Despite many common beliefs, you can have periods that are easy to manage during reproductive years and hardly notice the shift towards menopause. You don’t have to wait to fix your fertility, painful periods, mood swings, hot flashes, and poor sleep. There is a lot you can do right now to support your hormones, no matter what age you are. You can take a proactive approach starting today for your hormone health. A functional medicine approach to hormone balance is the only way to real hormone health and this will review the steps you can take toward balancing hormones naturally.
Recognizing Hormone Imbalances
Hormone imbalances can be happening for a wide variety of reasons and can affect all people at any age. Many people miss the signs of hormonal imbalances simply because they associate hormone issues only with menopause or PMS. Of course these are major issues associated with hormones, but there is much, much more to consider. Most people do not have a clear understanding of their hormone health, and those who do suspect hormone issues, are often misguided by their doctor as to the way to address hormonal imbalances. Synthetic hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills/IUD, and unnecessary hysterectomy surgeries are areas of hormone health that many women are led astray creating more health problems for them in the long run.
Symptoms of hormone imbalance include: infertility, irregular periods, unintentional weight gain or loss, depression, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, low libido, digestive issues
Conditions or diseases associated with hormone imbalance include: estrogen dominance, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), low estrogen, low testosterone, hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease, hyperthyroidism and Graves disease, diabetes, adrenal fatigue.
Although the conditions and symptoms listed above can indicate hormone imbalance, hormone imbalances are not the only reason these issues occur. Particularly with something like digestive issues, there can be many many reasons for digestive issues, and most digestive issues occur for a variety of reasons. However, many people miss a useful support or relief from digestive issues, because they fail to consider hormone imbalance as an underlying issue contributing to digestive issues.
6 Steps Toward Hormone Balance
Comprehensive Lab Assessments
One of the primary reasons so many women have poorly managed hormones by other practitioners, or no management at all is because of incomplete lab assessments. Hormones are part of an entire endocrine system with a complex network of reactions and feedback loops. To truly understand what’s happening, the correct labs need to be drawn at the peak of your hormone production which is days 18-22 of your cycle. Testing outside of this window of time leaves too many variable for accurate interpretation. If you are no longer cycling, the interpretations of your results must take this into account.
Quality Supplement Support
The quality of your supplements, and the way your supplement strategy is designed is not to be taken lightly. It can be done really well, and quite poorly. Specific key nutrients may provide the added boost your endocrine system needs to rebalance. Oral supplementation is often very effective, but due to the common issue of poor gut health, IV Nutrition Therapy may be much more effective, since it bypasses the gut lining and delivers key nutrients directly into the bloodstream. We suggest working with your functional medicine doctor to understand the exact dosage your body needs, whether it is oral or through IV therapy. Common supplements used for hormone support are:
- Vitamin D
- Fish oil
- Amino Acids
IV Nutrition Therapy can also address fatigue and mood swings associated with hormone imbalances. Prescription support for testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone are also available in safe forms, as needed, but many times, supporting and detoxifying the underlying systems means these are not needed at all, or only temporarily.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRP):
While HRP is a likely topic of conversation with your medical doctor and has its place, the synthetic versions of HRP can have severe consequences for your health. It is not the silver bullet that many doctors and their patients hope it will be. Sara Gottfried, MD, a functional medicine practitioner and hormone expert notes that HRP as “one-size fits all is obsolete medicine.” We could not agree more. The number of women in menopause, or postmenopause who have been on, sometimes, a decades-long roller coaster due to their poorly designed HRP regimens is saddening. Too many women suffer greatly from the side effects of a badly designed HRP regimens. All too often HRP does not appropriately support hormones, thyroid and adrenal systems well enough or causes unintended side effects. This can happen even when more natural HRP options are used because HRP is just as much about the design of the regimen as much as it is about the type and quality of ingredients used.
Nutrient Dense Foods
How you nourish your body is the foundation for your health. You cannot have long term hormone health, or heal disrupted hormones without addressing the type of fuel you are giving your body. This ma
y take time to implement, which is just fine. Start where you can and make a new change every 1-2 weeks. You will get there. We want you to focus on long term change for real health. Be kind to yourself.
What to eat
Eating healthy fats and specific micronutrients from real food sources to boost the function of your endocrine system, and promote estrogen detoxification is crucial for optimal function. You can also add specific foods to naturally reduce systemic inflammation. Additionally, eating foods that support your microbiome will improve your gut health, allowing you to absorb nutrients and perform at your best.
- Vitamin D: Wild-caught salmon, wild-caught tuna, eggs, sardines, beef liver, mushrooms
- Omega-3 rich foods: Almonds, walnuts, avocado, olive oil, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, egg yolks, wild-caught salmon, sardines, wild-caught tuna
- Anti-inflammatory spices & foods: Turmeric, cinnamon, ginger green leafy vegetables, bok choy, celery, beets, blueberries, bone broth, walnuts
- B12 and Amino Acids: Grass fed beef, beef liver, sardines, lamb, wild-caught salmon, nutritional yeast, egs
- Gut-supporting foods: Kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, coconut kefir, coconut or almond yogurt, collagen, apple cider vinegar
What not to eat
Various foods or food products create an inflammatory response in the body. This chronic state of inflammation can disrupt all systems of the body at a cellular level, especially the endocrine system.
