What Can You Do to Fix a Hormone Imbalance?
- Written By:Dr. Amy Shah
If you are a woman, you have probably had trouble with your hormones at some point. They are critical in so many parts of our lives and affect mood, bloating, weight, energy, mental clarity, focus and much more.
Hormones are chemical messengers— it’s the way your body communicates. They are made by organs such as the thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, ovaries, testicles and pancreas. It's an intricate balance, so when one hormone is off it can throw everything off. As doctors, we think that modern diet, use of hormones in medication, food, and the environment, and changes in our lifestyles has resulted in hormone imbalance becoming a problem for many, especially women.
Here’s what you need to know about hormone imbalance and what you can do to balance them.
Symptoms of hormone imbalance range from irregular periods to fatigue. Weight gain or loss that is unintentional or unexplained is another common symptom, along with depression, anxiety, insomnia, low libido, bloating and constipation.
Avoid processed sugar and grains
Those cakes, cookies, breads and pastas all have inflammatory properties. Your hunger hormones, insulin, adrenal hormones, and thyroid are all imbalanced by sugar and grains.
Supplement with omega-3 fatty acids
Getting more polyunsaturated omega-3 fats is one of the easiest ways you can balance your hormones. This can be in the form of oily fish or for vegan algae oil. Chia seeds, flax and walnuts all have alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is more difficult to convert to usable omega-3.
Steer clear of commercial oils
Many commercial oils contain omega-6 fats which lead to heart disease, and hormonal imbalance to name a few. Examples of oils to avoid: vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, soybean oil, margarine, shortening, or other chemically altered fats. From wellness mama: Choose fats and oils like coconut oil, real butter, olive oil and animal fats (tallow, lard) from healthy sources instead and eat lots of high omega-3 fish (if you eat fish).
Sorry to say this but… LIMIT caffeine
Excessive caffeine raises your cortisol and slows down your thyroid. That’s not to say that you can’t ever have caffeine, but try to pair it with good fatty food for a slow release of the stimulant. (For tips on how to healthify your coffee, Dave Asprey has invented a recipe for Bulletproof Coffee, which uses a similar concept.)
Eat coconut oil and avocados
And other healthy sources of saturated fat. Cholesterol is needed for formation of healthy cell membranes and is a precursor to all steroid hormones (progesterone, estrogen, FSH, ect). We cannot have proper hormonal balance without adequate amounts of saturated fats.
Fix your leptin
Leptin is a hormone that regulates hunger and metabolism. We can create a deficiency in our leptin levels by consuming too much sugar or processed foods, or by skimping on sleep—and as a result, we can experience more food cravings and a slower metabolism. The fix? Eat whole foods, steer clear of sugar, and get some sleep.
Supplement with vitamin D
Vitamin D acts like a hormone in our bodies, and deficiency has been linked to allergies, asthma, weight gain, fatigue, food allergies and even cancer. It’s best obtained from the sun but often sunlight is not enough. Vitamin D levels can be tested by your healthcare provider, and supplemental vitamin D can be found in various forms.
Consider maca root
Maca root is tuber in the radish family that has a history of boosting hormone production and libido. Many women notice fewer PMS symptoms, increased fertility, and improved skin while men notice increased sperm production, libido, and better sleep. Maca is also high in minerals and essential fatty acids, making it great for hormones. It tastes good in a smoothie and is also available in capsule form.
Get your fiber on
Get more fiber into your diet with raw fruit, and raw vegetables. Fiber binds itself to old estrogen, clearing it out of the system, and leading to better overall balance. This is good for men and women who suffer from estrogen dominance.
Eat more phytonutrients
I’m talking raw, green plants, 3 to 5 servings a day. That’s a lot, but it’s not hard if you incorporate vegetables into a smoothie at the beginning of the day and then eat a salad later.
Do eight-minute sprint exercises a few times a week
I am a sucker for long, slow cardio so this one was hard for me, but it works. It gives you an endorphin high and slows down aging. My favorite take on this is to warm up for 2 to 3 minutes on the treadmill, then increase the speed to a 30-second sprint. (That pace that works for me is about 8.0 to 8.5 mph.) Then decrease the speed to a comfortable jog (in my case, about 6 mph). Do the sprints eight times and you’re done! It’s quick but exhausting.
Recognize the hormone disruptors in your bathroom cabinet
We just know the tip of the iceberg with regards to chemical hormone endocrine disruptors. The comprehensive list of endocrine disruptors is about 870 And we don’t even know all of them. It’s too hard to avoid everything but try to avoid these:
- Bisphenol-A (BPA)
Manage your stress
Even if you’re doing everything else right, if you’re stressed out, high levels of cortisol will throw all your hormones off balance. While high levels of cortisol are typically thought of as something that affect only people struggling with weight gain, even thin people have to worry about cortisol: researchers at Yale University, for example, found that slender women who had high cortisol also had more abdominal fat.
Consider weaning off synthetic hormones such as birth control pills
Unless it’s absolutely necessary for birth control or another condition, I suggest you read an excellent post on this site regarding hormonal birth control.