Balanced hormones and TV. How do these topics go together? Stay with me! I don’t often watch TV. However, I was recently stuck in an airport, and my attention was drawn to a televised dance competition. For a few minutes before my flight was called, I was mesmerized by the synchronized movements of the dance team. As a physician, I was struck by how similar that is to what SHOULD happen in our bodies. For optimal health, all the processes in the human body should work together in a complex, perfectly balanced routine.
This is especially true of our hormones, the chemical messengers that are essential for nearly every bodily function from your metabolism, to your mood, to your sleep cycle. Hormones affect your body temperature and heart rate, your mood, your appetite, your sex drive, growth and development, and more. There are nearly 50 of these chemical messengers produced by our endocrine system and circulated in our bodies.
What Causes Hormone Imbalance?
Virtually everyone experiences imbalanced hormone levels at some point in their lives—particularly us women! These imbalances are often a result of natural changes that occur with age, such as puberty and menopause. When you were growing up, hormones triggered bone and muscle growth. They also set in motion the reproductive changes that led to menstruation and fertility in young women, and sexual maturity in young men. This surge of hormones is behind the acne, mood swings, and other “teen” issues that affect most adolescents.
Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take to optimize your hormone health and find relief from your symptoms, no matter your age.
Tips to Balance Your Hormones Naturally
1. Fill up with protein.
Eating protein with every meal can help you feel satisfied and decrease levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. I recommend beginning your day with a filling, nutrient-dense Paleo Protein smoothie. For lunch and dinner, opt for organic, grass-fed or pasture-raised proteins. Choosing organic will ensure you’re not ingesting any added hormones that are commonly used in conventionally raised livestock and farmed fish. I trust ButcherBox and Vital Choice for their devotion to clean, high-quality meats and wild-caught fish, respectively.
2. Avoid foods that wreak hormone havoc.
Sugar and refined carbohydrates can cause blood sugar spikes and mess with your insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas that helps turn glucose into energy and keeps your blood sugar stable. Too much sugar causes your body to release more and more insulin to help control blood glucose levels. This can lead to insulin resistance and eventually to type 2 diabetes. Keep refined carbs to a minimum and save sweet treats for special occasions. Choose natural sweeteners that won’t send your blood sugar on a roller coaster.
Another hormone-wrecking food to watch out for is soy. Soy contains phytoestrogens known as isoflavones that mimic estrogen in your body. These estrogen-like compounds have been shown to increase tumor growth in animals, leading researchers to speculate that they may have a harmful effect on a developing human as well. Avoid giving an infant soy-based formula, as they are rapidly developing and are especially sensitive to hormones and hormone-like compounds.
Eating the right fruits and veggies is a great tool for balancing hormones. Luckily, there are plenty of delicious hormone-balancing foods that you can incorporate into your daily diet. If you need some inspiration, I have a ton of recipes that incorporate foods to support healthy hormone levels on my blog that are FREE for you to enjoy.
3. Get active.
A combination of strength and cardio increases the “feel-good” hormone dopamine, which reduces stress and feelings of depression. Regular activity can also help your sleep, digestion, memory, and even sexual function, thanks to a boost in serotonin.
Exercise can also increase the production of testosterone in men and estrogen in women. Declining levels of testosterone lead to loss of muscle mass and reduced libido, so hitting the gym can help men slow the natural effects of aging. Meanwhile, women experiencing menopause symptoms caused by low levels of estrogen can find relief by engaging in daily activity, particularly high-intensity exercises such as running, spin classes, or even jumping rope. That being said, any movement is better than none, so get out there and find an activity you enjoy!
4. Ditch the plastic.
There are lots of reasons to ditch plastic, and balancing your hormones is one of them. Nearly every type of plastic releases chemicals that mimic estrogen in your body. Continuous, low-level exposure to these chemicals can lead to hormone imbalance and put you at risk for insulin resistance, breast or prostate cancer, infertility, male impotence, and a whole host of health issues.
5. Choose non-toxic body products.
Most personal care products out there contain phthalates, parabens, and other hormone-disrupting chemicals. These toxins get absorbed into your skin, where they can enter your bloodstream and wreak havoc on your hormones. Read ingredient labels carefully to avoid the “dirty dozen” toxic ingredients. Get rid of any toxic products you may have in your cabinets and replace them with safer alternatives such as those found at Beautycounter.
6. Get the Sleep You Need.
While you sleep, growth hormones are released that boost your immune system and aid in tissue repair. A good night’s sleep also helps control your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, so you are better equipped to deal with stress during the day ahead. If you find you have trouble falling and staying asleep, you can make simple lifestyle changes to reach optimal sleep, such as supplementing with my Rest and Restore™ sleep formula.
7. Manage your stress.
Chronic stress causes spikes and dips in a number of different hormones including cortisol, adrenaline, prolactin, thyroid hormones, and growth hormones. These imbalances can lead to a wide range of health issues including adrenal fatigue, diabetes, Graves’ disease, and sexual dysfunction. While it’s impossible to avoid stress completely, it’s crucial to find ways to manage it to restore balance to your hormones. Meditation and building a community of social support are proven ways to manage chronic stress.