If you are a female over the age of 13 (give or take) then you have probably experienced the ups and downs of hormones. You also would most likely agree that when your hormones are out of balance, so is your life! Hormones affect you both emotionally and physically because hormones are used by every cell in your body! For women, our hormones are key components of reproduction, sexuality, and overall well-being. When hormone levels fall out of balance, they can negatively affect mood, fog up your brain, and trigger symptoms like acne, insomnia, even weight gain.
There are 3 main hormones in play in the female body:
Estrogen – spikes at puberty and is responsible for sexual development, and eventually, reproduction. Also important in maintaining women’s bone and cardiovascular health.
Progesterone – keeps estrogen in check. Rises in the second half of the menstrual cycle to aid in pregnancy, often producing annoying “pre-menstrual” symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, and acne.
Testosterone – abnormally high testosterone levels could be a sign of a health condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or ovarian tumors.
If you have concerns about your hormone levels, talk with your doctor. In most cases, a simple blood test will be administered to determine if your hormones are out of whack. In addition, there are many natural remedies for hormone imbalance, which can be immensely helpful.
Here are 10 natural ways to promote hormone balance:
Studies have shown that certain herbs can have positive, balancing effects on women’s hormone levels.
Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is helpful for reducing emotional symptoms such as irritability and teariness, as well as breast pain or tenderness, constipation, irritability, skin breakouts, and headache.
Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is an excellent natural treatment for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. It also helps regulate menstrual blood flow, and when combined with Ginger, Black Cohosh can also help relieve painful menstrual cramps.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) increases cortisol and estrogen, and decreases testosterone. Especially helpful for polycystic ovarian syndrome, a condition of excessive testosterone, which causes infertility, weight gain, facial hair and acne.
Get more sleep
Recent evidence suggests that even a single night of restricted sleep can affect cortisol rhythms and leptin levels in women. Cortisol and leptin are two hormones that, when unbalanced, are large risk factors for major chronic diseases, including obesity and diabetes.
I know, I hate this one too! But the fact is, drinking too much caffeine is almost as bad as not getting enough sleep. It elevates your cortisol levels, lowers your thyroid hormone levels and basically creates havoc throughout your body.
If you need a little boost, try a cup of green tea. You’ll keep your hormones in check and enjoy the weight loss and cancer-killing benefits as well!
Eat your (cruciferous) veggies
Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, kale, cabbage, bok choy and collard greens, have a compound called indole-3-carbinol that helps promote the production of healthy estrogens. These particular estrogens are currently being studied, but early results suggest they may have a protective effect against certain types of cancer.
Probiotics help manage hormone metabolism by reducing excessive cholesterol levels. High levels of cholesterol may be related to excessive production in the body of estrogen that has been linked to breast and prostate cancer.
Reduce your dairy consumption
Among dietary risk factors for cancer, researchers are most concerned with milk and dairy products, because the milk we drink today is produced from pregnant cows, in which estrogen and progesterone levels are very high. If your hormone levels are out of whack, the additional estrogens from dairy products may be making things worse.
Use your oils
Coconut oil, an essential fatty acid, is a fundamental building block for hormone production and consuming it regularly can assist with weight loss, reduce inflammation, and it also has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. (source)
If there is a silver bullet out there, exercise is it! Whether endorphins, testosterone, growth hormone or insulin, exercise will help reduce stress levels, enhance your immune system, regulate metabolic function and keep you at the body weight your body was designed for.
Limit exposure to environmental hormone-disruptors
Chemical hormone endocrine-disruptors can contribute to numerous human female reproductive disorders. (source)
Two known endocrine-disruptors that are particularly problematic are BPA and parabens. BPA is present in some plastics and most can linings, so opt for food products and storage containers that are marketed as BPA-free. Parabens are very common in cosmetic products, though there are an increasing number of great paraben-free options out there. Check out this cosmetics database from EWG to see where your favorite products rank in terms of safety: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
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.
Hopefully these 10 tips will help get us all back on more even footing. :-)
Have you struggled with hormone imbalance? What has helped you?