“My hormones are out of wack!"
“I just feel off.”
“I don’t feel like myself.”
"I’m so irritable lately."
“I feel like I’m going crazy!”
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Maybe you’ve complained of hormonal issues yourself, or perhaps your daughter or your co-workers are struggling with fluctuating hormones. Hormone imbalance is an extremely common issue amongst women, both young and old alike. I’ve treated teenage girls presenting with severely painful periods and debilitating migraines throughout high school and into college. And I’ve treated scores of adult women, working, raising their children, multitasking all the day and night long, complaining of headaches, irritability, irregularities with their periods, bloating, difficulty sleeping, and just feeling “off.” They can’t seem to pinpoint the exact cause of their symptoms, and oftentimes, neither can their doctors.
The reason why so many women suffer from hormonal imbalances, and why it is difficult at best for physicians to treat with synthetic hormone medications, is that hormonal imbalance is not a single biochemical deficiency (i.e. low estrogen), but a cumulative reflection of an imbalanced lifestyle. There are always exceptions, like a pituitary tumor or Hashimoto’s disease, but such cases are the rarity (and such cases would nonetheless benefit from a balanced, wellness-based lifestyle). The challenges and stressors of everyday life are so ubiquitous that many people – men included – just get caught up in the whirlwind of living and are literally taken up by the winds, tossed to and from responsibilities and tasks and obligations, every single day. Rushed, harrowing mornings become normal. Work stress becomes normal. Family stress becomes normal. Tension becomes normal. Less than 8 hours of sleep is normal. Coffee for energy… normal. Sweets for snacks… normal. Processed carbs for a meal… normal. Feeling tired all the time… normal. No time to exercise… normal. Aches and pains… normal. Tired but wired…. normal. No true rest…. normal.
But no… this modern-day normal – however commonplace it is in our life experience – should NOT be acceptable. Constantly revving up our nervous systems and disrupting our hormones with blood sugar spikes (pumps out the hormone insulin too much) and chronic stress (pumps out the stress hormone cortisol too much, too often, which leads to inflammation and fat gain) is not normal. Feeling irritable, snappy, grumpy, or anxious more often than you feel cheerful is not normal. Feeling tired all the time but simultaneously feeling too wired to get still and simply rest is not normal. It’s not right. Don’t accept this for yourself. You must establish a NEW normal. A healthy, peaceful life is possible. And it starts with YOU – your choices, your priorities, your commitment.
Here are 4 solid steps towards rebalancing your hormones – naturally, effectively, and permanently.
BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR. Remember: blood sugar imbalances directly affect one of your major hormones: insulin! You can succeed by:
Eliminating refined sugars, wheat flour, and high fructose corn syrup.Eating more whole foods and quality proteins to stabilize your blood sugar (nuts, organic eggs, and plant-based protein powder shakes are great sources of protein).Sticking to 3 meals a day primarily consisting of a quality protein and 1-2 cups of vegetables. Eat a whole-foods, carbohydrate-rich snack (dark chocolate, fruits, nuts) in the late morning and in the afternoon (2 hrs before and after lunch) to help stabilize your sugar and sustain your energy.Exercising for 30-45 minutes, 4-5 times a week.
