A Guide to Regulating Your Hormones
Hormonal imbalance generally starts in our teens and often adds to mood imbalances, skin issues, digestive problems and energy levels. Hormones are chemical messengers that dictate many reactions in the body, and when they’re imbalanced, we feel the effects greatly. Symptoms associated with hormonal abnormalities are usually due to estrogen excess or progesterone deficiencies. With estrogen excess, you may experience symptoms such as bloating, heavy periods, and fibrocystic breasts. When progesterone is deficient, we experience things like PMS, cramps, mood swings, acne, and breast tenderness.
Your menstrual cycle is a good indicator of your overall hormonal health. Many women think that it’s normal to have strong symptoms such as intense cramps, anxiety, and unbearable cravings during their cycle. The truth is that these symptoms are your body’s way of crying out for help, and they’re indicative of hormonal imbalances that can be corrected.
The health of our hormones is strongly affected by our diet and lifestyle. Below are some tips to encourage a more balanced cycle and reduce any hormone-related symptoms:
Get moving!- Physical activity is essential for hormonal health because it increases insulin sensitivity, helps regulate cortisol, and improves your stress response. Studies have shown that regular exercise significantly reduces PMS symptoms. The best type of exercise is the type you ENJOY! Your body is your best guide. If you feel energized and ready for that crossfit workout, go for it, but if you’re feeling low-energy (particularly during your menses), opt for a gentle yoga class or a long walk outside. The important thing is that you get yourself moving in some way every day. It’s normal for your hormones to fluctuate throughout your cycle, and your energy levels throughout the month will naturally vary. This is why listening to and honoring what your body is calling for is so important.
Drink Plenty of water! Shoot for 8 8oz cups per day. Water is what helps keep our body systems functioning at their optimum. It also keeps our skin looking fresh, our energy levels high and our digestion flowing.
Eat Balanced Meals - Eating balanced meals at regular meal times is key to not only hormone regulation but a steady and balanced metabolism.
Include Protein- Start your day off with a solid breakfast that includes a quality protein and add some protein to every meal. Protein is essential for managing blood sugar, which is directly connected to our hormones, it also helps to build and tone muscle.
Balance blood sugar- This is one of the most common underlying causes of hormonal imbalance. Spikes in blood sugar trigger the release of adrenal hormones, stress hormones that signal to your body that you’re in “fight or flight” mode. This can trigger insulin resistance and create hormonal imbalances and inflammation, resulting in PMS, anovulation, irregular cycles, and even PCOS.
Manage your stress- Stress is intimately linked with hormonal health. The adrenal glands secrete hormones such as cortisol and sex hormones, both of which are directly affected by stress levels in the body and can easily become depleted. When cortisol levels remain high due to prolonged, low-level stress, they can interfere with progesterone and testosterone production.
Eat fat- Your hormones LOVE healthy fats! Foods like avocados, raw nuts & seeds, and fatty fish such as mackerel, wild salmon, and sardines should be on your grocery list! Omega 3 fatty acids contain lignans, which help to balance estrogen levels. They also help decrease inflammation, regulate the cycle, and promote ovulation.
Limit packaged foods- These foods are highly processed and filled with sugars, salt, pesticides, and additives that have an inflammatory effect on the body. They exacerbate cravings, lack essential nutrients, and send you on a blood sugar roller coaster. Focus on eating fresh, nutritious, and organic foods instead.
Cut out dairy- Dairy is a known inflammation-causer. It increases acidity in the body and often contains artificial hormones & antibiotics: known endocrine disruptors that deplete minerals such as magnesium. There is a strong correlation between PMS and overconsumption of dairy products. Most people are sensitive to dairy, and over-consuming it causes symptoms such as hormonal acne, difficult periods and digestive upset.
In addition to some changes in our food and lifestyle, we can also benefit from using certain herbs to support our hormones and regulate our cycle.*
Raspberry leaf: A uterine and reproductive tonic, it is used to help regulate cycles and relieve cramps. Great as a daily morning tea pre-cycle and during menses.
Vitex (chaste tree berry): Beneficial for progesterone deficiency or estrogen excess, PCOS, PMS, acne, and infertility. It relieves mood imbalances, breast tenderness, and fluid retention. Can be taken as a tincture or supplement.
Following these tips will result in happy hormones and a menstrual cycle that will feel healthy and balanced. Nourish yourself with a clean diet, exercise, and stress management techniques for optimal health, and say goodbye to imbalanced hormones forever.