1. Eat Healthy Fats (Including Coconut Oil and Avocados)Eating a variety of foods high in short, medium and long-chain fatty acids is key to keeping your hormones in check. Your body needs various types of fats to create hormones, including saturated fat and cholesterol. Not only are these essential fats fundamental building blocks for hormone production, but they keep inflammation levels low, boost your metabolism and promote weight loss.My four favorite sources of anti-inflammatory, healthy fats include: coconut oil, avocados, grass-fed butter and wild-caught salmon. Coconut oil uses are plentiful− for example coconut oil (or cream/milk) has natural anti-bacterial and fat-burning effects. Avocado benefits include improving heart health, lowering inflammation, controlling your appetite and contributing to your daily intake of fiber and nutrients such as potassum. Salmon nutrition is also impressive: it’s one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to lower inflammation and help with cognitive functions.
2. Supplement with Adaptogen Herbs
Adaptogen herbs are a unique class of healing plants that promote hormone balance and protection the body from a wide variety of diseases, including those caused by excess stress. In addition to boosting immune function and combating stress, research shows that various adapotogens — such as ashwagandha, medicinal mushrooms, rhodiola and holy basil — can:
* Improve thyroid function
* Lower cholesterol naturally
* Reduce anxiety and depression
* Reduce brain cell degeneration
* Stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels
* Support adrenal gland functions
3. Balance Your Intake of Omega-3 to Omega-6 Fats
Since the early 20th century, the use of refined vegetable oils and intake of omega-6 fatty acids in our diets have skyrocketed. Because people didn’t also boost their intake of omega-3 foods during this time period, the result has been drastically elevated omega-6 levels. I’ve seen an onslaught of chronic diseases caused by inflammatoryprocesses literally take over our society, and a major reason why is because of very disproportionate fatty acids in the Western modern diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a large component of brain-cell membranes and are important for cell-to-cell communication in the brain. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids help protect against hippocampal neuronal loss and reduce pro-inflammatory responses. Research from Pennsylvania State University suggests that jumping from a ratio of 1:1 omega-3/omega-6s (the ratio our hunter-gather ancestors mostly enjoyed) to the astronomical ratio between 10:1 and 20:1 (omega-3/omega-6s) is one of the primary dietary factors causing many diseases in America.
Here’s a rule of thumb: Be sure to steer clear from oils high in omega-6 fats (safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, canola, soybean and peanut), and load up on rich sources of natural omega-3s instead (wild fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and grass-fed animal products). I want to also mention, there is a type of omega-6 fat you want to try and get in your diet called GLA. GLA (gamma-linoleic acid) can be taken in supplement form by using evening primrose oil or borage oil, and it’s also found in hemp seeds. Studies show supplementing with GLA can support healthy progesterone levels.
4. Improve Gut Health & Heal Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut is a condition that not only affects your digestive tract, but also causes hormone issues. Gut problems have been found to trigger autoimmune reactions, including arthritis and thyroid disorders. So what exactly is leaky gut syndrome?
When undigested food particles, like gluten for example, leak through your gut into your bloodstream, it causes disease-causing inflammation that impacts the entire body — especially glands like the thyroid which is very susceptible to heightened inflammation. Most people with leaky gut have an a deficiency of probiotics in their guts. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can actually improve your production and regulation of key hormones like insulin, ghrelin and leptin.
Steer clear of the foods that can cause damage in your digestive system most, including: processed foods, gluten, hydrogenated oils and added sugar. The top foods and supplements that support healing leaky gut include: bone broth,kefir, fermented vegetables, and high-fiber foods like vegetables and sprouted seeds. In addition, supplements like digestive enzymes and probiotics can aid in repairing your gut lining, which in turn can balance your hormones.
5. Eliminate Toxic Kitchen, Beauty and Body Care Products
Another way to eliminate toxins in your body is to avoid conventional body care products that are made with potentially-harmful chemicals including DEA, parabens, propylene glycol and sodium lauryl sulfate. A better alternative is to use natural products made with ingredients like essential oils, coconut oil, shea butter and castor oil. The Environmental Working Group evaluated over 72,000 products and ranked them in an easy-to-understand guide to make sure you have a resource to keep your family safe. Check out EWG’s “Skin Deep Cosmetic Database”today for recommendations for which products to use and avoid.
Another thing to consider is your use of plastic bottles, aluminum cans and containers. It’s best to replace plastic and aluminum with glass and stainless steel because of the toxic effects of BPA. Another wise precaution is to switch from teflon pans tostainless steel, ceramic or cast iron, which can make a big difference in the amount of chemicals making their way into the food you prepare.
6. Exercise (Especially Interval Training)
One of the best all-around activities you can do for your health is high intensity interval training (HIIT) − including one of my favorite types called burst training. If there is a silver bullet out there to help with a sluggish metabolism, weight gain and other issues, this just might be it! Exercise in general is great for balancing hormones because it reduces inflammation, can help you maintain a healthy weight, lowers stress, helps regulate your appetite, and aids in getting better sleep.
