Balancing hormones naturally is something I've learned a lot about over the past several years. You can make a huge impact on your hormones with a healthy diet of traditional food and food supplements. I've put together my Top 5 Tips For Balancing Hormones Naturally.
Before I share my tips with you, please note that I'm not an expert in this area, nor am I a doctor and this post should not be construed as medical advice. However, I have learned some things over the past few years that I want to share. I hope it will help some people out there.
This post is especially for women, since so many of us suffer from hormonal issues. These hormonal problems are more prevalent as we age, and particularly after pregnancy and childbirth. However, more and more women are experiencing hormonal problems in our youth — everything from missed periods, low sex drive, cysts in the breasts and ovaries, infertility, and breast cancer. There are many things we can do nutritionally to prevent and reverse these hormonal disorders.
Balancing Hormones Naturally: My Experience
Before we get to the tips, I want to give you a little background on my personal history.
When I was 35, I started noticing patches of dark skin on my face. Melasma, also known as “the mask of pregnancy” or “age spots” is a result of hormonal imbalances which are largely due to nutritional deficiencies. Trust me, it's not fun to have your own mother tell you you have a mustache. A mustache you can't wash, bleach or wax off.
I knew I had been suffering from adrenal exhaustion for a long time — ever since I was diagnosed with it in my mid-twenties. Adrenal exhaustion, or adrenal fatigue, is a condition where your adrenal glands are wiped out by stress, too much caffeine, inadequate rest, and malnutrition. It manifests itself in many ways including the problems I experienced: chronic fatigue and melasma.
The thyroid gland works in tandem with the adrenal glands. So if your adrenal glands are shot, this can affect thyroid function. Thyroid disorders include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and thyroid cancer. Your thyroid controls many bodily functions including metabolism — this is why people who have hypothyroidism can't ever seem to lose weight.
I have learned how to balance my hormones in the past few years by making various changes to my diet and lifestyle and taking nutritional supplements. My melasma is 100% gone and my chronic fatigue is completely eradicated. Scroll down to see my complete list of results from balancing my hormones.
Balancing Hormones Naturally: My Top 5 Tips
1. Eat Nutrient Dense Foods
The main thing is to eat balanced meals with foods that are nutrient-dense. You don't have to go crazy with this.
Make sure you get plenty of meat, fish, bone broth, good fats (see # 2 below), fresh or fermented fruits and veggies in your diet. If your lunch is a white bread sandwich with few thin strips of turkey and some potato chips and a Diet Coke, that's not gonna cut it. Opt instead for a big salad with lots of meat or seafood or cheese.
Or have a sandwich but make it on sprouted bread or whole wheat sourdough and have a glass of whole milk or some kombucha instead of a soda. Liverwurst or egg salad (with real mayo made with olive oil, not canola or soybean oil) or grilled cheese (real cheese — not Velveeta) are better choices than peanut butter.
Swap the margarine for real butter and coconut oil. Eat eggs cooked in butter for breakfast instead of cereal flakes or a breakfast bar. If you want some toast, that's fine, but put some butter on it!
Some of the most nutrient-dense foods are organ meats (liver, heart, kidney and other organ meats have 10-100 times more nutrition than muscle meats such as chicken breast or ground beef) and shellfish, including crab, oysters, shrimp, clams and mussels.
White flour and sugar are nutritionally empty so I look for better choices. I eat sprouted bread or real sourdough bread instead of bread made with white flour and commercial yeast. I eat mostly whole grains (but I don't stress out if I eat white flour here and there,) properly prepared. See my post on soaking and sprouting whole grains
I also use natural sweeteners instead of refined sugar — look for honey, molasses, rapadura, sucanat, maple syrup, palm sugar, and stevia.
2. Eat Plenty of Good Fats
Low-fat diets are probably the number one reason young and old women are having problems with their hormones. Hormones are made out of cholesterol. If you don't eat enough cholesterol, your body can't make hormones.
What are good fats? Traditional fats that have been around for centuries — the fats our great-grandmothers ate. These include: butter, cream, egg yolks, whole milk, coconut milk, lard, beef tallow, coconut oil, palm oil, and olive oil.
I also highly recommend cod liver oil. This is the one supplement I will always take. Click here to find the best quality cod liver oil.
Bad fats that should be avoided include: canola oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, and any hydrogenated oils.
Read more in my post, 100 Ways to Eat More Fat.
3. Avoid Soy
I think one of the other big reasons we are seeing more hormonal problems today is due to the increase of soy in our diets. Soy is a goitrogen, which blocks iodine uptake in the body. In women, iodine is stored in the thyroid gland, the breasts and the ovaries.
