Hormonal imbalance is increasingly common, affecting both men and women of all ages. In my patients, we have seen a dramatic escalation of imbalanced hormonal levels revealed by blood testing. Young women have deficient levels of hormones such that they appear almost menopausal. Men have low testosterone and elevated estrogen, acting to feminize them. The result? Decreased fertility but beyond that, an almost epidemic level of decreased libido, anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, increased stress, PMS, and brain fog.
Sex hormones affect you beyond the ability to make babies. Too often it is underappreciated by the brain and cognitive effects associated with hormonal imbalance. Your brain cells have receptor sites for sex hormones. Each and every cell in your brain requires adequate sex hormones to function optimally. Therefore, a diminishment of sex hormones affects your brain function and is the cause of brain fog, irritability, trouble concentrating, mood swings, and more.
A diminishment of sex hormones affects your brain function and is the cause of brain fog, irritability, trouble concentrating, mood swings, and more.
The author of “The End of Alzheimer’s” stresses the importance of optimal sex hormone levels for all ages of our population and both sexes in order to retain cognitive health and prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
To regain hormonal balance is critical, but what is the best way to approach it?
Nutrition and Diet
You are what you eat is true for hormonal balance. Gaining proper nutrition from a healthy diet is vital.
Generally speaking, following a Mediterranean Diet rich in vegetables, fruits, healthy oils, beans, seeds and a small amount of fatty fish is a great start. This diet is rich in good fat (think olive oil, nuts, avocado). Hormones are made from fat and healthy fats make healthy hormones, while bad fats make inflammatory, “bad” hormones.
The cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli and kale) are especially good for balancing estrogen levels. Carrots, beets, and other root vegetables can assist in removing any excessive levels of estrogen from your body. Avocado, a fruit, is excellent at reducing the stress hormone cortisol and reducing any excessive estrogen present while increasing progesterone levels.
Protein is incredibly important for manufacturing adequate amounts of hormones plus maintaining muscle density and reducing body fat. Unfortunately, many of our animal-based proteins, such as dairy products and chicken, are laden with hormone disruptors. High-quality fatty fish and plant-based foods rich in non-inflammatory protein (think organic soy, beans, nuts, and even vegetables) are a better choice when trying to maintain hormonal balance.
Gut health is a big one. If you follow the dietary recommendations just mentioned you will be consuming a large amount of fiber, and if paired with 6 to 8 glasses of purified water, this will help to feed the good bacteria in your gut while avoiding constipation. Constipation, defined as moving your bowels less than once or twice per day, results in the recycling of hormones to their toxic form.
Avoid GMO Foods
Avoid all GMO foods, refined foods, plus pesticide, preservative, and chemical-laden foods. The crops that are almost exclusively GMO (unless organic) include corn, soy, and sugar in the U.S. GMO foods are known hormone disruptors as are the chemicals found in pre-packaged foods and fast foods.
Stress levels will cause your body will shunt away from making sex hormones in order to keep up with your stress hormone demand. It is an unfortunate “catch-22” that the hormones that take the greatest hit when you’re under excessive stress (as a woman) are your progesterone.
Progesterone is the “mellow feel-good” hormone that keeps you calm, relaxed, your blood sugar stable, and able to deal with stress better. Yet, the demand for stress hormones depletes the very hormone you need most when under stress.
It is important to find the strategies and lifestyle “hacks” that, for you, help to decrease your stress levels. All the tips we are discussing should help and, in addition, you will want to find out what helps you get to your “happy” place each day for 30 minutes to an hour. It could be reading, taking a bubble bath, sitting outside with a nice cup of tea, or just relaxing with your favorite music. Whatever it is for you, embrace it and promise yourself that you will care out this time each day without fail. You will be amazed at the benefits.
Get Good Quality Sleep
Sleep is critical and 8 hours per night is considered the “sweet spot”. Your body repairs and resets at night, and this includes your sex hormones. You have likely experienced how cranky you can feel with inadequate sleep. It is estimated that 2/3 of adults are sleep deprived, upsetting their hormonal balance and causing weight gain, not to mention increasing their risk of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
Exercise is a must for hormonal imbalance. You do not have to run a marathon but 20 to 40 minutes of exercise as many days per week as you can, is a known stress reducer and hormonal balancer.
Ditch Refined Sugars
Cut out the refined sugar. It may be hard at first, but sugar not only depletes the vitamins and minerals needed for hormonal balance, but it is the preferred source of fuel for cancer cells, viruses, and bacteria. Sugar raises your stress hormone, cortisol, and increases insulin which in turn leads to a potential excess of estrogen and testosterone. The “mellow feel-good” hormone, progesterone, diminishes in the face of sugar excess, leaving you cranky, irritable, and with a tendency to gain weight around your belly.
The final word on hormone rebalancing is that it is ultimately very personal and here at Root Cause Medical Clinics each program is designed for you individually. From bio-identical hormones to personalized nutrition, from genetics to unique nutritional needs, all are taken into consideration.