Hormones play a major role when it comes to looking and feeling our absolute best. When they become out of balance it effects our mood, weight, digestion, fertility, skin and so much more.
Many people resort to conventional treatments like synthetic hormone replacement therapies, insulin injections, thyroid mediation, and birth control pills. Research indicates these synthetic hormones vary clinically in safety and efficacy. The use of hormone replacement in post-menopausal women may have both positive and negative affects on hormone regulation, osteoporosis, cardiovascular function and overall health. The U.S. Department of Human Health found that synthetic hormone replacement therapy may increase your chance of breast cancer, stroke, heart attack, and blood clots. You can read more about the scientific evidence relating to these effects in Dr. Mayer Eisenstein’s book Unavoidably Dangerous.
Fortunately there are some ways to help take control of your health and balance your hormones naturally. In this article you’ll discover the main symptoms and causes of hormonal imbalances, and learn which practices you can incorporate into your life to help you achieve happy, healthy hormones.
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that regulate body processes, and include oestrogen, testosterone, insulin and adrenaline. They are released by different parts of your body like the thyroid, ovaries, testicles, pituitary, and adrenals. The nervous and endocrine systems work together to control the balance of hormones running throughout the body.
What do hormones do?
Hormones coordinate complex processes like growth and fertility while influencing the function of the immune system and behaviour. They also affect metabolism, sexual function, mood and so much more.
Symptoms of hormonal imbalance
- unexplained weight gain or weight loss
- digestive issues
- hair loss and thinning
- low libido
Possible causes of hormonal imbalance
- being overweight or obese
- inflammation due to poor diet and lifestyle choices
- exposure to toxins and chemicals
- lack of sleep
- low Vitamin D levels
How to balance hormones naturally
Harmful chemicals found in pesticides, household and body products, and plastics, contain hormone disrupting chemicals that mimic hormones in the body. This disrupts the endocrine system and prevents the body from producing hormones naturally.
You can reduce your exposure to these chemicals by eating organic produce, and using natural products in your home and on your body. Avoid storing hot food in plastic containers and cook in non-coated metal pans. If you are on a hormonal contraceptive, be aware that it could have adverse effects on your health. It can cause dangerous side effects including bleeding in-between cycles, increased risk of breast cancer, depression, nausea, breast tenderness, candida overgrowth and more.
AVOID PROCESSED AND REFINED FOODS
The western diet has shown an increase in the consumption of omega-6 fatty acids from polyunsaturated fats. This is found in vegetable oils like safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, canola, soybean and peanut. These have an imbalanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, and worse, they have been chemically altered. This means they aren’t stable and oxidise easily in the body which causes inflammation and mess with your hormones.
Other foods to avoid are dairy, gluten, coffee, processed sugar and alcohol. All of these irritate the gut and contribute to inflammation in the body. This particularly puts stress on the adrenals and thyroid glands which then wreaks havoc on your hormones.
EAT A HEALTHY DIET WITH HORMONE-BALANCING FOODS
Proper nutrients influence our body’s ability to produce hormones, and assist our liver to break down hormones that are no longer needed. As research suggests, fat cells (particularly abdominal fat cells) are biologically active, producing hormones and other substances that can profoundly affect our health. It’s becoming clear that excess body fat disrupts the normal balance and functioning of hormones. Eating a whole food, plant based diet, rich in raw fruits and vegetables will help you maintain a healthy weight and prevent storage of excess fatty tissue.
Obesity is also associated with inflammation in the fat tissue. Excessive fat storage leads to stress reactions within fat cells, which results in a weakened immune system, reduced function of organs and imbalance in hormones.
Healthy fats are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which we want more of, and is essential for proper cell function and hormone production. My favourite options are avocado, coconut meat, chia, flax and hemp seeds. Cruciferous vegetables including cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower and bok choy contain a substance called indole-3-carbinol (I3C). This substance has shown evidence of controlling and balancing oestrogen while also preventing cancers, in particular breast cancer.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Making sure you get adequate sleep every night is crucial for keeping your body healthy and your hormones in balance. While you sleep your body is working extremely hard to eliminate toxins and rejuvenate the cells.
Making it a habit of getting insufficient sleep disturbs your natural circadian rhythm and contributes to hormonal imbalance. The Pineal gland regulates the balance of hormones circulating in the blood supply and also regulates sleep via melatonin and serotonin (feel good hormones). When you aren’t getting enough sleep, the levels of these hormones drop, which affects the reproductive hormonal balance.
A lack of sleep increases cortisol levels which has detrimental effects on the body and hormone balance. Hormones also influence glucose regulation and appetite control and are influenced by sleep. The National Sleep Foundation expert panel recommends that adults get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night.
