Story by Kristen Coffield
Hormone changes are inevitable, and knowing how to use food as a tool to master and minimize the symptoms can help us feel our best. Ease the hormonal transition into perimenopause and beyond by adopting an anti-inflammatory lifestyle that helps you thrive.
1. Start Each Day with Water
When we are asleep, our bodies are in a state of fast. The best way to end that fast is by drinking 8-10oz of room temperature water. This should be your first beverage choice in the morning—enjoy your coffee after a big, refreshing glass.
Rehydrating after sleep is essential to help balance hormones. Water is used by our bodies to carry out normal metabolic functions—things like removing waste from cells, regulating body temperature and digesting food.
Add flavor with the juice of half a fresh-squeezed lemon. Lemon contributes Vitamin C and acidity, which turns into alkaline in the body. More alkalinity helps lower inflammation, which is beneficial for regulating hormones.
2. Dial Back Morning Sugar
Breakfast is typically the sweetest meal of the day. Grain-based breakfast foods tend to have added sugar or refined ingredients, which are converted to glucose in the body — even plain toast can contain as much extra sugar as a small candy bar.
Eating breakfast within one hour of waking will ensure stable blood sugar levels and start the day right. Try eating no-sugar, no-grain breakfasts and consuming high-protein, high-fiber, plant-based foods in the morning.
Healthy options could include humanely raised eggs (scrambled, fried or boiled — or a frittata with vegetables) berries and nuts, chia pudding, organic, whole-fat or nut milk yogurt, apple slices with nut butter or a breakfast salad with avocado and hard-boiled eggs.
3. Eat More Foods Without Labels
Don't be afraid of the natural sugars found in fruits, vegetables and dairy products. The body knows what to do with real, whole foods that have not been processed, refined and filled with added chemicals and sugar that disrupt hormone balance.
I recommend berries as a naturally-sweetened, low-carb treat. Apples and oranges add fiber and vitamins, and raw nuts make a great grab-and-go snack. Skip the bananas and grapes; they break down quickly and raise blood sugar faster than other fruits. Don't juice your fruit. When you only drink the juice, you destroy the fiber and turn healthy fruit into a sweet beverage with nearly as much sugar as soda.
4. Avoid Food Triggers
Stabilizing blood sugar levels and keeping cravings in check significantly reduces menopausal symptoms. Reducing and eliminating foods that cause digestive distress and inflammation helps us feel more balanced and less stressed.
Minimize gluten, factory-farmed dairy and eggs, soy, corn, added sugar, nightshades and artificial ingredients. These are linked to hormone-disruption and low-level inflammation.
Coffee and alcohol also inhibit the metabolism of "used "hormones and the production of new ones. Instead, sip green and herbal teas, which have more wellness benefits. Try kombucha, a fermented tea beverage containing beneficial polyphenols, B vitamins and probiotics. Always stay well hydrated with filtered water and limit alcohol to two or three alcoholic drinks a week.
5. Practice Better Sleep
Sleep is the lynchpin for hormone balance. Even one night of inadequate sleep can trigger cravings, spike blood sugar and wreak havoc with hormones.
Sleep is an essential part of our circadian cycle, providing time for flushing cellular debris generated by the body's metabolic activity. We need at least 7 hours of sleep a night to have regular, healthy levels of fluctuating hormones in our body.
Plan for sleep by maintaining regular sleeping patterns. Try to go to bed and wake at the same time consistently. Turn off your electronics an hour before you want to fall asleep. Read paper books, practice meditation, pray or write in a journal.
It can also be beneficial to create a sleep ritual.. Write down something you are grateful for, make a to-do list for the morning and sip chamomile tea. Diaphragmatic breathing exercises are another great way to prepare for sleep.
Make sure your room is dark by blocking as much blue light from electronics and ambient light from your bedroom as possible. Turn the temperature down to 65 degrees to create the best temperature for deep sleep.
Make sure your room is quiet—wear earplugs, use a HEPA air filter or white noise machine to assist in blocking unwanted noise.
Lastly, consider trying a magnesium supplement at bedtime. Magnesium is responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions in the body—notably, helping cells create energy. Magnesium helps relax tension and can improve sleep quality.
Combining an anti-inflammatory diet with proper sleep and stress reduction is vital for hormone balance at every stage of a woman’s life.