6 Steps to Balance Your Hormones!
Updated: Jun 1
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Women’s hormones are foundational for health. Our menstrual cycles are like a report card for our overall health! Because of diet culture, the standard American diet, and our food system, most women struggle with their hormones.
A few signs that your hormones need support are painful periods, irregular periods, breast tenderness before or during your period, spotting before or after your period, PMS, PCOS, and even difficulty achieving pregnancy.
If this describes you or speaks to your experience, your sex hormones need support!
A bit about Birth Control
Doctors often prescribe birth control for the issues above, but this works only like a band-aid!
Hormonal birth control does not fix your hormones, it replaces them with synthetic hormones.
You’re no longer cycling through the natural hormones. Any period that happens on birth control is just a breakthrough bleed or a pill bleed. Please hear me: Hormonal birth control does not fix the problem! Hormonal birth control only intensifies the root issue. Women who come off of hormonal birth control often find that their periods return with a vengeance! Any problems they experienced before going on the pill often worsen when they come off the pill! Many women’s sex hormones are so imbalanced, that they also struggle to get pregnant after coming off birth control. Read my post here for why you should ditch birth control!
Here are 6 things you can start doing today to heal and support your hormones:
1. Ditch hormonal birth control
Like I said above, hormonal birth control in any form, is just not good for you. It is a band-aid for hormonal issues and exasperates the underlying problem. Hormonal birth control destroys your gut health, zaps your body of vital nutrients, and so much more! Obviously, you can't balance your hormones if you're on synthetic hormones. Throw out the birth control!
I say all that lightly, but I also understand that for some women, not getting pregnant is a top priority. Maybe it is the right decision for you, but know the risks and consequences going in. Hormonal birth control, while safe and effective, is not ideal for a healthy body. I’m no expert on the matter, so let me point you in the right direction. Here are 2 of my favorite books on the topic, written by experts: Beyond the Pill and Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I can not say enough good things about these 2 books! Don't just take my word for it! Educate yourself on your body! See my post here on 5 Reasons you Should Ditch Hormonal Birth Control.
Know your options! Hormonal birth control is not the only effective option for preventing pregnancy. See my post here on how to track your menstrual cycle.
2. Balance Blood Sugar.
Many people, myself included for years, walk around with fluctuating blood sugar. For years, I would do things that spiked and then tanked my blood sugar levels all through the day. Skipping breakfast, having a carb-y stack after lunch with no protein, going without eating for 6+ hours during the day, etc. The result was I was always fatigued and struggled with my weight.
The key to balancing blood sugar is to eat a balanced meal or snack regularly. A balanced meal/snack includes both a carb and a protein. Fat is also necessary, but most of the time, there is plenty of fat in the carb or protein to suffice.
Do NOT drink coffee on an empty stomach in the morning. This spikes stress hormones while keeping blood sugar low. Do NOT eat keto or intermittent fast! These are two other fad diets that do not promote stable blood sugar and do not support hormones. Women especially need carbs.
Also, make sure you’re eating enough food! Trying to cut calories all through your cycle does not support blood sugar balance or hormones.
Did you know that in the second half of your cycle (the luteal phase), your body actually burns an extra 200-300 calories a day?
Many women eat too few calories without even realizing what they are doing. I myself am guilty of this! For example, on the day I am writing this, I sat down at the end of the day and entered all the food I consumed today into a macro tracker. After eating dinner, I only consumed 1,200 calories! That is far too few! For a healthy woman my age and activity level, I need a minimum of 2,000 to maintain my weight! If I wanted to lose weight, I should be eating about 1,900. Needless to say, I went and found something else to eat to bump up my calorie intake. Eating enough balanced food throughout the day not only promotes healthy blood sugar but also supports a healthy metabolism. Eating 1,200 calories a day causes your body to produce stress hormones to keep you running. The body also slams the brakes on your metabolism. Your body needs to feel safe in order for it to produce healthy hormones. Your body is AMAZING and does everything to keep you healthy. If your body feels like it is starving, it will not want to grow a baby. Take care of your body so it can take care of you.
The metabolism is directly tied to the thyroid, which is directly tied to hormone health. Essentially, an unhealthy/slow metabolism means imbalanced hormones. See my post here for how to speed up your metabolism.
3. Reduce your stress.
The key to balanced hormones is creating safety in your body. A stressed body just does not function as well.
Did you know that the brain can not actually differentiate between a real physical threat (a bear) and a perceived threat (a public speaking engagement)?
