The dance of the endocrine system is complex, intricate, tightly regulated, and we are still in the midst of learning about it.
The key players are estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, adrenaline, insulin, and cortisol. All of these hormones have the ability to upregulate, down regulate, and turn each other on and off, all the while trying to keep YOU in homeostasis. When we are overwhelmed with stress, poor food choices, toxicity, pollution, contaminated water, and emotional traumas, it becomes very challenging to balance YOU.
The good news? There are a lot of things you can implement to help your hormones thrive.
What IS the endocrine system?
All of your organs have a relationship with your hormones. This is what the endocrine system is in charge of. Your thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, ovaries, testicles, and pancreas secrete hormones into your bloodstream and the entire endocrine system works to create a healthy balance between them all. If just ONE hormone is out of whack, it can create a cascade of hormonal imbalance amongst the other hormones as well.
Symptoms of hormone imbalance can show up as anxiety, depression, mood swings, inability to sleep, weight gain, trouble losing weight, weight loss, digestive issues, constipation, fatigue, afternoon energy crashes, painful periods, heavy periods, missed periods, acne, headaches, PMS, low libido, changes in appetite, thinning hair, dry skin, and brittle nails.
Some common hormonal imbalance problems and symptoms include:
Estrogen dominance - sleep issues, changes in weight, heavy appetite, higher perceived stress, constipation, mood swings, swollen and tender breasts, headaches
PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) - fibrocystic breasts, acne, abnormal hair growth, mood swings, weight gain, infertility, blood sugar imbalance, and higher risk for diabetes
Low estrogen - decreased sex drive, irregular periods, brain fog, fine lines and wrinkles, fatigue, depression, mood swings
Low progesterone - breast tenderness, anxiety, irritability, menstrual cramps, mid-cycle spotting, headaches, fibrocystic breasts
Low testosterone - erectile dysfunction, muscle loss, weight gain, fatigue, mood swings
Hypothyroidism - weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, irritability, irregular periods, constipation
Hyperthyroidism - anxiety, thinning hair, weight loss, heart palpitations, IBS, trouble sleeping
Diabetes - weight gain, nerve damage, vision loss, trouble breathing, dry mouth, skin problems
Adrenal fatigue from cortisol imbalance - fatigue, muscle aches and pains, anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, brain fog, and fertility issues
How does hormonal imbalance become an issue?
There are a wide range of hormonal disturbances that can cause imbalance. Things like diet, stress, medical history, genetics, AND exposure to toxins from the environment, household cleaners, and skin care regimens can all play a role in causing endocrine disruption.
Specific causes of hormone imbalance:
- Food allergies
- Leaky gut
- Consuming things like gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, and excessive caffeine and alcohol
- High levels of inflammation
- Chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, some medications
- High amounts of stress
- Lack of sleep and rest
What can YOU do about it?
The awesome news? There are A LOT of simple steps you can implement into your life to naturally balance your hormones.
1. Eat whole foods - No shocker that our first piece of advice is to eat a whole foods diet. Swapping processed carbs and sugar for healthy fats is crucial for hormone balance because your body needs a variety of fats to produce hormones optimally. Healthy fats are also important for lowering inflammation and promoting weight loss. Ditching the refined carbs, gluten, dairy, and sugar for healthy fats like butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, pasture-raised meats, as well as organically grown produce are all super important for hormone balance.
Favorite foods for hormone balance: Farm fresh eggs, pasture-raised meat and poultry, avocados, wild-caught salmon, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, apple cider vinegar, dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, homemade mayonnaise made with farm fresh eggs and avocado oil, olive oil, microgreens, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, herbs of all sorts, spices, berries when in season, and fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut
2. Exercise - Moving your body is super important for detoxification and hormone balance. Movement and sweating helps to regulate hormonal imbalances and lower inflammation. Whether you choose to go for a brisk walk, do a yoga class, or a short HIIT workout, it’s important to remember a few things.
- Be consistent
- Be mindful of duration and intensity - don’t overdo it
- Progress steadily
- Listen to your body
3. Supplements - Most humans are deficient in vitamins and minerals, requiring supplementation in order to properly fuel their body. It is difficult to get everything that we need from food, so supplementing becomes essential. Our hormones can’t maintain balance if our bodies aren’t getting the nutrients we need.
