Hormones are chemical messengers that run almost every process in your body like your mood, energy, libido, hunger, metabolism, sleep, and so much more. When your hormones become imbalanced, it can affect every part of your body. You may experience symptoms like mood swings, acne, weight gain, fatigue, PMS, other menstrual symptoms and so much more.
What is a hormone imbalance?
Hormones travel through the bloodstream where there are receptors, which are little detectors, for them everywhere in the body. The production and release of these hormones is regulated by endocrine glands. A hormone imbalance arises when the production of hormones is disrupted, and your body produces too much or little of a hormone. For example, your sex hormones can become imbalanced when the body produces too much of the hormone estrogen and too little of the hormone progesterone, leading to PMS symptoms and painful periods.
What causes it?
Many different things can lead to a disruption in the production and release of hormones and cause a hormone imbalance. Common causes are excess stress, poor nutrition, excessive exercise, exposure to endocrine disruptors, lack of (quality) sleep and hormonal birth control.
Ways to balance hormones naturally
Nutrition is so much more than just calories. Nutrition is information for the body. Everything you eat affects the cells in your body. All the organs of the digestive system work together to break down the foods we eat into nutrients that provide energy and support the body’s functioning and this way also the production of hormones. Hormones are also produced from fats and cholesterol which means consumption of the right kinds of dietary fat is crucial for optimal hormonal health. We also need to consume proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals.
To support your hormone health, make sure to have balanced meals that include all of these nutrients.
Balance blood sugar
Blood sugar indicates the amount of dissolved glucose in the blood. The values of this can fluctuate enormously during the day, so much that you can sometimes end up on a blood sugar roller coaster, which means that your blood sugar level experiences many peaks and crashes. Spikes in blood sugar during the day affect our sleep, mood, skin, weight and immune system with risk of fertility problems or heart disease. Here’s what happens in your body after eating glucose: Glucose levels rise, and the pancreas secretes the hormone insulin. Insulin locks excess glucose into storage sites throughout the body, preventing it from floating around and causing harm. During a glucose peak, glucose flows quickly through our body and this has harmful consequences, impacting hormone levels as well. Long-term consequences of a disturbed blood sugar level due to glucose peaks include acne, eczema, infertility and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Ways to balance your blood sugar are adding proteins and fats to your carbohydrates, moving your body after eating and eating in the right order.
The correct order for balanced blood sugar is fiber → proteins → fats → carbohydrates.
The body manages sleep through a complex system. It is meant to run on the circadian rhythm, a biological rhythm that lasts about 24 hours. It is an internal process that regulates sleep rhythms and supports other important processes such as your metabolism, body temperature and hormone release. When the light decreases, as it should at the end of the day, a hormone called melatonin is released. This causes a slow transition from wakefulness to drowsiness. When the light increases again, such as in the morning, the melatonin decreases and the body switches from sleep to wakefulness.
To support optimal hormone release, make to sleep 7-9 high quality hours a night. You can support this by creating a regular bedtime and a bedtime routine, exercising during the day, eating your last meal at least 2-3 hours before you go to bed, and limiting alcohol and caffeine intake during the day.
When you experience stress, the body produces the hormone cortisol, which impacts other hormones in the body. Cortisol is our survival hormone and it takes priority over all the other hormones in stressful situations. Cortisol has beneficial short-term effects, but chronically elevated cortisol levels can have harmful long-term effects. It is therefore extremely important to prevent long-term high cortisol, since it leads to chronic stress. Signs you might experience chronic stress are weight gain, bloating & constipation, breakouts, difficulty falling and staying asleep, low/no libido, irregular, missing or painful periods and PMS.
Some helpful ways to reduce stress are meditation, journaling, (gentle) movement, saying ‘no’ more often and breathwork.
Improve gut health
The gut aids in the digestion of the foods you eat, absorbs nutrients, and uses it to fuel and maintain your body. A healthy gut means that there are more good bacteria than harmful bacteria and that the harmful bacteria don’t overtake the good. Good bacteria are essential for digesting the foods you eat. You can eat all the right foods but when your gut is imbalanced, your body may struggle with absorbing nutrients from the foods you’re eating, and your body may struggle to regulate blood sugar.
Hormones become imbalanced when gut health isn’t optimal. One reason is that nutrient deficiencies lead to imbalanced hormones. The microbiome also plays a big role in the regulation of the hormone estrogen. Excess estrogen is supposed to be removed by the gut as waste in stool and urine. This isn’t the case most of the time when you’re dealing with poor gut health. In this case, bacteria in the gut reverts estrogen back into its active form and it is then reabsorbed back into the bloodstream resulting in estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance is associated with conditions including PMS, painful periods, endometriosis, moodiness and fibroids.
Ways to improve gut health are eliminating inflammatory foods like sugar, processed foods and artificial sweeteners, alongside adding in fermented foods, adding fiber to your diet and chewing your food thoroughly.
A Healthy Approach to Balancing Hormones
In conclusion, achieving hormone balance is crucial for overall well-being, as hormones play a vital role in various bodily functions. Imbalanced hormones can lead to symptoms such as mood swings, fatigue, acne, and more.
Understanding hormone imbalance involves recognizing disruptions in hormone production and release, often influenced by things like stress, poor nutrition, excessive exercise, exposure to endocrine disruptors, and hormonal birth control.
To naturally balance hormones, focus on improving nutrition, balancing blood sugar, optimizing sleep, reducing stress and improving gut health.