Tips To Help Balance Hormones Naturally
Updated: Mar 26, 2021
All of us will experience or have experienced some form of hormonal imbalance in our lives – women in particular. In my practice, I’ve had to address hormones in almost all of my client cases. It’s a very common occurrence because the system is so complex and each hormone works in synergy with the other so if one is out of balance, another will suffer the consequences. It is really important that we try to do the best that we can to keep our hormones as balanced as possible for feeling our best. This includes good energy, beautiful skin, happy mood, motivation, weight management/weight loss and most importantly, prevention of serious, chronic illness.
WHAT ARE HORMONES?
Hormones are essentially little chemical messengers that spark communication throughout your entire body. Their sole purpose is to maintain balance and harmony by regulating bodily processes like growth, temperature control, water retention, stress, blood pressure etc. Your nervous system is constantly communicating with your endocrine system to make sure bodily processes are running smoothly and efficiently. Each cell in the body has specific hormone receptors for specific hormones and will only respond to hormones that fit onto its receptors. There’s one exception though. Practically all our cells have thyroid hormone receptors which just goes to show you how important it is to keep our hormones balanced!
SO bottom line is – hormones play BIG DEAL in our body.
HOW CAN WE HELP OUR HORMONES STAY HARMONIOUS?
Eat harmoniously – This means a quality protein, complex (low glycemic) carbohydrate and healthy fat at each meal. This formula keeps insulin levels in check and insulin is a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar. If blood sugar rises too quickly (due to an imbalanced, simple carb-rich meal), the pancreas secretes insulin and too much insulin can lead to a host of problems like excess fat storage, particularly around the mid-section and thigh area. Too much insulin can also tamper with appetite-suppressing hormones like leptin which can lead to more weight gain.
Love thy liver – By now you all know how much I stress the importance of good liver support. The liver is responsible for over 500 functions, one of the most important being the processing and removal of toxins. A sluggish liver compromised by years of poor nutrition, stress, pollution and toxic lifestyle habits like alcohol, drugs or smoking can cause toxic build-up in the body which leads to a slew of health risks, including symptoms of hormonal imbalance like headaches, weight gain, acne/skin problems, PMS, lethargy and so on. The liver is also responsible for the breakdown of excess hormones like estrogen. If accumulated, estrogen-dominance may arise which is a number one contributor to hormonal imbalance. It’s crucial that we keep our liver in tip-top shape! I suggest following my daily liver supporting tips and administering a good liver detox once or twice per year.
Manage stress – This is another tip that comes up often because it’s so impactful to almost every aspect of health, including hormonal balance. The main hormone involved in the stress response is cortisol. Chronic stress leads to the chronic secretion of this hormone which causes a myriad of problems like weight gain, depression/anxiety, blood sugar imbalance, muscle wasting and lethargy. Too much cortisol can also have a huge impact on other hormones like the thyroid hormone responsible for efficient metabolism and insulin (too much cortisol can desensitize cells to insulin boosting risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes!). It is vital that you practice stress reducing activities in your day-to-day to keep cortisol in check. A popular practice that I often suggest to my SLC community and clientele is to develop a morning and evening ritual consisting of some form of meditation/zoning out, deep breathing, manifesting positivity and light in your life and unplugging from technology. I encourage you to unplug completely for one day, once per week to keep stress, and in turn, your hormonal system, in check!
Look after your gut – The gut is one of our major endocrine glands, producing many hormones that affect our sleep, mood, appetite, digestion and energy. The gut is also one of our most important filtration centers, keeping harmful, hormone-disrupting toxins out and nourishing, hormone-balancing nutrients in. But, the scenario isn’t always this smooth. The efficacy of the gut is dependent on healthy food choices, bacterial balance, sufficient enzymes and acid levels and inflammation control. An imbalance in one of these areas can result in irritation to the gut wall, wearing and literally tearing it until small holes form. These holes allow partially digested food, toxins and bacteria to pass through which, in the long term, can cause weight gain, depression, allergies, autoimmune disease, joint pain etc. Some of the short-term symptoms also mimic those of hormonal imbalance. Make sure you are taking good care of your gut! Take 2 tbsps. of apple cider vinegar before a big meal, follow the rules of digestion, eat a raw salad at least once per day, eat foods rich in healthy bacteria and keep stress in check.
Eliminate food sensitivities – Common food allergens include gluten, dairy, soy, corn and wheat. These foods contain proteins that can trigger an inflammatory reaction in the gut which, if left unattended, can poke holes in the gut leading to full on inflammation throughout the body causing symptoms of hormonal imbalance like chronic headaches, PMS, depression, arthritis, joint pain, cravings and weight gain. Gut inflammation also hinders proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients that are crucial for proper hormone function and balance. Try eliminating foods in these groups for 4-6 weeks to allow your body to rest and focus on rebalance.
