Our hormones can be a beautiful symphony, or they can be like a bull in a china shop.
When our hormones are in balance, we feel comfortable in our bodies, centered, intuitive, and can express our true natures.
However many women describe that for most of the month, they have hormone related symptoms, making each week a different an uncomfortable experience.
How did this happen? And how do we fix this?
Our hormones are made and respond to various processes in the body. Stress, sleep, nutrition, and environmental toxins all play a role in their function and genetic expression. The organs affected and involved in their balance are the digestive and endocrine systems. Your body can restore hormone function without the use of external hormones. Even if you do take hormone replacement, for optimal wellness you may consider healing the underlying imbalances.
Signs and Symptoms of a Hormone Imbalance
• Mood swings like anger, depression,isolation
• Weight gain
• Food cravings
• No sex drive
• Mid-cycle spotting or bleeding
• heavy periods
• Anxiety and paranoia
Causes of Hormone Imbalances
The most common factor that I see in a woman’s health history that causes a hormonal imbalance is long-term stress. This creates a problem with cortisol, the stress hormone, and taxes the adrenal, hypothalamus, and thyroid glands. High or low cortisol can have devastating affects on our hormones, skin, mood, sleep, weight, and libido.
We are not all created with exactly the same Qi, Constitutions and Temperaments. Trying to accomplish, be, and do all the things everyone else is doing can lead to a burn out – of body and mind. Currently, self-care is in fashion and rightfully so! Respecting your boundaries is a way to renew depleted resources.
Other stressors are not making enough time for rest and play, improper breathing, wrong diet, obesity, negative thinking, allergies and sensitivities, low grade infections, candida, toxins, and elevated blood sugar all act as stressors to the physical body.
Chronic sleep deprivation
Melatonin, the hormone released during sleep, modulates women’s menstrual cycles. This affects shift workers, those with insomnia, those who are exposed to strong electromagnetic fields, alcohol and caffeine consumption, stress, and just not getting enough sleep.
Eating foods that constantly trigger insulin, will affect the rest our hormones, and cause acne, pms, weight gain, and mood changes. These foods are sugar, soft drinks, alcohol, excess carbohydrates and animal fats, along with lack of exercise and chronic stress.
A standard diet filled with processed foods, excess saturated and hydrogenated fats, dairy, and not enough veggies, fiber, quality protein, and essential fatty acids contributes to inflammation, poor digestion, and faulty liver detoxification pathways.
These are pervasive, and disruptive to our hormones and physiology in general. Many toxins like mercury bind to our minerals, and stop us from absorbing these minerals from our food. Currently there are more than 80,000 (closer to 250,000) chemicals in use today, many of which are unregulated, and are associated with long-term problems on our health and the environment.
Three key strategies to fix hormone imbalances
These are usually the steps I take my patients through to soothe and nourish hormone imbalances like low progesterone, high estrogen, high and low cortisol, and high insulin.
1. Reduce Inflammation to Balance your Hormones
Inflammatory compounds are associated with insulin resistance, tissue damage, chronic inflammation and other metabolic deficiencies. Once you start to reduce inflammation, the body in its’ wisdom will start healing your hormones for you! Some diet recommendations are:
• follow the anti-inflammatory diet, with lots of herbs like turmeric and ginger, fish and flax oils, and flax seeds
• keep gluten-free whole grains like quinoa, millet, and oats to a minimum
• balance your pH with chlorella, spirulina, or fresh veggie drinks
2. Target the Gastro-intestinal tract to Balance your Hormones
Secondly, targeting your digestive health is a good next step. This could involve regulating stomach acid, healing fatty liver (often undiagnosed until you go looking for it), helping the gallbladder not be so sludgy, restoring the flora and lining of your digestive tract. These organs help to process hormones, balance blood sugar, regulate mood, weight, and detoxification. In-office, we check all these things through urine or bioenergetic tests, questionnaires, and your health history. Hormone balancing programs should include the following to balance digestive organs:
• a probiotic and fermented foods like kim chi and sauerkraut, fibrous foods like garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, oats, flax, seaweeds
• brassica family foods – cabbage, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower
• a liver supporting formula including Milk Thistle, Dandelion, and Artichoke or nutrients such as NAC or glutathione
• B vitamins
• If fungus or other pathogens are suspected, some deeper digestive work should be done.
