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