Favorite supplements for hormone balance: Probiotics, Vitamin D, evening primrose oil, B Vitamins, liver supplements, Vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, fish oils, bone broth, adaptogens like ashwagandha and holy basil, digestive enzymes, mushrooms like reishi, chaga, and lion’s mane
4. Address emotional imbalances - If you are stressed out about your relationship, finances, your job, your health, or whatever it may be, your hormones cannot and will not flourish. It is so important to address stress, worries, fears, frustration, anger, and unforgiveness because all of these emotions can wreak havoc on your endocrine system.
Go-to’s for addressing emotional imbalance:
- Deep breathing
- Active forgiveness, even if the other person doesn’t know or care
- Being in nature every day
- Warm bath
5. Play - Enjoying life is a must for optimal hormone health. Elevated stress, an unhealthy need for control, and the perfectionist mentality does nothing but deteriorate health. But play? It brings vibrancy and joy to your life, which will naturally encourage hormone balance.
Some great forms of play:
- Start a garden
- Plant flowers or trees
- Paint or color
- Work a puzzle
- Try a new recipe
- Play with animals
- Laugh with friends over dinner
- Ride bikes… or your horse
- Go on a trip to the beach
- Watch a funny movie
- Read a fantasy book
6. Sleep - To set your body up to win, shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep every night in total darkness. Our stress hormones, like cortisol, are regulated at night - especially before midnight. Proper sleep helps our bodies to build energy and prepare for the day ahead. Try to be in bed before 10 p.m. Your body will thank you.
7. Hydration - Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Proper hormone production and regulation has a lot to do with staying hydrated. When we are dehydrated, it stresses our bodies and knocks hormones out of whack. Drink AT LEAST half of your body weight in ounces every day.
Great ways to hydrate:
- Drink water - with or without ice
- Add things like fresh lemon, lime, or cucumber to enhance flavor and add nutrients
- Drink sparkling water WITHOUT added “natural flavors” - Spindrift uses real fruit
- Herbal teas without caffeine
8. Essential oils - Majority of body care and household cleaning products have harmful toxins and chemicals in them that are very disruptive to our hormonal systems. Thankfully, there are essential oils that are great for cleaning and smelling good, all while adding health benefits to our bodies (AKA our endocrine system). There are endless oil brands and scents out there, but some of our favorites to diffuse and add to baths are:
- Brands - Doterra or Young Living
- Clary sage for treating PMS, PCOS, and infertility
- Fennel for gut and thyroid health
- Lavender for anxiety, depression, and emotional balance
- Sandalwood to relieve stress and promote relaxation
- Thyme to improve progesterone production and increase fertility
9. Detoxification - In order for your hormones to maintain a beautiful rhythm of balance, it is also important to focus on elimination. The liver is a major organ involved in regulating hormones, so setting it up to function properly is a must. A build of excess hormones, like estrogen, can cause imbalance if they aren’t passing through the liver and leaving the body through feces on a daily basis - and preferably more than once a day.
How to detox your liver:
- Rub castor oil on your stomach at night before bed
- Drink detox teas with dandelion root, milk thistle, burdock root, and licorice root
- Drink matcha or green tea
- Eat dark and leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, herbs, and citrus fruits
- Move your body
- Deep breathing
- Drink water
10. Seed cycling - Eating seeds throughout different times of the month can help to naturally balance hormones in a very gentle, but effective way. You will need sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
On days 1-14 of the follicular phase, eat 1-2 tablespoons of fresh, raw flax seeds and/or pumpkin seeds for estrogen balance leading to ovulation.
On days 15-28 of the luteal phase, eat 1-2 tablespoons of fresh, raw sunflower or sesame seeds for progesterone balance leading to menses.
If you have irregular cycles, are pre-menopausal, or post-menopausal, no worries! You can start by following the moon phases. You can eat the flax seeds and pumpkin seeds from the new moon to the full moon. Eat the sunflower or sesame seeds from the full moon to the new moon.