In this post I will talk about the ways that I have learned to balance hormones naturally. It has been a long road for me. I’ve had doctors jokingly dismiss my concerns about hormones, and I’ve had doctors recommend treatments that only half worked. I’ve had times that are better, and times that are worse. Through the dismissals, and ups and downs, I’ve learned a lot. I hope that you find something here that can be applied to your situation and that can help you heal.
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that are secreted directly into the blood. The blood then carries the hormones to the organs and tissues of the body so they can perform their functions. There are many types of hormones that act on different aspects of bodily functions and processes. Some of these include:
- Development and growth,
- Sexual function,
- Reproductive growth and health,
- Maintenance of body temperature,
As you can imagine if hormones aren’t properly cared for they can get out of balance, and if they are out of balance then the body can suffer from numerous problems. Additionally, hormones are intricately weaved together in a way that can help you thrive when things are in order, but that can also spiral you out of control when something is amiss.
How to know if you need to balance hormones
There are many indications that you could have a hormone problem. Here are a few common symptoms:
- Skin issues,
- Weight gain around the middle,
- Loss of muscle mass,
- Trouble sleeping,
- Always sleeping,
- Low libido,
- Night sweats and hot flashes,
Please keep in mind that many of these symptoms could be caused by other problems. This list also doesn’t pinpoint which hormone to look at. For example, fatigue could be a thyroid imbalance or a cortisol problem. Since that is the case, I highly recommend getting your hormones tested by a naturopathic doctor. I also recommend finding someone that can do Dutch testing. It is the most accurate form of hormone testing.
How to Balance Hormones Naturally
Regardless of test results the following tips should help most everyone attain greater health, and hopefully balance hormones.
Eat More Healthy Fats
My past is filled with a serious fear of fat. I did everything I could to avoid it… Yeah I know, cringe worthy right? But seriously, I drank skim milk, I didn’t add butter to anything, I even went as far as to rinse my ground beef.
It makes me sick to even be writing this.
But I found every possible way to eliminate all fat from my diet. I thought that the little top triangle of the food pyramid was there because people aren’t going to cut out all sweets and fat, not because we actually need those things. I was the chubby-fat-free-queen. And all it got me was, well, fat… and moody.
What I didn’t know or understand was that hormones are made up of cholesterol, a huge portion of the brain is cholesterol, and the body really does need fat. Healthy hormones rely on the body having balance, and that balance most certainly includes fat! Thank goodness! I really love that fat.
So to heal my hormones I changed my believes about fat. If a food naturally contained fat then I most certainly didn’t remove it. Now I leave the fat on my ground beef, I eat butter, I drink whole milk, and I add coconut oil to all kinds of dishes including my hot chocolate and oatmeal.
Please note by healthy fats I mean natural fats like avocados, and coconut oil, and egg yolks, raw butter, lard, and tallow from pastured animals. I avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils like canola oil, margarine, soybean oil, and shortening.
Also keep in mind that this isn’t a free ticket to eat as much fat as you want. You need to find a healthy balance. For me that was a little tricky. When I learned fat was actually healthy I went overboard and it took a little while for me to find that happy middle ground. “Moderation in all things”, and “listen to your body” are still good mottos here.
More info here:
- Saturated Fat: Friend or Foe?
- Why I Believe Over Half of Your Diet Should be Made up of Saturated Fat
Much like any other girl, I did all I could to doll myself up. I used all the fabulous chemical ridden toiletries and makeup without a second thought. I colored my hair, I spritzed the perfumes and hairsprays.
I also used chemical cleaners. The more smelly the chemical the better it is working, right? So, out came the antibacterial soaps, the bleach, and the air fresheners. One thorough scrub and a deep breath tells you it is all sanitized!
To make matters even worse I also sprayed pesticides for a living. And although my personal circumstances are a little extreme, so is what is hiding in almost every bathroom.
If you want your hormonal balance messed up then feel free to indulge in a little extra chemical air freshener and get your monthly pesticide service. Those things along with eating a juicy burger made from beef that has been given who knows what and you should be well on your way to hormonal imbalance… Oh wait, you better wrap it up in a toxic pretty plastic wrapper.
Although we all have them and we seem to be surviving, our hormones are much more delicate than we tend to treat them. And the chemical overload isn’t helping.
To eliminate chemicals:
- Avoid plastic as much as possible. Use glass, stainless steel, cast iron, wood, etc. Never cook in plastic or store food in plastic!
- Discard any personal care products that contained parabens. Names to look for include butylparaben, isobutylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben and popylparaben. Check out the Skin Deep Database to find out what’s in your cosmetics.
