Women learn early on that hormonal fluctuations are a natural part of life. Throughout the different phases of your monthly cycle, you experience changes in your energy level, mood, concentration, libido and food cravings.
Your hormones ebb and flow over the span of approximately four weeks, affecting how you feel. But sometimes your hormones get out of balance, which causes all kinds of symptoms. You may struggle with acne, weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, dry skin or a decreased sex drive. Other signs of hormonal imbalance include irregular periods, night sweats, pain during sex and mood swings.
Some hormonal shifts are normal, like the changes that occur during pregnancy, lactation and menopause. Other imbalances may be caused by medication and underlying health problems, such as diabetes and thyroid disorders. Prolonged stress and sleep deprivation can also be to blame riding a hormonal roller coaster.
So what can you do when your hormones are out of balance?
First, consult your doctor to check your hormone levels and rule out any underlying diseases. Depending on the results, your physician could suggest different treatment options.
Besides these hormonal therapies, there are simple lifestyle changes you can make to help restore your hormonal balance. Take a look at these 6 tips to balance your hormones naturally.
Disclaimer: The following tips can support your hormonal health, but do not replace necessary medical treatments. Always consult your doctor or other medical professional to find out what’s best for your personal situation.
This blog post also contains affiliate links to resources you might find helpful, at no extra cost to you.
How to Balance Hormones Naturally
1. Eat adequate amounts of protein
Proteins are the building blocks of your body. The amino acids found in protein-rich foods play an important role in the manufacturing of hormones. What’s more, eating high-protein meals reduces the production of the ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin and stimulates the release of hormones that help you feel full.
That’s why it’s important to eat adequate amounts of protein with each meal. For women of average size, this adds up to 46-75 grams per day. Choose high-quality proteins like wild-caught fish, grass-fed meat and free-range eggs. And don’t forget plant-based proteins such as quinoa, legumes, nuts and seeds for an optimal protein intake.
2. Stabilize blood sugar levels
Insulin is a hormone that helps your body to turn glucose into useable energy. When your daily diet contains a lot of sugar and refined carbs, your pancreas has to release more and more insulin to store glucose in your body cells. Over time, this overproduction can lead insulin resistance, causing a chain reaction in your body.
In turn, untreated insulin resistance can have serious consequences, like diabetes, heart disease and stroke. What’s more, insulin resistance is linked to imbalance of reproductive hormones like estrogen. The reverse is also true: hormonal changes in estrogen and progesterone can trigger spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels.
Given its importance for your overall health, what can you do to stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent insulin resistance?
- Limit your intake of foods high in sugar. Soft drinks, cookies and ice cream are common culprits, but don’t overlook the accumulation of all the added sugar in processed foods and ready-made meals. You can find a step-by-step guide on how to curb your sweet cravings here.
- Swap refined carbs like bread rolls, white pasta and white rice for wholegrain versions. Take a look at these good grain recipes for inspiration.
- Eating fiber-rich foods like fruit, vegetables, legumes and oats is key to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
- Have healthy fats such as avocado, fatty fish, nuts and coconut yoghurt with your meals. Combining healthy fats with carbohydrates slows down the rise of blood glucose levels.
3. Manage stress better
Being under stress is enough to make you anxious and irritable, but it also throws your hormones out of whack.
When you’re stressed, your brain prompts your adrenal glands to release adrenalin and cortisol into your blood stream, preparing you to fight or flight. That’s great for dealing with imminent threats, but not the best response to a busy lifestyle packed with stimulation.
Chronic stress keeps your cortisol levels elevated, which means your adrenals have to ‘borrow’ building blocks to produce enough stress hormones. This in turn can result in lower progesterone levels, causing even more symptoms of hormonal imbalance, like mood swings, PMS and fertility issues.
So managing your stress levels is key to balance your hormones naturally. There are many resources available to help you feel calm and balanced, but here are some strategies to get you started:
- Keep stress at bay whenever possible. Set healthy boundaries and learn to say ‘no’ to prevent an overwhelming schedule. Simplify your life. Learn how to look at situations differently so you can reframe stress.
