Happy Hormones, Happy You
How many women have you spoken to lately who feel fabulous – balanced, rested and ready to conquer the world? I’d guess the answer is somewhere between none and a small handful. In my clinical practice I treat hundreds of women each year and I hear the same concerns over and over: “I have no energy – I can’t sleep – I’m so stressed and my hormones are raging!”
Believe or not, hormone balance plays an integral part in all these health concerns and countless others! Out-of-control hormones can take over your life, and not in a good way.
Hormones are powerful chemical messengers, working synergistically together like an orchestra, so you can imagine what happens when hormones become out of balance…a whole cascade of unpleasant issues crop up!
As a naturopathic physician, I approach all health issues by looking at the person as a whole. When a woman comes into my practice complaining of problems that have their root in hormone imbalance, I always start by addressing the foundation of health: diet, lifestyle and exercise. No single food or exercise will magically align hormones, but it’s all the little steps that add up to create healthy hormone balance.
Here are a few building blocks for healthy hormone balance that will help you feel better, have more energy and get all the instruments in your hormone orchestra playing harmoniously.
Berries are an incredible source of antioxidants for the brain and heart, but they are also powerful hormone regulators. Organic berries can be found anytime of the year. Look for organic berries during the winter months in your frozen food section and when in season buy fresh, local organic berries. You can add berries to shakes, put them over plain Greek yogurt or for a delicious, decadent dessert, drizzle berries with fresh honey and sprinkle with chopped walnuts. I tell my patients: a few berries each day will help keep your hormones at bay.
Luscious, Delicious Greens
Dark green leafy vegetables are natural hormone balancers. These powerhouse plant foods bind onto harmful estrogens and assist the liver in eliminating these unwanted toxins. Kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are so easy and versatile to prepare. You can roast with seasonings, blend in juice, delicately steam or simply eat them raw. I recommend at least six cups of fruits and vegetables each day. You can never get too many phytonutrients, so however you like your veggies, be creative and go for it.
Nutty for Milk?
Almond and coconut milk are in the news everyday touting their healing properties. Easy to digest and full of nutrients, nut milks are a great alternative to dairy. When patients come in to my office with hormone issues, one the first foods I eliminate is dairy products like milk and cheese. Allergies and many other digestive issues can also improve when dairy is removed from the diet. But if you enjoy a little dairy from time to time and you body can tolerate it, make sure you buy organic.
Dump the Sugar
I know this is an area of real sensitivity and can be an addiction, but if you want to improve your hormone health, you must cut back on sugar. If you’re able eliminate sugar altogether, you’ll see huge benefits to your overall health. I’m not talking about fruit, dates or 70% dark chocolate. I’m talking about processed foods and sweets loaded with added sugar. There is a profound difference between eating a piece of fruit and reaching for a fruit-flavored yogurt loaded with added sugar. Stick to whole foods like fruit, dates or dried figs to calm your sweet tooth.
Balancing hormones can be a challenge and in most cases nutrition alone isn’t enough. Two areas that I often recommend investigating in many of my hormone cases are the adrenal glands and the liver.
Your adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and play a significant role in how your body deals with stress. During prolonged or intense periods of stress, the adrenal glands can’t keep up and many will describe feeling “burned out” which is often referred to as adrenal fatigue. Poor adrenal function can cause more severe menopausal symptoms, thyroid dysfunction, PMS, chronic inflammation, insomnia, depression and anxiety amongst many other health conditions. Common nutrients to help nourish your adrenal glands include: B vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium, and herbs such as rhodiola, ashwagandha, siberian ginseng, schisandra and suma.
Our liver is one of the most important organs in the body for detoxification. Keeping the liver healthy and supporting its ability to break down hormones (especially the harmful ones) as well as environmental toxins efficiently is essential for healthy hormone balance. Liver supportive ingredients such as milk thistle and curcumin are crucial for supporting those detoxification pathways. Milk Thistle is a well-researched botanical extract that contains potent antioxidants that protect liver cells from free radical damage and support detoxification pathways. Calcium-d-glucarate, DIM, indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane help the liver metabolize excess estrogens from the body. Green tea extract has been shown to reduce excess testosterone levels and to control high levels of insulin. I really like EstroSense for balancing hormones by supporting healthy liver function.
An excellent resource that I often recommend to my patients is the Environmental Working Group: www.ewg.org. Visit their site to find information about how you can clean up your home one small step at a time and minimize your exposure to many hormone disruptors.
I have seen such amazing results when a hormone-healthy diet and lifestyle are combined with key dietary supplements. Start today, and you’ll start to look and feel like that elusive woman we talked about earlier — balanced, rested and ready to conquer the world!