Hormones are the chemical messengers of the body. While we may not pay much attention to them when everything is going smoothly, a blip in any of the major body hormones can create a number of uncomfortable symptoms. Luckily, the body’s natural state is one of balance, and with a few lifestyle habits, you can do a lot to promote this balance.
Here’s some of my top tips for creating healthy hormone equilibrium.
Of course a healthy diet is essential for hormonal balance. But if there’s one thing that will throw off even the best nutritional regimen, it’s sugar, including all high-carbohydrate foods. According to this study, “a high-fat, high-sugar diet led to disrupted preovulatory and basal hormone levels and induced cystic ovaries in a rodent model of diet-induced obesity.”
To state it simply, consuming excess sugar creates highs and lows in blood sugar levels, which disrupts hormone signalling, leading to problems with ovulation, endometrial growth and liver function. As I talk about frequently with my patients, instability in any area of the body, mind or emotions (or life!) creates imbalance in other areas. So, enjoy a slice of cake at your kid’s birthday party, but kick the daily habit.
Salute the Sun
I don’t mean the yoga sun salutation, although we’ll get to exercise in just a minute. I mean let the sun be your alarm clock and the moon be your bedtime story. Waking with the sun and going to sleep when it’s dark outside is one of the simplest, most natural – and satisfying – ways to balance the morning hormone cortisol and the evening hormone melatonin, both of which play a significant role in ovulation. It’s all about rhythms, and the micro rhythms set the macro rhythms.
Here’s where some actual sun salutations are a great thing. There are so many reasons to exercise, and promoting hormonal balance is one of the biggest benefits of regular, moderate-intensity movement.
For starters, sweating is a crucial way the body detoxifies itself, and the increased microcirculation induced by exercise improves functioning of all body cells.
Additionally, “exercise can modulate liver mitochondrial structure and function“, meaning that exercise can improve your liver’s “fitness”. As the organ where most estrogen is metabolized, a well-functioning liver is one of the keys to hormone balance.
And last but not least, maintaining a healthy weight contributes significantly to hormone balance. Carrying extra weight promotes a hormone imbalance, as extra fat is hormonally active and can disrupt ovulation, such as in conditions like PCOS.
While exercise is amazing for the body (and mind!) in so many ways, don’t overdo it, either. Women and young girls who overexercise are at risk for anemia, low body fat percentage and inflammatory states. Being in an inflammatory state for too long uses resources that could otherwise be used in hormone production, while having a too-low body fat percentage prevents the production of raw material for hormone production. Any of these conditions can lead to irregular cycles or amenorrhea.
I mentioned before that a clean, fit liver is key to helping the body detoxify hormones. But, after metabolizing estrogen, where does it go? It goes to the colon for excretion, effectively ending the hormone cycle in the body. Yet if it’s not excreted, it can be reabsorbed into the bloodstream, creating an excess. Making sure you’re going to the bathroom daily (we’re talking #2) is an important way to keep that hormone cycle moving.
While some hormone imbalances need deeper analysis and treatment, these simple lifestyle tips are the foundation for a healthy balance. All the pills in the world won’t create true health if your habits don’t support it. So, here’s to a healthy lifestyle and to happy hormones!
Kelli N. Davis, L.Ac., M.A.O.M.
Expert in Women’s Hormonal Balance
Medical Board Licensed Oriental Medicine Practitioner