The word ‘hormone’ is often used in popular culture as a reference to moods – or more specifically to mood swings such as those experienced by teenagers or pregnant women – but there is a lot more to the human endocrine system than temperament control.
Hormones are the group of biochemicals in our body which regulate growth and development, libido and reproductive function, metabolism, and (yes) mood. When these chemical messengers become unbalanced, we experience a whole slew of health problems. Such imbalance may present only subtle symptoms such as irritability, poor digestion, fatigue, and weight gain – many of which are often attributed to other causes. When improperly treated, these persistent problems can be very frustrating and ultimately disheartening as cure after prescribed cure fail to make you feel well again.
Here is the good news: There are plenty of easy and natural methods that you can use to balance your hormones and simultaneously improve many other aspects of your health and here are ten of the best of them!
1. Cut Out Vegetable Oils
The human body requires a balance of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats which it uses as building blocks to create healthy cells. Studies have proven that a little bit is okay, however diets including an overabundance of polyunsaturated fats such as those found in vegetable, canola, peanut, and soybean oils, as well as margarine and shortening have the potential to cause a number of nasty health problems including varying degrees of hormone imbalance(1)(2). Polyunsaturated fats are molecularly unstable and more prone to oxidation than other dietary fats. In the absence of more appropriate stable fats, the human body is forced to use polyunsaturated fats to build and repair new cells. Such activity can lead to cell mutation which in turn causes hormones to malfunction.
Alternatives to oils high in polyunsaturated fat include uncooked virgin olive oil, avocado oil, real butter, and coconut oil.
2. Enjoy a Daily Dose of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is regarded by many natural living enthusiasts and professionals as the healthiest saturated fat that a person can eat. Among the benefits of virgin coconut oil is the ability to balance thyroid function by promoting the conversion of cholesterol into pregnenolone, one of the building blocks our bodies use to produce hormones. As if that weren’t enough, coconut oil also contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT), a special form of fat that helps our bodies to maintain a healthy weight by increasing metabolism and energy levels. More energy means a stronger body and increased the ability to perform day-to-day tasks, leaving more free time for fun activities, relaxation, and sleep – three things that can have a huge positive impact on overall happiness and well-being.
Oil may be extracted from coconuts through a few different methods. For the best flavor and nutrient composition, go with cold-pressed or wet-milled virgin coconut oil.
3. Supplement with Magnesium
It isn’t possible for most individuals to get everything their body needs from food alone. Fortunately, there are supplements to fill in just about any gap in an otherwise healthy diet. For promoting hormone balance, you may need to give your body a boost of magnesium. Amidst its long list of health benefits, magnesium boasts three big boons to hormone regulation. First and foremost, magnesium assists your body in the synthesis of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which are literally the building blocks of life. Magnesium also helps your digestive tract to absorb proteins and fats which are needed for the production of healthy hormones. Finally, magnesium is a precursor to the production of serotonin – the stuff that makes you happy (or depressed when it’s out of balance.)
Magnesium supplements can be found in several different forms, all of which will have a similar positive effect on your health.
4. Soak Up Some Vitamin-D
There is a reason that sunlight feels great on your skin – a reason that sunbathing has been one of the animal kingdom’s most favorite pastimes for as long as we’ve been alive on this planet. Vitamin D is naturally produced by the photochemical reaction that occurs in our skin cells when they are exposed to sunlight, or – more specifically – to ultraviolet B rays in sunlight. Vitamin D binds to a carrier protein present in the blood then travels through the circulatory system to various organs (brain, heart, reproductive organs, intestines, bones, kidneys, etc.) regulating essential functions such as DNA/RNA production, the immune and neuromuscular systems, and hormone production. Without it, our endocrine system is handicapped. As an important part of naturally balancing hormones, try to get out in the sun a little more often. Exercise outdoors when you can. Alternately, you should at least chose a supplement that contains Vitamin D.
5. Eat More Gelatin
This may sound silly to some, but eating gelatin (real gelatin, not the processed kind found in many commercial desserts) can work wonders to naturally balance your hormones. Gelatin is packed with calcium, magnesium, and phosphate – minerals that promote healthy digestion and hormone production. Be sure to buy gelatin that is certified free of harmful chemicals, as some such toxins found in processed food actually mimic hormones and may further disrupt an already unbalanced endocrine system!
6. Avoid Toxins
Toxins found in plastics, household cleaners, and pesticides can interfere with healthy hormone function by mimicking hormones that your body needs to function properly. Avoid cooking food in plastic containers and swap out plastic storage containers for glass jars. Trade your Teflon-coated pots and pans for cast iron or stainless steel. Also, try to consume only organic fruits and vegetables. Likewise, replace chemicals like ammonia and bleach with all-natural household cleaners. Finally, remove toxins from your tap water using a reverse osmosis or activated charcoal filter.
7. Limit Caffeine Intake
This may sound like difficult advice to follow for many people, but too much caffeine in the bloodstream can aggravate an existing endocrine imbalance. If you aren’t willing to eliminate caffeine from your diet altogether, at least try to cut back. Substitute caffeine-free or low-caffeine herbal teas instead of coffee. Avoid caffeinated sodas as they can cause more than just hormone problems. Start slow if you currently drink a lot of coffee, black tea, or soda. Even one less caffeinated beverage per day can have a positive impact on hormone health.
8. Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep piles added stress on your body and severely hampers the ability of your endocrine system to regenerate and regulate healthy hormones. There are many factors that may contribute to a person’s inability to rest – improper diet and lack of time being the two biggest ones.
9. Exercise Wisely
There is a popular misconception that a solid, hard workout is one of the keys to naturally regulating moods. The reality is that a combination of light cardio and heavy lifting benefits hormone balance more than working yourself into exhaustion. Excessive cardiovascular activity can actually have a negative impact on an already stressed endocrine system. Instead try jogging, swimming, or even something as simple as going for a walk in the park for a workout that is both low-stress and good for your heart. Follow up with a lifting routine composed of short sets using heavy weights which will further benefit your body by triggering the release of healthy hormones into the blood stream.
10. Balance Leptin
Leptin imbalance is another common problem that causes hormone disruptions, especially in overweight individuals. Because this hormone is directly related to metabolism of stored fats, the single most obvious symptom of leptin imbalance is frequent cravings, also known as ‘the munchies.’ If you’re prone to nighttime snacking and powerful cravings (often for foods high in calories, carbohydrates, and fat) you may have developed a leptin resistance. To begin the process of reversing leptin imbalance, start by avoiding foods like high fructose corn syrup, simple carbs (white bread, white rice, white sugar), and high quantities of grains.
When you buy groceries, stay away from packaged foods. Instead, go for unprocessed produce and meats that are high protein and healthy fats like salmon, tuna, mackerel, grass-fed beef, olives, avocados, and eggs (the whole egg, not just the whites!) Last but not least, fight the urge to snack. Constant eating will only aggravate the problem. Instead, try to eat small balanced meals timed about 4 hours apart. This will recondition your body to a healthy eating schedule.
Repairing a hormone imbalance takes time and for all of the potential changes involved, it may seem overwhelming. Take things one step at a time. Write out a plan and keep notes on your progress. While it may be very difficult at first, after about two weeks of structured eating, sleeping, and chemical-free living you will feel significantly better!