Pink Flowers. Fierce. Sunshine. Powerful. Aloof. Silhouette. All heart. Braveheart. What defines a woman one can never say, she’s a surprise, she’s unpredictable. While she may have her heart on her sleeve, she’s as liberated as she is integrated. Her wings are folded to protect her loved ones and open out as she soars high.
Egging her along her journey are a bouquet of happy hormones, that feed her spirit, accelerate or slow down her pace, constantly challenging her coping mechanism, willing her to concede defeat where only victory should have been written.
Estrogen and progesterone are the uber-important sex hormones for women that not just do the work of bringing on the menstrual cycle every month, but also affect her mood and personality.
Estrogen gives you wings
Estrogen increases the production of serotonin and this happy musketeer, in turn, displays its act on two fronts. In the brain, it enhances mood, sexual function, dispels fear and anxiety and opens the doors to better clarity and focus. Being quite the overachiever, in the gut serotonin promotes satiety, nutrient absorption and digestion while also downplaying food cravings.
Flaxseeds, strawberries, peaches, pistachios, walnuts, dried prunes and apricots and red wine are good sources of phytoestrogen. Women should look to include these foods as part of their daily diet. But remember that estrogen plays a good role when it is balanced with progesterone.
Very high levels of estrogen or poor estrogen to progesterone ratios could increase the risk of breast cancer, mood swings and irregular menstrual cycles. So, it’s important to keep a watch on your cycles and the changes they exhibit through stress, childbirth, menopause and other life phases.
In the first 2-3 weeks from the start of the period, estrogen plays quite the hero. But paying obeisance to the fact that too much of a good thing is not beneficial, estrogen levels do drop paving way for progesterone which brilliantly maintains that delicate balance between the two hormones.
Keep calm and progesterone
Progesterone, after all the excitement produced by estrogen, is a rather calming hormone. This is linked to its metabolite allopregnanolone which in turn promotes the release of the much-needed neurotransmitter GABA.
GABA decelerates the pace, applies that much-needed regulation on the high wave, shifting the brain and body into a lower gear. This promotes sleep, lowers stress and calms the mind down. The much-desired lullaby is what GABA offers. GABA also plays an important role in appetite, metabolism and the strong functioning of the immune system.
Fatty fish, poultry, seafood, whole grains, spinach, potato, bananas, citrus fruits like kiwi and orange, seeds (like pumpkin and sunflower) and beans promote the production of progesterone, so make these healthy additions companions in your journey!
It goes without saying that a healthy lifestyle armoured with good sleep and exercise is irreplaceable to maintain the state of your happy hormones. There is no substitute to repair, to strengthening your body again after the wear and tear of the day. Leave yourself no choice but to sleep 7 hours every single night and wear that pair of exercise shoes at least 3-4 times a week if not more!
Anupama Menon is a nutritionist and food coach based in Mumbai and Bangalore offering sustainable nutritional plans with 3 chEATs per week.