From periods to pregnancy and birth through to the menopause our hormones set in motion all of our body’s processes controlling our moods, memory, hunger, sleep, energy, menstrual cycles and sexual desire just to name a few.
Hormones can noticeably begin to fluctuate as early as your mid-30s signaling the beginning of perimenopause and on through the menopause in your 40s-50s.
Women can suddenly begin to experience symptoms of fatigue, period changes, migraines, anxiety, brain fog, night sweats and digestive issues. We blame our hormones, disconnect from our bodies and numb the discomfort with food, sugar, caffeine, pain killers, or alcohol. The truth is your hormones are probably trying to tell you something.
Hormones are continually communicating with us and with each other, so if one is not happy another one will typically respond. Hormonal imbalance is likely to be influenced by nutrition and lifestyle factors such as nutrient deficiency, digestive health, inflammation, sleep patterns, stress and exercise. You can take control of your hormonal health by connecting to your body, befriending your hormones and making simple and effective changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Here Gabriella Espinosa (Women’s Body Wisdom guide, yoga teacher, nutritional therapist and instructor of The Non-Linear Movement Method®) gives her top tips on maintaining hormonal balance this summer.
1. SPEND TIME IN NATURE
Time spent in nature has been proven to reduce stress hormones and improve our mood, especially in the summertime when we’re more likely to be using the increase in daylight hours to exercise. There’s a great double-benefit too, as we receive the additional boost of Vitamin D which is great for supporting our immune system, bone health, mood, cognitive function as well as regulating our circadian rhythm for better sleep. It’s also a beautiful chance to connect to the earth by walking barefoot and experiencing the benefits of Earthing. Connect to all your senses (sight, taste, hearing, touch, smell) to welcome in an additional layer of sensory aliveness while you are outdoors.
2. ENJOY AN ABUNDANCE OF SEASONAL FOODS
Summer is an abundant time for seasonal produce, making it so much easier to eat nutrient-dense options like salads and healthier lighter meals. You can get creative and mix up your salads with beautiful, fresh summer vegetables like aubergines, broad beans, broccoli, courgettes, cucumber, fennel, peas, peppers, rocket, sweetcorn, and lots of different leaves. It’s also a great opportunity to incorporate phytoestrogens like edamame beans, lentils or chickpeas which will help to naturally support your oestrogen levels which start to fluctuate in perimenopause and decline in menopause.
Looking for some inspiration? I love this cooling salad recipe based on Ayurvedic principles of eating with the elements and the seasons by Jasmine Hemsley.
3. PROTECT YOUR SKIN & HAIR
Sunlight can help with skin conditions like acne, psoriasis and eczema however it’s still important to make sure that we’re protecting from harmful UVA rays with SPF and I love natural brands like Organic Pharmacy, Alba Botanica and Madara.
As we head into menopause, skin can also become increasingly dry and itchy, and we can ease these symptoms by focusing on hydration and texture. Emepelle is a great brand which focuses on products specifically designed for menopausal skin, or for a natural approach, brands like Votary make organic high-powered products using plant oils and gentle natural retinoids.
It’s also important not to forget our hair! Hormone shifts can cause hair to become more dry and brittle, so we want to be sure to protect from additional sun damage by wearing a hat and avoiding too much direct sun.
4. WATCH YOUR ALCOHOL INTAKE & STAY HYDRATED
Summertime can be a time of increased drinking with chilled rose and outdoor cocktails flowing, but too much alcohol can disrupt our hormones, leading to poor sleep and further triggering symptoms like hot flushes. Experiment with botanical cocktails made with alcohol-free spirits like Seedlip and Caleño, or stock up on kombucha for a probiotic-rich alternative.
Alcohol or not, it is so important to stay hydrated when temperatures rise. Be sure to find a glass or stainless steel water bottle that you love so as to reduce your exposure hormone-disrupting chemicals found in plastic water bottles. I particularly enjoy filling mine with filtered water and an infusion of fresh sliced cucumber, lime and a sprig of mint leaves which makes staying hydrated that bit more enjoyable.
5. CREATE A COOL SLEEP SANCTUARY
Sleep is so essential to every aspect of our hormonal health, dramatically affecting our immunity, digestion, energy levels and of course mood. Which means that the sleep-disrupting temperature shift in summer can prove even more problematic.
One of my top recommendations for women who experience trouble sleeping, night sweats and hot flashes is to create a cool sleep sanctuary and better your chances of a better night sleep. Keeping your room quiet, cool, and dark. Try room-darkening shades or an eye mask to block out external light that can interrupt sleep. Switch to a lighter weight duvet and opt for natural fabric sheets in cotton, linen or bamboo which will keep you feeling fresh. Wearing lightweight breathable nightwear too will keep skin cool and wick sweat from the body. I also highly recommend investing in a bedside fan for cooling relief from night sweats or hot flushes. You will potentially be using it all year round so it’s worth investing in high quality here. Finally, a cooling yogic breath technique Sitali/Sitkari Pranayama before bed can reduce body temperature and calm your nervous system.
6. EMBRACE THE POWER OF ESSENTIAL OILS
Essential oils are a wonderful way to enliven the senses and welcome in emotional balance. The top five essential oils that I recommend for hormone support are Clary Sage, Geranium, Lavender, Peppermint and Rosemary. DoTerra oils are my go-to for pure and sustainably sourced oils and I love to create an aromatic Cooling Body Spray.
Cooling Body Spray
8 drops Clary Sage
6 drops Geranium
6 Drops of Peppermint
¼ cup witch hazel.
In a 2-ounce glass spray bottle, add the essential oils and fill the rest of the way with witch hazel. Replace the spray top, shake and combine, and spritz onto neck, décolletage, any area that heats up with hormonal stress.