How To Balance Your Hormones With Simple Lifestyle Changes
Whenever people hear the word "hormones," their minds are quick to jump to our reproductive hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. But in reality, our bodies host a network of around 50 different hormones that keep us functioning properly, which is why keeping them balanced is important.
Beyond genetic factors, hormonal imbalance can easily be caused by unhealthy choices we make on a daily basis, from chronic stress and lack of proper rest to poor nutrition and minimal movement. Add to that environmental toxins and chemicals that lurk in our daily lives—in everything from personal care and beauty products to food containers and the air we breathe—and you can see why many people are experiencing hormonal disruptions like low testosterone in men and PCOS in women.
Balancing hormones isn't a one-and-done task but rather a journey that requires you to know your body and practice self-care to keep your unique system happy. It's always a good idea to talk to a doctor before trying to self-diagnose any hormone imbalances or related conditions. With that in mind, there are some specific, science-backed self-care routines we can follow in order to keep our bodies in a state of happiness rather than a hot mess of hormonal imbalance.
Supporting those routines, along with working with a health care practitioner, will help you to bridge the gap and get your hormonal levels back on track.
How to balance your hormones.
When you're stressed, your body releases cortisol more than it should. And this chronic triggering of your flight-or-flight response can do major damage to a number of our systems, as our body struggles to maintain a normal balance. This can lead to major systemic malfunctions, beginning with our digestive and reproductive systems, which get put on hold while the body wards off suspected danger. When our body is in a state of stress, it simply cannot rebalance hormonal levels if you don't give it the chance.
The best way to quickly cut stress? Say no. If it doesn't give you joy or doesn't keep you smiling, think about saying no. Life is too short to let stress rule your day.
The best way to retrain your body with self-care? Deep breathing. Studies have shown that simple deep breathing techniques cause cortisol levels to immediately lower1. Set a timer to go off every two hours and practice deep breathing for a few minutes. Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of 10 so that your belly pushes out, as if you were inflating a balloon. Hang there at the top for a moment and focus on the peace or repeat a calming mantra. Then, through your mouth, slowly exhale for another 10 count, sucking your stomach in from the belly button. Hang at the bottom of this breath and think of something you are grateful for. This simple self-care routine can be a regular part of your day.
2. Use food as medicine.
If you eat properly and hydrate your body, it will often thank you with improved moods and healthy hormone levels. Focusing on a whole-food, plant-based diet with clean, grass-fed protein (if you're eating meat) will help your body detox and rebalance itself to function the way it was intended. Eliminating excess sugar and processed foods laden with chemicals will help to get the body started, but you may need to do a complete detox reset in order to square-one your hormonal levels.
The best way to quickly improve nutrition? Hydrate. It may sound counterintuitive, but our bodies may mistake thirst for hunger and leave us craving snacks when all we need is a glass of water. Start drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day to get your body hydrated to optimum levels. Carry one with you and spike it with lemon or grapefruit, or jazz it up with some water infusions.
The best way to retrain your body with self-care? Green smoothies. Start your day with something as simple as a green smoothie that can kick your body into action and keep your metabolism sustained throughout the morning. You can power-pack this tasty breakfast with nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich organic fruits and veggies to fuel your body the right way in the morning. Start with a liquid base of water or almond milk, and add to it 2 to 3 cups of packed fresh greens like spinach. Blend for at least 45 seconds to liquefy, then add in your berries, low-glycemic fruits and veggies, avocado, and spices/herbs for flavor. You can even add a drop of essential oil for a flavor zing or matcha green tea for a healthy caffeine and nutrient boost.
3. Move your body.
Nothing helps combat chronic stress like regular exercise2. Already exercising? You may be doing the wrong kind of exercise for your body if you aren't seeing results or feeling better after you do it. But for most of us, we just aren't consistent. For many people, it's ideal to focus on HIIT workouts at least twice a week with strength-training in between. Then also incorporate yoga or stretching and meditation/prayer throughout the week to rebalance your body and mind.
