No more moanin’ about your hormones
It’s normal for hormones to rise and fall throughout your menstrual cycle. If this delicate dance is hindered in any way, you might experience anxiety, irregular periods, weight gain, fatigue and more.

The endocrine system is made up of glands that produce and secrete hormones, which function as the body’s chemical messengers, relaying vital information to cells and tissues. Hormones are responsible for ensuring all the body’s systems function efficiently and are fundamental for growth and development, metabolism, sexual function, reproduction and a balanced mood.

Hormones rise and fall throughout the menstrual cycle. If this delicate dance is hindered in any way, you may experience one or more of these adverse symptoms:

  • Irregular periods
  • Premenstrual syndrome (mood changes, bloating, stool changes, acne, insomnia, cravings, sweating, anxiety, depression, tender breasts, migraines)
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dizziness and blood glucose problems
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced sexual drive
  • Thinning hair and problematic skin
  • Breast tenderness
  • Fluid retention

As a naturopath and nutritionist who specialises in women’s reproductive health and hormones, I see women experiencing these symptoms regularly in clinic. However, while these symptoms are very common, it does not mean they are normal.

Fortunately, there are many ways to promote healthy and balanced hormones, and a wonderful place to begin is with your diet. Food is the foundation of health and truly the best form of medicine, providing you with the building blocks to function optimally.

A few of my favourite hormone-loving foods

Magnesium-rich foods (cacao, green leafy vegetables, legumes, almonds)

It has been shown that when estrogen decreases prior to menstruating, levels of serotonin (one of your neurotransmitters) also decrease. Premenstrual migraines and emotional stress have been associated with fluctuations in serotonin. Magnesium has been shown to reduce the severity of serotonin fluctuations and therefore migraines and mood changes. In addition to this, magnesium can help to decrease menstrual water retention, cravings, anxiety and menstrual pain due to reducing levels of prostaglandins, which are inflammatory markers in the body.

Calcium-rich foods (sardines, seeds, broccoli, egg yolk)

Research suggests women suffering from premenstrual symptoms have lower levels of calcium than women with symptom-free cycles. Estrogen has a regulatory effect on calcium, so when estrogen declines in the luteal phase (second half of the menstrual cycle), calcium levels also fall. Interestingly, hypocalcaemia and emotional premenstrual symptoms are very similar. Clinical trials have shown that supplementing with calcium successfully alleviates the majority of mood and somatic premenstrual symptoms.

Zinc-rich foods (beef, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, oysters, whole grains)

Zinc is one of the most abundant trace minerals in the body and is required for the development of oocytes, supports healthy ovulation and increases fertility. Zinc is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that has been shown to help reduce dysmenorrhea (pain and cramping associated with menstruation). Additionally, zinc helps reduce hormone-related acne through its anti-inflammatory, wound healing and collagen-promoting properties.

Iodine-rich foods (mushrooms, seaweed, dairy products, seafood)

Iodine deficiency in the modern diet is becoming increasingly common. The ovaries contain the highest concentration of iodine after the thyroid gland and a deficiency in this mineral can impact fertility. Adequate iodine intake has been shown to improve ovulation frequency and reduce the risk of polycystic ovaries. Iodine deficiency is linked with fibrocystic breast tissue, pain and an increased risk of breast cancer. Research has shown that following iodine supplementation, breast pain, tenderness and nodules were reduced.

Complex carbohydrates (brown rice, sweet potato, oats, legumes)

Normal menstruation is impaired when there is a restriction in dietary calories. Complex carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel required to regulate your blood glucose. When you restrict carbohydrates, your blood glucose drops, triggering cortisol, one of your stress hormones, to be released. Prolonged release of cortisol places the body in a “fight or flight” nervous system state which, over time, interferes with the hormonal cascade required for menstruation and can lead to irregular periods.

Your body is constantly providing feedback through signs and symptoms and it is your job to listen and respond. Keeping track of each menstrual cycle can provide great insight into how balanced your hormones are.

One of the best ways to nourish your hormones is through a balanced organic or chemical spray-free wholefoods diet, rich in colourful fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, adequate protein and wholegrains.


Ema Taylor is a naturopath, clinical nutritionist and certified fertility awareness educator. For more, visit or @emataylornaturopathy on Instagram.