5 Quick Tips For Balancing Your Hormones
Dr. Ashley Margeson
Balancing your hormones naturally is something I work with almost every one of my patients on. It’s also something we don’t necessarily talk about enough. The symptoms of hormone imbalances do become more prevalent as we age, and particularly after pregnancy and childbirth. However, more and more women are experiencing hormone imbalances at a younger age – from missed periods, low sex drive, cysts in the breasts and ovaries, infertility, acne, hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, migraine headaches, persistent acne, melasma, and even breast cancer. To start you off on the right track, I’ve included my 5 favourite easy tips for balancing your hormones.
Swap Simple Carbs for Healthy Fats
If you want to balance your hormones, you need to feed your body with the macronutrient that hormones are built out of. Your body needs various types of fats to create hormones, and yes! that includes saturated fat and cholesterol. These essential fats are fundamental building blocks for hormone production and they keep inflammation low – which is very important when we’re trying to balance your estrogen specifically. Healthy fats have the opposite effect of refined carbohydrates, which lead to inflammation and can mess with the balance of your hormones. 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).
Keep Drinking That Turmeric Latte
But newsflash – the turmeric in your latte isn’t actually enough to have an anti-inflammatory, but if definitely tastes good! What’s crucial in balancing your hormones is dropping your inflammation levels. Estrogen dominant conditions, such as endometriosis, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, are associated with increased and dysregulated aromatase activity(1). There has been direct relationship between inflammation and aromatase activity, with much of the research looking into how obesity, a disease of chronic inflammation, activates aromatase. Also an increase in inflammation (detected on blood work), and conditions of inflammation such as insulin resistance (high blood sugar) are at higher risk of developing breast cancer through increased aromatase activity (2,3). Keep your inflammation low by following the advice listed at #1 on this list, and increasing your intake of anti-inflammatory foods like dark leafy greens, extra virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds and fatty fish like salmon, sardines and herring.
Exercise the Right Way
If you’ve got a hormone imbalance, intense extended exercise can actually make this problem worse. Yes, exercise is important, but extended cardio can be bad because that increases your cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as our “stress hormone”, but the important thing to understand is that when your cortisol increases, your progesterone automatically decreases thanks to a precursor known as pregenelone. This makes a hormonal imbalance even worse. What is helpful however, is short bursts of heavy lifting (hello kettlebells and squats!) which won’t spike your cortisol levels.
Get More Sleep
Want to set yourself up for a hormonal imbalance? Late nights and early mornings. The easiest way to understand if you’re getting enough sleep is to ask yourself if you’re waking up rested in the morning. If you’re not waking up rested, you’re not getting enough sleep. So why is sleep so important? Your hormones work on a cycle, and that cycle is your circadian rhythm. A lack of sleep triggers your cortisol to become dysregulated (like we chatted about in point number three), which keeps you in a sympathetic fight or flight response. Getting to sleep at an appropriate time helps decrease your cortisol and helps you balance your hormones.
Cut Back on the Alcohol
I promise, this one will be a game changer. A glass of alcohol is like consuming a handful of gummy bears – it’s just a different delivery form. The alcohol (and the sugar hit) immediately hits your bloodstream, sending your blood sugar levels on a roller-coaster ride. Alcohol also raises estrogen levels, mostly because your liver is focused on breaking down the alcohol, not your estrogen (which is what it’s really supposed to be doing). This estrogen excess triggers heavier, longer periods, breast pain, headaches and some serious PMS symptoms (4)
Patel S. Disruption of aromatase homeostasis as the cause of a multiplicity of ailments: A comprehensive review.J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2017 Apr;168:19-25.
Brown KA et. al. Menopause Is a Determinant of Breast Aromatase Expression and Its Associations With BMI, Inflammation, and Systemic Markers.J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017 May 1;102(5):1692-1701.
Iyengar NM., et. al. Metabolic Obesity, Adipose Inflammation and Elevated Breast Aromatase in Women with Normal Body Mass Index.Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2017 Apr;10(4):235-243