How to naturally balance your hormones
Feeling off? Experiencing weight gain for no foreseeable reason? Having trouble sleeping? Or just feeling tired all the time?
If this sounds familiar, you might be suffering from a hormone imbalance. Hormones affect every part of our body, and when there's an imbalance, you'll know it. Luckily, there are ways to naturally balance your hormone levels.
Signs of hormone imbalance:
While hormones may be slow-acting, they are also very finicky, a small imbalance can cause huge shifts throughout your entire body. If your hormones are out of balance, you will be able to tell. These are the common signs of a hormone imbalance:
unexplained weight gain or weight loss- Do you feel like your diet and exercise haven’t changed but you are still gaining weight? If your cortisol levels are too high, you will be unable to lose weight- as your body will enter “fight or flight” mode and preserve fat for energy. High-stress levels in your personal or professional life can lead to elevated levels of cortisol.
difficulty sleeping- Dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, has been linked to insomnia. Your HPA axis is intimately tied to cortisol which can decrease melatonin. A lower level of melatonin may make it difficult to go to sleep and stay asleep. An untimely rise in cortisol is usually what wakes people up between 3 and 4 am.
irritability and anxiety- If your estrogen levels are unbalanced, you may feel anxious and nervous. Studies have demonstrated estrogen can calm the fear response and anxiety but only when correctly balanced. Low levels of testosterone can also cause anxiety and depression.
unexplained and long-term fatigue- If your adrenal glands are secreting too much of the stress hormone, cortisol, you will likely be left feeling exhausted but too wired to go to sleep. Cortisol will also affect your thyroid resulting in symptoms of hypothyroidism - or low thyroid. This will result in fatigue and a slower metabolism.
Causes of hormone imbalance:
There are many factors that lead to hormonal imbalance. Common causes of hormone imbalance include:
Chronic or extreme stress
Poor diet and nutrition
Carrying extra weight
There are two causes of hormonal imbalance that are often overlooked; these include gut health and endocrine disruptors.
The mucosal lining of the gut contains specialized enteroendocrine cells that synthesize and secrete hormones that facilitate a number of key physiological processes. The enteroendocrine is actually the largest endocrine organ in the body. Evidence has shown that the microbiome in the gut influences hormone release by the enteroendocrine cells. If the microbiome is not being properly supplied with nutrients or if it is damaged by chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics, your hormone balance will suffer. For example, estrogen must be excreted from the body or it will be reabsorbed resulting in estrogen dominance. Pathogenic bacteria will promote reabsorbing estrogen.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones. Common endocrine disruptors include BPA, phthalates, phytoestrogens, PFAS, and triclosan. Hormone mimicking endocrine disruptors trick the body into over-responding to the stimulus (like a growth hormone that causes increased muscle mass) or responding at inappropriate times (producing insulin when unnecessary). Interfering endocrine disruptors directly stimulate or inhibit hormone production. Endocrine disruptors are found in many everyday products like plastic bottles and containers, liners of metal cans, detergents, toys, personal care products, cosmetics. food preservatives, pesticides, cleaning products and many more. In food alone over 14,000 of these chemicals are used.
How to naturally support hormone balance:
Beyond supplementing with hormones, there are many alternative ways to naturally balance your hormones. As mentioned above, the gut strongly impacts your hormone levels. Working to maintain a healthy gut will help to balance your hormones. You can increase your gut health by:
Avoiding inflammatory foods- Inflammation in the gut causes many gut diseases, including leaky gut, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. Avoid vegetable oils and most processed foods, which are inflammatory. Instead, increase wild-caught fish and non-starchy vegetables like spinach and green beans, which normalize inflammation levels in your gut.
Eat foods rich in antioxidants- Oxidative stress, when too many free radicals overwhelm your body’s defenses, can damage the gut. Antioxidant balance can be improved by eating colorful plant foods like berries.
Increase fiber in your diet- Fiber provides your colon cells with fuel to function optimally. The best way to get fiber is through leafy and cruciferous vegetables, berries, and raw nuts and seeds.
Avoid eat non-nutritive sweeteners- Saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame have been shown to have long-term consequences for microbiome composure and glucose intolerance. While they may be lower in calories, non-nutritive sweeteners ultimately do more harm than good for your body.
You can also naturally balance your hormones by limiting your exposure to endocrine disruptors. You can do so by:
Limit your plastic use- BPA and phthalates are present in most plastic containers and wraps. Switch plastic food storage containers with glass or stainless steel. Never microwave your plastic containers. Replace plastic baggies with reusable lunch bags or beeswax-coated cloth.
Avoid canned foods- The lining of canned foods often contain BPA’s to prevent corrosion. Even “BPA-free” cans may use a chemical that is no safer. Instead, choose fresh, frozen, or dried foods that aren’t packaged in cans.
Prioritize organic foods- Pesticides are known hormone disruptors. Organic foods are not treated with the same pesticides and herbicides. You can also choose conventionally grown foods known to have the least amount of pesticide residue.
Avoid non-organic cleaning supplies- Cleaning products contain many chemicals that act as hormone disruptors if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through your skin. Safe Household Cleaning is a great website where you can check if your supplies contain hormone disruptors.