How To Support Your Hormones Through your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s
Lola Ross works as a clinician and educator in the hormone and reproductive space and sees first hand how our foods and lifestyles can affect us and our hormonal health. After interviewing her as part of our International Women’s Day series this March, she educated us on the foundations that can help to support your hormones through the different decades – from your 20s, right up until your 60s.
If you’ve been on hormonal contraceptives in your teens, your 20’s are a good time to consider a hormonal birth control break or switching to a non-hormonal alternative. Many teens are put on birth control to address unwanted hormonal symptoms like heavy periods, acne, mood issues or cycle-pain and while they can be useful to suppress symptoms, they can also mask underlying imbalances like PCOS, endometriosis or fibroids which can affect long term health and fertility down the line. Experiencing your body contraceptive-free can help you to understand your natural hormone activity, notice any irregularities and allow you to address any underlying imbalances. The 20’s can be more party-focused with alcohol induced late nights – all of which can impact your hormone health and trigger imbalances as you move into your 30s. I’d encourage you to start building healthy mind and body habits now so that they become life long routines.
In your 30s the toxic body burden can be from elements of everyday life – such as medications, pollution, poor eating, negative recreational habits or chronic stress. These may start to become more apparent in your health and experienced as cycle, gut, immune or mood dysfunctions. The liver may be less efficient in coping with detoxification too in your 30s and our detoxification pathways need to be in good health to efficiently keep our hormones in balance. Adequate fibre and hydration is essential in supporting gut health and healthy detoxification. If you are considering your fertility – you should be focused on your hormone health plan. Nourish your ovaries and glands with the nutrients needed to support conception – including foods containing vitamin E, A, C and omega fatty acids like flaxseed. Even if babies aren’t part of your plan, your 30’s are still a time to really elevate your wellness routines. I would advise you to start to embrace better habits as you move into your 40s, when early symptoms of the menopause transistion may start to appear.
As your sex hormones begin to shift, mood and cycle changes can take place during this decade. Perimenopause is a natural stage of the reproductive life cycle and some breeze through this just fine, however for many, there will be more uncomfortable symptoms. In early perimenopause estrogen can rise initially, triggering symptoms such as sleep issues, mood shifts, vaginal changes or heavier bleeds – this is before estrogen then starts to decline over the decade. You may find that your body needs more support as you journey through perimenopause and some of the key guidance I give is to pull back on alcohol and other pro-inflammatory foods such as meats, refined sugars and saturated fats. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods like nuts, whole grains and vegetables full of antioxidants which will protect your body from inflammation and oxidative stress.
As we grow and age our thyroid health can become imbalanced which can have a knock on effect across your endocrine system. This vital hormone gland regulates every metabolic process from energy burning and libido to ovarian function and stress management. Low-toxic exposure from products and environment, as well as eating a plant-centric diet that includes iodine, tyrosine, zinc and B vitamins can help to support health. This is a good time to invest in your health and get some tailored support from a nutritionist to help you understand how to protect your hormones and manage any symptoms that can occur during your menopause transition.
Oestrogen is at low levels during this period and most women will have gone through the menopause by their mid 50s. The ability to reproduce will stop and you’ll be free from unwanted pregnancies, which can be a real plus for enjoying hetrosexual intimacy. However, very low estrogen levels can affect collagen production, skin appearance and vaginal health. Supporting foods that add moisture, hydration and integrity are key – think omega fats, plenty of water and vitamin C and consider using a good quality collagen peptide. Estrogen is also involved in bone maintenance, so when estrogen declines it can make you more susceptible to bone, ligament and muscle injury, as well as osteoporosis. It’s worth checking if osteoporosis runs in your family and be mindful to include adequate calcium, magnesium and vitamin D in your diet. Unfortunately, the risk of breast cancer and heart disease rises at this time too, so limiting sugar, saturated fats and exercising will support your long term health.
From your 60s onwards, the plus side of low hormone activity is that you may feel more balanced emotionally and experience a steadier sense of wellbeing. However the risk of bone, health, breast and other cancers continues to increase. Nutrients are generally not absorbed as efficiently during this decade so staying focused on a balanced diet full of antioxidants, phytonutrients, micro and macro nutrients (such as fibre and protein) is essential to maintaining nutrient levels. A diet focused on low anima-food, high omega 3 foods and rich fibres can help to reduce the risk of bowel cancer and support cognitive function and eye health