In Part 1 of this guide, we looked at some of the hormones that are most influential to our health, how they affect our lives. Now we’re going to explore how we can begin to shift them into balance for a happy, healthy life.
There are many things we can do every day to keep our hormones happy and balanced. It doesn’t have to be complicated and even just a few changes can greatly impact your hormonal health.
1. Eat for optimal hormone balancing
A diet rich in whole foods, leafy greens, quality proteins, and healthy fats is ideal for balanced hormones. These foods nourish the body, balance the blood sugar, and appeal to the gut. Foods to reduce or avoid include processed foods, refined carbs like breads and pasta, and sugar which all have an impact on blood sugar and gut health, which each can increase stress—a big hormonal no-no!
2. Balance your blood sugar
The next key to balanced hormones is balanced blood sugar. Blood sugar balancing is eating in a way that doesn’t spike your blood sugar and insulin, leading to a constant roller coaster.
Unbalanced blood sugar leads to sugar and caffeine cravings, the inability to fall and stay asleep, moodiness, and high energy highs and low lows.
Balanced blood sugar has the opposite effect, stabilizing our moods, cravings, and sleep schedules. Sugary treats, bread, pasta, and even some high sugar fruit like mango and pineapple spike blood sugar. When blood sugar goes up, your pancreas releases insulin. Excess insulin increases cortisol, which we now know causes a lot of various hormonal imbalances. Excess insulin can also increase testosterone, leading to other issues.
A few tips to balance blood sugar are:
- Drink 8-10 oz of water first thing in the water, and avoid caffeine before breakfast
- Eat a protein-rich breakfast combined with healthy fats, like avocado, coconut, and olive oil
- Avoid carb-rich foods like bread, bagels, and cereal
- At each meal, include protein, complex carbs like vegetables, healthy fats, and fiber
- Eat in a calm, no-stress environment
- Sit down and relax while eating
- You should feel full and satisfied for about 4-6 hours after eating. If you feel hungry sooner, snack on something with protein and a healthy fat
3. Get enough sleep (and sleep without light)
As best you can, carve out enough time for getting at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. I know, I know. You may be thinking that that’s impossible for you, but sleep is a very important part of good overall health and you’re worth the effort.
Sleep in a completely dark room without any lights, real or artificial. Use a sleep mask if you need to. Sleeping in darkness regulates our release of melatonin, which is produced by the pineal gland. Melatonin helps us not only fall asleep, but helps with decreasing our obesity and certain types of cancer risk.
4. Manage stress
As you hopefully now understand, stress and cortisol play huge roles in hormone balancing and achieving optimum levels of hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid hormone. Find ways to reduce the stress in your life. Some easy stress-reducing practices to try are meditation (even just a few minutes every day), gentle yoga, journaling, taking a class you enjoy, meeting up with a friend, or even just watching a show or movie that makes you laugh.
5. Exercise the right way
We all have been told that too little exercise is bad for us and can lead to weight gain and other problems. But too much exercise, or the wrong kind of exercise, also pose a great problem.
For women especially, it’s important to know what parts of your cycle are best for various types of exercise and activities. During your period, slow down and either stop exercising or turn to gentle, restorative practices like yoga, walking, or tai chi.
A couple of weeks after your period, your energy will most likely be a bit higher and you’ll be able to handle more strenuous types, like cardio and weightlifting.
However, no matter what time it is in your cycle, too strenuous exercise for too long stresses out the body. For example, jogging continuously for 40 minutes or more initiates cortisol production in the body. That’s why the rates of infertility and missing periods are so high in women who are marathon runners or train intensely. Aim for intense interval-based routines that are no longer than 30 minutes. Just three hours of this type of exercise a week can keep you healthy and reduce cortisol levels.
6. Detox your liver
The liver is responsible for detoxing and eliminating excess estrogen out of the body, helping to prevent estrogen dominance and a myriad of hormonal issues as a result. Be conscious about your liver health and aim to regularly detox it to allow it to function optimally. The liver also removes chemicals and environmental pollution from the body, which include alcohol, drugs (illegal and legal, like Xanax), pesticides in food, refined sugar, and smog.
To optimise your liver function, reduce your alcohol consumption, increase fibre in your diet, eliminate the xenoestrogens in your household, and eat liver-cleansing foods like dandelion greens, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, and apples.
7. Toss the hormone-disrupting products
There are chemicals called xenoestrogens that mimic natural estrogen in our bodies. These chemicals come from BPA which is found in many plastic products, pesticides, and chlorine. You can also find them in personal care products like makeup, shampoo, body lotion, and perfumes. These chemicals totally throw our natural hormone production way off track and can lead to the same imbalances that our natural hormones can cause.
Look for non-toxic personal care products free from parabens, make your own cleaning products or opt for natural cleaning products, reduce your use of plastics, and try to eat organic food. Also, drink filtered water and purchase a shower filter to limit your exposer to chlorine and fluoride.
The most important rule is to not think of all the things you’re doing wrong and feel overwhelmed. Simply review how our hormones affect our bodies, and aim to start implementing even just one of the points I listed above, into your life. Little by little, introduce another step and you’ll be well on your way to balanced hormones and a healthier life.
*The majority of this information comes from my experience and knowledge as a woman’s hormonal health coach and graduate of Nicole Jardim’s Women’s Hormonal Health Apprenticeship.