Hormones are chemical messengers involved in every metabolic process in the body. When balanced, they work in harmony to promote overall health and well-being. But if even one hormone level is off-kilter, it can start a chain reaction and lead to imbalances throughout the body. Luckily, there are many natural ways to balance hormones through simple daily diet and lifestyle choices.
There are approximately 50 different hormones, each one performs an important job and are key to overall wellness. For instance, the two hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, affect appetite. Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline are released as part of the body's "fight-or-flight" response. When these hormones are overproduced due to long-term stress, more serious health problems may occur.
Cortisol and melatonin are the primary hormones that regulate the natural sleep-wake cycle, so throwing these hormones out of balance can lead to energy and sleep disturbances that affect many other areas as a result. The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate metabolism, which influences how effectively the body burns fat or is able to maintain a healthy weight. Insulin is the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels - key to overall health.
There is a wide range of signs and symptoms that can signal an imbalance due to having too much or too little of the hormone needed to carry out its required function. An imbalance could show in any of the following: weight gain, or unexplained weight loss, muscle aches or weakness, feeling tired all the time with difficulties concentrating or lower mood, sleep issues, skin issues, thinning hair, dry skin, digestive issues, changes in libido and many more.
Since common signs and symptoms are non-specific and can mimic many different health issues, working with an integrative health practitioner who can assess your individual hormone levels can be an informative and important first step in naturally balancing hormone levels.
Certain diet and lifestyle habits that use a holistic and integrative health approach, can go a long way to support your hormones. Here are four natural ways to incorporate them into your routine so you feel and look your best.
Your diet may be the biggest factor when it comes to hormonal balance. Eating refined sugar and processed foods can cause sharp spikes and subsequent drops in blood sugar, leading to increased cravings, low energy, weight gain and other more serious health issues over time. Prioritizing a diet rich in anti-inflammatory whole foods can provide your body with the variety of nutrients it needs to promote balanced blood sugar.
Here are some tips you can incorporate into your daily routine:
Lowering stress levels can help regulate the release of stress hormones, bringing them back into balance. Regular exercise can build emotional resilience to stressful factors. It can also help down regulate the nervous system from a sympathetic state, where the body is on high alert and ready to fight, to a parasympathetic state where the body is able to rest, relax and repair.
Here are some ways to reduce stress:
During the day, the production of our sleepy hormone melatonin is suppressed. Melatonin helps the body to prepare for sleep and starts to rise towards the end of the day as it gets dark. As melatonin levels rise, cortisol levels should go down, allowing you to drift off to sleep. When your body's sleep hormones are out of balance, it can disrupt the sleep/wake cycle.
Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep to promote optimal overnight repair and rejuvenation. If you need support, there are also natural sleep aids and other tips that may help promote restful sleep:
Supplements may be able to help support hormonal balance. B vitamins play a role in your body's detoxification process, which includes ridding the body of excess hormones to maintain balance. Magnesium is an important mineral that helps to relax the nervous system and plays a role in regulating estrogen and other hormones. Herbs like Rhodiola rosea and eleuthero can support the body's stress response.
Taking simple steps that naturally promote hormone balance will help you function, feel and look your best. An at-home functional medicine lab test can be the easiest way to uncover any underlying imbalance you may be dealing with and you can then work alongside a certified health coach to implement the hormone-balancing strategy that is right for you.