Avoid hormonal disruptors – We’ve already discussed the harmful impact that toxic-buildup can have on our body. There are certain toxins that are especially harmful to our endocrine system and they are called endocrine disruptors. These are problematic because they act like our own hormones in our body, particularly estrogen. They are classified as xenoestrogens (meaning estrogenic compounds from outside rather than inside our bodies). Essentially, they confuse the hormonal messages sent around our bodies and can change our sexual and reproductive health and development. The best way to avoid hormone-disrupting toxins is to steer clear of them: avoid buying/using plastic products, buy organic products as often as possible, including beauty products, household products, body care and hair care, avoid drinking tap water and of course, keep your cleansing organs running smoothly!
Avoid caffeine – I have mixed feelings about coffee. I think for some, one cup per day is fine depending on their health status. If I see that someone is experiencing hormonal imbalance however, I will recommend removing coffee completely from their diet or request that they limit to once every few days or weeks. The truth is, caffeine can wreak havoc on our hormones, and particularly our stress hormone, cortisol, which is already most likely out of balance as we’re all walking stress cases to begin with. Here’s how it works: Caffeine raises cortisol levels as soon as it enters the body. The production of cortisol stimulates more cortisol to be produced. Like discussed earlier, cortisol affects other hormones like thyroid hormone, leptin and our sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. Cortisol competes with progesterone to latch on to the same receptor sites and surprise surprise, cortisol will always win! Progesterone is the hormone responsible for holding onto pregnancies (think pro – gestation) and we need a nice ratio of progesterone to oestrogen to help reduce those symptoms of PMS, endometriosis and painful periods among other imbalances. Instead of your morning coffee try a dandelion, chai or a good old green tea. Even decaffeinated coffee can disrupt your hormones as apart from the caffeine, there are other alkaloids that can cause issues. If you do want to drink decaf, go for an organic brand that decaffeinates using water and not chemical solvents. If you must have coffee, have one good cup a week. Sip it slowly and enjoy every second!
Boost Healthy Fat Intake – These includes foods rich in monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (namely omega-3 fatty acids). Consuming healthy fats is essential for hormonal health because like protein, fats are necessary building blocks for certain hormones including progesterone, testosterone, cortisol and estrogen. Eating fats also stimulate the production of other hormones like appetite-controlling leptin. This hormone plays a huge role in telling us when to stop eating! Omega-3-rich foods like walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds and salmon form anti-inflammatory compounds in the body and quenching inflammation is key to hormonal balance. Flaxseeds in particular are an excellent hormone-balancing food because they regulate estrogen in the body. Omega-9 fatty acids or monounsaturated fats found in avocados and olive oil are also beneficial for hormones. I suggest including these fats in your daily diet i.e. eat ½ avocado a day with a 1 tbsp olive oil, include chia seeds and flaxseeds in your morning smoothies, have a piece of wild-caught salmon for dinner a few times per week. Of course, not all fats are good fats. Avoid processed fats completely. These include trans fats and hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated fats. Read the ingredients list! A good rule of thumb is that if a food is processed, it is likely full of processed fats.
Exercise – Moving the booty is crucial for hormone balance. Frequent and consistent exercise can help reduce excess “harmful hormones” like cortisol and estrogen while boosting “healthy hormones” like thyroid hormone, growth hormone, serotonin, leptin and dopamine. I suggest partaking in regular exercise that includes a mix of cardio, strength training and stretching like running, yoga and resistance exercises a few times each week. Need some motivation? Treat yourself to a new workout outfit. You’ll look and feel good!
Sleep – Getting a good night’s rest is one of the most important things you can do to balance your hormones. Sleep deprivation perpetuates a vicious cycle of excess stress hormones, reduced sleep-inducing melatonin, low growth hormone and low leptin/ghrelin. It is essential that we get our 8 hours of shut-eye each night! What I like to recommend to my clients experiencing issues with sleep is to practice a nightly ritual. The nightly ritual begins about 30 mins before bedtime. All electronics are put away, the bedroom is dim, the essential oil diffuser is on and relaxing music is playing. I recommend some deep breathing exercises as well as setting positive intentions for the next day. Additional tips to promote healthy sleep: avoid eating at least 2 hours before bedtime (stick to protein-rich snacks), remove electronics from the bedroom, keep your bedroom cool but not cold and invest in a good, comfortable mattress.