The culprits might be sneaky, but the repercussions are all too apparent. Among the many signs that your hormones are out of whack are:
How to balance your hormones naturally
Hormones can feel complicated, and balancing them is oftentimes not a quick fix. For my patient Vanessa, and nearly every other patient, I always start with the foundations to fix those hormonal imbalances: nutrition and lifestyle.
Balancing your hormones and keeping them balanced begins with what you put on the end of your fork. Leveraging food as medicine can support hormone balance naturally. In my women’s health medical practice I often find that once women begin tracking their cycle and evaluating how they feel, they intuitively begin eating and exercising in a way that better serves their hormones.
Here’s what to eat to support your hormones:
Aim for 3 to 6 cups of vegetables daily. Choose organic as often as you can. Be sure to pile on those leafy greens, along with beets, carrots, garlic, onions, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, and artichokes. The more variety, the better! I recommend all women incorporate ¼ cup of broccoli sprouts at least three times weekly to support estrogen metabolism and for its cancer-protecting effects.
High-quality protein helps your liver activate powerful detox pathways, keeps you full, and balances blood sugar levels: All keys for balanced hormones. Eat organic, 100 percent grass-fed meats and pasture-raised eggs as well as wild-caught fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds. (If you don’t eat meat, dial up those last three and consider a plant-based protein powder.) Incorporating Brazil nuts is a great way to supply your thyroid with selenium, which can lend itself to more sustained energy.
Hormone-healthy fats help regulate your blood sugar and supply your body with the energy it needs to create hormones. You’ll find them in flax seeds, avocados, cold-pressed olive oil, coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, and olives. Avocados are also a great source of B6, which supports optimal estrogen and progesterone levels
Fiber warrants its own special category to balance hormones. Among its roles, optimal fiber levels help you have regular bowel movements to remove excess hormones like estrogen. Aim for a minimum of 25 grams daily. Fiber A-listers include avocado, berries, nuts and seeds, and tons of leafy and cruciferous veggies.
Clean, filtered water.
You should drink at least half your body weight in fluid ounces daily. Keep a BPA-free canteen near your desk or in your car and sip liberally! Add a lemon or lime squeeze for extra zing.’
Also worth noting: How you buy and store your food can also impact hormones. Avoid storing or purchasing food in plastic containers if possible. Placing plastic containers with fat-containing foods in the microwave is a source of xenoestrogens, which can create hormone havoc. As often as possible, avoid plastic straws too.
For Vanessa, we got her going on a hormone balancing nutrition plan, and within one cycle her energy was climbing, anxiety was more than cut in half, and she wasn’t tossing and turning at night. In addition, we incorporated lifestyle practices to help her manage her anxiety and build better hormones.
Other ways to build healthy hormones
When it comes to restoring hormonal balance, food matters. But so do other things like how you live, think, sleep, and move. These four foundational strategies provide maximum bang for your hormone-supporting buck.
Exercise correctly. Both cardio and strength training can improve hormone balance and avoid metabolic mayhem. Aim for at least 20 minutes of daily movement. You can alternate between cardio and strength training. Or try yoga, Pilates, Zumba, Barre3, or martial arts. If you aren’t used to regular exercise, start out with walking and stretching, and work your way up to other, more intensive activities.
Dial up your rock star sleep. Struggling with low libido? Feeling that mid-afternoon mood crash that leaves you bolting for a latte and the vending machine? When too little sleep messes with your circadian rhythm, your hormone balance (and lots more) suffers. I can’t think of anything that solid, consistent sleep can’t fix. Quality sleep, aim for 8 hours, revitalizes your body and helps rebalance your hormones.
Crank down your stress levels. When you’re stressed out, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, spiking and subsequently crashing cortisol levels. Other hormones also take the hit. Make a concerted effort to reduce stress by taking deep breaths, incorporating adaptogenic herbs, meditating, exercising, eliminating toxic relationships and negative self-talk, and carving out time in your schedule for activities you enjoy.
Get the right nutrients. When it comes to supplements and hormone balance, working with a naturopathic or functional medicine practitioner can help create a plan that works for you. That said, I’ve found nearly everyone benefits from a few hormone-balancing foundation supplements. They include a professional-quality multivitamin, omega-3 fatty acids, extra vitamin D and magnesium, and a B complex.
It may sound like a lot of work to upgrade your diet and ditch some of these hormone-harming habits, but as you increase your energy, your mood, and your mojo, and create better hormone balance in your body, I’m pretty confident you’ll say “That was so worth it.”