This Is The Best Hormone-Balancing Advice We've Heard All Year
At mbg, we know that hormones rule our health and how well we feel on a daily basis. For starters, they play a huge role in our mood, energy levels, sex drive, and weight and hunger levels (is that all?). Because of this, we're always paying attention to the newest research and cutting-edge advice in the world of hormone health, as new advice and info seem to be cropping up daily. Even just this year, we learned a lot about our hormones and how to better protect our health as women.
As the health editor at mbg, it's my job to make sure you didn't miss any of the important advice we got this year. So I rounded up all the best tidbits from 2018, so we can all have better hormone health in 2019 and beyond.
1. Don't be afraid of fat—but do be afraid of sugar.
In a recent article about fertility health, Carlyn Rosenblum, R.D. and nutritionist at Trellis, explained why consuming fat is highly important when it comes to women's health and why sugar—especially added, processed, and refined sugars—should be avoided as much as possible: "Insulin resistance causes hormonal imbalances that can affect fertility hormones and therefore contributes to poor reproductive health. While more and more people are warming up to the idea of fat, I still see many patients who are afraid that fat will make them fat. However, when it comes to fertility, fat is essential for healthy hormone production and also maintaining balanced blood sugar levels." Diet affects our hormone health in a big way, and this is a great reminder not to skimp on the avocado or fatty fish, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Sleep deprivation can disrupt your menstrual cycle.
There are a variety of factors that can disrupt your menstrual cycle; we learned that when it comes to hormone health—sleep might just be No. 1 on the priority list. As Taz Bhatia, M.D., integrative medicine physician, author of the book Super Woman Rx, and mbg Collective member—explained, "Sleep is critical for hormone balance in women. Most hormones are controlled by the hypothalamus and pituitary—two organs that sit in our brains and rely on normal circadian rhythms. I experienced this firsthand as a medical student, when my shifting sleep schedule in the emergency room severely threw off my hormones." The goal? Sleep seven or eight hours a night and try to maintain a consistent sleep-wake schedule. This is also great for your circadian rhythm, which is ruled by the hormones melatonin and cortisol.
3. On period days, natural diuretics are a lifesaver.
Out of all the symptoms we women deal with on our periods, bloating is one of the most annoying. Retaining water can make your clothes too tight and you feel just so utterly uncomfortable. But according to Jolene Brighten, N.D., a naturopathic doctor and hormone health expert, we can turn to natural diuretics to help with this pesky symptom. "Dandelion leaf is an excellent diuretic1 if water retention is one of your main PMS symptoms. This can be enjoyed dried as a tea or fresh in a salad or stir-fry. While you work on the underlying cause of your bloating, include dandelion leaf beginning five to seven days before your period," she explained.
4. Pay close attention to toxins; they matter to your hormones.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we researched some science-backed ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer—and avoiding certain environmental toxins that can disrupt the endocrine system was high on the list. In an article for the Environmental Working Group, Sonya Lunder, MPH, wrote, "Once disputed as a contributor to breast cancer, environmental pollutants are now known to play a significant role. Chemicals in our food, water, and homes can alter DNA and gene expression to change the way breast cells develop, making tissues susceptible to cancer." At mbg, we've been writing about the benefits of switching to green beauty products for years, and it's nice to see that the science and the rest of the world are finally catching up. Understanding this link and protecting our hormone health can help us all prevent breast cancer, but it's also important to practice breast self-awareness so you know when something doesn't feel normal.
5. Hormonal shifts can put you at risk for Alzheimer's disease.
We've long known that women are more likely to develop Alzheimer's (at the age of 65, women have a 1 in 6 chance of developing Alzheimer’s, compared to a 1 in 11 chance for men), and for a long time it was thought that this connection exists simply because women tend to live longer. But now, researchers have homed in on this link to hormones like estrogen and progesterone as a possible explanation. Experts are still puzzled as to why this connection exists, and there are a few theories out there. One posits that it's less about the hormones themselves and more about the dramatic changes in hormone levels a woman experiences throughout life. Regardless of the cause, taking care of our hormone health will be high on our priority list in 2019.
Gretchen Lidicker is an mbg health contributor, content strategist, and the author of CBD Oil Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Hemp-Derived Health and Wellness and Magnesium Everyday Secrets: A Lifestyle Guide to Epsom Salts, Magnesium Oil, and Nature's Relaxation Mineral. She holds a B.S. in biology and earned her master’s degree in physiology with a concentration in complementary and alternative medicine from Georgetown University.