Okay so you hit the big three-oh. And you’ve been warned about the impending hormonal roller coaster you’re about to embark on. But, honestly, what does that even mean? Generally, female hormones will start to fluctuate starting around 30, peak at 35 and then level out around 40. This trend is synched up with what’s going in your ovaries, so when your egg count begins to decrease, your hormones follow suit. 

Some of the most common hormonal shifts you might notice are dropping estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels and unpredictable or dysregulated insulin levels. The realm of women’s hormones can feel like the wild west in many ways, but our hope is that by simplifying a few of these shared patterns and offering herbal and nutritional tips and tricks, you’ll feel better equipped for this new phase.

Low Progesterone

There’s a reason progesterone is known as the feel good hormone. It promotes a sense of calm, helps you sleep well, and prevents anxiety. Yet beginning around age 35, you may see changes in your progesterone levels, which can lead to shorter (yet heavier) cycles, more mood swings, heightened anxiety and even sleep disturbances. Nutrition is paramount here! Eating adequate zinc-rich foods (like animal protein and oysters) is key, as zinc increases the production of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which in turn supports your ovulation and leads to your production of progesterone. 

When you are deficient in progesterone in comparison to estrogen (a condition called estrogen dominance), vitamin B6 can be immensely helpful, whether it’s coming from vitamin B6-rich foods like tuna, salmon, and liver, or a supplement. Research shows that women with higher levels of vitamin B6 in their blood reduced their miscarriage rates by 50%, so this nutrient is crucial for women who are trying to conceive in their 30s. Turns out Vitamin C can also increase progesterone levels with one study showing that those who took 750mg of vitamin C per day increased their progesterone levels by 77%! You can find this lauded vitamin in bell peppers, citrus fruits, broccoli and more.

And, if nutritional interventions aren’t enough, herbal therapies like Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex) can help to correct declining progesterone levels and the ensuing cycle/mood complaints. Vitex acts directly on the HPAOT axis, supporting the P (pituitary) from the top down and helping the O (ovaries) produce healthy, normal levels of progesterone and estrogen — the star herb in our Flow Balance formula. 

Low testosterone 

There’s a common misconception that testosterone is the “male hormone” which often makes women pretty scared of it. But, in reality, testosterone is hugely important for healthy hormone balance in women. Similar to progesterone, testosterone starts declining 1-2% per year starting in your 30s which can impact many different body systems and functions. Symptoms of low testosterone are: low sex drive, anxiety/depression, fatigue, muscle loss, insomnia, weight gain, lack of motivation, moodiness, and reproductive issues (including infertility).

Low testosterone can also translate directly to feelings of low confidence, which you may dismiss as something else entirely! In terms of muscle tissue, you may notice yourself losing muscle mass or responding less to your resistance training sessions. If you find yourself in this category, the first thing to do is to prioritize a high protein diet and recommit or reimagine your weight lifting routine. It may seem overly simplified but strength training really does increase declining testosterone levels and keep your libido up! 

Some foods that can help boost testosterone levels are eggs, cold water fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel), dark leafy greens, pomegranate, avocado, cocoa products and shellfish (again, oysters are nature’s multivitamin!).

Low estrogen

Estrogen is the final piece of the three main hormones that start to taper in your 30s. And it’s a biggie! The symptoms of low estrogen are almost synonymous with stereotypical menopause symptoms. Think: hot flashes, skin flushing, night sweats. Other notable signs are breast tenderness, irregular or disappearing menstrual cycles, headaches, frequent UTIs, bone loss, and vaginal dryness. If you’re looking to support your estrogen levels through your diet, aim to incorporate more flax seeds, soy (edamame, sprouted tofu, tempeh), fruits (both fresh and dried) and nuts. 

Let’s talk about bone loss. Estrogen stops the activation of enzymes that kill off osteoblasts (the cells in charge of bone formation), meaning that when your estrogen levels go down, bone mass does too. And menopause is when estrogen levels drop significantly (1). So your 30’s are THE time to protect your bones and mitigate the risk of osteoporosis in your future. A couple ways to do this are to (you guessed it) strength train and also consume bone-supporting foods. You’ve probably heard about the importance of calcium for healthy bones as your body cannot make calcium on its own yet it’s required to build and maintain your bones and teeth. Vitamin D and K are equally critical, especially as you age, because they play a role in calcium metabolism, helping you to properly absorb calcium from your diet (2). 

Blood sugar imbalance

If you’re in your thirties and find yourself struggling with weight loss, insulin may also be out of whack for you, which relates back to the whole muscle mass and response conversation. Muscle is the most insulin sensitive tissue in your body and, therefore, helps you manage your weight and the metabolic changes you naturally experience at this age. Luckily, there’s so much you can do here, and most of it involves lifestyle changes. 

Olivia’s story of overcoming insulin resistance

Olivia struggled with insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction in her late 20’s, stemming from high fasting insulin and blood sugar levels. She felt constantly fatigued, kept gaining weight, and her menstrual cycle was getting longer and longer. She got radically honest with herself about a) working really hard in the gym, b) filling up on protein and vegetables so that she wasn’t snacking all the time, and c) her emotional relationship with food. It took her about a year, but with a combination of a high protein diet with a slight caloric deficit, 2-3x weekly weight training, herbal botanicals (shout out GlucoBitters!), and temporarily abstaining from hyperpalatable foods, her hormones eventually balanced out. She ended up losing 30 pounds while adding lean muscle to her frame, and her blood sugar, insulin, and testosterone levels are completely normal now! 

All that is to say, it can feel like your metabolism is coming to a screeching halt around 30, when, really, it’s probably due to being more sedentary, losing muscle mass instead of building it, eating more, and becoming less sensitive to insulin because of the previous factors. With lifestyle and diet changes, it’s very possible to have the metabolism of your teenage years well into your 30s and 40s!

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