While you may know a bit about hormone health, most women blame their hormones for overreacting in traffic or crying during a sad commercial. Hormones are so much more complex than simply causing mood swings. When out of balance, they can affect everyday life by interfering with your sleep patterns, metabolism, skin, gut health, and of course, your period.
Why Hormones Are So Confusing
There are many different hormones in the body and if one is out of balance, the others can shift, as well. It can be overwhelming to “fix” your hormones, but it helps to first understand what they are and why we need them to be healthy.
Your hormones are a part of the endocrine system, which is a series of glands that creates and distributes hormones as chemical messengers throughout the body. Your endocrine glands are your thyroid, adrenal, ovaries, pancreas, hypothalamus, thalamus, parathyroid, thymus and pituitary. Each of these glands has its own function. For example, your thyroid produces hormones that are connected with calorie burning, heart rate and digestion. Your adrenal gland produces the hormones that influence your libido and the stress hormone cortisol. And you’ve probably heard of the hormone melatonin, which is produced by the thalamus and is directly tied to your sleep quality.
In addition to each gland having a purpose, each hormone has its own job. A disruption in melatonin can lead to trouble sleeping and insomnia, cortisol is in charge of the flight or fight response, testosterone influences sex drive and motivation, estrogen regulates menstruation, and leptin tells your body when its full.
How You Can Improve Your Hormone Health at Any Age
No amount of kale or yoga will instantly fix all of your hormone woes, but increased mindfulness and overall hormone health can help you feel more energized, improve your sleep, reduce stress, heal your gut, eliminate period pain and regulate your cycle.
Stress, hormonal birth control, medication, and trauma are just a handful of factors that can lead to hormone imbalance. Some signs of hormone imbalance include changes in weight, irregular periods, hair loss, acne, hot flashes, and indigestion. You want to take care of your hormone health to prevent your imbalances from turning into serious conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, ovarian cancer, or diabetes. Optimal hormone health is also essential for fertility.
Thankfully, there are many ways to improve your hormone health naturally, but it is also important to follow your doctor’s orders. Occasionally medication is needed to fix a hormone imbalance. However, through diet and lifestyle there is a lot you can do to keep your hormones in check.
The biggest factors in your control are your stress levels, blood sugar balance, and food choices. Exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet that improves your microbiome by avoiding processed foods. Make sure you are getting enough sleep (7-9 hours) at least five days a week. Here are some more specific ways to improve your hormone health naturally.
Eat more cruciferous vegetables
Aim for three servings a day of cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. This food group binds to excess estrogen in your gut and eliminates it. For optimal results, eat these foods raw or lightly boiled or steamed. Choose organic to avoid consuming hormone-disrupting pesticides.
Consume more healthy fats
Healthy fats like nuts, avocado, chia seeds, hemp seeds, nut butter and olives are vital for producing the hormones associated with energy and feelings of satiety. Eat more healthy fats to suppress cravings.
Sleep 7-9 hours a night
The body needs enough sleep to release, rebalance and replenish hormones. Your human growth hormone (HGH) is released during stage-3 sleep and is necessary for repairing, restoring and refreshing cells that keep your brain youthful.
Find ways to relieve stress
When cortisol is out of whack, your body will steal from other hormones, causing a disastrous ripple effect. Find a stress-relieving practice that works for you—meditation, exercise, journaling or reading.
Get rid of stimulants
Be careful not to consume too much caffeine (ahem, coffee) to prevent interfering with the hormones that lead to a restorative sleep.
Choose glass containers
BPA , often found in plastic, can throw off your hormones by mimicking estrogen.
Clean up your beauty cabinet
Avoid hormone-disrupting parabens in your makeup and skincare by choosing natural beauty products.