3. Replenish Deficient Nutrients to Balance your Hormones
Finally, it is time to replenish deficiencies like magnesium, vitamin D, anti-oxidants, and chromium. Now that inflammation has diminished and digestion has improved, you will be absorbing the nutrients from your food better, plus any other supplements. Herbs are another good option, as they have an affinity for the endocrine system along with containing minerals within them. They are plants after all! Some options include:
• Magnesium, zinc, selenium, tyrosine, and anti-oxidants to promote progesterone and thyroid function
• B complex including higher amounts of B5 and B6
• Herbs like Vitex, Ashwaghanda, and Guggul are nourishing and balancing.
• other minerals and essential fatty acids
Along with these strategies, a stress management program throughout is essential. If there is a stressor in your life that needs reframing or a new perspective, then counselling is a good option. We can support the adrenal gland, but if the perception of the stress remains, then results may not be as effective. Acupuncture is an excellent therapy to support the stress response, increase and decrease hormones, support digestion, sleep, and mood. Homeopathy is another good modality to help change the stress response. These strategies are a foundation to start rebalancing your hormones.
Depending on your health history, signs and symptoms, and corresponding lab tests, other options may be helpful too.
Written by Dr. Donata Girolamo, ND
Fatigue is such a common concern for the women I see in my Naturopathic practice. It is also a marker of health that Naturopathic doctors use as part of a health intake.
Being tired is often a catch 22; you know that eating better and exercising would make you feel better, but… you’re too tired to do them! With some targeted individualized solutions, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Here are the most common reasons I find women suffer from low energy and fatigue.
If our bodies become too acidic, this paves the way for malabsorption of nutrients, inflammation, allergies, and a build up of acidic waste in our connective tissue. Acids also cause hormones like estrogen to increase, as more is required to do its’ job.
Our digestive enzymes and other energy hormones like thyroid hormone don’t work as well in an acidic environment. All these issues can leave us feeling tired, depleted, and bogged down.
We need right amounts of carbon dioxide in the blood to have enough oxygen to nourish our cells. Many people breathe too much – chronic hyperventilation – leading to low levels of CO2 in the blood. When CO2 levels are low, haemoglobin molecules are less able to release oxygen from the blood. When there is enough pressure of CO2 in the blood and lungs, oxygen is released more readily.
The way we breathe determines the amount of carbon dioxide present in our blood, and therefore how well our bodies are oxygenated, and energized.
Build up of Toxic waste
Everyone feels better after a detox. This is because our liver and kidneys do hundreds of functions per second. When they become sluggish from an acidic body or other toxins like environmental, water and food, from lack of sleep, nutrient deficiencies, prescriptions, and stress, then we can feel it in our sense of well-being or energy levels.
Toxins can interfere with the energy production centers of the cell, causing fatigue but also a lowered metabolism, and other symptoms of disease.
Blood Sugar Imbalances
Chronic dips of blood sugar and surges of insulin can cause people to be on a roller-coaster of highs and lows of energy. This is true even if your blood work says your blood sugar is normal.
Many women suffer with hypoglycemia without being diagnosed with diabetes. Acidic waste blocks glucose from getting into the cell and may lead to insulin resistance, along with nutrient deficiencies like chromium, calcium, magnesium, and others.
Long periods of stress are commonly combined with nutrient deficiencies, which then lead to hormone imbalances and fatigue. The hormones are often linked – too much stress hormone, lowered thyroid hormones, along with blood sugar balancing hormones are all closely related to each other, and fall under the umbrella of adrenal fatigue. If one system goes, the others often follow.
If you feel like you don’t have enough energy to do the things you love, to achieve the goals you have set for yourself, or to be there for the people who need you, time to get things sorted! We also don’t want feelings of low energy to lead to worse symptoms or other conditions down the line.
By Dr. Donata Girolamo, ND