Your body’s endocrine system is designed to regulate and balance the level of hormones circulating throughout your body. Secreted by several glands and organs such as the thyroid, your adrenals, the pituitary gland, ovaries, testicles and the pancreas, the health of your hormones determines your body’s response to stress, your weight, and your overall quality of life. Even a slight imbalance of one or more of your hormones can increase your risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and thyroid disorders. Weight gain or loss, infertility or irregular periods, fatigue, insomnia, low libido, changes in appetite, digestive issues and hair thinning or loss can all be caused by a hormonal imbalance.
What causes a hormonal imbalance? Several factors. Hormonal imbalances are often caused by a combination of factors like digestive issues, chronic inflammation from poor diet, chronic stress, elevated blood sugar, food allergies, being overweight, and toxicity from viruses, alcohol, chemicals and pesticides. Conventional medical treatments often involve synthetic hormone replacement, insulin injections, thyroid medications, and birth control pills.
Conventional treatments may cause a higher risk of side effects like stroke, osteoporosis, reproductive problems, and cancer. Fortunately, there are several ways to help your body regain hormonal balance safely and naturally.
Poor sleep is linked to increased cortisol, decreased immunity, depression, diabetes and obesity. Receiving 7-8 hours of uninterrupted, restful sleep every night helps the body regulate hormone levels. Avoid exposure to blue and artificial light by powering down any electronic devices in your sleeping quarters. This will help your body restore its natural circadian rhythm. Health experts claim the stress hormone cortisol is regulated at midnight, so try to be in bed by 10:00 PM each night.
Drink green tea.
Green tea enthusiasts rejoice! The antioxidants found in green tea can boost metabolic health to help the body better manage oxidative stress. The caffeine found in coffee and chemical-laden soft drinks can lead to estrogen dominance, so green tea is a healthier alternative if you’re looking for a morning pick-me-up.
Your body wants to move. Exercise regulates hormones and helps to control your appetite. High-impact cardio and rigorous training can increase testosterone in men and estrogen in women, which may be beneficial for menopause and other issues that concern low estrogen. This, however, would be detrimental for those suffering from estrogen-dominant health concerns like PCOS or uterine fibroids, so lighter activities like walking and yoga are advised. Choose a style of movement you’ll want to stick to that works well for your body and wellness goals.
Take adaptogen herbs.
Adaptogen herbs increase immune function, promote healthy, balanced hormone levels and protect the body from disease. If you’re new to the topic of adaptogen herbs, rhodiola, holy basil, ashwagandha and medicinal mushrooms are great options. It may take a few months for these herbs to work their magic, but with consistent use they can help the body maintain balance and vitality.
Eliminate added sugars.
Although the science is lacking, eliminating excess sugars from your diet may help hormones like insulin remain balanced and in check. Refined and processed sugar can cause inflammation and add stress to the body, so reach for healthier sweeteners like raw honey, pure maple syrup, coconut nectar and green leaf stevia.
Increase your intake of healthy fats and proteins.
The healthy fat found in coconut oil, avocadoes, grass-fed butter and fatty fish like wild-caught salmon can help balance the hormones responsible for your appetite and metabolism. Eating oily fish can also prevent mood disorders like depression and anxiety by benefiting the brain and central nervous system. Eating protein at every meal decreases the hunger hormone ghrelin, but be sure to opt for organic animal protein sources to avoid the added hormones commonly found in conventionally-raised livestock and fish.
Eat more fiber.
Adequate intake of fiber helps to regulate insulin levels and maintain gut health. Oatmeal, beans, nuts and fruits like apples, berries and pears are all great sources of unprocessed fiber that can help your body maintain a healthy weight.
Avoid plastic products.
Avoiding plastic is difficult, but a worthwhile endeavor. Plastic releases chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body, so try your best to avoid storing your food in plastic containers. Even low-level exposure over time can lead to hormonal imbalance. Ditching plastic, especially single-use plastic like grocery bags and straws, is better for the environment and better for your body. Glass storage containers, wooden cutlery and metal straws are all wonderful plastic-free alternatives readily available for purchase in health and department stores.
Switch to non-toxic skin and body care.
Many conventional skin care, hair care and body care products contain hormone-disrupting chemicals like phthalates and parabens. These chemicals can enter the bloodstream and negatively affect your hormone levels. Many brands on the market today offer safer alternatives, which makes replacing your products that much easier.
Information surrounding this topic is often conflicting, with some research suggesting that full-fat dairy options like Greek yogurt or kefir may actually be ideal for balancing hormones naturally. It is important to note, however, that hormones found naturally in milk, as well as the added antibiotics, can trigger hormonal imbalance. Even organic milk can wreak havoc on the hormones if it comes from pregnant cows. Non-dairy milk options are plentiful today, with many brands offering almond, hemp, flax seed, oat and rice alternatives.
By making changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can help to balance your hormones safely and naturally. As always, enlist the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before altering your health journey in any way. Be well!