MANAGE YOUR STRESS – Regularly! Psychological stress stimulates the release of cortisol – a major metabolic hormone. Too much cortisol causes inflammation, weight gain, increased blood sugar, and immune weakness. Eventually, too much production of cortisol can lead to a depletion of it, resulting in adrenal dysfunction and adrenal fatigue. It can also deplete your progesterone. To manage your stress more effectively:
Exercise. Do Yoga. Move. Break a sweat. Warm up Your Body through mobility exercises. This is one one of the very best ways to decrease stress and minimize its negative effects on your mind and body.Breathe deeply. I can’t tell you how many of my patients breathe superficially, and have forgotten how to deep breathe altogether! Deep breathing shifts your nerves from stressed to relaxed, releases chemicals that reduce inflammation, and improves focus and memory. It also helps to reduce your stress hormone cortisol, which helps to normalize your blood sugar, which regulates your hormone insulin. So you see the direct relationship between deep breathing and your hormones.Get acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture is extremely effective at lowering cortisol levels and rebalancing your energy and your hormones.Get massages. Schedule it ahead instead of waiting until you’ve just about broken down with stress or pain. Massages are incredibly healing and do wonders at rebalancing our hormones.Talk it out. The scriptures say to “speak the truth in love.” Don’t bottle things up. But also, don’t explode in anger. Talk to a friend. Write it in your journal or a mock letter. Whenever I’m upset, just one conversation with my husband or my best friend from Hawai’i usually helps me not just feel better, but broadens my perspective and increases my compassion in whatever situation I’m struggling with. FAITHE your FAITH! Make it a verb and DO it! You say you believe in God? You know that He’s all-powerful, all-knowing, loves you, and is sovereign? So work out your faith muscles and show strength in your trust in Him! Do not worry. Do not be anxious. God is in control, and no matter what happens, He promises to give you His “peace which surpasses all understanding.” So don’t be afraid or anxious! “For we have not been given a spirit of fear, but a spirit of love, of power, and a sound mind.”
BE NICE TO YOUR THYROID – Your thyroid gland is the boss when it comes to metabolism. So it’s important that this CEO gland is treated well, so that it can in turn take care of the business of your metabolism well.
Eliminate things from your diet that can disrupt thyroid function. The usual suspects are gluten, pesticides, and food allergies. So if you suspect a sluggish thyroid, take a break from wheat and see how you feel. Eat only organic foods so you’re not exposing yourself to any pesticides. And take a test to see if you have any hidden food allergies or sensitivities. We offer Genova Diagnostics BloodSpot tests to uncover any food allergies you may have. They can be done right in our office – simple, safe, and accurate. Often times the test will reveal a hidden allergy to dairy, eggs, or certain nuts. But sometimes a unique food sensitivity will be revealed, because we all have a unique genetic makeup. (My son tested very positive for mustard! We would’ve never known that mustard was one of the triggers to his hay fever / allergies if it weren’t for this test).Eat foods rich in iodine, vitamins A & D, zinc, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients support proper thyroid function. They are NECESSARY for your thyroid to do its job.Take supplements of the above nutrients. Nutritional supplements fill in the gaps in our diet. Supplements are like insurance for our health – it’s back-up, a safety net, because few of us eat perfectly nutritious, toxin-free foods every day.Get tested. Make sure your physician tests not just your TSH level, but also free T4 and T3, and TPO (thyroid peroxidase). Functional Medicine defines the ideal level of TSH between 1 and 2 m IU/ ml, NOT 5 or 10 m IU/ ml. If your TSH level is 3 or higher, you likely have a thyroid disorder and you must treat it promptly.
BALANCE YOUR SEX HORMONES – Estrogen and progesterone affect women’s menstrual cycles, fertility, hair, skin, mood, energy, sleep, libido, and appetite. So it’s supremely important that we keep our sex hormones regulated if we hope to feel balanced, cheerful, energetic, well-rested, and sexy! Much of what we’ve already reviewed will also help to keep your sex hormones balanced through each month:
Eat whole, plant-based, organic foodsMinimize sugar, refined carbs, alcohol, and caffeineEat an abundance of cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, bok choy, and collard greensExercise often. Mobilize all your joints and all your muscles regularly.Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night.Manage your stress. Breathe deeply. Speak and live positively.
Finally, have grace with yourself and others. Be patient. It takes time to rebalance your hormones. Be diligent with your efforts and surely, month by month, you will see positive, tangible changes. Cover the bases first: the right diet, regular exercise, and ample rest. Then fine tune your approach. We are here to help you along the way. May you have peace through the process!