The beginner guide tells you everything about imbalance & and how to balance it naturally
Our hormones are responsible for a wide variety of important bodily functions, from signalling hunger cues and managing emotions to regulating sleep, the female reproductive system, and our body's response to stress.
Many women experience irregular or non-existent periods, low sex drive, intense mood swings, cravings, and fatigue; all common signs of a hormonal imbalance. These 'common' symptoms are often overlooked and deemed 'normal' in Western medicine - but they're not. It's actually our body's way of telling us that something is not right.
We often hear about hormone levels changing and influencing the way we act, but our hormones can do so much more than that. Extremely sensitive, if out of balance even slightly, there can be considerable ramifications on our bodies.
Fluctuations in hormones occur naturally, so recognising and reacting to an imbalance can help us lead happier, healthier lives. But before we discuss how to keep your hormone balance in check, there are a few things you need to know about.
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemicals created by our body that travel down our bloodstreams and to specific organs and tissues, alerting them to perform a particular function.
What hormones are released, and how much is ‘decided’ by the endocrine system.
What is the endocrine system?
The endocrine system works similarly to our nervous systems, but it controls the activation and deactivation of functions:
• Blood pressure
• Body temperature
• Growth and development
• Heart rate
• Sexual functions and reproduction
• Sleeping and waking cycles
When people talk about hormones being defective, it’s because the endocrine system has produced too much or not enough of a specific hormone. Hormone imbalances could happen because of a medical condition or because of a lifestyle change.
The great news is that if the imbalance isn’t caused by a medical condition, we can do things to help get things back on track. We can even balance the hormones naturally.
What are the symptoms of hormonal imbalance?
If your hormone levels are off-balance, something that can occur so easily and often, your body will exhibit symptoms that you can recognise and react to. These include:
• Acne and breakouts
• Cramps and back pain
• Digestive problems
• Fluid retention and weight gain
• Headaches or migraines
• Loss of libido
• PMS mood swings, irritability, sadness, anxiety
• Sleep problems
Can I balance my hormones myself ?
So long as a medical condition isn’t the cause of your hormone imbalance, there are small and easy things you can do to keep your endocrine system, and therefore your hormones, balanced. You can be healthy and exercise a little to move your body.
Balancing hormones naturally
Here are four small lifestyle changes you can make to keep your hormones balanced. An added bonus is that these changes also form part of a healthy lifestyle.
1. What foods help to balance hormones?
Your food choices will support a healthy balance of hormones or contribute to continual imbalances. By eating nutrient- rich foods and opting for a plant-based organic diet when possible, including:
• Plenty of green leaves
• Brightly coloured vegetables
• Drinking lots of water
• Fruit, however not acidic fruit
You’ll be helping your hormone levels stay in check and keep your body strong and healthy.
Choose leaner cuts and wild-caught sea fish.
Foods that can contribute to an imbalance include:
• Products on the high-glycemic index
• Fast foods
• Cows milk
So if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned earlier, try temporarily cutting these foods out and see if it makes a difference.
2) How plastic can wreak havoc on your endocrine system
Drinking from single-use plastic water bottles or using tea bags that contain plastic isn’t just terrible for the planet; it also spells chaos for our endocrine system and can cause trouble for our immune system.
In the 1990s, it was discovered that certain plastics, like BPA (the ones used in drink bottles), were seeping into the product it held and, therefore, ending up in our systems. These plastics contain oestrogen-mimicking properties, which throw our endocrine system off and impact the amount of the hormone produced.
So, if you purchase foods or drinks in plastic packaging, look out for a BPA-Free label to limit the number of harmful substances entering your body.
We also recommend staying away from non-stick pans, as these are also understood to influence our endocrine system and throw our hormones out of balance. Instead, opt for stainless steel, ceramic or cast iron cookware. Everything around us can cause us to have sensitivity. It’s important to look after yourself and give your body the proper nutrition it needs.
3) How does sleep affect your hormones?
A smoothly operating circadian rhythm impacts hormone release just as much as our hormones can affect our sleep. The right amount of sleep every night helps to keep the following hormones in balance:
• Estrogen and progesterone
• Growth hormones
• Hunger hormones
• Thyroid hormones
However, it does not always work what we do. It’s important to focus on your breathing and try to remain calm when going to sleep.
So if ever there was a reason to get a few extra hours of sleep, balancing your hormones is definitely one. If you struggle to drift off to sleep, here are a few things you can do:
• Switch to decaf if you drink coffee in the afternoon
• Turn off all screens an hour before you go to sleep
• Invest in a sunset device
• Invest in a noise machine
If you want to create a sleep plan to help you enjoy a restful night’s sleep consistently, you can use ours here.
4) What does exercise do to your hormones?
You’ve probably heard all about endorphins that are released when we exercise, but staying fit can also prevent hormone imbalances. It’s not as straightforward as, say, eating the right food, which directly impacts hormone levels, but it does have an indirect effect.
Short bursts of exercise can lower stress levels, which will decrease the amount of stress hormones being released into the bloodstream. The endorphin rush also reduces feelings of tiredness, helping us stay more alert during the day and ready for bed in the evening.
Finally, moderate and cardio exercise helps us drift off to sleep quickly and increases the quality of our sleep, which in turn balances hormones. A survey from the National Sleep Foundation showed that participants who take on light, moderate or vigorous exercise regularly enjoy very good or fairly good overall sleep quality.
The bottom line
Your hormones are involved in every aspect of your health. You need them in very specific amounts for your body to function optimally.
Hormone imbalances may increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health conditions.
Consuming nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and engaging in other health-promoting behaviours such as meditating and getting enough sleep may go a long way toward improving your hormonal health.