First of all, what are hormones? We’ve all heard the term, but where do they come from, what do they do, and what happens when they’re imbalanced?
Hormones are a part of the endocrine system and are our body’s “chemical messengers.” They are made in the endocrine glands and travel through the bloodstream to tissues and organs. The endocrine system controls just about all of our body’s major functions; metabolism, stress, sleep, libido, and hunger are just a few examples. When our hormones are balanced, they help the body prosper, however when they are imbalanced, they may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other serious health problems.
When suffering from a hormonal imbalance, you may experience a number of symptoms. Some of the most common are weight gain, fatigue, anxiety/depression, digestive issues, trouble sleeping, mood swings, low libido, and intense food cravings. The chance that you’ve experienced one of these symptoms at some point in time is very high, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your hormones are imbalanced; however, if you have numerous, recurring symptoms, it may be cause for concern.
Hormonal imbalances are caused by a combination of factors. These include but are not limited to food allergies, stress, gut issues, obesity, and environmental toxins. Doctors can treat imbalances with conventional approaches such as birth control, insulin injections, thyroid medication, and synthetic hormone replacement therapies, however only the symptoms end up being treated while underlying issues such as the ones listed above are not resolved and may continue to worsen.
What many doctors fail to tell you is that there are natural ways to help re-balance your hormones. Each symptom points to different root causes of the imbalance and are able to be corrected without the harmful side effects of conventional treatment methods. There are certain cases where synthetic hormonal treatment is necessary, however the majority can heal themselves by following the 5 steps below:
- Prioritize High-Quality Sleep
A lack of sleep, or non-restful sleep is one of the worst habits that contributes to hormonal imbalance. During sleep, your body produces hormones , such as cortisol, the main “stress hormone.” Stress is another factor that fuels hormone imbalance, and by getting adequate amounts of sleep, the stress hormones naturally balance out and allow the body to recover and build energy. It is important to stick to a sleep schedule and make sure you’re getting high-quality, restful sleep.
Follow these tips to get more restful sleep:
- Put down your phone and all other electronic handhelds. The bright light mimics sunlight which convinces our brain that it is still daytime.
- Pay attention to what you eat and drink. You don’t want to go to bed hungry nor stuffed, so make sure you eat adequate protein at dinner, or have a small snack a couple of hours before bed. It is also crucial to stay away from stimulating chemicals such as nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Deal with your worries well before bedtime. Laying in bed thinking back on the day and everything that upset you, and/or thinking ahead to the next day and everything you need to get done will not make it easy to fall asleep. Get all of this taken care of early on and try some simple meditation practices to quiet the mind.
- Create a restful environment. Make sure the temperature is comfortable, eliminate all light, and try earplugs, or a natural sound machine depending on your noise level preference.
- Consume Healthy Fats
Consuming a variety of high-quality fats is known to keep hormones in check by reducing insulin resistance and appetite. Saturated fat and cholesterol are also needed when creating hormones, keeping inflammation levels low, and boosting your metabolism. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are fats that are used by the liver immediately for energy.
Check out these sources of healthy fats:
- Coconut Oil: Coconut oil has natural anti-bacterial and fat-burning effects; it is great for hormone health because it has the ability to promote hormone production, reduce inflammation, and assists in weight loss.
- MCT Oil: MCT oil is able to help regulate blood sugar which in return improves glucose metabolism and provides more energy. Balanced blood sugar is also known to reduce PMS, especially in the second half of your menstrual cycle. MCT is the slowest burning fuel you can eat, making it a natural appetite suppressant which can also aid in weight loss.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: There are several types of olive oil on the market, however research shows that the most beneficial is extra virgin olive oil. It has the ability to control excess insulin which then keeps blood sugar levels low and prevents cravings. Another benefit of olive oil is that it can fight mood disorder and depression by preventing neurotransmitter dysfunction.
- Avocados: Avocados are full of beneficial fatty acids; they are an anti-estrogen food and support the production of natural progesterone instead of absorbing it from the environment. Enhancing progesterone levels can decrease mood swings, stress, and depression.
- Use Essential Oils
Eliminating excess toxins is crucial when it comes to balancing your hormones; many everyday beauty, home, and lifestyle products are filled with potentially harmful chemicals. These chemicals can interfere with all aspects of the hormonal process within the endocrine system, leading to a number of health problems. Essential oils have been used for thousands of years for health purposes. These oils have been extracted from natural sources and have detoxifying, stimulating, and calming properties. Switching out conventional, chemical-filled products for essential oils can help prevent and cure hormone imbalance.
