When your hormones are out of balance, it can feel like you’ve been hit by a truck, are turning into a monster, or some combo of both. The same hormones that can make us feel unstoppable and give us the incredible ability to create a new life, can also leave us feeling tired, depressed, anxious, puffy, and moody.
As these symptoms continue to build, we can become desperate to feel better, turning to hormone replacement therapy and other prescription medications to relieve the symptoms and feel like ourselves again, not knowing there is another alternative. You can balance your hormones naturally with a holistic approach!
I know firsthand how frustrating and confusing it is when your hormones are out of whack. I dealt with hypothalamic amenorrhea due to low body weight from over exercising and undereating and complete adrenal burnout because of extreme stress on my hormones.
At that point, getting a regular menstrual cycle, lowering cortisol and balancing my hormones was my top priority. I knew that once I had regulated my hormones, it meant my health was back on track. My menstrual cycle became my gauge for how well my body was healing. What I learned in that time of hormonal healing for myself is what I now teach to my clients looking for some balance of their own.
You don’t need to turn to hormone replacement therapy, the pill, or other prescription medications to balance your hormones and relieve the symptoms you are experiencing. That method only puts a Band-aid on what’s really causing your hormones to get out of balance. Instead, you want to find the root cause of your issues and work to heal that. From there, your hormones will find the balance they need to get you feeling your best. And, it all can be done naturally!
IT ALL COMES BACK TO STRESS
In order to heal your body and hormones, you need to give full attention to your stress level. I get it… It can be hard to try and heal something that doesn’t feel real or tangible. It’s not like putting ointment on a cut and watching the process.
Stress input comes from all over; your thoughts, your workouts, your job, your family, the health of the rest of your body.
The list below will help you work on some of those lesser known stressors in your life. The goal is to normalize your cortisol output which is considered the “stress hormone.” When your adrenal glands produce too much of this hormone, it is stealing valuable energy and nutrients from the production of other hormones, such as estrogen, testosterone, progesterone.
It’s a process that requires compassion, diligence and commitment. There will be setbacks and there will be days you don’t feel like you’re doing it right. I’m here to tell you to trust the process. Do these 8 things as much as possible for an extended period of time and you will feel the shift.
8 Step To Balancing Your Hormones Naturally
1. Move mindfully, don’t overexert yourself.
We all know how beneficial exercise is to a healthy lifestyle. But, for those suffering from crashing adrenals, imbalanced hormones, high cortisol, or under/over functioning thyroid, intense physical exertion is actually doing much more harm than good to your overall health.
Every time you exercise, you are bringing your body out of homeostasis. When this happens, it is perceived as stress and cortisol is released from your adrenals as the normal stress response. Obviously, the higher the intensity of the workout, the more cortisol will come into play. This response happens in everyone and is in fact, a good thing because it increases available fuel supply for your workout, so you can actually complete it. However, in those of us with a chronic stress response already taking place, this added stress response places too much burden on already taxed adrenal glands, causing an even bigger cortisol and hormones cascade.
However, movement is an essential recovery piece to the hormone journey. This movement needs to remain gentle, with little impact on your overall body stress. Things like walks outdoors, bike rides, yoga, dance and moderate strength training are your best choices.
2. Rest as much as you can!
Not only is it important to take your workouts down a few notches, but to also physically rest as much as possible. I am giving you permission and the strict instruction to curl up with a good book or some mindless television and just rest!
You don’t need to be doing something productive every moment of the day. This “go, go, go” mentality puts you into a chronic stress response where your adrenals are constantly pumping out cortisol until they can’t keep up with your lifestyle and just give up altogether. If you are someone who fears to be lazy, or dislikes resting (I’ve been there too!), please know that you are doing great things for your health and hormones when you rest.
This restful state also includes sleeping. So much amazing healing happens during our sleeping hours. This is a great way to reset your stress response, give your adrenals a break, let your liver convert and recycle hormones, and instill a state of peace.
Sleep as much as your life allows. As many days as you can, don’t use an alarm to wake up and allow your body to sleep until it feels ready to wake up naturally. Take naps during the day if you can. Do your absolute best to go to bed at the same (early) time every night. I know this is a hard one because real life gets in the way, but it is very important to make sleep a priority to truly heal and balance your hormones.
Our breath drops us into the parasympathetic (rest and digest). The power of breath is something that’s hard to even put into words. Mindfulness and meditation also help lower cortisol and will change your frame of reference and how you deal with difficult situations as you go about your day.
Getting “good” at a meditation practice can seem impossible when you first start, but it’s important to note that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. You can just sit observe your thoughts and breathe. There are also really helpful apps to help guide you through the process. My favorites are InsightTimer and Headspace.
Even a few seconds of focusing solely on your breath has tremendous benefit. If a 5-10 minute meditation seems to be too much to add to your day right now, start by just closing your eyes and giving yourself 10 deep belly breaths. You can do this anywhere; at your desk, in the shower, before falling asleep at night. Make breathing a priority in your day and get ready for the magic to happen!
4. Eat the right things for you.
Don’t forget, what we do and don’t put on our plates will determine the amount of stress taking place in the body. Eating a diet full of nutrient-dense foods that you will be able to easily digest, absorb, and use as fuel is the primary goal when building your plate. I like to call it purposeful plating (which you can read more about in my recipe book here).
It’s also a really good time to determine which foods you do and don’t tolerate because continuously consuming foods that your body reacts to will place quite a stressor on it, causing a cortisol response.
This includes gluten, grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar, and sugar substitutes, chemically processed and altered foods, and processed vegetable and seed oils. Take note of how you feel after each meal to be aware if there is something within your diet that is causing distress.