The best way to start moving your body ASAP? Park your car at the far end of the parking lot and take the stairs. Any exercise is better than none at all, so start incorporating easy practices that force you to move your body throughout the day. If you park at the back of the parking lot and walk in at a brisk pace, you've gotten your heart pumping more than you normally do. Same thing for taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Small life hacks to get your body moving are the best thing for those of us who may not have time to formally get to the gym. Have a dance party while you cook. Take a walk at lunch. Stand at your desk. Stretch outside and soak in some vitamin D. Little changes, big rewards.
The best way to retrain your body with self-care? Yoga or stretching. And while the act is important for keeping your body limber and balanced, the time spent quietly doing it may be even more important in terms of self-care because it forces you to slow down. Your hormones need a break, a time to reset, and a time to benefit from the act of yoga and deep breathing.
4. Sleep (a lot).
Easier said than done, right? But your body craves that reset time. Not getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep leaves your body with amped-up cortisol levels and in a state of unrest because it simply didn't have enough time to reset for the next day. In that state, your endocrine system can't keep up, and your parasympathetic nervous system can't do its job. Your body's HPA axis needs sustained and restful sleep in order to properly function, or it can leave you with symptoms like weight gain, brain fog, and fatigue.
The best way to improve sleep right away? Schedule it. Get your body on a sleep routine where you cut out electronics early, unwind with a nighttime self-care routine, and get your body to bed at a regular time. If you need to write it in a planner to make it happen, do it!
The best way to retrain your body with self-care? Support your body's natural circadian rhythms with essential oils that promote rest and relaxation. Lavender is a great choice for relaxation3 and can be easily diffused, applied topically, or spritzed on your bedclothes to create an environment primed for rest.
5. Experiment with essential oils.
Powerful aromatherapy can be the bridge between balancing your hormones and achieving better health. Something as simple as diffusing lavender essential oil is powerful enough to reduce stress levels in the most hectic of environments, but coupled with deep breathing, it creates an amazing weapon against chronic stress. The scent of rosemary essential oil also helps the brain focus, improves memory, and decreases cortisol levels. Clary sage is the best oil for your worst time of the month4, as it can ease muscle contractions to reduce cramping and help our hormones to find balance from stress. Peppermint has been found to curb cravings and keep you from consuming excess sugar that perpetuates a never-ending cycle of weight gain from chronic stress. And to combat stress, nothing tops essential oils in helping your body and mind to find that calm and lower cortisol levels.
The best way to incorporate essential oils? Self-care routines. I've already mentioned them in this article, but making them a normal part of your everyday life will help to balance your hormones with consistency and care. You are worth it.
The best way to balance your hormones with essential oils? Essential oil rollerball blends. This is a quick and easy way to always have your essential oils with you. Synergistic blends of essential oils help our body bridge the gap, and self-care routines help us to make this a normal part of our day. Pop your rollerball blends in your purse or bag and take them with you so that you can apply them whenever you need them in addition to your normal self-care times of the day.
The Hormone Health Essential Oil Blend
Here is my favorite hormone-balancing, stress-busting rollerball blend:
- 12 drops sandalwood essential oil
- 10 drops clary sage essential oil
- 8 drops bergamot essential oil
- 8 drops lavender essential oil
- 4 drops ylang-ylang essential oil
- Carrier oil of choice (fractionated coconut oil or sweet almond oil)
- In a 10-mL glass rollerball bottle, combine the essential oils and then fill to the top with carrier oil.
- Recap and swirl to blend.
- Roll on pulse points and inhale with deep breathing technique to combat stress and improve mood.
Always remember that, at the end of the day, you are in charge of your own health care, and only you can make the choice to adjust your lifestyle to be more hormone-friendly. Making yourself a priority and realizing that stress does major damage to your hormones can be the impetus that you need for a new approach at life. In many cases, foundational lifestyle changes need to be made for your hormone health to return to balance, and taking that first step is easier than you think.
Mariza Snyder, D.C., is a functional wellness practitioner and public speaker currently living in Northern California. She received her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic College West and her Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Health Psychology from Mills College. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, Women's Health and O, The Oprah Magazine and is the author of five best-selling nutrition books. Snyder specializes in holistic medicine and nutrition, aiming to help people live a healthy and abundant life.