Dr. Jennifer Keller, ND and Dr . Alex Keller, ND
Hormones play an important role in women’s health. Healthy hormone balance can be the difference between surviving and thriving. Common symptoms of hormonal imbalance that we see are:
- Low energy
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Low libido
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Feelings of overwhelm and lack of resilience
- Mood changes
- Thinning / brittle hair and nails
Hormones are chemical messengers secreted in the body by a specific gland that regulates certain cells or organs. There are a multitude of reasons as to why our hormones may become imbalanced including stress, lack of sleep, autoimmune dysfunction, poor diet/gut health, hormone disruptors in foods, and self-care or cleaning products.
When we think of hormones, we often think of estrogen and progesterone, but there are many more hormones that we must consider as well: cortisol, thyroid hormone, testosterone, DHEA, melatonin, and many more!
How do you know where to start? Which hormones need to be rebalanced in order to function optimally and feel fantastic? It can be overwhelming! Hormonal balancing is often best done in conjunction with a regulated health care practitioner who has a special focus in hormonal health, as the treatment protocol can be complicated. That said, there are some simple self-care tools you can implement today that will go a long way toward optimal hormone balance.
Here are our top five tips for healthy hormones.
- Make time for sleep
Sleep is integral for the body to heal. Without consistent restful sleep so the body can repair itself, our hormones can fall out of balance quickly and we end up feeling lousy. When we sleep, cortisol is reduced and our endocrine (hormone) glands can reset. Sleeping hours is also the time that growth hormone is elevated, which contributes to repair and rejuvenation. When we don’t get enough sleep, our hormones never reset properly and growth hormone is reduced, leading to further health complications.
Solution for better sleep: You will be more productive and more energized to get things done when you sleep well, so try to avoid squeezing in one more task, show, chapter or activity in favour of getting one extra hour of sleep.
- Ditch the plastics and other toxins
There are numerous environmental toxins found in our food, food products, packaging, water and our homes that can act as hormone disruptors, increasing the load of toxic hormone by-products. When hormones are metabolized, they break down into smaller components, which if not properly processed, can lead to overall imbalance. Hormone disrupting chemicals can affect the way our body metablizes hormones, leading to a wide variety of health concerns. Plastics are one of the most common source of these toxins, and can wreak havoc on estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid function.
Solution to minimize toxins: Switch to stainless steel or glass for your water bottles, food containers, and self-care products. And please, do not microwave your food in plastic!
- Sweat, then sweat more!
A major cause of hormonal imbalance is improper hormone detoxification. One of our most effective detoxification tools we have is sweating! Sweating encourages elimination of water-soluble toxins prepared by the liver for disposal, which helps get rid of those hormone-disrupting chemicals we discussed above. Exercise, which induces sweating, is a natural trigger to release many of our feel-good hormones, which increase our mood, energy and stamina!
Solutions to sweat: Get regular sweat-inducing exercise, use a sauna (infrared is best), encourage sweating when you’re sick, and do anything else that makes you sweat!
- Eat healthy fats
Fat plays an essential role in the building blocks of hormones. If you deprive your body of the building blocks needed to make hormones, you will likely end up having hormone deficiencies. This is one of the most common health issues with deal with in our practices. There is no reason to fear healthy fats and we absolutely need healthy fat in our diets. In fact, consuming more fat is often the key to many health concerns, including difficulty losing weight. Not only are they important for hormone production, but healthy fats also balance blood sugar, lubricate our joints and organs, and feed our brain for better focus, memory, and mood.
Solutions for eating healthy fat: Healthy fat sources include avocado, coconut and olive oil, nuts, seeds, grass-fed dairy products, free-range meat, and wild-caught fish. Aim for a serving of fat (approximately the size of your thumb) at every meal and snack on nuts/seeds and their butters.
- Get some sun
Did you know that vitamin D is actually a hormone? Yes! It plays a major role in immune regulation, bone health, mood, muscle function, and energy. Despite how much time you spend outdoors, new research is suggesting that in Canada, we live at a latitude where sun exposure isn’t enough and our bodies don’t produce enough vitamin D, even during the summer months.
Solution for Vitamin D: Aim for a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of sun exposure during summer month and supplement with an oil-based Vitamin D supplement during winter months. One of the best and healthiest sources of vitamin D is cod liver oil. Our grandparents knew what they were doing!
Establishing the foundations of health should always be the first step, but this often isn’t enough.
If you feel like you’re struggling with hormone balance and need further support, consider seeking guidance to help get your hormones back on track.
This article was first published in the September issue of Hometown News. For more articles from our September issue, pick up a print copy at a local retailer or read our digital version.