EXPOSE YOUR SKIN TO SUNSHINE
Contrary to what the name might represent, Vitamin D is actually a Hormone, rather than a Vitamin. It is a precursor to a steroid hormone. It is crucial to maintain a healthy level of Vitamin D to experience optimal hormone health and ward off depression and anxiety.
Exposing your bare skin to sunlight is the best way to get Vitamin D. Ultraviolet rays convert Vitamin D into the form that our bodies use, and unlike food and supplement sources, it is very difficult to get too much Vitamin D this way.
How much sun do you need? It differs from person to person, but the Vitamin D Council recommends exposing as much of your skin to the sun as possible for a short period of time just before your skin begins to burn. Somewhere between 15-30 minutes per day should be fine. Don’t use sunscreen as that inhibits the absorption of Vitamin D from the sun. If you’re going to be in the sun for a long period of time, you can use coconut oil, which has been reported to have an SPF of 8. This study suggests the most optimal serum levels for 25(OH)D appeared to be at least 75 nmol/l (30 ng/ml) and for cancer prevention, desirable 25(OH)D levels are between 90-120 nmol/l (36-48 ng/ml).
SUPPLEMENTS WHICH MAY HELP
Maca is a root from South America which has been used for centuries as a herbal remedy by natives of Peru in helping to treat conditions affecting menopausal women. Maca can be regarded as an adaptogen which means it has a unique ability to “adapt” its function according to your body’s specific needs. For example if your oestrogen levels are too low, it will help your body naturally produce more. It also supports homeostasis by priming the body to better endure adverse stressors.
Maca is also rich in beneficial plant sterols that are biochemically related to hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone. It is considered that through plant sterols, Maca stimulates the endocrine system helping to maintain hormonal balance. These sterols are used by the body to improve adrenal function, ovarian and testicular function, as well as the functioning of the thyroid, the pancreas and the pineal gland.
One study at Charles Sturt University in Australia, found that after taking maca for only four months, premenopausal women enjoyed a range of health benefits including weight loss, reduction in blood pressure and a boost in iron. Therefore its potential to be used as non-hormonal alternative to hormone replacement therapy is well noted.
“Wild Yam cream is a natural source of progesterone precursors. What that means is it provides your body with the building blocks to make the hormone progesterone, which in turn converts to Oestrogen. The natural balance is reached by your body having the essential ‘ingredients’ at hand and as needed.” – Anna (Anna’s Wild Yam Cream)
It has been said that a good quality Wild Yam Cream delivers its natural ingredients through the skin into your the blood stream, which then parks the active ingredients in the nearest fatty tissue (our natural storage facility) for use by your endocrine system. This enhances the bodies natural hormone production to meet your body’s emotional, physical and reproductive needs.
Although this hasn’t been extensively studied, Medical Doctor Mayer Eisenstein has treated over 3,000 women with natural progesterone cream with incredible success. He writes in the American Nutrition Association that over 90% of women who have menopausal symptoms will greatly benefit from a natural progesterone cream. I’m including this cream because it may be something you want to do your own research on and/or try for yourself.
If you’re someone who struggles with stress, then this is the perfect herb for you! Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herb best known for its ability to reduce stress and bring cortisol levels down. Stress plays a major factor in hormonal imbalance because it puts pressure on the adrenals, causing them to become overused. This results in a chain reaction affecting progesterone (calming hormone), fertility, and pregnancy in women.
Note: Wild yam cream is generally safe, but it is not recommended to use while pregnant or nursing or if you have a hormone-sensitive condition such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids.
Ashwagandha encourages hormone balance by working on the endocrine system and reducing inflammation. It also supports thyroid function which is important because the thyroid helps regulate the hormones.
I recommend the following supplements if you’re interested. They are a blend of Ashwagandha root and other herbs, designed to help regulate the proper hormone balance to support normal energy levels, superior vitality, and a balanced mood.
Note: Studies have found ashwagandha exhibits a variety of therapeutic effects with little or no associated toxicity. These results are very encouraging, but there haven’t been enough long-term studies to examine possible side effects.
Exercise has an amazing effect on the endocrine system while also helping the body to release endorphins (the feel-good hormones) which enhances mood. Strength training builds and maintains muscle mass which works to release and balance insulin and cortisol levels, and helps balance the hormones.
Now I say exercise appropriately because long periods of intense exercise can actually make hormonal imbalance worse. If you want to do intense workouts, limit them to short bursts of sprints, deadlifts, squats and lunges. Focus more on gentle exercises like walking, swimming yoga and rebounding.
The key to achieving balanced hormones is creating a solid foundation of healthy practices while providing your body with the nutrition it needs to produce all its hormones naturally. This will help you achieve a balanced mood, strong reproductive system, glowing skin and vibrant energy.