
Note: Always store flaxseed in the fridge as the good fats present can go off easily and try to buy organic to maximise the phytoestrogen levels present.
Other great sources of phytoestrogens include:
Organic Non GMO Soya
Fruits and vegetables such as berries, apples, carrots, cauliflower, sprouts, cabbage and broccoli
In addition to foods high in phytoestrogens, every day you should also be making mindful choices as to what you put on your plate.
Each meal is bulked out with vegetables, with a fistful size serve of protein and a small amount of good fat such as olive oil, nuts or avocado.
Don't be afraid of whole grains - quinoa, wild rice, bulgar wheat. They provide necessary carbohydrates, contribute to your daily protein and fibre needs and provide satiety to each meal.
Notice what types of carbohydrates you choose. Are you selecting white rice, white pasta, fries, crisps and bread? Or are you going for complex carbs such as sweet potato and other root vegetables, beans and legumes. Complex carbs won't spike your blood sugar in a harmful way, whilst simple carbs will.
Avoid processed and ultra processed foods, sugary snacks and soft drink. They offer no nutritional value, are high in calories, reduce the impact of SHGB and promote weight gain.
Lastly, don't skip meals. How you eat is just as important as what you eat when trying to rectify a hormonal imbalance.
This can be a lot to take in and apply to everyday life so start with small changes. Or why not consider completing my Hormone Balancing Program - it's a great way to learn at your own pace lifestyle changes to get you feeling yourself again. It includes useful handouts, recipes and all accessible on the go via an app.
If you want to chat to my about the Hormone Balancing Program, or one of my personalised 1 on 1 packages, why not book in for a free 20 minute discovery call today?
Registered Nutritional Therapist
Kelly is a Registered Nutritional Therapist who focuses on positive physical and mental wellbeing, achieved through diet, lifestyle, sleep and exercise. Having struggled for years with IBS and hormonal imbalance, and increasingly frustrated with the lack of support and helpful advice from her GP, Kelly began her own journey of healing the body from the inside out. After seeing huge improvements she quit her job to study nutrition and focus on harnessing the healing powers of food to help other people in similar situations.