HORMONE BALANCING SUPPLEMENTS | PART 2
All about the most popular "hormone-balancing supplements"; which ones are right for you, what they do and which ones aren't worth the hype. You can read part one here.
Evening primrose oil is high in gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), which is anti-inflammatory and is often used to treat symptoms of imbalance and sluggish detoxification of oestrogen such as painful periods, tender breasts as well as acne.
Whilst it's not been massively researched into, but thought to also have mild phytoestrogen effects. There have been a few studies done on it as a tool in regards to menopause and hot flushes and has positive outcomes.
Recommend? Yes and no. Some women seem to have good results with evening primrose oil whilst others notice little to no difference. Our advice it to really focus on your pathways of detoxification and excretion and address blood sugar with diet first and then consider supplement during your luteal phase.
RED RASPBERRY LEAF
Red raspberry leaf is a potent anti-oxidant flavonoid, famous for helping to induce labour and strengthening the uterus. However, it can also be used in cases of low progesterone or luteal phase defects as it works to increase progesterone which in turn can help with cycle length.
Recommend? Everyone is different, so best to work with a professional when supplementing. It can be taken as tea or supplement.
Ceylon cinnamon is the preferred source and is highly anti-inflammatory and a potent antioxidant. It can help improves insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels, so highly recommended for PCOS, addressing unstable BS, hormone imbalance, metabolic syndrome.
Recommend? Hell yes. But only the Ceylon kind, as too much of the other type (cassia) may be harmful. We think cinnamon is a great tool to use when trying to reduce your sugar intake and when supporting blood sugar instability. Add two teaspoons per day, in smoothies and on oats, for example. There are certain cases when it is best avoided, such as Interstitial Cystitis, for example, as it can be highly aggravating.
You'll often see chromium in its Picolinate form or as a GTF (= trivalent Cr + Nicotinic Acid + Glutamic Acid + Cysteine + Glycine), however, chromium picolinate is the preferred source and more easily used in the body. It is mostly used in relation to blood sugar issues as it may have hypoglycaemic properties and has also been studied in relation to hyperandrogenemia (high androgens) THUS making it more of a supplement for PCOS, metabolic syndrome etc than the simpler cases of imbalance.
Recommend? Only if deficiencies are present and that it is being used for reducing insulin resistance and supporting hyperinsulinemia rather than aiming to promote ovulation (doesn't have effectiveness in this). But it can be a useful tool when insulin resistance is prominent. Ensure that nutrient/drug interactions are researched prior (eg. diabetic medication).
We've got an in-depth article all about ashwagandha, how to use it and who should use it which can be found here. If you're looking to balance your hormones and support your stress response, we highly recommend you give it a read.
L-theanine is found in green tea or it can be supplemented. It is an amino acid that has incredibly calming effects as it can increase GABA (our calming neurotransmitter) and dopamine. It can also inhibit glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter) by binding to its receptors instead. It may also lower cortisol.
You will find that it is present in a lot of sleep supplements too, as it can also aid in promoting sleep quality.
Recommend? Only when appropriate. Can be a helpful tool in support anxiety and staying focused (best when combined with the caffeine from green tea). Take in between meals to stop other amino acids competing for absorption. Speak with your health care professional first. We cannot stress enough how important it is to also be putting in the hard work of radical rest and self-care alongside taking this supplement. Its not a magic de-stressor, and should be supplemented alongside your calming lifestyle practices.
If you have PCOS, chances are you know about spearmint tea! Spearmint (tea and oil) has been studied due to its antiandrogenic effects (high androgens can be a driver for acne, hair loss, hair growth etc). Results have also shown spearmint supporting weight loss in PCOS because of this. It can also increase estradiol (oestrogen) in women. Spearmint could be used in combination with flaxseed for PCOS to balance progesterone levels. May help with irregular cycles and may also raise SHBG.
Recommend? Yes. For hormonal acne, it can be a great tool. Typically you would aim for two cups of spearmint tea per day. We always recommend keeping an eye on your symptoms when taking. Remember, it has to be spearmint which can be a bit of a pain in the ass to get your hands on. Peppermint and mint tea isn't the same thing.
Milk thistle can be taken in tea form, tincture or in supplement form. It is a great herb that can help support phase one liver detoxification - converting harmful toxins and hormones into a less harmful state. It also promotes the health of your liver itself due to its antioxidant profile and free-radical fighting properties.
It may also lower blood sugar and we recommend supplementing during your luteal phase when we want to be supporting the detoxification and excretion of metabolised hormones so that we don't get those pesky PMS symptoms.
Recommend? Yes. As with all of these supplements, everyone is different and if you are unsure, always check with your health care professional/ naturopath. We recommend milk thistle for oestrogen dominant symptoms (heavy, long periods, PMS, tender breasts, mood, acne) and symptoms of sluggish detoxification. It is generally considered very safe. Pregnancy is the exception and always check against any medication you may be taking.
In our opinion, selenium is a bit of an underrated nutrient. It is ESSENTIAL for the immune system and supports the liver through its detoxification phases (essential for balanced hormones!). It also works to support and protect the thyroid and production of thyroid hormone which is essential for metabolism throughout every body cell.
Recommend? It really depends on the person. For the average woman, get it in by consuming three Brazil nuts per day (must be from selenium-rich soil!). A lot of multi-vitamins include selenium - but we wouldn't recommend supplementing on top of that unless otherwise directed to by your healthcare professional. If TTC, it should be in your prenatal.
The coolest kid on the block right now. Yes, vitamin C plays a huge role in immune function, but it is also super important for hormone health. The oral contraceptive pill may deplete levels (we mentioned in part one, you may want to consider a multi post-pill). We need vitamin c for healthy progesterone levels. We want lovely, high levels of progesterone during that second half of our cycles for healthy cycle length as well as when TTC.
Recommend? Again, it depends on the person. Some women with luteal phase defect can do well with a little extra vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Some diets can come up short in vitamin C (keto, insufficient fruits and veggies), in that case, we would recommend supplementing. If you're cramming in lots of lovely dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, berries, sweet potato and squash, you should be fine.
A potent antioxidant and not often regarded when it comes to optimal hormone health, but important nonetheless. Vitamin E can be a good nutrient to consider for menopause symptoms and similarly to vitamin c, may be helpful for those with short cycles or luteal phase defect. Supports progesterone.
Recommend? Vitamin E is pretty easy to get from food, think eggs, nuts, seeds and greens. Again, it really does come down to the individual as everyone doesn't need to supplement with, however, some may find it helpful.
Most recognisable as a menopause herb, black cohosh (at 20 mg daily, one studied showed) can help the severity of hot flushes when taken for eight weeks. Thought to have phytoestrogen-like properties. It does have other uses too, another studied showed that it when taken alongside fertility drug clomid, women with PCOS have a higher chance of falling pregnant.
However, it may also be a helpful supplement to help regulate irregular cycles (as long as you're also putting in the groundwork!). It could potentially help with oestrogen dominant conditions such as fibroids and PMS.
Recommend? For menopause, we really recommend working with a herbalist for this one! It definitely depends on the individual. Do not take long-term.
Prebiotics help create and establish a healthy gut microbiome whilst probiotics help maintain a healthy gut. Often if one is having issues such as oestrogen dominance, symptoms of acne and low mood, adding in a prebiotic supplement alongside your probiotic could be really helpful.
Recommend? Yes! Of course, there are a few cases when the gut needs extra support and testing, but prebiotics can be a really great addition, especially as so many hormonal imbalances can be rooted in gut issues. We like inulin powder added to smoothies in the morning. Some probiotics also include prebiotics too.
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