- Eat organic to avoid unnecessary exposure to pesticides.
- Avoid second-hand smoke and air pollution, ditch air fresheners and use chemical-free cleaning products – I use baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils to clean. I diffuse essential oils in place of air freshener.
Focus on Fitness
Somewhere in my preteen years I gave up on physical activity. I was totally bummed that my little sister could beat me in a race, so I just stopped. I stopped running. I stopped being active. Sports were her thing, not mine. It was years before I decided it might be a good idea to be more active. And years more before it became a consistent part of my life.
You could also have the opposite problem and still be hurting your hormones. To much exercise can cause problems like adrenal fatigue and thyroid problems like Hashimoto’s.
I have learned that to support hormonal health not only does the diet need balance but so does the fitness routine. My main focus is on weight training, yoga and interval training. The weights and the interval training both help to build strong muscles, because muscle burns more calories than fat it also increases metabolism and balances hormones. I focus on yoga because it is more than just exercise. It is about mind-body connection and relaxation. It helps me to lower my stress levels, and feel ready to tackle the day.
Balance is needed with fitness. Listen to your body. Lift heavy things. Get in some cardio. Don’t overdo it.
More on Fitness here:
- Workouts to Increase Metabolism
- 10 Habits of People who Make Exercise Look Easy
- Great Workout Videos: The easiest and cheapest way to get your workouts in
- Incorporate Exercise Into Your Day… Quick and Easy
- How to Make a Behavior Addictive: Make Exercise Addictive
Quality Sleep Helps Balance Hormones
Early to Bed
I always loved my pillow. I just didn’t always embrace it. And I was seldom consistent, especially as a mom. I made it a goal to be asleep by 10pm. Being a mom that isn’t always possible but I work hard to get the kids settled in early and give myself a little time to relax and get to sleep. The most important sleep occurs between 10 and 2.
Support Circadian Rhythm
In addition to getting to bed on time and consistently I’ve done things to support my circadian rhythm and promote restful sleep. I often take Epsom salt baths before bed, I use calming essential oils like Cedarwood and Peace & Calming, and drink chamomile tea with added gelatin.
I also downloaded Flux on my computer. Flux automatically dims the computer screen as the sun goes down. Electronic devices with bright screens trick the brain into thinking that it is midday and thus disturbing the normal cycle of your circadian rhythm.
More on Getting a Great Nights Sleep here:
- The Sleep Solution
- One Simple Trick to Help You Sleep at Night
- 5 All Natural Sleep Aids
- Can’t Fall Back Asleep? “Sleepy Dust”—An Unconventional Nutritional Remedy for Insomnia
- Essential Oil Sleep Salve Relaxation Rub
Trash the Hormonal Birth Control
This is most certainly in my top 5 biggest mistakes I have ever made… It might be tied for number 1 with not eating fat actually… Yeah, let’s go with number one. I’ve taken the pill, used the patch, tried the ring, and used the Paraguard IUD (I know this one isn’t hormonal but I’m counting it anyway). Every option sucked. Period. I was moody, I had a raging appetite which made me gain weight. My periods were irregular and did I say I was moody?
Hormonal birth control works in a few ways. First it stops ovulation. No egg means no pregnancy. Most birth control contains the synthetic hormones estrogen and progestin, some only contain progestin. These synthetic hormones control a woman’s natural hormone levels, and prevent estrogen from peaking mid-cycle. Without the estrogen bump, the pituitary gland does not release other hormones that normally cause the ovaries to release mature eggs. In other words, birth control thwarts the female body’s ability to cycle through hormonal changes normally and thus causes imbalance and irregularity, along with a host of other side effects.
So, I trashed my birth control never to look back and instead the book, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, became my birth control bible of sorts. Not only is it a great resource for educating women about how to prevent pregnancy it is also great for general knowledge about the female cycle and even to help women achieve pregnancy when they are ready to do so.
More on Birth Control here:
- Is Your Birth Control Ruining Your Health
- 10 Menstruation Facts You Should Definitely Know
- 4 Ways to Repair the Hormonal Imbalance from the Pill
- Natural Birth Control Alternatives to “The Pill”
Vow to Never Diet Again
I learned quick that the easiest way to lose weight was to limit calories. So that is just what I did, and the less I ate, the less I was able to eat without gaining the weight back. It became a vicious cycle of dieting, loosing weight, giving up, eating a lot, and then trying some new diet and starting over. Only to find myself hungry and over weight. Unfortunately this pattern is all to common, it may even sound like the story of your life too.