- Hydrogenated oils (canola oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, etc)
- Artificial sweeteners
- Processed foods
Most people are quite disconnected from their bodies and do not recognize the effect of poor sleep, stress, problem relationship, and undealt with emotions have on their physical health. These lifestyle factors take a toll on your body. The hormone/endocrine system can be very sensitive to changes in stress of any type.
Practicing self care is critical when it comes to balancing your hormones. If you feel like taking care of yourself is indulgent, not deserved, not possible, or not needed, we ask that you hear us when we say, taking care of yourself is one of the most kind and loving actions you take for yourself and the people you love. Most likely you will need to schedule these things. They need to go on the calendar. In order to take care of others well, you must first take care of yourself well. Some self-care practices we love are:
- Take a hot bath, preferably with epsom salt and calming CPTG essential oils
- Shut down your electronics and enjoy a warm beverage, such as tea or coffee, in silence
- Cook a beautiful, nutrient packed meal for yourself
- Be fully present while performing a routine task or driving
- Say “NO” to things that other people can do and reappropriate that time for rest and relaxation
- Breathe deeply
- Carve out time to read a book
- Consider a new hobby or re-engage a hobby with which you’ve lost touch
- Take a walk alone
As you’ve likely heard, exercise has wonderful benefits for your health. Exercise will boost endorphins, get your blood pumping, improve strength, promote sweating, and more! Aim to get at least 30 minutes per day — whether it is strength training, HIT, cardio, a class, yoga, or even just going for a walk. If you are in the reproductive years, be sure to tailor your exercise to the phase of your cycle. This is a time to honor your body by choosing appropriate exercise rather than pushing your body to do the same type of exercise all month. Don’t expect to crush new fitness goals at the start of your menstrual phase, or enjoy a Zumba class as much during the luteal phase. NOTE: If you are suffering with adrenal dysfunction please talk to your functional medicine doctor to revise your workout routine appropriately.
Meditation & Mindfulness
You can see profound improvements with as little is 10 minutes of meditation and mindfulness each day. Apps like Headspace and Calm.com have made meditation accessible and mainstream. You can start learning to meditate in 2 minutes a day. Benefits of meditation include:
- Reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol
- Lower blood pressure
- Slow heart rate
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Boosts immunity
- Reduce inflammation in the body
Develop Good Sleep Hygiene
The health effects of sleep are very real. Here are some basic sleep hygiene tips. If you do all of these things, but still struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep, there are many functional medicine tools available to support good sleep.
- Sleep 7-9 hours of sleep each night
- Perform a nightly routine to help your body and mind wind down and get ready for rest
- Avoid electronics 30-60 minutes before going to bed
- Wear blue light blocking glasses when you are looking at screens in the evening
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon
- Diffuse or topically apply your favorite calming essential oil to help calm down your brain
Reduce Toxic Exposure
Toxic exposure can negatively impact our body in more way than one. When we are exposed to toxins, whether it be absorbed through our skin, in the air we breathe, or in what we eat/drink, our liver must process and detox them. When our liver is overloaded with toxins, it does not have the capacity to properly recycle and detox estrogen. Places toxins might be hiding out include:
- Beauty products
- Cleaning supplies
- Drinking water (i.e. fluoride & chlorine) – You can filter these chemicals out of your water using something like a Brita, Berkey or AquaTru water filter
- Feminine products – We recommend looking for tampons and pads with organic cotton. Companies like Lola, Cora and Sustain have subscription-based memberships or are available on Amazon so you don’t have to even think about going to the store each month!
- Plastic from water bottles and tupperware
- Over-the-counter drugs and pharmaceuticals
- Substances such as alcohol and tobacco
Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) essential oils are one of the easiest wellness tools to use that can truly change your health. You can use essential oils for support in multiple areas of hormone support. Each of these combinations can be used topically to naturally balance and support your body.
The quality and purity of essential oils is paramount. The team at Lifeworks can connect you with the most trusted CPTG oils available, as well as the ongoing support in how to use essential oils effectively at home.
Don’t Wait to Feel Great
If you or someone you love struggles with symptoms of hormone imbalances, please know there is real help available. The team at LifeWorks truly understands hormones and is committed to hormone health. You were not meant to live in with hormone imbalances running your life. If you experience painful, erratic, or heavy periods we are here to help. If you are suffering from infertility or miscarriage, we would be honored to help support your body and future pregnancies. If you have experiences of anxiety, depression, mood swings, weight gain, and fatigue, your hormones may be the culprit. We do not believe women are meant to suffer at the hands of difficult periods and unpredictable hormone shifts. Get your life back with a functional medicine approach to hormone health that can truly balance hormones.