Hormones — such as adrenaline, insulin and sex hormones estrogen and testosterone — are extremely important chemical messengers that affect many aspects of your overall health. Hormones are secreted by various glands and organs, including your thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, ovaries, testicles, and pancreas. The entire endocrine system works together to control the level of hormones circulating throughout your body, and if one or more is even slightly imbalanced, it can cause widespread major health problems.
Some of the most common signs of hormonal imbalance are:
- Weight gain or weight loss (that’s unexplained and not due to
intentional changes in your diet)
- Depression and anxiety
- Low libido
- Changes in appetite
- Digestive issues
- Hair loss and hair thinning
Some symptoms women may experience include:
- Infertility and irregular periods
- Painful PMS
- Vaginal dryness
Ready for happy hormones? Here are a few tips to help you balance
1. Get your hormones tested
Having a complete hormone panel run by your doctor is crucial to understanding what type of PCOS you have and what hormones need balancing. Some women have excess androgens (male hormones), which can cause acne, weight gain around the midsection, facial hair growth and missed periods, while other women may be estrogen dominant (meaning their estrogen levels are too high and progesterone too low), resulting in long menstrual cycles, heavy cramping, intense PMS symptoms, and infertility. Be sure that your doctor runs a complete panel that included estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, AMHA, DHEA and perhaps even your thyroid and insulin, as women with PCOS often have hypothyroidism and insulin resistance, as well.
2. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
The impact that our diet has on our hormones is pretty amazing. To optimize mine, I followed an anti-inflammatory diet that drastically
reduced my intake of gluten, dairy, inflammatory oils, sugar, and processed food. Instead, I filled my plate with plenty of organic, fiber-rich fruits; vegetables and whole grains; healthy fats and lean protein. I also incorporated lots of hormone-healing foods like spearmint tea, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, bone broth, nourishing teas, collagen, and adaptogenic mushrooms.
3. Take hormone-balancing supplements
Today, my supplement routine is much simpler, but when I was in the early stages of healing, it was very important that I nourished my body with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. I was skeptical that supplements would really work, but I can say that, without a doubt, supplements were the key to a lot of my healing, as there are many nutrients that our bodies simply can’t get enough of from food alone — no matter how healthy you eat (hello, Vitamin D!). To be honest, there’s a level of trial and error that’s involved in finding the supplement routine that works best for you, but vitex, DIM, evening primrose oil, inositol, magnesium, and maca are just some of the hormone-balancing supplements that I relied on to reverse my PCOS.
4. Exercise smart
Did you know that over-exercising (e.g., exercising for more than 60 minutes per session, or running) can burn out your adrenals? And
that elevated levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) can cause you other hormones to become out of whack? That’s why I made the switch from long, intense workout sessions several times a week, to exercise for less time (15–30 minutes) every single day. I also stopped running and started taking long, leisurely walks and going to restorative yoga classes. Some other ways to nourish your adrenals: self-care techniques like meditation, Epsom salt bath soaks, massage and reading (particularly in the sun for 15 minutes a day to boost vitamin D levels). It’s also helpful to consume less caffeine and alcohol.
5. Toss toxic products that disrupt hormones
In the same way that what we put in our body is important, so too is what we put on our bodies. And unfortunately, most store-bought
products contain a cocktail of harmful chemicals that are proven to cause cancer, asthma and allergies, neurotoxicity and hormonal
imbalances (including infertility). Eliminating these products was particularly important for my PCOS, as many of these toxins mimic estrogen in the body, further exacerbating estrogen dominance and hormonal imbalances. So toss toxic store-bought skincare, makeup, personal hygiene, and cleaning products and replace them with safe, natural alternatives. I also started making a lot of my own skincare and cleaning products, which is super easy, affordable and the best way to ensure your products won’t wreak havoc on your hormones.
6. Balance blood sugar
Insulin resistance is another issue many women with PCOS struggle with. Essentially, when your blood sugar (fasting glucose and insulin) levels are too high, you’re at very high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. To combat this, I cut out refined carbs and sugar and focused on healthy fats, fiber, and protein. I also ate at regular intervals (especially first thing in the morning) to bring my fasting insulin levels down. This strategy along worked SO quickly to balance my blood sugar that I could hardly believe it.