How to balance hormones naturally
There are various steps couples can take to improve their chances of conceiving, such as tweaking their diet, practising gentle stress-busting exercise, and taking supplements.
SLEEP ON IT
Adequate, quality sleep is crucial for balancing hormones. Make sure you're in bed before midnight as the adrenal glands, which produce the stress hormone cortisol, recharge between the hours of 11pm and 1am. Excess cortisol can deplete progesterone, which is essential for successful implantation of the egg.
Cortisol also controls the levels of other key hormones including oestrogen and testosterone. In fact, an even earlier bedtime is better. Peak melatonin and HGH (human growth hormone) secretion takes place between 10pm and 2am: melatonin regulates the sleep cycle while the 'youth hormone' HGH stimulates cell repair.
Finally, try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night. According to Dr Sara Gottfried, author of The Hormone Cure, eight is the magic number for 94pc of us.
A PINEAPPLE A DAY
Pineapples are full of health-giving properties and are often added to the diets of those trying to balance their hormones naturally. The tropical fruit contains the enzyme bromelain, which boosts testosterone. This is why bodybuilders often eat pineapple with each meal - testosterone supports muscle growth.
Pineapple also boosts the production of HGH when consumed before bedtime. Recent research indicates that HGH, as well as helping with cell repair, can enhance the ovarian response and many fertility doctors use it as part of their treatment programmes.
Pineapple contains naturally occurring serotonin too. This 'happy hormone' stabilises mood and helps regulate sleep patterns. Pineapple should only be eaten when ovulation is confirmed and should be avoided in the weeks leading up to ovulation as the acidity can induce hostile cervical mucus. Remember that pineapple should be fresh and not canned, and should never be cored as the core contains the highest levels of bromelain.
SCENTS & SENSES
Essential oils can treat hormone imbalances holistically. Dr Daniel Penoel, a leading essential oil researcher, is particularly excited about myrtle oil, which he says regulates hormonal imbalances of both the thyroid and ovaries. Other essential oils to explore include clary sage which, according to the Journal of Phytotherapy Research, can reduce cortisol levels by 36pc and encourage the production of oestrogens and lavender.
Always consult your doctor before using essential oils for fertility. Some varieties of essential oils should not be used during pregnancy, in particular clary sage which can cause contractions and induce labour.
Colleen Harte, clinical aromatherapist and founder of Lucy Annabella Organics says: "When conceiving there are eight main hormones at play with a network of sub hormones which play an integral role in fertility and the ability to conceive, keep and birth a child. Some of these hormones are easier to treat than others, but with the help of a few essential oils and their phytohormonal properties, essential oils are alway worth adding to your fertility plan."
HERBS & TINCTURES
A number of herbs are said to balance hormones and increase fertility. These include lady's mantle; yarrow; liquorice root; evening primrose oil; red raspberry leaf; nettle leaf; red clover; maca and chaste tree berry.
Remember to consult your GP before taking herbal supplements and do not take in combination with fertility drugs or bio-identical hormone treatment.
Stress and anxiety increases the levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, circulating in the blood stream. Stress hormones inhibit the optimal production of the main sex hormone, gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) and subsequently suppress ovulation, sperm count and sexual desire.
Stress hormones can be balanced by physical activity and relaxation outlets like fertility yoga, acupuncture, mindfulness meditation or even a gentle 20-minute stroll at lunchtime. Laughter, music and spending time with family and friends are also proven to reduce stress hormone levels.
Dermot O'Connor, author of The Fertility Code, believes that qigong, a deceptively gentle Chinese healing exercise system, is the perfect exercise for fertility as it uses "gentle movements, focused breathing and meditative techniques" to lower stress hormone levels.
"The ovaries are exquisitely sensitive," he says. "Neither extreme physical fitness nor lack of exercise leading to extra pounds is ideal for attaining pregnancy. For optimum fertility, you should gently exercise for only about 30 minutes a day, focus on your nutrition for attaining your ideal weight and choose a meditative system of exercise like yoga or qigong."
CONSIDER A PROBIOTIC
Lactobacillus can promote semen quality and protect the sperm against pathogens, while Lactobacillus gasseri OLL 2809 could help prevent the growth of endometrial tissue. There is also evidence to suggest that probiotics can optimise cervical mucus, protect sperm and ova from oxidative stress and prevent infections such as bacterial vaginosis or yeast overgrowth, thus promoting fertility.
Make sure to opt for probiotics that contain live cells and at least one billion colony-forming units.
Health & Living