LIVING NATURALLY with Olwen Anderson
IF THERE'S a particular thread that runs through the scientific literature about hormone management, it's that what you eat has a remarkable effect on what your hormones do, particularly the important balance between oestrogen and progesterone.
Each of the cells in your body responsive to oestrogen have a number of stalk-like receptors poking out from the cell membrane.
They're waiting for a passing oestrogen molecule to latch on, which tells them to do their job. For example, the cells of your uterus will work on preparing a lining each month when oestrogen instructs them to.
Ideally, there's only a certain amount of hormone to go around, to prevent cells 'overdosing'.
Too much oestrogen can lead to some really unpleasant effects, including pre-menstrual tension. To help prevent this happening your body has a helper on the job.
Meet sex hormone binding globulin; or SHBG for short. It's a molecule on a mission; produced by your liver, it is tasked with the job of mopping up excess hormones, particularly oestrogen.
The shape of this molecule is a perfect fit for oestrogen molecules, so they happily latch together; and the next time this conjoined molecule passes through the liver it is removed from circulation and pushed out with bile towards your intestines.
Then SHBG is soaked up by dietary fibre and provided with an express ride out of your body, reducing excess oestrogen and easing pre-menstrual tension.
Oddly, the more fibre in your diet the more SHBG is produced and the more effectively excess oestrogen can be mopped up.
If there's not enough fibre in your diet not enough SHBG will be produced and you'll be vulnerable to the pre-menstrual effects of excess oestrogen: like mood swings, sugar cravings and fluid retention.
So, fibre in your diet has a double benefit for your hormones: not only can it increase the levels of SHBG that will mop up the excess hormones, but it will also enable removal of excess hormones out of your body.
So to help balance your hormones you need fibre. Vegetables are ideal, the unsung heroes of fibre supplements. Two cups of salad will provide half the minimum fibre your body needs to function well. Have another two cups of vegetables at night, a handful of nuts as a snack, two pieces of fruit each day and some whole grains (like oats) too.
Now you'll have more of that helpful SHBG and an easier cycle.
* Olwen Anderson is a naturopath and counsellor and a columnist with the Tweed Daily News. She can be contacted at www.olwenanderson.com.au