Ah! Hormones. Don’t we adore them? The little buggers are responsible for so much that’s wonderfully insane about our existence – like painfully terrifying acne, thinning hair, unwearable skinny jeans, mood swings, insomnia and out-of-control food cravings.
However, the truth is it’s not the fault of poor oestrogen, progesterone, FSH, LH and the rest of the gang. Much as we like to blame them for everything, hormones are actually forced to act up when we throw our bodies out of whack and not the other way around.
1. Steer clear clear of commercial oils
Many refined oils contain omega-6 fats that can cause hormonal imbalance (and heart disease!). Some to skip: vegetable oil, soybean oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and margarine. In short, avoid all chemically altered fats. Instead, opt for virgin coconut oil, fresh butter and olive oil (don’t heat!).
2. Supplement with omega-3 fatty acids
Polyunsaturated omega-3 fats, on the other hand, go a long way to balance your hormones. Get them in the form of oily fish or vegan algae oil.
3. Cut the sugar
The white stuff continues to rate high on the list of health offenders. Along with a zillion other body and skin damaging consequences, sugar also throws your cortisol levels off balance, thereby leading to chronic internal inflammation. Plus, excessive sugar creates a deficiency of leptin, a hormone that regulates hunger and metabolism. The result? More food cravings and a slower metabolism.
4. Sorry but you NEED to limit the caffeine
Yikes! This one was the toughest for me personally but excessive caffeine raises cortisol and slows down the thyroid. Which basically means it throws everything off balance. If you absolutely can’t give up your daily cuppa, pair it with a protein-rich snack to slow down the release of chemicals.
5. Consider maca root
Maca root is from the radish radish family and is known to boost hormone production (and libido). Add it to your smoothies or salads for easing up the PMS, boosting fertility, controlling adult acne and tackling insomnia. In men, it boosts the sperm count and libido, so consider this one a double whammy if you are trying to get pregnant!
6. Load up on avocados…
… and other healthy sources of saturated fat that contribute to HDL or “good” cholesterol. HDL is an essential component of healthy cell membranes and vital for the regulation of steroid hormones like estrogen, progesterone and FSH. No “good” fats means no hormonal balance… couldn’t be simpler, right?
7. Feed your liver
Your liver is the most important organ where hormone-balancing is concerned. It’s the liver that breaks down excess hormones, which the body is no longer using. And to do its job well, the liver needs 3-5 servings of phytonutrients everyday.
It’s not hard if you incorporate vegetables into a smoothie at the beginning of the day and then eat a salad later. The liver also needs sulfur compounds found in garlic and onions. So, make sure to include these foods in your daily diet.
8. Get your fiber on
Fiber doesn’t just keep you regular; it also binds to old estrogen, sweeping it out of the system and leading to better hormonal balance. Two things to try: raw fruit and raw vegetables.
9. Restore your acid-alkaline balance
An overtly acidic body leeches minerals such as potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium from its own vital organs and bones to combat or buffer the acid. This, in turn, puts you at risk for a number of conditions including obesity and hormonal imbalances. So, an ideal state for keeping hormones in check is to stay slightly alkaline.
How does one do this? First, try a simple home test for testing your acid-alkaline ration. Dab a litmus paper strip with some saliva or urine first thing in the morning or two hours after eating. Match your strip to the associated color on the package: if the pH of your saliva stays between 7.0 and 7.4 all day, your body is functioning within a healthy range. If your urinary pH fluctuates between 6.0 to 6.5 in the morning and 6.5 and 7.0 in the evening, your body is within a healthy pH range.
Drink water with fresh lemon twice daily to boost your alkalinity and consider adding a greens powder or fresh spinach to your smoothies.
10. Supplement with Vitamin D
I definitely did not know this: Vitamin D acts like a hormone in our bodies and deficiency is linked to weight gain, fatigue, asthma and more. Yes, you can technically obtain it from sunlight but often that’s not enough (unless you are roasting in the sun, in which case skin cancer would be your primary worry rather than hormonal imbalance) so ask your health provider about supplements.
11. Rationalise your exercise habits
Intense exercise – whether it’s strength training or aerobic activity – increases cortisol levels and they can remain elevated for hours following a workout. Researchers at the University of North Carolina have also linked strenuous workouts to lower thyroid hormone levels; and since thyroid hormones stimulate your metabolism, their depletion is definitely not a good way to lose weight. So, more is not always better. Instead, opt for short, intense, 30 minute sessions and experiment with yoga.
12. Manage your stress
Stress equals high levels of cortisol. And high levels of cortisol equals throwing every one of your hormones off balance. So, do the maths. Added incentive to bring some zen into your life: researchers at Yale University have found that even otherwise-slender women who have high cortisol also have more abdominal fat.
13. Ensure good pelvic circulation
Efficient pelvic circulation is essential for keeping hormones in check. How to figure it out? Touch your lower belly: If it feels cold, your pelvic circulation may need some help. Or study your menstrual cycle: If it begins or ends with a lot of dark brown blood, things may be out of whack.
Some terrific options: massaging with sesame oil that’s mixed with a few drops of ginger essential oil, burning Moxa sticks over your lower belly or applying a compress of hot tea made with fresh ginger.
14. Banish hormone-disrupting chemicals
An increasing number of scientific studies are proving that our bodies are exposed to way too many hormone-disrupting toxins on a daily basis. They are everywhere: in our food, our cosmetics, even our wall paints and bedsheets.
How to minimise the damage? Buy organic whenever possible and stay away from “The Dirty Dozen” (methylparabens, propyl parabens, formaldehyde, imidazolidinyl urea, methylisothiazolinone, propylene glycol, paraffin, phthalates, isopropyl alcohol and sodium lauryl sulphate) along with BPA and pthalates.
What’s your hormonal profile? How do you deal with hormone-related problems?