Despite all of our technology and medical advancements, we still can’t get our hormones in working order. Women come to me with hormonal complaints from low mood to cramps, hot flashes and PMS, and conventional options tend to do more harm than good. The tiny flaxseed, however, has never failed me in helping women get on track to achieving hormone balance.
While flaxseeds are known mostly for their omega-3 content, the fat doesn’t interest me. Flaxseeds contain Alpha Linoleic Acid, or ALA, which is an omega-3 fat that is poorly converted to its active form in the body. For your omega-3 fats, it’s best to stick with cold-water fish.
However, the humble flaxseed has powerful properties when it comes to hormone troubles. Inside those small brown seeds are compounds that help restore hormonal health in 3 different ways:
Flaxseeds contain a series of chemicals called lignans, which have a phytoestrogenic effect. Phytoestrogens, or “plant-estrogens” are very weak hormone analogues that talk to the body’s hormone receptors and modulate their actions. In other words, it can help lower the estrogenic effect when you have too much or raise it when you have too little.
2) Sex Hormone Binding Globulin
Our bodies produce a protein in our blood called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin, or SHBG. SHBG has an affinity for testosterone and estrogen – two hormones which are commonly elevated in women with hormone conditions such as PCOS or painful periods. When SHBG binds a hormone, it renders the hormone inactive, but hormone imbalance often lowers SHBG levels. A study showed the flaxseed consumption raised SHBG when it needed to be increased, and minimized the detrimental effects of excess estrogen and testosterone.
The primary route of excretion of excess hormones is through the bowels. Being regular is essential to hormonal health – you need to go to the washroom at least once per day. Flaxseed is a source of fibre that gels up in the digestive tract and helps to move things along the intestines. Not only does this make flax a great option for hormones, but it also helps rid the body of excess cholesterol as well.
If you want to include flax in your diet, it’s pretty simple, but there is one rule – you must purchase the seeds whole, grind them yourself, and store them in the fridge/freezer. Otherwise, pre-ground flax meal is already rancid and will not confer any benefit to you if you eat it. Whole seeds are shelf stable for a long time, but they will not get broken down by the digestive system and therefore will be of no help. I use a coffee grinder to make my own flax meal and store it in the freezer where it will last for months.
It’s incredible to me how we forget that sometimes, the most important medicine is the food we put into our bodies all day, every day. You can eat your way to healthy hormones with a little know-how and dedication. I’ve done it myself.
Try some ground flaxseeds in your morning smoothie or oatmeal to balance your hormones!