Do you have mood swings, weight gain, hair loss, or just feel out of balance? Nearly 1 out of 5 women of childbearing age experience the stress of ovarian-endocrine hormone imbalances. Underlying issues include insulin resistance, excess body fat, dysregulation of sex steroid hormone production, and oxidative stress. Irregular or prolonged periods, mood stress, facial or body hair growth, hair loss, problems with fertility, and acne may occur. Cardiovascular and cholesterol health may also be affected. Diet and lifestyle substantially contribute to these concerns and are factors that you can control. Learn what you can do to help protect the health of your ovaries.
Insulin Resistance Stresses Ovarian Health
Insulin resistance and obesity are the most important triggers of dysregulated ovarian-endocrine metabolic function. The high saturated fat/sugar-rich diet and/or sedentary lifestyle of today markedly impair insulin function and your body’s usage of blood sugar.
Insulin resistance, or impaired sensitivity to insulin, occurs when cells in your fat, liver, and muscles do not respond in a normal way. Cells lack sensitivity to insulin, so blood sugar is not metabolized efficiently. Insulin and blood sugar levels remain elevated, which is stressful to your body.
As insulin resistance progresses, fat cells deposit into muscles and other tissues lending to increased weight gain, obesity, and fatty degeneration of metabolic function. This promotes high amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS) free radicals, which subsequently provokes ongoing mitochondrial injury. It becomes a perpetual cascade of damage that drives insulin resistance, obesity, and a variety of hormone imbalances and increases the risk for ovarian disorders.
Mitochondria are the energy hub of all body organs including your ovaries. They burn fat and glucose for energy production. While making energy, ROS are naturally produced and quenched by antioxidants. Healthy mitochondria and insulin management require dietary antioxidants and nutrient dense foods for protection and healthy function. Fat burning and energy production will falter with an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.
Insulin resistance also stresses your adrenal glands and/or ovaries to increase production of androgens, which can cause acne and facial hair growth.
Dietary Sugar and Saturated Fat Adversely Affects Ovarian Health
In addition to insulin resistance induced oxidative stress, the inflammatory signals TNF-alpha and NF-kappa B are also released. These compounds add to the free radical, pro-inflammatory burden in fat cells, mitochondria, and gut. This milieu of oxidative stress affects estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and androgen metabolism in your ovaries, endometrial lining, and breasts. Oxidative stress makes it harder for your gut and liver to detoxify these hormones. However, by changing a few very important things in your diet and lifestyle, you can modify and support your body’s environment for healthy ovaries and hormones.
Modifiable Factors: Dietary Fiber and Bifidobacteria
Dietary fiber with beneficial Bifidobacteria, a major class of beneficial bacteria in your gut, provides critical support in the management of insulin secretion and utilization. Fiber and Bifidobacteria also produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) like butyrate, which helps manage inflammatory responses and signals in your gut and elsewhere in your body. Reducing your body’s inflammatory response is critical for blood sugar and insulin management and ovarian health.
Dietary fiber and Bifidobacteria help buffer against pro-inflammatory compounds, protect mitochondrial function, and improve insulin management induced by excess sugar and fat ingestion. Fiber, beneficial flora, and SCFA in your gut help your brain feel full and satisfied, which in turn calms sugar and fat cravings.Dietary fiber is critical for maintaining “happy beneficial gut flora”, which directly affects ovarian health, hormone metabolism, and detoxification.
The Standard American Diet does not provide adequate dietary fiber for most individuals. High fiber diets are critical for managing many metabolic mechanisms involved with ovarian-endocrine health. Strive for 35 grams or more of fiber per day. Most individuals get 10-15 grams of fiber per day - quite short of what is needed.
Reduce Total Carbohydrate Intake and Increase Healthy Fats
Lower dietary carbohydrate intake improves insulin management in women with ovarian metabolic stress. A clinical trial demonstrated that reducing carbohydrates from 60% or more of the diet to 43% was successful for insulin management and related ovarian-endocrine stress. Lab values of hormone imbalances showed improvements as early as three weeks after dietary changes.
Use of oils and fats from cold water fatty fish, avocados, flax and chia seeds, olive, walnut, sesame, and sunflower oil is helpful combined with reduced intake of saturated fat. Omega-3 oils (EPA/DHA) from cold water fatty fish are extremely important for ovarian health and insulin resistance. Use at least 1000 mg of DHA or more for support.
Reduce Glycemic Load and Fructose Intake
Most vegetables, some fruits, whole or minimally processed grains, eggs, dairy, raw seeds and nuts, meats, and oils provide low glycemic load. Avoid white flour, white sugar, high starch, and processed foods.
Fructose rich foods include high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave, invert sugar, molasses, palm or coconut sugar, sorghum, as well as fruit juice, apples, grapes, watermelon, asparagus, peas, zucchini, and more.
Vigorous exercise has a marked effect on insulin sensitivity and supports ovarian-endocrine health. A minimum of 120 minutes per week of vigorous intensity exercise such as high-intensity, interval training (HIIT) or other significant aerobic activity is recommended to support healthy insulin mechanisms, body composition, and ovarian health. Exercise is the best way to build new healthy mitochondria.
Sleep and Melatonin
Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant released by the pineal gland in the brain for sleep and circadian rhythm management, but it is also found in your ovaries. Quality, restorative sleep and melatonin provide antioxidant protection to your ovaries, their hormones, and improve insulin management.
Weight management is directly impacted by your natural body clock and day/night circadian rhythms. Avoid the use of tech devices, blue light, and bright white LED at least 2 hours before bed to help your body’s natural release of melatonin with nightfall. Melatonin also provides antioxidant support for mitochondria.
Nutrients for Insulin Sensitivity
Several herbal nutrients provide bioactive measures that support insulin sensitivity and ovarian health. These include cinnamon, ginger, resveratrol, and turmeric, as well as soluble fiber.Chromium is helpful with insulin resistance and may also modulate other sex steroid hormones affected by ovarian-endocrine dysregulation.
Critical Nutrients for Ovarian-Endocrine and Mitochondrial Function
Higher intakes of vitamin B1 (thiamin), B3 (niacin),vitamin B12, folate, vitamin D, vitamin C, and calcium have also been shown to be essential for ovarian-endocrine health. Many women with ovarian stress have been shown to lack adequate intake of these nutrients.
In addition, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial 12-week study demonstrated that magnesium, zinc, and vitamin D in addition to calcium supplementation was very helpful. Positive effects were seen with ovarian-endocrine hormone profiles, and biomarkers related with inflammation and oxidative stress. Many of these nutrients are also required by your mitochondria for function and antioxidant protection as well as insulin management.
The prevalence of ovarian-endocrine dysregulation has increased with the prevalence of the 21st Century high fat/sugar/nutrient poor foods and sedentary lifestyle. The misery that comes with dysregulated hormones and stressed ovaries can be directly changed by making good lifestyle and nutritional choices. Work with these helpful tips to get your health back on track. You can do this!