Balance Your Hormones the Natural Way
Does any of this feel like you today? Weight gain, muscle loss, acne, abnormal hair growth, sleeplessness, fatigue, skin problems, depression, brain fog, irritability, moodiness, anxiety, muscle aches, irregular . . . okay, I’ll stop. What do these lovely ailments have in common? Hormonal imbalance.
That list, by the way, goes on and on and on.
The list of solutions is quite lengthy too — birth control pills, hormone replacement therapies, thyroid meds and more — but those come with their own risks. Plus you end up having to rely on medication, perhaps indefinitely.
So you’ll be glad to know there are many natural ways to balance your hormones. By making small changes to the way you eat, and being more cognizant of your other lifestyle choices, you’ll find many of those frustrating maladies start to work themselves out.
1. Move it!
Yes, we praise the benefits of exercise a lot around here. And why not? It fights stress, helps you sleep, builds confidence, tones your booty and makes you feel better overall — and it’s equally important in Hormone World.
Physical activity actually releases particular hormones with marvelous effects. Here are just a few: insulin sensitivity increases (so we better process glucose); cortisol breaks down fats and controls blood pressure and sugar; epinephrine can help fight bad cells and help memory retention. A regular exercise routine will do wonders toward crossing off (or at least improving) items on your hormone-issue list.
2. Quit sugars (including refined carbohydrates)
You’ve probably already heard by now that scientists see similarities between our physical response to sugar and humans’ response to cocaine. They’re both rewarding, attractive and we want more now. (Disclaimer: I can’t speak for the cocaine part, but yes, I’m jonesin’ for something sweet as I type.)
Sugar and processed foods (pretty much all the sweet, packaged or baked stuff we consume each day) makes insulin spike, which has all sorts of knock-on effects. Insulin spikes can suppress levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and ultimately messes with the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. Progesterone is a calming hormone, so this disruption turns us into irritable, anxious insomniacs. Throw some menopause into the mix and you’ll get hot flashes on top of all that. So, appease your sweet tooth with fruit and your carb cravings with veggies and whole grains.
3. Embrace healthy fats
This one is hard to stomach for anybody still brainwashed by the low-fat crazes of decades past. But we know better now. Healthy fats — such as those found in avocados, coconut oil, salmon, walnuts and seeds — are essential for hormone production while also keeping inflammation levels low and boosting metabolism.
Remember how you just read about sugars making insulin spike and why that’s so not good? Healthy fats have the opposite effect. The medium-chain fats in coconut oil, for example, are swiftly used by the liver and have been shown to reduce insulin resistance in diabetics and overweight people. Also, eating healthy fats at meals triggers hormones that allow you to feel satiated.
4. Sleep it off. Seriously, go back to bed
Even though demanding jobs, active social lives, a million unanswered emails and a backlog of binge-worthy shows have made our days longer, our sleep needs are not getting shorter. Biology isn’t going anywhere.
Sleep is the time for the body to repair itself, rejuvenate cells, release hormones and balance itself. Inadequate sleep results in disruptions of our endocrine system (which is responsible for secreting hormones into our blood). You can read more about how that manifests, but in short: this isn’t just about feeling drowsy and lethargic. Not sleeping enough leads you to eat more, gain weight and increase your chances of diabetes. So, like I said, go back to bed.
5. Consider healthy supplements
I say this one with caution, because it is so easy to overdo or mis-do the pills and powders and shakes and shots — plus it can be difficult to decipher what’s true and safe from what’s scaremongering and counterfeit.
Having said that, cod liver oil, omega-3, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin B, probiotics and phytonutrients are among the supplements that are often recommended for hormonal balance. But talk to a specialist you trust before committing too wholeheartedly to these — especially if you’re pregnant!
You don’t have to feel like this.
Here’s what I love about these steps (particularly one through four): they’re win-win. Whether you’re suffering from every item on that opening hormone-nightmare list or you’re just feeling a little blah — a better diet, regular exercise and more sleep is a good prescription for everybody.