Ever stop to wonder why you feel the way you do throughout different times of the month? When we think of hormone imbalance, it’s easy to pull up mental images of menopausal women or pubescent teenagers. Despite our age, however, we all have hormones that fluctuate each and every month.
Hormones don’t just control our emotions, they’re also responsible for various bodily functions. Our sleep, appetite, mood, reproductive system, metabolism, heart rate, and more are all influenced by the cascade of hormones that courses through our bodies on a regular basis.
Hormones are responsible for our cravings, weight fluctuations, and symptoms of PMS during our menstrual cycle. Hormones regulate ovulation, and play a huge role in reproduction and pregnancy.
Better Understanding Your Hormones
Hormones are produced by the endocrine system, which is made up of glands throughout the body. Major endocrine glands include the thymus, pituitary, thyroid, pineal, and adrenal. There are also endocrine glands in the pancreas. Women also produce hormones in their ovaries, while men produce hormones in their testes.
The body contains several hormones, all of which are powerful and contain a host of major responsibilities in the body. This is why even the smallest disruption in hormone balance can cause such significant changes.
What causes hormone imbalance?
There are actually a number of factors that can lead to imbalanced hormones. Experiencing hormonal imbalance is most common (and quite normal) during menstruation, pregnancy, puberty, and menopause. For example, estrogen levels rise and fall twice a month during a woman's monthly cycle. They rise during the mid-follicular phase (during menstruation) and fall significantly after ovulation (about two weeks before menstruation).
Menstruation, menopause, puberty, and pregnancy aren’t the only things that can wreak havoc on our hormones. The endocrine system is also significantly affected by our external environment. There are certain chemicals known as endocrine disruptors that actually mimic the body’s natural hormones. Because of this, they can bind to hormone receptors and create significant imbalance in natural hormone production.
Endocrine disruptors can be found everywhere in industrialized societies. Common examples of endocrine disruptors include:
- Flame retardants found in furniture, bedding, plastics, and electronics
- PCBs and dioxins in pesticides
- Pesticides present in water, soil, and food
- Phthalates found in cosmetics, cleaning supplies, plastics and food packaging (Ingredients like “fragrance” or “perfume” are good indications that a product contains phthalates)
- BPA found in plastics, food packaging and the lining of some food and beverage containers
- UV filters in conventional sunscreens
- Parabens present in a wide variety of products including cosmetics, deodorant, personal care products, and some foods and drugs
- BHT and BHA which are commonly used in foods as preservatives
It’s easy to see how hormones can become imbalanced, regardless of whether it’s “that time of the month.”
Natural Ways to Balance Hormones
While the endocrine system is extremely complex and there are several different factors that can lead to hormone imbalance, there are several natural ways to naturally balance your hormones. Following are a few that can easily be introduced to your everyday routine:
Consume Plenty of Healthy Fats
Healthy fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids are extremely beneficial for hormone balance. They’re precursors of locally produced hormones and are vital for hormone synthesis. Consuming plenty of omega-3 fatty acid-rich food is suggested to help with hormone imbalance. While fish is one of the highest sources of omega-3s, they’re also found in plenty of vegan food sources. Nuts, seeds like chia, flax and hemp, seaweed, kidney beans, and Brussels sprouts are all great vegan sources of the omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for hormone health.
Coconut oil is another healthy fat beneficial for hormone health. Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides, which are necessary for hormone production. The fatty acids found in coconut oil can also assist hormones in getting where they need to be in the body. Coconut oil is particularly high in lauric acid, which can improve gut health by supporting the body’s defenses against viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and yeasts. The lauric acid in coconut oil essentially inactivates these harmful microbes that can invade the gut and result in hormone imbalance. Coconut oil also converts cholesterol into pregnenolone, which aids the creation of thyroid hormones.
Consider Natural Supplements that Support Hormone Health
Nature gives us everything we need to thrive and live our healthiest lives. There are several natural supplements you can consume that support hormone health, offering a bit of assistance to balance hormones naturally.
Ashwagandha is a boon for imbalanced hormones, as it shows to support thyroid health. Ashwagandha is one of several adaptogen herbs, which are found in certain plants known to promote hormone balance and protect the body from stress and other harmful conditions. Other adaptogens that may support hormone health include holy basil (tulsi), rhodiola, and medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, shiitake, and chaga.
Vitamin D is another supplement that is said to support hormone health, as it acts very similarly to hormones inside the body and is an important factor in estrogen biosynthesis. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with lower estrogen levels and can lead to parathyroid imbalance, as low vitamin D levels reduce the body’s efficacy to regulate calcium levels controlled by the parathyroid.
Black cohosh root is another herb that may help naturally balance hormones. It’s often used to treat menopause or perimenopause symptoms such as hot flashes, excessive sweating, and mood swings. A 2010 review found that black cohosh helped significantly to reduce hot flashes and night sweats in menopausal women. It’s suggested that black cohosh is most effective for balancing hormones associated with estrogen imbalance.
Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is vital for all bodily functions, including keeping hormones balanced and healthy. Our natural circadian rhythm is regulated by hormones like cortisol and melatonin. These hormones literally work on a schedule in tune with our body’s 24-hour biological clock.
Melatonin is released by the pineal gland at night when it gets dark. Cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, is regulated at midnight where it drops to its lowest levels. These levels begin to rise and then peak about an hour after you wake up. When we don’t get enough sleep, the body is more likely to produce more cortisol, meaning you’re exposed to more of the body’s “flight or fight” response than necessary.
Sleep is vital for keeping our stress hormones balanced. Ideally, you’re getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you’re one of millions of people who don’t get enough sleep, taking steps to naturally get a rejuvenating night’s sleep could be seriously beneficial for balanced hormone support.
There are several causes for hormone imbalance. Fluctuating hormones during a woman’s menstrual cycle, menopause, inflammation, poor gut health, and everyday toxins can all have a significant effect on hormone health.
Fortunately, there are natural ways to promote hormone balance that can allow you to thrive and live your best life. Keep in mind that the natural tips we mentioned here should not supersede medical supervision by a licensed physician when necessary. Hormone imbalance can vary widely from person to person, and you know your body best.