As a nutritionist, I often hear complaints from clients about heavy and painful menstrual cycles. Unfortunately, it’s usually something that women think is normal and just something they have to deal with.
But a heavy period — typically defined as soaking through a super tampon in two to three hours — and painful cramping is not normal, and could be a sign of estrogen dominance. When the body’s estrogen to progesterone balance is off, symptoms like heavy periods, cramping, breast tenderness, moodiness, and weight gain can result.
To help balance hormones naturally and get back to a pleasant monthly cycle, here's what I tell my clients to do:
1. Eat more flaxseed.
One way to reduce your estrogen levels is simply to physically eliminate more of it. If you're someone that doesn’t have daily bowel movements, improving your digestion is step one in balancing your hormones.
Try adding more flaxseed into your diet to start. It's high in fiber and research suggests it binds to estrogen, helping to eliminate it from the body. I recommend eating one to two tablespoons of ground flaxseed every day — you can add it to smoothies and sprinkle on yogurt or vegetable dishes.
2. Add cruciferous vegetables to your diet.
The liver is your detoxification organ and is responsible for breaking down estrogen so that it can be eliminated. To support the liver's natural detoxification process, increase your intake of cruciferous vegetables, which contain a helpful compound called indole-3-carbinol.
Eat at least one serving of these greens daily, like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
3. Consider taking supplements that help with PMS.
To take your liver support to the next level, Diindolylmethane (DIM) in combination with chasteberry (also called vitex) may help curb painful PMS symptoms.
DIM is a compound also found in cruciferous vegetables that supports the liver in properly metabolizing excess hormones. I recommend taking 100mg/day with food for up to three months. And studies suggest that chasteberry extracts can also decrease PMS symptoms. I recommend taking 150mg/day in the morning on an empty stomach.
4. Limit your alcohol intake.
Research suggests that drinking too much alcohol may increase estrogen levels, and lead to cramping as well as cycles that are either too short or too long. In addition to the excess estrogen, alcohol also impairs your liver production, which by now you know is responsible for breaking down excess estrogen.
For one week, record how much alcohol you consume — you'll probably be surprised by how much you do. But rather than going cold turkey, simply reduce your intake to two to three drinks per week. I recommend replacing alcohol with kombucha or sparkling water with berries.
5. Stick to a sleep routine.
Last, but definitely not least, lack of sleep can be a huge contributor to hormonal imbalances. To make sure you're getting quality zzz's, it helps to set a routine.
Wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, baking in eight hours of sleep a night. You should also aim to eat your main meals around the same time every day. This helps contribute to normal circadian rhythms, which leads to proper melatonin production and more restful sleep.
To learn more about balancing your hormones and how hormones can impact your weight, mood, brain clarity and cravings, join this free webinar.