Let me set the record straight: you’re not crazy, your body just needs support. Millions of women deal with hormonal imbalance in the US, but the response tends to be 1 of 2 options: succumb to the cop out that it’s just part of being a woman, or sign up for hormone replacement therapy. But what if I told you that it’s NOT just part of being a woman, and you can balance your hormones totally naturally?
First, a quick overview of what this hormone imbalance epidemic is all about.
Hormones are chemicals created internally, in nature, or synthetically and they can help (or hinder) the body’s systems and processes communicate and function at their best.
Hormone disruptors, on the other hand, are external influences that mess up the hormone’s ability to support accurate and essential communication across your body’s systems. And these disruptors run rampant in our day-to-day lives.
With all the toxins in our homes, clothes and toiletries, all the stress and pressures to be Wonder Woman, and all the blue-light ruining any chance of restful sleep, it’s too easy to have our hormones disrupted. And when they’re disrupted, your body and mind can seriously struggle.
Here are a few common signs + symptoms of hormonal imbalance
- Brittle nails
- Brain fog and memory loss
- Decreased strength
- Dry eyes
- Dry skin or eczema
- Hair Loss
- Heavy or irregular menstruation
- Hot flashes
- Inability to concentrate
- Increased body or facial hair
- Irritability or mood swings
- Loss of bone mass
- Loss of muscle mass or inability to build muscle
- Low energy
- Low libido
- Night sweats
- Ovarian cysts
- Premature puberty
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Sinus and allergy issues
- Stress, anxiety, or panic attacks
- Sugar cravings
- Thinning or brittle hair
- Tingling hands or feet
- Trouble with sleep
- Unexpected weight loss or weight gain
- Water retention
- Weight loss resistance
The list is a doozy, huh? It’s because hormones are essential to every facet of your body’s health. But here’s the good news: we can balance our hormones on our own, naturally. You just need to identify the root cause(s) and best holistic ways to weed them out.
The leading causes of hormone imbalance are…
- Stress and poor sleep causing sex hormones to over- or under-produce (estrogen and progesterone, plus insulin and cortisol)
- Liver that’s overloaded with toxins, unable to process and release them
- Nutrient deficiencies
Each of these causes dynamically interact with the rest, which means each one needs to be thoroughly assessed.
Estrogen is what leads to puberty. It’s essential for our (that is, human’s) health. But too much or too little of it can set off a laundry list of unpleasantries around hair growth, period regulation and painful, heavy flows, libido issues, the list goes on.
Progesterone helps regulate menstrual cycles and prepare your uterus for one lucky little swimmer. Low progesterone can contribute to infertility, PMS, changes in mood, and cycle irregularity.
Stress depletes serotonin and dopamine (the chemicals that help alleviate PMS and other hormonal symptoms). It also depletes progesterone, turning much of the progesterone that is present into increased cortisol and cortisone. So, your body swaps feel-good vibes, easy and regular periods, and increased fertility for a broken panic button.
Insulin and blood sugar:
Insulin is a hormone that helps the cells in your body get access to glucose for energy. If your diet is heavy in sugar and refined foods, over time your cells can become resistant to insulin, pushing your body to release more and more. High insulin stimulates ovaries to produce testosterone and it can block ovulation altogether.
An imbalance in blood sugar and insulin leads to an imbalance in other hormones, including cortisol. When you’re struggling with blood sugar issues, your adrenals may have to kick up stress hormone release in an attempt to buffer.
Toxins can enter your body through heavy metals found in food, the plastic chemicals found in the containers holding your drinks and foods, even the chemicals around your home and in your makeup bag.
The liver’s job is detoxification which contributes to creating happy hormones. If your liver is bombarded with toxins to break down, it will get backlogged and toxins will become stored elsewhere in the body.
Your built-in sleep schedule naturally produces different hormones at different times. Cortisol peaks in morning and declines throughout the day; melatonin peaks at night and winds down toward morning. If you’re not getting enough quality sleep, this chemical production takes a hit, as do your abilities to feel energized in the mornings and enter deep sleep at night.
Your progesterone levels affect the healthy performance of your thyroid. If your progesterone levels are low, then your thyroid can’t perform well and causes symptoms akin to PMS. In reverse, some women take thyroid medication but still battle hormonal imbalance because they’re not addressing the root case, such as adrenal fatigue or low progesterone.
How do you know if your hormones are imbalanced?
To that I ask, what isn’t working well in your body? I should preface by saying that your body is meant to work well. So, if you’re experiencing any symptoms of less-than-amazing health, then something isn’t working.
First, take note of everything that isn’t working well. This can help narrow down the root cause(s). Then, get tested.
My go-to for comprehensive hormone testing is the DUTCH Complete. It’s an at-home urine test that provides an in-depth look at your sex hormones, adrenal health, and methylation–all the departments you want to assess when resolving hormone issues. Pro-tip: Book an initial consultation before buying your test kits so that I can point you towards the ones that may be best suited for you.
Beyond lab testing, an honest conversation about your lifestyle, your relationships, your physical activity–those details that can’t necessarily be revealed through a lab test should be examined. What isn’t working in your job or family relationships can sometimes be a leading contributor, or even the cause, of a physical organ or system that’s out of whack.
