As a naturopathic physician, I’m constantly looking for ways to elevate my patients’ health through natural medicine. And one of the biggest questions I get in my office is this: “Is there a way to balance my hormones without turning to HRT?”
HRT, or hormone replacement therapy, is a big topic for my patients approaching, experiencing, and coming out of menopause. For some women who have exhausted the possibilities of treatment with herbs, nutritional support, and foods and still experience menopausal symptoms that compromise their health and sexuality, they could benefit from HRT. However, a 2002 long-term study from the Women’s Health Initiative revealed findings that alarmed a lot of us: Conventional hormone replacement therapy was found to increase risk for heart disease, stroke, and breast cancer.
Since then, increasing numbers of women have preferred herbal remedies—aided by healthy lifestyle choices—to ease their symptoms. One of the most immediate lifestyle changes you can make is what you feed yourself on a day-to-day basis.
For menopausal women already experiencing symptoms (fatigue, sleep problems, stubborn weight gain, low sex drive, etc.)—as well as younger pre-menopausal women who simply want to set themselves up for health—there are a few nutritional tips I suggest. All together, I call it a “healthy hormone salad.” Here’s the ingredients list:
Research suggests that the rich iodine content in seaweed makes it one of the best foods for boosting your friendly estrogen metabolism, and it could help support your breast health. It's also great for supporting thyroid hormone production. Put a small handful on top of a bed of greens, or make it the base of the salad itself.
2. Chopped cruciferous vegetables
You can also help improve your estrogen metabolism by choosing plenty of helpings from the cruciferous family of vegetables (broccoli, for example), because they’re high in indole-3-carbinol, which supports your body’s ability to metabolize estrogen. Include these in your salad lightly steamed or raw (high temperatures can destroy indole-3-carbinol).
3. Sweet potato rounds
Including sweet potatoes in your salad can help support your hormones because they’re especially high in vitamin B5—important for your adrenal gland health, which promotes production of your sex hormones.
4. Pumpkin seeds and walnuts
Both are high in omega-3 fats, which assist in maintaining the moisture and health of your vulvar tissues, help with your production of sex hormones, and improve your circulation. Toss on a few tablespoons.
5. Lean, organic chicken
Your body, mind, hormones, and sex drive rely on adequate protein to be optimally healthy. Protein serves as a precursor to important neurotransmitters, which can be vital for your sexuality and overall hormonal system. If you’re vegetarian, reach for beans or legumes instead.
Bonus: Dessert & Supplement
- A bit of chocolate. Chocolate could boost your levels of PEA (phenylethylamine), which promotes an increase in the neurotransmitter dopamine—yep, the feel-good chemical—and in addition to boosting feelings of pleasure, intimacy, and well-being, it may help you cope with the mood changes of PMS and menopause.
- A quality supplement. Even with a nutrient- and mineral-packed salad, I believe that we can’t meet all of our health needs through diet alone. For patients looking to recover their sex drive when hormone levels change, I advise them to look for a supplement containing L-arginine, an amino acid that increases nitric oxide and supports blood flow to your sexual organs. For example, a study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy showed that over 70 percent of women who took the L-arginine containing supplement ArginMax experienced increased sexual desire, as well as higher frequency of sex.
This salad, supplement, and dessert combo is one I love recommending to my patients looking for natural hormone balance. And it’s yummy! Woven into a lifestyle that promotes hormone health, with adequate nutrition, sleep, and stress relievers, you can look forward to more vibrant health and increased energy.