3 Ways To Hack Your Hormones For Better Overall Health
Here at mbg, we're always talking about hormone health because at the root of many health issues is imbalanced hormones. Stress, hormonal birth control, and trauma are just a few of the triggers that can throw our hormones out of whack, leading to things like weight gain, irregular periods, or anxiety. Too often symptoms related to hormone imbalances are disregarded as "typical PMS symptoms" or plain moodiness. Alisa Vitti, hormone health expert, author of WomanCode, and founder of FLO Living, an online health center for women, joined me on the mbg podcast to tell us exactly why it's so essential that women listen to their symptoms and take hold of their hormone health.
Twenty years ago, Alisa was planning to become an OB-GYN at Johns Hopkins when she knew something was off with her hormones—acne was showing up in places it never had before, she was gaining weight quickly, and her periods were gone. For six years she searched for an answer, consulting doctor after doctor, until she stumbled upon a passage in a medical journal that made it clear to her she likely had PCOS. Her gynecologist confirmed it, and from there Alisa embarked on a two-year journey of trial and error to heal her symptoms, starting with blood sugar stabilization.
Along the way, she's learned more than she ever imagined about how to optimize hormone health. Here are three of her top tips for improving your own hormone health:
Get to know your cycle.
The first step is to understand the phases of your cycle and what this means for your hormones, so you can eat and move in a way that boosts your energy and mood. This is what she recommends eating depending on the phase of your cycle:
During the follicular phase, the week after you're done bleeding, estrogen is beginning to rise, and Alisa recommends incorporating more fermented foods into your diet to support your gut health and get your body ready for the work that's to come.
The ovulatory phase is about two weeks after your follicular phase, the midpoint of the period when the luteinizing hormone causes the release of an egg. In the ovulation phase, she suggests eating raw foods, which provide the body with selenium, glutathione, and vitamin C to help the body detoxify the high amount of estrogen moving into the body at that time.
The luteal phase, the 10 to 12 days leading up to the bleeding, is known as the PMS phase, when both estrogen and progesterone should be increasing in the body to thicken the lining of the uterus. During this period, you'll want to eat slow-burning carbs and root veggies to balance blood sugar and boost energy.
Hormonal birth control can deplete the body of key nutrients, says Alisa, so if you're on it, be sure that you're taking a probiotic as well as omega-3s to help with any mood disruption. The liver also takes a big hit processing the medication every day, so taking some extra vitamin C, alpha-lipoic acid, or vitamin E will help the liver process the birth control medication with more ease.
Listen to your symptoms.
Pay attention to your period and symptoms even when you're not trying to conceive, says Alisa. She explains that we grow up thinking that symptoms are normal and there's nothing we can do about them, but in reality, they're our body's little signals telling us that something needs to change. If you're having extremely heavy periods or clotting, or if you're feeling heavy or crampy, talk to your doctor and work together to figure out the lifestyle changes including stress management, diet, and supplements that can support your hormone health.
Alisa's personal experience healing her hormone imbalances with food and lifestyle changes is inspiring, and her actionable steps will encourage you to start thinking about what you can do to improve your hormone health. More than anything, Alisa urges women to pay attention to their symptoms and keep the conversation going with their health care providers. It's never too late to transform your hormone health, and Alisa's podcast is a great place to start.
Olessa Pindak is the editor-at-large at mindbodygreen. She’s worked at Condé Nast, Rodale, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and more. She's held executive and senior staff positions at many health & wellness publications including Prevention, Whole Living (Body & Soul), Natural Health, and Fit Pregnancy. Pindak has appeared frequently in the media talking about health & wellness, including appearances on the Today show, Good Morning America, and The Doctors. She has hosted a radio show on Sirius XM and many episodes of the mindbodygreen podcast. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children. Follow her on twitter at @opindak.