As I've researched this perimenopause season, I've learned that you actually can incorporate foods that help naturally increase estrogen levels. Though perimenopause began for me a few years ago, it's taken this long to figure out that that's what was happening. Like many women, I began experiencing a lot of strange physical anomalies and I spent a lot of time with my doctors focusing on issues like thyroid problems, biopsies to test for cancer, and basically everything besides what should have been the first assumption: that my hormones were fluctuating. I was in my 40s so why wouldn't that have been the first thing a medical professional would check?
After confirming perimenopause, I asked my doctor if there was anything I can do about the extreme weight gain, mood swings, hot flashes, sleepless nights, etc, etc, etc. Quite simply, she said she could prescribe estrogen if the hot flashes are troublesome, and to go on a no carb, no sugar diet to lose weight.
I said no thank you to the estrogen and very reluctantly attempted the no carb/no sugar thing...which lasted precisely 24 hours at which time I ate about 6 cookies. I've never been a "dieter" and I have absolutely zero willpower. I'd always been the skinny girl, until the past few years, during which time I gained 50 pounds.
Every Monday, I've started a new eating plan which lasts one day then I'm back to my old ways. Remember, zero willpower. To this very day, my friend, I'm still not more disciplined about my nutrition choices. Part of my reason for starting this community is self-centered. I truly want to make a lifestyle change, but I need an accountability partner. We can be each other's accountability partners.
I don't like the word "diet" and I'm also not a fan of the popular diets that require certain nutrient restrictions and counting grams, calories, and percentages. I'm not against them, I'm just not for them. I think lifestyle changes and nutrition plans are more sustainable for the long term. For me, if I have to restrict foods, count macros, micros, calories, fat or anything else that needs to be counted or tracked, I will not be successful.
I've done the research and essentially, foods that help improve estrogen levels are also foods that are good for anyone seeking better nutrition. These foods include things like:
nuts - pistachios, peanuts, walnuts
dried prunes and dates
red wine - woo hoo!! (In moderation, with a meal, of course!)
You'll often find articles that promote soy products. This will need to be a very individual choice. Keep in mind soy has other issues that come with it so if you plan to incorporate it, consider low amounts of soy products and focus more on the other options.
PLEASE NOTE: it is not healthy to only consume the foods on this list. Everyone, no matter the season of life, needs a well-balanced nutrition plan. Obviously, since many of us aren't fans of estrogen therapy, it's not good to overload the estrogen-producing foods either. These should be looked at as supplements so you can properly manage moderate consumption.
There are myriad factors that impact hormones, and we must remember that hormones are more than estrogen and testosterone. It includes cortisol, our stress hormone which truly impacts everything else within our amazing bodies. Remember that song from when we were kids..."the thigh bone's connected to the knee bone, the knee bone's connected to the shin bone..."? Similarly, every system within us is connected to each other. This article by Dr. Axe, posted on Healthline is THE MOST well-rounded resource for understanding this.
"If your diet doesn’t supply enough energy or “materials” to make all the hormones you need, it’ll prioritize production of stress hormones first because they’re essential for survival." - Dr. Axe
Starting now, I'm going to make better choices. I will stock my kitchen with whole foods that will provide me the nutrients my body needs in this season, and I will also make sure they are options I will actually eat. One thing I've learned is that if a food item is on the list of good options, I'm not going to magically start to like it. I'm not a picky eater, but I do want to make sure I'm focused more on consuming healthy foods I enjoy even if that means fewer options. Sometimes, fewer choices can be a good thing since it can be easier to decide what to eat. They say that eating boring can be the best way to control weight. The current state of my body would indicate I haven't been bored for a very long time!
If you relate to these issues, join me in starting today. Don't overwhelm yourself. Simply focus on your next snack or next meal. Make better choices, not perfect choices. Give yourself permission to enjoy a treat once in a while. Together we can reach our goals of a healthier lifestyle and better functioning body without completely ridding our lives of the things we enjoy.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. I am not a medical professional, I am simply a woman who has done research and I want to share my findings with others. You MUST make decisions that are right for you. There is no one answer that works for everyone.