Can supplements be the key to helping us work with our hormones rather than against them? NH investigates…
Taking supplements won’t solve everything, but they can help your body work in harmony with your hormones. While nutrition always comes first (nothing can compensate for a poor diet), there’s evidence to suggest that bolstering our bodies with specific supplements can help support our systems. “Many women are generally nutrientdeficient as they reach mid-life,” says clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer. “Lack of B vitamins, zinc and magnesium, for example, will lead to further hormone imbalances and an increase in menopausal symptoms. Vitamin D is essential for women to protect their bones as oestrogen levels decline, but also helps with low mood. Taking a complete high-potency multivitamin and mineral helps plug these nutrient deficiencies and probiotics can also be helpful.” To find out more, we dove deeper into discovering what affects our hormones and how we can get them back track.
“Vitamins all work synergistically, however, vitamin B6 is key for maintaining good hormone balance and a good mood,” says Suzie. “This is because it’s one of the main vitamins needed to produce serotonin, our ‘happy’ hormone. Vitamin B2 partners with B6 in this respect. Vitamin E is needed for hormone balance and specifically, fertility, plus it helps balance hormones through the perimenopausal and menopausal years. St John’s wort, commonly referred to as the ‘sunshine herb’ can also help. MenoMood Menopause Mood Relief £16.99 (menomood.co.uk), uniquely combines St John’s wort which helps lift low mood with Black Cohosh, traditionally used to relieve common menopause symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats.”
The perimenopause, or menopause transition, begins several years before menopause. It’s the time when the ovaries gradually begin to make less oestrogen and usually starts in a woman’s 40s, but it can start in her 30s or even earlier. “Fluctuating hormone levels are a normal part of perimenopause, which can last many years,” says Suzie. “During this time PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms often become worsened. Vitamin B6, zinc and magnesium work synergistically to balance hormones, therefore, need to be included in a daily multivitamin and mineral. Additionally, the mineral chromium, is essential for balancing blood-sugar levels; if this is out of line, it will make PMS symptoms more acute. Take a high-quality multivitamin and mineral containing all these nutrients with good levels of vitamin C, which is essential to produce collagen, the body’s main structural protein, needed for healthy, wrinkle-free skin and strong bones.”
The symptoms of a hormonal imbalance depend on which glands and hormones are affected, but some of the most common are: weight gain or weight loss; excessive sweating; difficulty sleeping; changes in blood pressure or heart rate; brittle or weak bones; irritability and anxiety; unexplained and long-term fatigue; increased thirst; depression; headaches; needing to go to the bathroom more or less than usual; bloating; changes in appetite; reduced sex drive; thinning, brittle hair; puffy face; blurred vision and breast tenderness. “One of the most effective herbs for balancing hormones, especially for women suffering from PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is Agnus Castus (also known as Chasteberry),” says Suzie. “It works on the pituitary gland encouraging progesterone production; oestrogen dominance is one of the main causes of hormone disruption in women of all ages. It also helps with mood swings, anxiety and tension.”
If you’re on contraception, then you could be lacking in vitamins that you didn’t know could be adversely affected by your chosen method. “Vitamin B6 and zinc levels are adversely impacted by taking contraception such as the pill and are both key in the production of progesterone,” says Suzie. “Additionally, magnesium (found in green leafy vegetables) is generally low in the diet and is less available to balance hormones as the Pill encourages uptake in the bones and soft tissue instead. Magnesium works together with vitamin B6 and zinc in the production of progesterone. Magnesium and vitamin B6 also help manage the body’s stress response, as high levels of the stress hormone cortisol depletes progesterone production. To ensure levels of these essential nutrients are maintained you should take a highquality daily complete multivitamin.”
If you’re of menopausal age, then supplements can help you to plug the gaps where you might be vitamin or mineral deficient. “Falling oestrogen levels during the menopause is one of the main causes of the many unpleasant symptoms that women suffer,” explains Suzie. “However, oestrogen receptor sites can be ‘topped-up’ by taking supplements containing phytoestrogens which have a balancing effect. Black Cohosh is the herb of choice when it comes to managing hot flushes, night sweats and other common menopausal symptoms. It’s known as a SERM (selective oestrogen receptor modulator) because it stimulates oestrogen receptors where it’s needed in the bones and brain.”
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