If you have ever noticed a change in mood, quality of sleep, the ability to focus and other health anomalies, you may have a hormone imbalance. Healthy hormones are essential to controlling appetites, maintaining weight and cognitive function. However, imbalances are becoming more and more common with the all too familiar stressors of a fast-paced modern lifestyle, and we find ourselves asking: “Is it age? Menopause? Or something more serious?”
Fortunately for many, it’s as simple as a hormone imbalance. But untreated, these chemical messengers can affect every aspect of your life. Hormone imbalances have been shown to increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and more. While it may feel like hormones are out of your control and difficult to manage, there are several steps you can take to help your hormones find balance. From increasing your intake of nutritious foods and exercising regularly, to catching more zzz’s and finding the best supplements, you can finally regain control of your best self. Here’s how…
Cut the Bad, Embrace the Good
The first step to balancing your hormones is understanding what you're putting into your body and how it’s being broken down into energy. Like so many health recommendations, cutting sugar, caffeine and alcohol are the best place to start because of their significant contribution to a change in hormones. These foods, and similarly processed food groups, trigger hormone imbalances due to the high sugar content that creates insulin, estrogen and even more testosterone.
Additionally, dairy and gluten can cause inflammation. Dairy especially has fallen out of mainstream popularity due to hormones and antibiotics added into dairy cows and even milk. Removing these imbalance provoking foods from your diet and replacing them with whole foods, plant-based and sustainably raised protein sources will not only decrease the hormones you're ingesting from food, but it will change how your body processes the healthier food. For example, eating healthier fats and protein will decrease your hunger hormone, helping you feel more full after each meal and avoiding overeating.
Hit the Gym
The best way to increase activity is to find something you love. Whether it’s running, dancing, walking, biking, tennis, climbing – should we go on? – physical activity can have a positive impact on hormonal health. Movement, in whichever form you prefer, is able to reduce insulin levels while increasing insulin sensitivity, and is integral to processing sugar into energy. Too much insulin on the other hand, can result in inflammation, heart disease, and diabetes. Hit the gym to curb any current or future hormone imbalances that might affect your health down the road.
Relax a Little
Sometimes taking time to unwind and indulge in self care really is the best form of balancing your hormones. Chronic stress and anxiety has a well known, and documented, affect on mental health, but what is it doing to your hormones? Turns out, a lot! Stress, no matter the severity, can exacerbate hormonal imbalances due to the increase in Cortisol (the stress hormone) and Adrenaline (the fight-or-flight hormone) that are both created when you’re reacting to the strains of daily life. While these responses can help you in the long run, think signalling danger, more often than not they’re over produced and can lead to increased calorie intake and therefore weight gain.
To reduce stress and the hormone releases that come with it, try adding a small meditation into your daily routine. Meditation has been shown to create a tranquil state of mind while training your brain how to respond to daily stressors. Whether it’s calming the constant stream of triggering thoughts, or learning coping mechanisms, meditation can help your emotional and physical well-being.
Don’t Skimp on Sleep
At this point, the remedies to reducing hormonal imbalance are fairly cyclical and intertwined. If you eat better, you’ll exercise more and vice versa. Exercising will also help reduce stress, and a reduction in stress will help you sleep better. And of course, when you’re sleeping better you make healthier food choices! While it may seem intuitive while reading it now, the path to balancing hormones, especially while they're so out of whack, can be unclear. So instead of tossing and turning at night while your hormones aren’t balanced, actually clocking quality sleep will do wonders for your health and set off a positive chain of reactions.
The recommended amount of sleep for adults is anywhere from 7-9 hours per night and it’s one of the best ways to ensure your hormone levels stay balanced while keeping your other hormone balancing steps in check. If you’re having a hard time finding a trustworthy sleep schedule make sure you’re staying hydrated throughout the day – this keeps midnight bathroom breaks that might keep you up, at bay. It’s also important to keep electronics out of the bedroom to avoid blue light stimulation, meditate or read before bed to calm your thoughts, drink a caffeine-free tea instead of alcohol, and limit sugar intake before winding down for the night.
When in Doubt, Try Supplements
Of all the ways to get your hormones back on track, it never seems like it’s enough. And in some cases, it really isn’t. No matter the reason – financial, food preference, lifestyle and more – it can be challenging to meet all of the suggested nutrient guidelines each day. And in the case of some nutrients, it’s more reasonable to have a recurring daily intake through supplements.
When it comes to balancing hormones, fiber is incredibly important to stimulating the production of hormones that make you feel full and satisfied while also curbing high insulin levels. Similarly, fish oil, vitamin D and B help balance estrogen and are anti-inflammatory which make finding your ideal hormone levels easier and more accessible. No matter the effects of your imbalance there are ways to realign your hormones and take control of your health once again.