3 Underrated Tips To Balance Your Hormones, From An OB/GYN
Balancing your hormones can feel like an intimidating endeavor. After all, your hormones work together in a delicate symphony, so it can be difficult to tell which ones are exactly out of whack. That's why it's always important to get to the root of your specific issue; as board-certified OB/GYN and keto nutrition specialist Jaime Seeman, M.D., author of Hard To Kill, says on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, "Sometimes you have to be your own expert and figure out what works for you because we're all built from different pieces."
However, a few general habits can benefit just about anybody. Below, Seeman offers a few of her tried-and-true tips:
"If you want to age successfully, you need to focus on muscle," declares Seeman. "It protects you against almost everything." Including hormone dysfunction: We know muscle mass is a predictor of longevity and health span, but according to Seeman, it's just as important for metabolic and hormonal health.
"Most people think of muscle as an aesthetic thing, but it's not. It's an endocrine organ. It literally secretes chemicals that talk to your brain and your heart," she adds. In fact, research shows building lean muscle can keep your base metabolic rate up1 and positively influence hormone regulation2. Not to mention, strength training can increase the levels of certain hormones that make you feel more energized.
"I just wish women would embrace [strength training]," she adds. "If you only have 30 minutes in the gym, get off of the elliptical… If you lift weights the right way, it's a pretty dang good cardiovascular workout." See here for some trainer-approved strength training exercises.
Get quality sleep.
We likely don't have to remind you that a lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your hormones. For instance, you have higher levels of ghrelin and lower levels of leptin3 when you experience poor sleep, meaning you're less satisfied and hungrier.
"You're going into an energy crisis; your cortisol's going crazy," Seeman adds, which is why you might reach for less-healthy, blood-sugar-spiking foods. "My satiety goes nuts the next day," she notes regarding poor sleep. "I'm looking for the fast food." Plus, you have lower levels of serotonin4 and dopamine when you lose sleep.
Getting quality sleep is easier said than done—especially for those, like Seeman, who sometimes work nights—but do your best to maintain good sleep hygiene when you can (and if you need some extra help, see here for our favorite natural sleep aids). "I'll do some extra-deep breathing exercises, and then that night I will try to go to bed an hour or two earlier to make up for that sleep," she says regarding her personal routine.
Prioritize mental health.
Like sleep, poor mental health can take a toll on the body. Let's not forget that cortisol, the infamous stress hormone, can lead to a surge in insulin, which then negatively affects your glucose metabolism. The result? You may crave more sugars, carbs, and sweets5. Not to mention, high levels of cortisol can mess with your sleep—which only perpetuates the cycle of hormonal dysfunction.
"For women listening out there, you have to carve out parts of your day to nurture your mental health, your parasympathetic nervous system," Seeman says. For example, she dedicates a few moments of her day to breathwork: "I'm such a huge fan of it, and I teach patients this in my own clinic all the time," she adds. "You can do it absolutely anywhere. You can do it in your car, you can go in a bathroom stall… Incorporating that into your daily rituals can make you just more resilient."
See here for some beginner-friendly breathwork exercises, or if meditation is more your thing, here's how to start a daily practice; research shows that mindfulness-based interventions like meditation can actually lower cortisol6.
These interventions may sound simple, but according to Seeman, balancing your hormones should be straightforward—your body is your biggest cheerleader when you supply it with the tools it needs to thrive. As Seeman tells us: "Take care of your normal physiologic processes, and your hormones will take care of themselves."
We hope you enjoy this episode! And don't forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or Amazon Music!
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.