Whether we’re talking about endorphins from a “runner’s high”, testosterone, growth hormone or insulin, HIIT and burst training can help your body regulate production and use of these hormones. Exercise can also enhance your immune system, allow your cells to take up more glucose (which lowers insulin), protect you from depression, and keep you more alert without the need for caffeine.
According to the University of Notre Dame Medical School in Sydney, “HIT is associated with increased patient compliance and improved cardiovascular and metabolic outcomes and is suitable for implementation in both healthy and ‘at risk’ populations”. For people with hormonal imbalances, the key with exercise is to be careful not to overdo it. Training for a shorter period of time (about 20 minutes three times a week) but with higher intensity works well for most people who can’t afford to add any extra stress to their system. Keep in mind that optimal exercise can differ a lot from person to person however, so it’s a good idea to seek advise from a processional if you’re ever unsure.
7. Reduce Stress & Get More Sleep
Unless you get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, you’re doing your body no favors. A Lack of sleep or disturbing your natural circadian rhythm can be one of the worst habits contributing to a hormone imbalance. How so? Because your hormones work on a schedule! Case in point: Cortisol, the primary “stress hormone”, is regulated at midnight. Therefore, people who go to bed late never truly get a break from their sympathetic flight/fight stress response.
A lack of sleep, long-term use of corticosteroids and chronic stress are three of the biggest contributors to high cortisol levels. A report published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism stated that “Stress can lead to changes in the serum level of many hormones including glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormone and prolactin”.
Sleep helps keep stress hormones balanced, builds energy and allows the body to recover properly. Excessive stress and poor sleep are linked with higher levels of morning cortisol, decreased immunity, trouble with work performance, and a higher susceptibility to anxiety, weight gain and depression. To maximize hormone function, ideally try to get to bed by 10 p.m and stick with a regular sleep-wake-cycle as much as possible.
8. Watch Your Caffeine & Alcohol Intake
Caffeine in moderate amounts might be okay for some people, but drinking too much caffeine is almost as bad as not getting enough sleep. Caffeine, which can stay in your system for up to six hours, is a chemical that affects the central nervous system (CNS) and raises your heart rate, increases alertness, and changes the way your brain produces hormones. Although caffeine overdoses are rare, caffeine is capable of elevating cortisol levels if it interferes with your normal sleep cycle. It might also have an impact on other stress hormones, such as adrenaline production. You’re probably aware that caffeine is addictive by nature, increases nervousness and anxiety in many people, and is linked with insomnia.
If you need a little boost during the day, try not to drink more than one–two cups. Ideally you’ll turn to matcha green tea or tulsi tea which are much lower in caffeine. The good news is that once you’re health is back on track, small amounts of caffeine can usuallyu be toleraable, and even beneficial. Dartmouth Medical School reports that “caffeine has been shown to increase insulin levels, reduce insulin sensitivity, and increase cortisol levels. However, epidemiological studies have indicated that long-term consumption of beverages containing caffeine such as coffee and green tea is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus”.
Another important step is to watch your alcohol intake, since high levels of alcohol (above about 2-3 drinks daily) can negatively impact liver functioning. Chronic alcohol consumption can contribute to estrogen dominance and has been found to interfere with pancreatic functioning, increase liver disease risk, lower testosterone and contribute to anxiety and malnutrition. The liver is very important for hormonal balance and has over 500 different functions in the body! Of course it’s extremely important to quit smoking too. Studies have found that smoking interferes with normal immunological and reproductive processes. Compared with nonsmokers, moderate to heavy smokers (≥ 10 cigarettes/day) have abnormal levels of steroid metabolites and reproductive hormones that can be up to 35 percent higher than usual.
9. Supplement with Vitamin D3
According to an article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vitamin D3’s role in promoting health is more profound than previously suspected. Researchers found that vitamin D has an impact in the following ways:
It affects “the adaptive immune system, the innate immune system, insulin secretion by the pancreatic β cell, multifactorial heart functioning and blood pressure regulation, and brain and fetal development.”
Vitamin D almost acts like a hormone inside the body and has important implications for keeping inflammation levels low. This is why people who live in dark areas often suffer from seasonal depression and other health problems unless they supplement with vitamin D. Sunshine is really the best way to optimize vitamin D levels because your bare skin actually makes vitamin D on its own when exposed to even small amounts of direct sunlight. Most people should supplement with around 2,000 IU to 5,000 IU daily of vitamin D3 if they live in dark areas, during the winter, and on days when they’re not in the sun.
10. Back Off Birth Control Pills
In simplest terms, “the pill” is a type of hormone therapy that raises estrogen levels to such dangerous levels that it can cause many complications. I cannot urge you strongly enough to stop using the pill immediately, especially considering that there are many other (safer) ways to prevent pregnancy. My thoughts on taking the pill can be summed up this way: Just say no to birth control pills! Studies show that the risks of taking them, especially long-term, can include:
* Breakthrough bleeding between cycles
* Increased risk of breast cancer
* Increased risk of uterine bleeding, blood clotting, heart attack and stroke
* Increased blood pressure
* Weight gain
* Back pains
* Mood changes
* Benign liver tumors
* Breast tenderness