- Get enough rest. And no, binge-watching Netflix is not the same as real rest. As boring as it sounds, prioritize sleep and stick to healthy routines to stay balanced.
- Find healthy ways to release unavoidable stress. It’s tempting to drown your sorrows with a bowl of ice cream, a glass of wine or a shopping spree, but that doesn’t work in the long run. Discover new ways you can truly relax your body and mind. Maybe doing yoga, taking a warm bath or ‘art therapy’ help you let go of stress?
4. Get plenty of sleep
Your hormones are chemical messengers that play a part in almost every function of your body, from your metabolism to sleeping well. During the day, your hormone levels take cues from your body clock to adjust to your current needs. That’s why your hormone balance is tightly linked to the circadian rhythm: when your internal body clock is disrupted, the delicate synchronization of your hormone release may be off too.
A disturbed circadian rhythm, caused by shift work or jet lag, reverses the balance of the sleep hormone melatonin and the stress hormone cortisol. It also dysregulates your hunger hormones and impairs your blood sugar tolerance. All of this puts you at risk for weight gain, metabolic syndrome and sleep disorders.
While you’re asleep, several hormones are released into your bloodstream to replenish. Growth hormone helps to grow and repair tissue, while sleeping also optimize our levels of leptin, insulin and cortisol. If you don’t get enough sleep, these hormones get out of balance, leaving you with carb cravings and difficulties concentrating.
In short: Your quality of sleep affects your hormonal balance and how you’ll feel the next day, and what you do during the day then affects how well you’ll sleep at night.
So how can you improve your sleep and circadian rhythm to balance your hormones naturally?
- Give yourself a bedtime and create a relaxing ritual that signals to your body it’s time to fall asleep.
- Turn off your electronic devices one hour before bedtime. The blue light coming from electronic screens confuses your body its daytime and suppresses the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
- Stick to a consistent sleep-wake schedule, even on weekends. Keep your bedroom dark, cool and for sleep and sex only.
- If a good sleep hygiene isn’t enough, try these unconventional tips for a good night’s sleep.
- Exposing yourself to daylight in the early morning is one of the most effective ways to reset your internal body clock. So open the curtains and let the light in, or go for a morning walk. You can find more ideas on how to restore your circadian rhythm here.
5. Avoid endocrine disruptors
Did you know that certain substances in everyday products can disturb your hormonal balance?
Plastic wraps and toys, food packaging and personal care products can all contain chemicals known as endrocrine disruptors. These endocrine disruptors can increase the production of certain hormones, and decrease the production of others. Some of these chemicals, like BPA found in canned foods and plastic bottles, can mimic hormones, tricking your body into thinking it’s the real deal.
Exposure to these endocrine disruptors can lead to hormonal imbalance and increase your risk of fertility problems and even cancer. Not exactly a dream scenario, so what can you do to reduce the impact of these synthetic hormones?
- Using less plastic is an effective way to reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors. And it’s great for the planet too, so stop using plastic bottles, straws, bags and containers and choose eco-friendly alternatives instead.
- Most shampoos, deodorants and fragrances also contain harmful synthetic hormones like parabens and phthalates. Check the ingredient labels of your body products for the ‘dirty dozen’ chemicals, or research natural, toxic-free beauty products.
6. Consider adaptogenic herbs & seed cycling
In traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, adaptogens are used to help your body handle stress better and balance your hormones. Although the scientific research into adaptogenic plants is still ongoing, these medicinal plants have made their way into the spotlight to restore balance.
Every adaptogen has slightly different benefits: Ashwagandha should support your thyroid, while maca boosts your energy levels. You can learn more about the specific perks and uses of adaptogenic herbs in this guide.
If you’d like to keep things simpler, you could consider seed cycling .Seed cycling integrates different seeds into your diet at different times in your menstrual cycle to support optimal hormonal balance. Head over to Tasty Yummies to see how it works and get the recipes.
What helps you to balance your hormones naturally?
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