A growing concern among middle-aged adults is whether their hormones are at optimal levels. These hormones are important for how we look, feel and function.
The three primary sex hormones are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Both men and women have all three. The primary sex hormones are responsible for the body functions listed in the chart below.
One form of hormonal imbalance is called estrogen dominance. This means there is a high level of estrogen (even though the actual level may be within normal range) to progesterone (oftentimes quite depleted). Symptoms of this condition include: Fibrocystic breasts, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, increased risk of breast or uterine cancer, cyclical migraines, disturbed sleep, severe PMS symptoms, infertility, and autoimmune conditions.
Estrogen is considered a catabolic hormone, breaking down muscle and other tissues, suppressing immune function, and slowing metabolism. Testosterone is an anabolic hormone, building up our muscle and other tissues, and increasing metabolism. The FDA reports more than four million men suffer from suboptimal testosterone levels! Low testosterone is associated with fatigue, depression, irritability, osteoporosis, decreased libido, and wasting of muscle.
Often, these symptoms are seen as a “normal process” of aging and therefore no assistance is sought out. Some potential causes of hormonal imbalances are: Age, chronic stress, prolonged illness, lack of exercise, poor diet (refined sugars, alcohol, low fiber), prescription medication (birth control, hormone replacement).
Improving estrogen metabolism can be beneficial and can be accomplished with dietary and lifestyle modification. The following are some actions that can be taken to help balance hormone levels:
• Have hormone levels checked with a doctor
• Minimize use of estrogen-containing prescription medications, if possible
• Exercise to assist in burning fat, which converts androgens into estrogens
• Increase cruciferous veggie (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) and lignan (ground flaxseed) intake to assist in “detoxifying” extra estrogens out of body
• Decrease stress levels
• Decrease coffee intake to two cups or less per day
Although people aren’t supposed to have the same levels of hormones in their 40s and 50s that they had in their 20s, their hormone levels can be optimized to slow the effects of aging. Being proactive can have many benefits!