Women from all ages have suffered hormone imbalances. However, more and more of us modern women are suffering from PMS, fatigue, weight gain, memory loss, mood swings, brain fog, night sweats and hot flushes.
Maybe its because our grandmas lives were healthier than ours?
My grandma was a bundle of energy. She had a very active life right up until she died too early in a car accident. She was only 63 and had so much more to give. But she lived a healthy life and never had any hormone issues. Here’s why I think that may have been;
- STRESS – My grandma didn’t have the same stressful life we live today. When I say the ‘same’ stressful life, I mean she had her own stresses but just different ones. She did not have a pressured career or a busy job with heavy deadlines. She certainly wasn’t exposed to the fast and frenetic world of gadgets and TV. She wasn’t addicted to a mobile phone or social media. And she didn’t have to worry about how many emails she had to respond to! Her life was hard work, but when she relaxed she didn’t have the same distractions we had. She had the chance to really switch off and I bet she didn’t lay awake half the night worrying about her to-do list! Stress is a major contributor to hormone imbalance. Cortisol runs riot over the other hormones so that it can maintain our stress response. Our modern lives are full of stresses that we can’t switch off.
- SHE ATE FAT! – There were no ‘low fat’ options in grandma’s world. She cooked with lard, goose/duck fat or butter. She loved the fat on meat. We always got pork crackling, dripping on toast and bacon came with a thick crispy rind ! These were real fats with no artificial or hydrogenated (trans) fats to worry about. These fats are very stable, unlike vegetable oils which are prone to oxidization, something that can contribute to heart disease. Fat is vital to hormone production – cholesterol is the precursor for all steroid hormones.
- SHE USED REAL BUTTER – My grandma used to greet our visits with hot crumpets dripping in butter – they were SO good. Margarine and spreads didn’t exist back then. She kept butter in a butter dish out on the kitchen top. Margarine is made with hydrogenated vegetable oils, heavily processed therefore destroying any nutrients. Butter is a great source of vitamin A and D, and if it’s from grass fed cows, it’s also rich in Vitamin K2, rarely found in many modern foods (deficiency has been linked to several chronic diseases).
- THE MILK WAS CREAMY – Milk bottles all came the same – full fat with the cream on the top. In those days you had to be quick to get it off the doorstep – before the birds swooped and had the cream! They knew what was good food – ever seen that happen to a pint of skimmed? We need the fat in dairy products – it helps us absorb the minerals and fat soluble vitamins in the milk, it helps our cell membranes stay healthy, it helps make our steroid hormones and it’s a great source of energy.
- SHE ATE ORGAN MEAT – Liver, offal, tripe, brain, tongue, cheeks and heart were frequent in grandma’s menu. These were cheaper cuts of meat that were often all she could afford. Liver and bacon was an absolute delicacy! These cuts may have been cheaper, but they were actually more nutritious. Liver in particular is rich in nutrients – vitamin A, C, B vitamins, protein, calcium, magnesium – all vital for hormone function. Her meat came from local farms, where animals were raised outdoors and fed grass (not GMO corn or grains). This meat would have been more nutritious than modern commercially raised equivalents.
- SHE TOOK COD LIVER OIL DAILY – Cod liver oil was prescribed by the British Ministry of Food to supplement rationing during the war. Rich in Vitamin A, D and omega 3’s, the stuff was pretty disgusting off a spoon, but was perceived to have huge health benefits. It has been replaced today by the massive ‘fish oil’ market, but many still prefer it due to its unique Vitamin A content.
- SHE COOKED HER OWN FOOD – There were no processed foods (other than food in tins) so grandma had to cook food from scratch. This meant her food did not have any trans fats from industrial vegetable oils, or food additives, preservatives or flavourings that are routinely found in modern packaged foods. This helped her keep her weight stable and her hormones in balance.
- SHE HAD 3 MEALS A DAY – NO SNACKING – My grandma didn’t snack between meals, unless she had a special visitor when she would do ‘afternoon tea’. Everyday snacks were invented by the food industry during the 1970’s. Do you remember the Milky bar kid? And ‘a finger of fudge is just enough….’? We survived pretty well on 3 meals a day before this happened. What food companies did was launch a huge sugary snack industry that was a/ aimed at children and b/ totally addictive. No wonder we have an obesity epidemic!
- SHE ATE LOCAL, SEASONAL, ORGANIC FOOD – There were no mass supermarkets, so food was locally grown, organic and seasonal. This meant that the food was fresher and had more nutrients intact when she ate it. She was exposed to less processed foods, plastic wrapping and far fewer pesticides than modern women.
- SUGAR WAS A TREAT – My grandma’s lemon drizzle cake was definitely a treat! She would make one or two cakes a week for dessert or for special visitors. BUT they were homemade and contained real butter. The trouble with sugar from modern cakes and other baked goods is that it is mixed with trans fats (margarine, shortening, vegetable oils), making it much more damaging than sugar mixed with natural fats.
- HER WORLD WAS LESS TOXIC – OK my grandma had to put up with cigarette smoke and coal fires, but modern hormone disrupting chemicals were few and far between – no BPA plastics or flame retardants, less car pollution, no food additives , colourings, flavourings, less pesticides and less personal products. And of course no electro magnetic field (EMF) technology. Overall the toxic burden was a lot less and this meant her hormone function was less likely to be disrupted.
- SHE DIDN’T HAVE A SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE – My grandma often told me she walked 6 miles to school and back every day as a child– on her own! And when she got home she played outdoors with her friends, running and exploring until it was tea time. Can you imagine childhood obesity rates if our kids did that nowadays? She married young, had several children and had to work hard to raise her family and look after the house (as well as being a part time nurse!). No fancy washing machines, hoovers, dishwashers, tumble dryers, and she didn’t drive a car, so had to walk everywhere. She was also a keen gardener and tended her vegetable patch daily. All that activity kept her really active, which helped keep her heart healthy and improve her circulation of nutrients her body needed for hormone function.
So while modern life has increased our longevity with medicine and emergency care, it has not done a lot for our nutrition and hormone health. We can learn a lot by turning back the clock and taking on a few of the traditions from our grandparents era.
What do you think our grandmothers have taught us? Please comment below.