Recent article contribution for Vogue. Written by Jody Scott.
The best way to celebrate girl power is to commit to taking care of our female hormones every day, all year round – and here’s how.
It’s important to know that there are things we can do every day, all year round, to support our female hormone health and be even stronger, super versions of ourselves. Interested? Read on to find out the three things every woman should be doing to protect her hormone health.
Love your lymph
Your lymphatic system is a network of tiny vessels that collect fluid and waste products from your body’s tissues – including bacteria, viruses and cancer cells – and carry them to the lymph nodes and glands where lymphocytes (white blood cells) attack and break them down. The lymphatic fluid then carries these waste products back through the bloodstream where they are removed.
But your hard-working lymphatic system does much more than support your immunity. Naturopath and nutritionist Ema Taylor, who specialises in women’s health issues, says your lymph also helps balance your female hormones.
“The lymphatic system plays a fundamental role in detoxifying the body of waste products, including endocrine disruptors that interfere with the delicate balance of our hormones,” Taylor says.
She says keeping our lymphatic system moving is important because a build up of harmful substances and chemicals can have detrimental effects on our hormones.
“Endocrine disrupting chemicals have been suspected to be associated with altered reproductive function in males and females; increasing incidence of breast cancer,” she says.
Taylor also confirms that lymphatic congestion can also have visible effects on women’s bodies, showing up as cellulite, swollen breasts and extremities, puffy eyes, bloating, enlarged or painful glands, stubborn weight gain, headaches, sinus infections, and dry or itchy skin.
To keep your lymphatic system moving, commit to drinking two litres of filtered water every day, exercise daily, aim to dry body brush a few times a week and treat yourself to a regular lymphatic massage. Taylor says you can also support your system with lymphatic herbs such as echinacea, calendula or cleavers, taken as a tea or a liquid tincture.
“Incorporating immune-boosting foods in your diet such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, leafy green vegetables, brassica vegetables also helps,” she says.
Rethink your next drink
Alcohol will not enhance your female hormones. In fact, it can disrupt them and leave you feeling less than super.
“Chronic consumption of alcohol disrupts the communication between the nervous, endocrine, and immune system and causes hormonal disturbances that can lead to serious consequences at physiologic and behavioural levels,” says Taylor. “Studies indicate that moderate alcohol consumption increases breast cancer risk in women.”
She says overloading your liver is not a good idea either because it is responsible for detoxifying hormones in addition with other waste by-products. “Compromised liver function can lead to poor waste removal and re-circulation of hormones and other potentially hazardous toxins throughout the body,” she says.
Signs you may have an overloaded or congested liver include headaches or migraines, reproductive issues from excess oestrogen such as heavy or irregular periods, painful periods, breast tenderness and emotional imbalances such as anxiety, acne, sensitive smell, itchy and dry skin, jaundice of skin, sluggish digestion, allergies, fatigue and lethargy.
Taylor says she sees radical changes in women when they cut back on alcohol, especially those who suffer from anxiety and depression, inflammation, allergies, skin health, weight loss, digestive and hormonal imbalances.
Finally, according to the Australian Government Department of Health, for healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime.
Avoiding endocrine disruptive chemicals
Everyone loves a superfood or silver bullet. But sometimes the most powerful choices we can make about our health are the things we leave out rather than the things we put in. Endocrine disruptive chemicals are worth omitting wherever possible.
“Endocrine disrupting chemicals are found in various materials such as pesticides, metals, additives or contaminants in food and personal care products and even some toys,” says Taylor. “They may modify or ‘switch’ on or off hormonal messengers, which interferes with the normal functions of tissues and organs.”
If you are keen to cut them out, there are a few easy things you can do, such as avoid buying food or water in plastic, buying a stainless steel drink bottle and never heating food in plastic. Taylor says it’s a good idea to switch to from toxic cleaning and cosmetic products to organic and chemical free alternatives.
“A good rule of thumb is if you cannot pronounce an ingredient it is best to steer clear from it,” she says.
Choosing organic or spray-free fruit and vegetables, buying hormone-free meat and avoiding processed foods as much as possible also helps reduce your toxic load. “The markets are a great, affordable way to shop and you can ask where your food has come from,” Taylor says.
And if you would like to know more, Taylor has created a free download on her website. Click here to learn five ways women can improve their hormones naturally.