We Talk Hormones With Meah Robertson, Naturopath & Founder of Fem21
This month at GoodnessMe, we're all about keeping our hormones happy, so it was only fitting we chat to Meah Robertson, Naturopath and Founder of hormone-balancing supplement, Fem21 (which you'll find in the September Box). Here, she takes us through her own personal story, what inspired the creation of Fem21, her favourite hormone-supporting tips and the one thing she wishes every woman knew...
Take us through the inspiration behind creating Fem21?
I joke and say that we’re saving the world one hormonal woman at a time. But truly, I feel that hormonal health impacts massively on how a woman feels day-to-day. I want to make a difference and help women to feel great throughout their cycles and do it naturally.
Are you able to please share with us a little about your own hormone struggles?
I’ll try to keep it short because I’ve been on a hormonal rollercoaster since I was in my teens. I struggled with irregular cycles, hormonal acne and out of control hair growth, think pubic hair halfway down your thighs. It was awful and I was big fan of board shorts when swimming, which was often because I grew up in Cairns Far North Queensland. Very typical PCOS symptoms however I didn’t know it at the time, as my parents were really into natural health and we never went to the doctors.
When I was 19 and moved to the Gold Coast to study Naturopathy, I learnt I had PCOS symptoms and went to the doctor, they prescribed me the Oral Contraceptive Pill. For me, it was the worst and I suffered terrible anxiety and depression (with frequent suicidal thoughts) whilst I was on it.
I came off it and quickly fell pregnant, I then miscarried two weeks before I was due to get married, which was really hard. Three months later, I feel pregnant again with my first daughter who’s now 14 years old. I then breastfed her for two years and fell pregnant again with my second daughter. I had a threatened miscarriage at 14 weeks with heavy bleeding and cramping, I was on bed rest for a couple of weeks and she hung on in there. I breastfed her as well for 22 months and had an IUD put in for contraception. I didn’t feel great with it, but it wasn’t as bad as the pill Even though I wasn’t getting a period I was still ovulating albeit irregularly and I was still getting terrible acne, fatigue and my moods were all over the place.
When I was in my early 30’s and both the girls were at school, I finally had some time to look after myself. I woke up one day and I was like I’m getting this foreign thing out of my body and I’m sorting my shit out. I started working on a formula and it evolved into Fem21.
As a naturopath, what were some of the most common hormonal issues you came across in women?
In my practice, I would say the most common hormonal picture I see is women having problems metabolising oestrogen effectively and making sufficient progesterone. This underpins a lot of issues around periods and premenstrual symptoms. It can contribute to symptoms such as acne, headaches, fatigue, fluid retention/bloating, sore breasts, cramping, hot flushes and mood fluctuations - from irritability to being hypersensitive and teary. The liver and digestive system impact oestrogen metabolism whilst the adrenals/stress response impacts progesterone production.
In what ways does your product Fem21 aim to assist this?
In Fem21, the formulation has ingredients for modulating hormones, whilst also supporting liver and digestive health and supporting the adrenals. The other ingredients in Fem21 work on nourishing the body through alkalising greens, superfoods rich in antioxidants whilst also supporting healthy metabolism in the thyroid and balancing blood sugar levels.
Fem21 really covers a lot of areas for women, which is the holistic approach that naturopaths take. I wanted to create a blend that was an all-in-one solution for women’s health and hormones that was easy to take on the daily.
What are some key hormone-balancing ingredients you love and why?
Herbs that I love that are specific for modulating oestrogen in Fem21 are black cohosh, broccoli and rosemary. Liver support also helps the body to metabolise oestrogen effectively. Wonderful herbs for liver health are milk thistle and dandelion, plus fibre and probiotics to help the gut to eliminate hormonal metabolites efficiently. My favourite herb for improving natural progesterone production is chaste tree (vitex), which is so important for balancing us out in the premenstrual phase.
Fem21 also contains herbs for the adrenals and thyroid which play an important part in the endocrine system and in hormonal metabolism, herbs such as licorice, withania, siberian ginseng and bladderwrack. If the adrenals are stressed then our capacity to produce progesterone is impeded as the adrenal / stress hormones take priority. Therefore, it’s really important to support the adrenals alongside promoting progesterone.
What are your top health and lifestyle tips in balancing hormones?
- Go natural with your skincare / personal care products / cleaning products. Endocrine disrupting chemicals are rife in makeup, moisturisers, deodorants etc. You want to minimise your exposure to this as much as possible.
- Organic foods and plenty of good fats and protein is important, I always encourage women to swap chicken for turkey or fish.
- Exercise within a healthy window for your body at this time, not too much or too little.
- Switch from tap water to filtered water and avoid plastic water bottles.
- When it comes to alcohol, drinking over 5-7 drinks / week impacts oestrogen metabolism, so ensure it’s in moderation. I advise women to avoid beer as it can contribute to an increase in testosterone and lower good oestrogen.
When it comes to women and hormones, what is one thing you wish more people knew?
Taking synthetic or bio-identical hormones, doesn’t balance your hormones. It overrides your body’s natural ability to balance hormones itself. It simply masks a problem, it doesn’t fix the underlying cause of why the imbalances are there in the first place and what your body is trying to tell you through the symptoms it’s producing.
Can you take us through a typical 'day on a plate' and what you eat for breakfast, lunch dinner?
I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life and I like to follow a pattern of intermittent fasting roughly a 16:8 pattern most days works for me. In my fasting window, I’ll start the day with a dandelion chai or decaf coffee and Fem21 mixed in water with lemon.
A typical day for my first meal I like to have muesli (I mix in additional nuts and seeds) with fruit (blueberries, raspberries and strawberries) and yoghurt. In the afternoon I have a protein/nut bar with a piece of dark chocolate and a licorice herbal tea. Evenings vary from salads with either rice or pasta, legumes and veggies. I enjoy drinking 2L of filtered water everyday, I think it’s important to keep hydrated.
How do your eating habits specifically support hormones?
As much as possible, I choose organic which is good for hormonal health. When doing intermittent fasting it’s important that you’re not depriving yourself of calories and keeping it over 1500/day as low calorie intake can impact your hormonal health. I also recognise the importance of variety in my diet and not being too hard or strict on myself, having flexibility helps my mindset around food and makes it more enjoyable. I also know eating enough protein and good fats help my blood sugar levels to stabilise and I don’t crave for sugar. When eating too much sugar I know my skin breaks out and I gain weight in my mid section easily I also feel more foggy in my head.
I should also mention I have a troubled relationship with caffeine. I love coffee, but I know it’s terrible for my progesterone levels as it stresses my adrenals and shortens my luteal phase in my cycle. So I go for periods caffeine-free for a month or so, then try limit my intake to 2-3 / week of organic coffee. It seems to weasel its way back in to 1/day over time and then I have another break for a month or so and repeat the cycle to help keep on top of my intake so my body doesn’t become dependent on it and I can reset and recharge my adrenals when needed.