Many people in our modern society struggle with hormonal imbalances, which can manifest in numerous ways: Weight imbalances, anxiety, depression, mood swings, low libido, fatigue, infertility, female health concerns, and insomnia—just to name a few. In this post, we discussed tips for female hormonal health (much of which can also be applied to males). To continue the discussion on hormonal imbalance, here are a few more ways to ensure healthy hormone balance:
Control Stress: The human body was not designed to be subjected to the amount of chronic stressors present in our modern society. The master stress hormone, cortisol, affects every single system in the body. As part of its role in the fight-or-flight response, cortisol helps to redirect fuel to the body’s organs that need it the most in a situation that the body perceives to be an emergency. This results in an increase in blood sugar levels and a suppression of the body’s systems and functions that are considered nonessential for immediate survival, including the reproductive, digestive, and immune systems, as well as normal growth and metabolism. In the event of a true emergency, the fight-or-flight response is a critical adaptation by the body. However, long-term activation of the stress response leads to hormonal imbalance and many other health consequences. Besides suppressing normal hormone production, the building blocks of hormones, particularly those used to produce sex hormones, are diverted for use by the adrenal glands for cortisol production during periods of chronic stress.
It is impossible to ensure healthy hormonal balance without addressing stress. Chronic stress can certainly involve an emotional component, but it also includes physical stressors, such as a poor diet, over or under-exercising, hidden infections, toxin exposure, too little sunlight exposure, or inadequate sleep and rest. Tackling all of the individual components of stress is important to correct hormonal imbalance.
Sleep: Many hormones are produced and released according to the circadian rhythm. An adequate amount of sleep is necessary to ensure the normal production and action of the various diurnal hormones that operate according to the sleep-wake cycle. An inadequate amount of sleep also leads to imbalanced cortisol production, which then negatively impacts many different hormones and endocrine functions. Decreased glucose tolerance, increased insulin resistance, and an inability to control blood sugar levels can also be a result of chronic sleep deprivation. Every individual’s need for sleep will vary, but the research suggests that most people need at least 7-10 hours in order to function optimally. However, if you are already dealing with hormonal imbalances and other symptoms of poor health, you may require more sleep.
Exercise: The right type and amount of physical activity has a positive effect the body’s overall hormonal profile. In conjunction with a nutrient-dense, real food diet, exercise can help to mitigate weight gain and obesity. In females, being overweight can contribute to estrogen dominance because fat cells covert testosterone into estrogen in a process known as aromatization.
A frequent amount of low intensity activity (such as walking), a moderate amount of strength training, and occasional high intensity intervals (such as sprints) have a beneficial impact on hormone balance. However, chronic endurance cardiovascular exercise should be avoided if you have symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Chronic endurance exercise triggers long-term activation of the stress response, which leads to adrenal stress, an imbalance of cortisol, and a disruption of normal hormone function.
Minimize Toxins: Air, water, and food quality and chemical and radiation exposure are environmental factors that are critical to healthy hormone balance. As part of a Paleo template, it is best to choose organic food that is sustainably and humanely raised. This will reduce pesticide exposure, as well as ensure that meat, fish, and eggs are raised without the addition of added hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs. Filtering water is also recommended as most sources of drinking water in our modern society contain toxins. Cookware is another common way that toxins are introduced into the body. Glass, ceramic, stainless steel, and cast iron are safer options for use with cooking.
A widespread source of toxin exposure for women in particular is personal hygiene and beauty care products. Chemicals are absorbed through the skin into the body and many of the chemicals used in personal hygiene and beauty products are known to disrupt hormones. Switching to products that are homemade or more natural can be helpful in reducing the overall toxic load.
Have Patience: Balancing hormones through a natural, holistic approach can take time. If you are struggling with hormonal imbalance, it likely took several years for the symptoms to manifest. It may take quite a bit of time to unravel the damage that led to hormonal disruption, but don’t give up! If you stick with it, you will be rewarded with healthy hormones that help you to feel and look great and contribute to overall health and wellbeing.