I see so many patients complaining of symptoms like poor sleep, fatigue, weight gain, constipation, sexual or menstrual dysfunction, thinning hair, brittle nails, and skin problems. These are all clues that can suggest hormonal imbalance – several different types.
For example, fatigue and difficulty sleeping suggest problems with the adrenals, the glands that produce stress hormones. Fatigue—along with constipation, thinning hair, brittle nails, and weight gain – suggest problems with the thyroid, the gland that produces thyroid hormone. Perimenopause and menstrual issues suggest imbalances with estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, the sex hormones. Weight gain and fatigue are often a combination of all three of these hormonal imbalances.
But weight gain may also suggest a diet with too many sweets and starches. Carbohydrate-intolerance, meaning the hormone insulin isn’t working properly, is too often the culprit. I find the vast majority of patients I see who are struggling with their weight, especially as they get older, are somewhat insulin “resistant” and are eating too many carbs for what their bodies can efficiently metabolize. In short, generally feeling and looking like crap is not OK, nor is it simply a normal side-effect of aging.
However, it does indicate that your hormones may be out of balance and in need of some TLC, or even a total reboot. Even if your doctor has done blood tests and found “nothing wrong” by conventional measures, chances are good that the balance of your hormones are anything-but-optimal. Instead of just living with it and accepting what some docs consider to be the inevitable by-product of aging, here are 12 ways to balance your hormones, fight back and feel better. When you focus on fixing the underlying dysfunctions, your hormones will find that nice, healthy balance, no matter what your age.
So here’s where to start:
Eliminate all processed foods and junk foods
These are pro-inflammatory and over-tax your immune system, gut and endocrine system. Eliminating them will strongly affect hormonal health.
Avoid or radically reduce sugar and starches
Too many can set your hormones on a wild ride. Try eliminate sweets and starches all together for two weeks to see how your body reacts…chances are, you will be pleasantly surprised and will want to stay feeling that way.
Curb your grains, legumes and high sugar fruits
Many of us are unknowingly carbohydrate-intolerant. For those of us who are, overdoing it on these carbs can cause metabolic problems for those of us who are insulin resistant or who don’t process carbohydrates efficiently.
Eat more healthy fats
Too few good fats on your plate will short-change your body’s ability to produce the hormones that boost energy, feelings of satiety and suppress cravings.
Cool it on the stimulants
Too much caffeine (particularly in the form of coffee and energy drinks), but sometimes even tea or chocolate, can increase cortisol levels and interfere with the hormones that promote restorative sleep.
Try Intermittent Fasting or Time Restricted Eating (TRE)
If you get most or all of your calories within a more compressed-than-usual window, say 8-10 hours, which basically mimics how the human body evolved, you can return metabolic regulation to a more balanced state. If done consistently, phasing deliberate periods of fasting into your routine can re-educate your hormones, and help normalize blood glucose, blood pressure, weight and much more. In the beginning, try this 3-4 times a week and see how you respond.
Protect your microbiome
As in, feed your gut with plenty of immunity-supporting fermented foods and belly-benefiting fiber to support good bacteria and keep bad bacteria in check. This will not only keep digestion and elimination running smoothly, but help hormone function too.
Cut back on the chemicals
There’s no hormonal upside to ongoing low-level exposure to common chemicals in your food, air, water, household cleaners and personal-care products and cosmetics – in fact, they interfere with optimal hormonal function. Make an effort to switch to the least toxic, most natural products possible to limit exposure to chemicals.
Minimize the meds
Ongoing exposure to meds, including both over-the-counter remedies and prescription drugs can stress our microbiomes and throw our hormones out of whack. Avoid hormone-disrupting OTC meds and, if you must take prescription drugs, ask the doc to prescribe the smallest therapeutic dose possible.
Aim to sleep more and better
Not enough sleep or poor quality sleep wreaks havoc on your system, limiting your body’s ability to release the hormones necessary to repair, restore and refresh cells as you snooze. The result? A more rapidly aging body and brain. Aim for 7 – 8 hours nightly to enable your hormones to do their job.
Engage in regular exercise
Moving your body frequently will enhance healthy hormone function. A major benefit of exercise is improving insulin sensitivity and reducing insulin levels. It also helps boost other hormones which usually decline with age.
Learn to unwind
Whether you’re dealing with unremitting life challenges or bouts of intermittent stress, it’s important to blow off steam regularly: find a funny movie and laugh uproariously, put on some music and “dance it out,” or treat yourself to a night out and have some well-deserved fun! Add to that a regular meditation and a simple, restorative yoga practice and you’ll be well on your way to balancing your hormones, in addition to staying more relaxed, fit and trim.