What I didn’t understand was that to have a healthy metabolism and to balance hormones my body needed to be fed a lot more than what almost all diets allow. I needed to listen to my cravings and my bodies hunger cues and respond accordingly. Now that doesn’t mean I have to respond to every sugar craving. Sugar cravings can be caused by sugar addiction and imbalanced blood glucose levels. But the normal stuff like eating breakfast and eating when hungry. Making sure to have a balanced diet that includes fat, carbs and proteins for every meal and snack.
When I really need to lose a few pounds I turn to my good friend Kristen from Mix Wellness. She has 2 programs that help the body detox from sugar and other things, lose weight, and stimulate the metabolism. If you are feeling lost on how to eat so that you can lose weight without starving yourself or hurting your metabolism I highly recommend her programs.
Learn to Relax
When the body is in a relaxed state steroid hormones work to promote DHEA and progesterone. These hormones promote immune balance, cancer prevention and healthy reproduction. When the body becomes stressed the same steroid hormones send their building blocks to cortisol. Cortisol is the “survive now, deal with things later” hormone. That fight or flight instinct literally sucks up all of the steroid hormones leaving nothing to maintain the balance of DHEA and progesterone. Hello estrogen dominance!
Steps to help relaxation:
- do yoga – yoga is designed to focus inwardly and to close the mind to all the business around us.
- plan to be early – if the intention is to be early, whether for work, with deadlines, or anything else then when things don’t go as planned there is less stress in the delays.
- get enough sleep – a rested mind promotes a relaxed atmosphere.
- have a schedule – having a plan helps keep out the mental clutter
- be a minimalist – minimalism helps reduce stress by keeping life simple. the less physical mess and clutter the less mental stress and clutter.
- choose to let it go – let’s face it, being high-strung can be a conscious choice. Choose to “act” instead of “react” to situations and life will be less stressful.
More on Stress here:
Soybean oil, soy protein, soy lethicin, soy milk, soy sauce… all of these products have one very big problem. They contain large amounts of phytoestrogens, specifically isoflavones, which bind to the body’s hormone receptors disrupting the body’s natural ability to balance hormones on its own.
This may leave you wondering how Asians quite literally live on the stuff? Well, traditionally soy was always fermented. In that form it is much less harmful to hormones.
You may be thinking, “No problem, I’ll just avoid my favorite Chinese restaurant and all is well.” Wrong. Soy is in literally everything! Check your labels, it is in almost every processed food including most cocoa.
More on Soy here:
Make a Habit of Drinking Broth and Eating Gelatin
Did you know that traditional cultures made a habit of eating not only the fat from an animal but also the gelatin from that animal along with their muscle meat and organs? We have become a culture that has forgotten how to eat much of anything but muscle meats. But these other animal parts are very important for health and for hormone balance.
When only the muscle meats are eaten the body’s cortisol levels rise. This leads to a stress response in the body and then hormonal imbalance.
Now I almost always have broth going in my slow cooker. It is added to almost every meal. I use it in place of water to cook rice or quinoa. I use broth in all of my soups and gravies. And if I don’t get enough broth in then I make gelatin treats or add hydroslate to my drink, smoothie, or meal.
More on Broth & Gelatin here:
Supplements that Balance Hormones
There are lots of supplements and herbs that are beneficial to hormone health. I’m only going to tell you about a few that I have found to make a noticeable difference in my mood and energy. Also, some may be good for your specific imbalance and some may not.
Maca – Maca is an endocrine adaptogen. This means that it does not contain any hormones, but does contain the nutrients necessary to support normal hormone production. It is known to increase fertility, decrease stress, improve libido, and ease PMS symptoms.
Schizandra berry – Schizandra berry is great for adrenal support.
Adrenal Cocktail – 1/2 C. fresh orange juice, 1/4 tsp. Himalayan pink seas salt, and 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (potassium) gives the adrenals a super boost.
Magnesium – Magnesium regulates cortisol, lowers blood sugar, supports thyroid, aids sleep. fuels cellular energy, and is a key contributor to the building of hormones. I regularly use Epsom salt in the bath, and supplement daily with with this slow release magnesium supplement.
More on Supplements here:
Track Your Temperature
My original purpose for tracking my temperature had nothing to do with being aware of how hormones were doing. It was actually for birth control. But I quickly noticed that my temperature never reached that beautifully warm spot we call 98.6. It bounced between 97.1 and 97.6. Having a low temperature is an indication that you have a weak metabolism. Although this trick has very little to do with actually fixing anything, it helped me to monitor my progress and continues to help me maintain my metabolic, and hormonal balance.
To track your temperature you need to use a basal body thermometer and take your temperature immediately upon waking before getting out of bed. You can also download apps to help you record and review where you are at.
Do you have a tip to balance hormones? Share in the comments below.
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