Essential oils you should always have in your home:
Clary Sage Oil: Clary sage can help balance estrogen levels, regulate your cycle, and ease stomach cramps. It has also been known to help with emotional imbalances, such as anxiety and depression.
Tea Tree Oil: One of the most common, modern day uses for tea tree oil is to treat acne. By diluting a couple of drops in water and rubbing it on the problem spots a couple times per day, your acne will dry right up. Tea tree oils has also been known to help eliminate toenail fungus and foot odor, soothe sores, and treat yeast infections.
Lavender Oil: Lavender oil promotes restful sleep and aids in balancing emotions as well as treating stress, depression, and anxiety. Lavender oil is most effective when using a diffuser and adding a few drops to the back of your wrists, neck, or temples.
Bergamot Oil: Bergamot oil has calming effects and also helps with maintaining a healthy body weight by encouraging normal cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
- Develop Healthy Exercise Habits
When working on balancing out your hormones, exercise is helpful but only when done right. Since your body is already exerting a lot of energy trying to heal itself, it’s important not to push too hard. Low impact and low intensity workouts such as walking and yoga are great to begin with; if you’re still feeling good and ready for more, HIIT (high intensity interval training) can be beneficial since it has the ability to trigger hormone reaction. It is best to stay away from long periods of running, cardio, or high intensity workouts until your hormones have been rebalanced so as to not exhaust your body and put additional strain on your endocrine system.
Here are some gentle exercises to get you moving:
- Walking: Walking on a treadmill or outside for 30 minutes per day is a great place to start. All you need is a comfortable, supportive pair of shoes , a pair of headphones, and you’re ready to go.
- Yoga: All practices of Yoga are great for stretching and strengthening your muscles. It is known to help relieve stress and anxiety, and also improve sleep patterns. Your local gym may hold free classes, and it is easy to download free apps and/or follow along with an instructor on YouTube. These methods keeps the cost down as the only thing you’ll need is your own yoga mat and water bottle.
- Body Weight Core Workout: Simple body weight core exercises such as planks, crunches (of any type), Russian twists, and leg lifts are great for toning and strengthening. These exercises are low intensity, so feel free to throw on a pair of wrist or ankle weights, use a medicine ball, or light dumbbells for more of a challenge.
- Biking: Whether it’s outside or on a stationary bike, biking is relaxing, gentle cardio (as long as resistance is low and you aren’t pushing yourself too hard). It is easy on the joints and can help stretch and tone the leg muscles as well as improve cardiovascular health.
- Take Necessary Supplements
Supplements can be taken to provide your body with nutrients that it is lacking; that being said, it is important to remember that supplements cannot take the place of a well balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. A majority of people can get all of the nutrients they need from eating a balanced, whole food diet including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, but when a hormonal imbalance is present, additional nutrients may be necessary to aid in recovery and healing.
Here are some supplements known to help balance hormones:
- Gelatin or Collagen: Gelatin and collagen support both digestive and hormonal health, and are a good source of amino acids. These amino acids are known to compliment the amino acids found in meat, and helps provide balance within the body to support a healthy thyroid function. A healthy thyroid = balanced hormones.
- B-6: B-6 is known to help with symptoms of PMS such as bloating, mood swings, irritability, and depression. This powerful vitamin is also known to keep your immune system strong and hormones balanced.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D has been known to help regulate insulin secretion and balance blood sugar. The International Journal of Health Sciences published a study in 2013 that found significantly lower levels of vitamin D in hypothyroid patients than in the control patients.
- Magnesium: Our bodies use magnesium for regulating blood sugar, body temperature, nerve and muscle function, blood pressure, and metabolizing energy. Almost everyone is deficient in magnesium; magnesium deficiencies do not show up on normal blood work, so they typically go undiagnosed. There are a number of ways to supplement magnesium such as powders, lotions, or oral capsules.
When our hormones are balanced, they help the body prosper, however when they are imbalanced, they may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other serious health problems. Though some factors may be out of your control, getting enough sleep, consuming healthy fats, developing healthy exercise habits, using essential oils, and taking supplements are all in your hands. These simple steps may be what it takes to help rebalance your hormones and cure your health problems.
Please consult your doctor before making any major lifestyle changes.