I’m no couple’s therapist, but I know you can’t fix an argument with your loved one by buying them a nice dinner. That’s just asking for the trigger to return with a vengeance later. You need to discuss what happened, what caused it to happen, and what you’ll do to keep it from happening again. Identify the root-cause, don’t just sweep it under a seafood risotto.
The same goes for improving your personal health. You have to know how something broke if you want to fix it.
A holistic look at your whole self is the road I take with my clients to identify what isn’t working and what they can do to bring their life back into balance. Hence, the urine samples and the talks about your sleep routine, your libido, and if you love or hate your boss.
“You have to know how something broke to fix it.”
How to naturally rebalance your hormones:
Once you know what isn’t working and its root-cause, you know the lifestyle and diet changes to try. Depending on the root cause, your protocol will be addressing at least a few of these:
- Improve your sleep quantity and quality
- Decrease stress
- Balance your sex hormones
- Balance your blood sugar
- Balance your gut
- Ease up on your liver
- Balance your thyroid
The three areas of improvement are lifestyle, food, and supplements.
Improve your sleep. This may be the most important step you can take to balancing your hormones. Healthy sleep habits include stepping away from all screens 2 hours before bed, wearing blue light blocking glasses(especially if you’re glued to a screen after sunset), and making your bedroom pitch black. I also have an app on my computer that removes the blue light if I’m on it before or after the sun is up.
Reduce stress. Stress wreaks havoc on the body, while mindful and calming practices boost your happy hormones. Not to mention reducing stress will reduce your cortisol and cortisone levels, keep your valuable progesterone levels normal, and help you sleep better.
Detox. Move toxins out of your skin with saunas or daily dry brushing (great for your lymphatic system), opt for clean makeup and toiletries (my fave is Beautycounter) and clean out the toxic chemicals in your home.
Respect the yoni. The skin in your vagina is exceptionally skilled at quickly and completely absorbing everything that touches it. So, harsh chemicals commonly found in menstrual products enter into your bloodstream and, you guessed it, harm your body’s homeostasis.
While you’re at it, I highly encourage you to explore non-hormonal birth control options.
Tan in the nude. Or not. But get outside and into natural sunlight without any sunblock, as the lotion tend to block vitamin D absorption.
No more plastic. Take the plastic lids off your hot coffee. The heat and acidity from the coffee causes the plastic lid to break down and release hormone disrupting chemicals right into your Americano.
Cut out processed foods, sugars and dairy. Processed foods and sugars are identified by your body as one thing: sugar. And our bodies don’t need any processed sugars to begin with. Dairy has over 60 different hormones, and many act as estrogen. This can overload your system with estrogen, harshing your liver’s productivity and causing excess hormones to get stored in your tissues elsewhere (sometimes, in the breasts, which could contribute to breast cancer).
Try intermittent fasting. Shoot for 10 hours between dinner and breakfast. Your body is supposed to restore itself as you sleep, but when it spends those hours digesting your foods, maybe without enough time before the next meal comes, it loses out on critical R&R.
Filter your water. Tap water, even some bottled waters, can be laden with toxins and hormone disruptors like Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). I strongly believe that filtering your water is one of the most important things you can do for your health. This is the water filter I use, and there are plenty more on the market.
Calm your cortisol and cortisone by including high quality protein with every meal, especially breakfast. Reduce the amount of caffeine and alcohol you drink, and avoid high glycemic foods like sweeteners and flours. Magnesium works wonders on stress, and you can get it from delicious foods like spinach, swiss chard, cacao, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado, black beans, and kale.
To support estrogen levels, eat more phytoestrogens. Here’s a list of some, but note that there could be other factors to your health panel that would cause some of these foods to be omitted from your own recommended list.
- Soybeans and soy products (this is controversial, I know. Read about the beneficial types of soy here.)
- Flaxseeds (freshly ground)
- Sesame seeds
- Coffee (NOT decaf, which is awash with chemicals)
- Noni juice
- Red clover
- Jasmine oil
- Licorice root
- Clary sage oil
Detox your liver. It can be best to do this with supplements in two phases:
- High quality dietary-protein
- B vitamins(especially niacin and riboflavin)
- Vitamin C
- N-Acetyl cysteine (NAC)
- Glycine-rich foods
- B vitamins(especially pantothenic acid)
Manage stress with ashwagandha and maca. I love adding these to my morning coffee or smoothies.
Support natural progesterone production with vitamin C, and help out its friend the thyroid with zinc and turmeric.
If your body is recovering from having stopped hormonal birth control, my period recovery pack is here for you.
Lastly, vitex is a beloved herb for its wide success in balancing women’s hormones.
Some fine print: all lifestyle, food, and supplement changes I’ve listed above are what I’ve found to be successful for my clients, but keep in mind that everyone is different. It’s important to work with a certified nutritionist or physician before starting any supplements.
Hormone imbalance can feel like a David and Goliath situation at first. But I’m pretty sure David ended up winning, and so will you! I’ve remedied my own hormonal imbalance, and I’ve helped many other women get back into balance, too. It’s oh-so-very possible!