Once you have learned what foods do and don’t work for you, now it’s time to purposefully plate. When working to balance your hormones and de-stress, eating to satiation is so important. Now is not the time to go on the next restrictive diet. (there will never be a good time for that.)
When you don’t eat enough food, cortisol is released because your body perceives the possibility of famine and undernourishment. Your body rations energy and stores fat, so not only do your adrenals get called into action, but your metabolism slows and your body fat increases.
Your plate should be full of high-quality meats, leafy greens, colorful, organic produce, high-quality fats and oils, nuts, and seeds. Eat when you are hungry; stop when you are satisfied. Fuel up intuitively based on what your body needs and wants. Don’t fast before you’re ready. (If you have adrenal, thyroid, or sex hormone imbalances, you may not be ready to fast.)
5. Stabilize your blood sugar.
With wonky cortisol also comes dysregulated blood sugar levels. Because these two are so tightly intertwined, when one is a mess so will the other. However, once your blood sugar is repaired, your cortisol levels will regulate much quicker and easier! Focusing on stabilizing your blood sugar has to be a high priority in order to heal your body and ultimately, your hormones.
There are several ways in which to do this, and it is important to do of them, not just one or two. First, eliminate the sweet treats from your life. It’s tough, but it’s worth it and the quickest way to get off the blood sugar roller coaster. Don’t worry, you don’t have to forgo all desserts and treats for the rest of your life! There are awesome low-sugar recipes out there that will satisfy any cravings. I have a number of delicious low glycemic recipes in my recipe book.
Secondly, get yourself fat-adapted. Teach your body to use fat as fuel by increasing your fat intake while decreasing your carbohydrate intake. This will put you on the fast track to stable blood sugar levels all day, every day and will reduce your sugar cravings and increase your energy. Not to mention, having this alternate, preferred source of fuel for your body puts it immediately into a state of ease, allowing for healing to happen.
Third, limit alcohol. Complete elimination would be ideal, but even if you can reduce your consumption of alcohol to a drink or two a week, you’ll be fast-tracking your hormone-balancing. Even if your alcoholic beverages don’t outright include sugar as an ingredient, alcohol in itself plays games with your blood sugar, something you won’t be able to tolerate until it is more balanced.
Lastly, cut out coffee, caffeine, and stimulants. This stimulation immediately triggers a blood sugar, adrenal, and cortisol response in your body and you’re just not in a place where you can handle that right now. Need an alternative? Try herbal teas, mushroom elixirs or Rasa Coffee.
6. Have fun, laugh and smile often!
Just because you are in a time of healing, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be having fun! The saying “laughter is the best medicine” is so true.
Connect with supportive friends, try a new hobby, watch a funny movie, read an entertaining book, spend time in nature, or whatever brings you joy!
Be friendly and pleasant to everyone you come into contact with. Maybe even pay a few compliments to strangers. It’s amazing what positivity, kindness, laughter, and just simply smiling can do for your health and well-being.
7. Reframe your stressors.
The way that you handle the stress that comes into your life may need to change. This shift includes your mindset about yourself and your circumstances. You must quit playing the role of victim, quit putting yourself down, quit beating yourself up, quit overthinking, and just quit being negative, closed off, and scared of life.
Open up your heart, clear the negativity, and live in the moment!
Live in the moment without wondering about the future or ruminating on the past. It’s just you right here, right now… anything else is just a waste of energy and unneeded stress and thought.
This mindset shift is something that takes a good amount of practice and is also something that will always be changing. But, even if you can spend a few minutes every day in the present, taking deep breaths, and releasing the unknown, you will feel a huge relief in your overall stress level and notice your hormones balancing too.
8. Detoxify your life.
Because we are trying to get rid of as many possible stressors on your body as possible, it is also important to see where you may be getting regular exposure to toxins. This will be in the form of harsh chemicals and detergents in your beauty products, face wash, deodorants, cleansers, sunscreens, and lotions.
It will also take the form of cleaning products, detergents, soaps, air fresheners, pots, pans, plastic containers, bedding, and other household items that are often overlooked at being toxic and harmful to your health.
While it may seem overwhelming and expensive to remove these items from your life, it is not something to ignore and take lightly. Environmental stressors can be a big reason why many are sick and unable to figure out the cause.
Some of the chemicals used in these items are estrogenic, meaning they act like estrogen in the body, causing the body to mistake it for actual hormone and produce less, furthering hormonal imbalance. While it may not be possible to throw all of your products in the trash and start over, it will make a big difference to slowly eliminate a few items at a time and replace with the more natural, toxin-free version.
The best way to get started is to think about those products that you are regularly in contact with and will be easily absorbed through your skin, such as lotions, soaps, face wash, detergents, and deodorant. From there, take a look at things that are touching foods you are going to be consuming, like Tupperware, pots and pans, dish soap, and dishwashing detergent. Just start taking a step in that direction and do what you can, as you can to detoxify your home!
We are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. This topic can also go in a totally different direction as we talk about removing toxic people from your life. This is a great, but extremely difficult step to take to improve your health and just overall life! If there are any people in your life that drag you down, practice spending less time with them, or no time with them. If you have people in your life that are negative, stressful, judgmental, unsupportive, jealous… it may be helpful to eliminate your time with them.
Remember, this list is comprehensive. Do your best to follow as many of these 8 action steps as you can and form a habit around them. It takes dedication to really commit, but with that commitment comes actual change and progress! It is so worth it, trust me.
Have questions? Want to schedule a one-on-one consultation? Reach out! I’d love to hear from you!