Today, allow me introduce you to my little friend…maca. She comes from Peru, she is a root vegetable, and she is packed with nutritious benefits like minerals and vitamins. But, this girl also has a secret…she has a special gift of aiding in balancing hormones. Since many of us (me included) are suffering from imbalanced hormones, but we just aren’t sure what to do about it; we are going to want to get to know maca better and learn how to use her gift for ourselves!
What does maca do?
Maca does not serve as hormone replacement, or as a hormone itself. It is an adaptogen, which means it gives our bodies what it needs to work better on its own. In this case, maca aids in stimulating the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which helps our body to balance the entire endocrine system.
Let’s break this down a bit… The hypothalamus is the size of an almond, sits near the brainstem and secretes at least 9 different hormones. Its job is to maintain homeostasis within the body, and it links our nervous system and endocrine system. The hypothalamus regulates thirst, heart rate & blood pressure, body temperature, appetite & weight, sleep cycles and glandular secretions in the stomach and intestines. It also secretes and inhibits hormones that stimulate or inhibit the production of hormones in the pituitary gland. (Think hypothalamus controls pituitary.) (Source)
The pituitary gland is pea-sized, attached to the hypothalamus and secretes at least 7 different hormones (including Human Growth Hormone, TSH – which you know well if you have thyroid problems, & more). The pituitary acts when the hypothalamus prompts it. The hormone’s it releases regulate other endocrine glands in the body such as the thyroid, adrenals, ovaries and testes. (Source)
Our endocrine system is a network of glands that regulates our body functions such as metabolism, growth, sexual development, body temperature and more. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland are both part of the overall endocrine system.
Most women with hormone imbalance suffer from estrogen dominance. This can be due to chemicals in cleaners, endocrine disruptors in cosmetics, toxic bath care products, hormone laden beef & lamb, stress, environmental toxins, poor liver function, etc. These can all add to a pile up of bad estrogen in our systems. These “bad estrogens” block our hormone receptor sites from getting the good estrogen and progesterone that we need. We need both estrogen and progesterone for a balanced system, but too much bad estrogen can wreak havoc in our bodies.
The unique factor about maca is that it is not exclusive to boosting estrogen or progesterone or testosterone, instead, it is purported to help your body make more of what it needs according to its deficiencies and helps it to self-regulate. Brilliant!
How can we take maca?
Maca is sold as a freeze dried powder. It comes in two forms: raw and gelatinized. The gelatinized version has undergone a process to remove most of the starch making it easier to digest with higher bioavailability. That is what we want…the gelatinized version.
There are different phenotypes of maca, which are believed to have different medicinal qualities; so it is important to have the right type. Here are the product recommendations that I personally trust…
They also have options for post menopause and other specific needs to check out.
Maca tastes terrible. Some buy the powder and use it in a smoothie, but be aware that you will probably want to cover the taste well. The option I listed is in pill form.
Maca is not something that you want to take daily, indefinitely. Instead, most people either cycle it and add it to their diet a few days in a row and then don’t take it for a week. Or they use it daily for a month, then take a month or so off.
Balancing hormone levels is a tricky business. Maca will work for some, but not all. Obviously, if your symptoms worsen, stop taking it. Also, cleaning up your diet, removing endocrine disruptors and toxins from your life and managing stress are your first step – then, maca may be tried to continue the process. Avoid if pregnant. Talk to doctor first if on thyroid medication.
Benefits of maca
- Aids in balancing hormones
- Increases energy levels
- Supports adrenal glands
- Increases libido
- Stabilizes mood
- Boosts immune system
- Enhances memory
Hope you enjoyed learning more about your endocrine system and how this natural root may help you to balance your hormones! See ya next Sunday!
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