When the body is stressed in this way, it shuts down non-essential functions to a degree, such as digestion and reproductive hormones. If you’re chronically stressed, your body is suffering. You’re suffering! It’s time to make some changes!
Practice self-care, set healthy boundaries, and sleep enough at night! My personal favorite book that helped me lower stress in the workplace is Burnout. I CAN NOT say enough good things about this book! Seriously, changed my life. And if all of those things don’t help, and you’re still stressed to the max, seek some help.
4. Eat a whole foods diet, incorporating lots of nutrient-rich foods!
I have a LOT to say on this topic, but I'll try and keep it short and sweet. Check out the rest of my blog if you'd like to learn more!
My motto is to crowd out processed foods with good, whole foods. Processed foods include sodas and alcohol in addition to convenience foods you might buy at the grocery store. Almost all convenience foods have additives like coloring, and seed oils that are terrible for us!
Focus on organic and nutrient-dense food. Read nutrition labels to avoid additives. The best thing to do is to cook from scratch, using whole, organic foods.
An ancestral diet is really the best diet to balance hormones. See my post here on what is an ancestral diet. If you want to know more about WHY an ancestral diet. Read my post here on 5 books that led me to an ancestral diet.
It's incredibly difficult to get all the necessary nutrients eating a plant-based diet. See my post here for why I quit eating a vegan diet.
5. Focus on your gut health.
Gut health is so important for our overall health, but often completely overlooked! It's overlooked in the medical establishment and the modern American diet. The gut has been said to be the second brain, and affects everything from our immune system to our mental health! A great resource on gut health is Gut and Physiology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride. Natasha has also been interviewed on many podcasts, which are very helpful.
Sourdough is great for gut health! Sourdough is a great prebiotic, and many people that have issues with gluten can handle sourdough better. As the name implies, the dough is soured, or fermented, so it’s pre-digested and full of good bacteria. See my article here on how to make a sourdough starter from scratch. Eating other fermented foods is excellent for gut health, as they resupply the gut with good bacteria.
Whole foods are a necessity for gut health. Including plenty of fibers, (which are great prebiotics) and probiotics. Whole foods sources of probiotics are foods like kombucha, yogurt, kefir, cultured dairy, and fermented veggies. Many of the additives in processed foods, such as preservatives, seed oils, and artificial colorings feed the bad bacteria in the gut, so cutting those foods is important.
Do your best to eat "Nose to Tail", meaning eat all parts of the animal. Bone Broth is packed full of good collagen and gelatin that is so healing to the gut. It's always best to get these nutrients from whole food form, but you can also buy collagen and gelatin in powder form to supplement. I've linked the ones I use, but the important thing is that the powders come from healthy cows (meaning organic, grass-fed, antibiotic-free). Visit my post here for how to make bone broth. And see my post here for 10 Meals to Sneak Bone Broth Into.
6. Throw out Endocrine Disruptors
Our body's endocrine system produces and controls the hormones released. It is the control center for all hormones, including sex hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. Did you know that most household products contain chemicals that can disrupt our endocrine system, otherwise known as endocrine disruptors? These chemicals are present in our cleaning products, hygiene items, beauty products, and other items such as candles and aerosol sprays. Most Americans today live in environments FULL of these endocrine disruptors, making it very difficult for our body's to keep hormones balanced.
While it is intimidating to think about switching out all your household and personal items to be non-toxic, it's not that difficult (speaking from personal experience). The three main things to watch out for are fragrance, parabens, and sulfates. These can be avoided by reading the ingredients on the back of products. Luckily, today most items have a "non-toxic", "clean", or "natural" option. If you're really gung-ho, throw out all those products and make or buy new ones! However, if you're like me, and not wanting to waste the money you spent on those products, start slowly. The one thing I would say to go ahead and toss is any kind of air freshener or candle. As you use up one product (say deodorant), replace it with a "non-toxic" "clean, or "natural" product. Or look up a recipe to make your own to save some money and be 100% sure of the ingredients. Watch out for marketing schemes, as some brands are not actually free of harmful ingredients. The most common culprit is artificial fragrance. Even essential oils can be harmful if they are low-quality.
To learn more about this topic, visit my post on 6 Ways to Reduce Everyday Exposure to Toxins.
That's it! Six things you can start doing today to balance your hormones! I won't lie, this can take some TIME, especially if you've been on hormonal birth control for many many years! It can take a while for your body to readjust and become truly healthy again. Be patient, and keep at it! Again, the menstrual cycle is an indicator of overall health, so it's vitally important! What's been your experience balancing hormones? Let me know in the comments!