Living in paradise is definitely a positive thing for our health and longevity in general. And yet even here, people of different ages can come down with hormonal imbalances resulting in various health concerns. In many cases, instead of starting a long term relationship with prescription hormone replacement therapy, there are safer holistic options. Because no matter which way you slice it – hormones, even if they are bioidentical – still raise cancer risk, albeit less than their non-bioidentical siblings do. Holistically speaking, if we modify our food intake a little bit, we can get many of the same benefits without side effects of hormones whatsoever.
The most common hormone culprit in both men and women is certainly cortisol. It is the primary hormone of the sympathetic autonomic nervous system and is released by the adrenal glands when we feel threatened or anxious. From the evolutionary standpoint, it was designed to help us handle acute dangers like oncoming predators in prehistoric times. Normally, cortisol is highest in the morning, and then tapers off as the day goes by.
Unfortunately, in the modern world, we are exposed to prolonged stress and chronic anxiety, and most people test for excessively high cortisol levels throughout the day. Keep in mind that cortisol is a fat depositing hormone contributing to obesity as well. It also raises blood pressure and increases risk for diabetes by elevating baseline glucose in the blood. Last but not least, cortisol promotes inflammation, which is correlated with every illness known to humanity today. To balance out your cortisol nutritionally, first cut back on the amounts and frequency of alcohol and caffeine intake.
Next, start eating mostly an anti-inflammatory diet, predominantly fruits (especially berries), vegetables, nuts, and beans. It is prudent to enrich your diet with Omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish, like wild caught Atlantic, Norwegian, or Alaskan salmon. Finally, adding a small amount of goat or sheep cheese to your diet will provide glutamine – an amino acid, which is a precursor of L-theanine – an important neuro-hormone which helps to regulate cortisol.
For women entering or going through menopause, who tested for estrogen deficiency, common hormonal symptoms are tiredness, low libido, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness. Many people do not want to take hormone replacement therapy, even if it is bioidentical, because of the small but significant risk for breast, uterine, and colon cancers. Instead, consider adding a small amount of plant derived estrogens to your diet. Typically, 50mg of phytoestrogens eaten daily is sufficient for alleviating most of the menopause-related ailments. This can be supplied by a small cup of miso soup or 4 oz. of tempeh. If you don’t like the taste of the former you can opt for 1 and ½ cup of soy milk daily or 1 and ½ cup of tofu yogurt daily. There are other foods rich in phytoestrogens, such as flax seeds, tofu, garlic, dried apricots, prunes, and sesame seeds and these can serve as a tasty component in many recipes.
Menopause is also accompanied by the decreasing progesterone levels. The lack of this hormone is accompanied by painful breasts, hair loss, bloatedness and headaches. In the past, it was customary to treat this with progesterone hormone replacement therapy or its bioidentical variant. However, progesterone, even bioidentical, poses small but significant risks for developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, blood clots and stroke. Instead, try nature’s’ own pharmacy: enriching your diet with yams and sweet potatoes, brown rice, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts and avocados – all will help optimizing the body’s own manufacturing of progesterone.
Now, let’s turn to a common aging concern in men – namely andropause – a decrease in testosterone levels. This can lead to erectile dysfunction and/or impaired libido, both of which can be very discouraging to say the least. Instead of turning to prescription or bioidentical hormones right away, try the following change in your diet. For those men who are obese or overweight – the most important first step is to lose weight to bring Body Mass Index (BMI) to normal range of 20-25. This is so because every pound of excess fat disables normal testosterone functioning by transforming it into estrogen molecules. The next step would be to eat an antiinflammatory diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and beans. For a colorful example of such diet, take a look at Dr. Weil’s website at: https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/anti-inflammatory-dietpyramid/dr-weils-anti-inflammatory-food-pyramid/ and you can tweak this to your liking and tasting preferences. It is important to remember that just because something is natural, does not mean that it cannot be harmful. So, instead of indiscriminately starting to favor a certain food group – talk to your holistic physician customizing this nutritional advice just for you, with your unique medical history and lifestyle.
Dr. Kogan is a Concierge Holistic Internal Medicine doctor in Naples.
Her website is CustomLongevity.com. Office phone: 239-676