There is a lot of information floating around on the internet about the best way to fix your hormonal issues. As a hormone health coach and doula, I’ve pretty much seen it all when it comes to recommendations… everything from extremely restrictive diets to extensive supplement lists, as well a snake oil or two.
Don’t get me wrong! There definitely is some good advice out there when it comes to healing your hormones. But I’ve found that hands down the best place to start is with the basics! Sometimes these suggestions alone are enough to see a dramatic improvement in one’s hormonal health if implemented consistently for a few months.
On the most basic level, our bodies want to be in homeostasis.
In biology, homeostasis is the state of steady internal, physical, and chemical conditions maintained by living systems. This is the condition of optimal functioning for the organism and includes many variables, such as body temperature and fluid balance, being kept within certain pre-set limits.
Anything that throws us out of this state of homeostasis can be considered a form of stress. And I’m not talking just “your boss breathing down your neck about a deadline” kind of stress. There are also bodily forms of stress that many of us don’t consider or pay attention to on a daily basis. Blood sugar imbalances & out of check cortisol levels are two of these bodily stressors & your hormones don’t like them much!
Let’s start with blood sugar… A lot of people think that the only ones who need to worry about their blood sugar levels are diabetics. Ummm wrong! Each and every one of us should be conscious of our blood sugar levels throughout the day. This doesn’t mean you have to test it by pricking your finger with an actual blood sugar meter. It just means that you should pay attention to what you eat, how often you eat, and how it’s affecting your body! For example, if you don’t eat often enough your blood sugar will become imbalanced and your bodily stress will be chronically high!
Now, dear cortisol. Demonized in today’s wellness world but actually a very necessary and pretty cool hormone when it’s in balance. Excessive amounts of cortisol are meant to keep the body surviving when under extreme stress. For our ancestors, this meant something like running from a bear; so a short-term stressor. I mean you either got away from the bear or you didn’t… you likely weren’t running from said bear for months on end.
Yet for us today, stressors are commonplace and more long-term. For example a high-stress work environment, financial strain, and/or struggling with work-life balance. We are under totally different kinds of stress yet our physiology hasn’t changed much since the time of our ancestors. So our stress hormones are overworked and in return, we are robbed of our state of balance (homeostasis). Trust me you do NOT want stress to be your new normal!
Other issues can cause spiked cortisol levels too, like skipping meals, not eating enough calories, and not getting the right balance of macro-nutrients. (More on this later)
Our hormones are like a symphony and require a delicate balance. When even just one of them is off it can mess up the whole shebang. So consistent issues with our blood sugar & cortisol levels can really mess with our sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone to name the main players)! So what can you do? Return to the basics.
1.) Eat Breakfast!!!
Intermittent fasting may be all the rage right now but it can have detrimental effects on your hormones long term, especially for us women. Save yourself the future pain & feed your body the fuel it needs upon waking! Eating within 30-60 minutes of waking up is vital. And make sure it’s a balanced meal (see the next point for more on that).
2.) Eat Balanced Meals!
That means a combo of proteins, carbs, & fat. You shouldn’t fear any of these macro-nutrients, yet they have all been demonized by one diet or another in the past few decades. Currently, carbohydrates are the main victim (poor potatoes always getting a bad rap, completely unfair btw). Your body needs a combo of all 3 macro-nutrients to be happy & healthy. If you minimize any one of these OR overconsume any of these you can get your health in quite a rut.
3.) Eat Frequently!
Every 3-4 hours to be precise. Trust me your blood sugar will thank you. There is no glory or honor in skipping meals or under-eating. We are mammals. We need fuel. Food is that fuel. Without enough food/fuel at the right times, we fail to maintain health. It can really be that simple.
4.) Get in the Sun
Getting even just 15 minutes of sunshine a day can help stimulate your metabolism & support your immune system. Sunlight/blue light lets us know it’s time to be awake & energetic. This blue light is good during the day when we need that energy and alertness. So getting outside daily, in the morning is even better. I like to sit and drink my lemon water in my favorite sunny spot on my porch in the mornings!
But… blue light is not so good at night when your body needs to be preparing for sleep. Melatonin (your sleep hormone) is stimulated by darkness, so when you’re on your phone or laptop late at night it can throw your sleep patterns out of whack. Hence the popularity of blue light blocking glasses & “nighttime” modes on your phone. Utilize those tools! You want to get blue light exposure during the day (ideally real sunshine) & minimize it once the sun sets so you can get some good shut-eye that night. Sleep should technically be one of these foundations on this list but the importance of getting good sleep is really a whole other blog post in and of itself (so stay tuned for that).
5.) Minimize Stress
Okay, now we are talking about the kind of stress an overbearing boss can trigger. As I mentioned before, we are under a lot more consistent stress today than humans ever were in the past! Minimizing stress is huge. Find what works for you. Yoga, breathwork, Epsom salt baths, meditation, making yourself cry from laughing so hard at stupid memes on the internet (that last one is totally me). Manage those stress levels.
So there you have it! The basic foundation to healthy hormones. Might not be what you were expecting but I promise you it’s the best place to start and piling on supplements and crazy amounts of cruciferous veggies probably won’t make a huge difference in your hormonal health if you do not have the foundations in place.
So start there, be consistent & see how you feel. If you feel you need more advanced support then all of us here at Mahan Heath would be glad to help you on your hormone health journey.