Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid, cortisol, insulin etc. We've heard the names and we may even know how some of them function, but let's be honest: This stuff is complicated!
I wrote this to make it easy for you.
I've been trying to figure hormones out for years (college, medical school, and beyond) and during my journey, I've learned some solutions that keep coming up in the literature and from the experts. I found that these often mitigate the need for exogenous hormones.
Let me say it a different way: DO NOT take hormones if you haven't tried some or all of the natural methods below!
Even healthy women and men who follow a good diet may find issues with fatigue, weight gain, brain fog etc. Balancing your hormones is not that difficult and can boost your personal and professional life in ways you never imagined.
Here are the top tips:
1. Avoid "white" foods.
In Dr. Christiane Northrup's Hormone-Balancing Food Plan, she asks patients to eliminate refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, white rice, bread, alcohol, and foods made with white flour, such as muffins, bagels, pasta, pretzels and other snack foods. I'd go further and suggest you do a trial off of wheat completely for one month. When you reintroduce it, journal your symptoms to see if you should stay off of it permanently.
2. 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.
3. Steer clear 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. Choose fats/oils like coconut oil, real butter, olive oil (don’t heat!) and animal fats (tallow, lard) from healthy sources instead and eat lots of high Omega-3 fish (if you eat fish).
4. 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.)
5. Eat coconut oil and avocados.
And other healthy sources of saturated fat. This is the best way to boost testosterone or female hormones. 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.
6. 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.
7. Consider supplementing 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. Do 8 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 8 times and you're done! It's quick but exhausting.
12. Recognize the hormone disruptors in your bathroom cabinet.
We just know the tip of the iceberg with regards to chemical hormone endocrine disruptors. It's too hard to avoid everything but try to avoid these:
- Bisphenol-A (BPA)
The comprehensive list of endocrine disruptors is about 870! And we don't even know all of them.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. If you have menstrual or menopause issues, try chasteberry.
Chasteberry is believed to work by suppressing the release of prolactin from the pituitary gland. Elevated prolactin levels can also cause an irregular menstrual cycle or even the absence of periods. Chasteberry is also included in many herbal combinations to help with PMS or menopause symptoms.
That's it! I could go and on! If you want to know more or have a question, join me on this Sunday, Sept 29, at 12 Noon (PST) for a free webinar on Health, Hormones, and Losing Those Last Few Pounds. Details here.
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