Iodine deficiency causes thyroid disorders (including goiters, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer), cysts in the breasts and ovaries, and breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
You may think you're not eating a lot of soy since you don't drink soy milk or eat tofu. But these days, soy is in almost everything.
Most restaurants use soybean oil to cook with, and most packaged and processed foods contain soybean oil and/or soy lecithin. Most of the meat and dairy we consume is from animals fed soy. Most mayonnaise and salad dressings contain soybean oil.
It is okay to eat soy in small amounts, as a condiment, as long as it is naturally fermented (like naturally fermented soy sauce, miso, tempeh, or natto). It is best to avoid unfermented soy foods like soy milk and soy cheese. It is also best to avoid processed and packaged foods that contain soy.
4. Get Your Minerals On!
Most of us are depleted of minerals. Phytic acid in whole grains (like oats and whole wheat) deplete the body of minerals (unless these foods are properly soaked or sprouted — see my post on soaking grains.)
Minerals are vitally important to balancing hormones. For example, if you are low in zinc, which many of us are, you will not be able to produce enough testosterone (yes, even women need a certain amount of testosterone — this is vital to a healthy sex drive).
One of the best sources of minerals is homemade bone broth. Click here to read my post, 50 Ways to Eat More bone Broth.
Iodine is a trace mineral most of us are deficient in. The Japanese have one of the lowest rates of breast cancer. I believe this is partly due to the fact that they consume large quantities of iodine, mainly in the form of fish broth and seaweed. (Not, as we often hear, due to soy. They eat very little soy compared to the amount of fish, fish broth and sewaweed).
Japanese people traditionally eat miso soup with all their meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner. Modern miso soup is often made with MSG powder — but traditionally prepared miso soup is made with bonito broth. Bonito broth is made with fish. The fish are small and they use the whole fish in the broth, including the heads.
The reason this is important is the head is where the thyroid gland is contained. The thyroid is where iodine is stored. So if you are making fish broth, you need to include the head to get the iodine. The soup also contains seaweed which is also rich in iodine.
Unless you are eating real bonito broth miso soup every day, I recommend taking a supplement to get the same amount of iodine. One Iodoral pill contains 12.5 mg of iodine (which is the same amount the Japanese consume). Another form of iodine is Lugol's. I take Iodoral.
I recommend supplementing with magnesium, as most of us are deficient. Read my post about magnesium deficiency: Are You Suffering from Magnesium Deficiency?
5. Eat Enough Carbs and Get Plenty of Rest
All of the above helped, but what helped to balance my hormones the most by far was Matt Stone's Diet Recovery. Matt's plan is called RRARFing — “rehabilitative rest and aggressive re-feeding”.
Prior to RRARFing, I had been eating a low carb diet, was way too restrictive about my food, and I was skipping meals. I was also not sleeping enough. This really negatively affected my hormones, but RRARFing totally worked for me.
I spent 5 months in 2012 eating lots of comfort food: hash browns cooked in coconut oil, homemade sprouted flour waffles, olive oil potato chips, ice cream, and pizza. All the “bad” foods they tell you not to eat when you go “low carb”.
I also increased my sleep as Matt advises. Instead of sleeping 8 hours, I started sleeping 10-12 hours. I did that for a couple months.
To learn more about how carbs and rest helped balance my hormones, read my posts: Matt Stone's Diet Recovery Program — My Experience and Why I Ditched Low Carb, and How I Raised My Body Temperature with Carbs.
My Results with Balancing My Hormones Naturally
It took a few years but my hormones are totally balanced now. (It would have happened a lot faster — in a matter of months — if I had just started with RRARFing to begin with!)
My body temperature is now a steady 98.6 — day in, day out. (This is really important. Read my post: How I Raised My Body Temperature with Carbs)
My menstrual period has regulated and now lasts 7 days and the cramping is not painful. I ovulate like clockwork.
My insomnia is gone. I naturally get tired around 10 or 11 pm. I sleep a solid 7-8 hours.
My energy is through the roof. I pop out of bed at 6 am and I look forward to exercise (something I never thought I'd do). I'm now doing morning walks (30-60 minutes every weekday) and I am doing kettlebell workouts a few times a week as well.
My skin looks amazing — melasma is 100% gone and everyone tells me I look 10 years younger than I am (I'm 44; everyone thinks I'm in my 30s).
I used to be sensitive to caffeine, but I have found that after I did Matt's program (which isn't really a “program” at all — it's just eating enough food and getting enough rest,) I can now drink one or two cups of coffee per day with no side effects — I don't get jittery like I used to.
Read More Of My Posts About How I Balanced My Hormones Naturally
Read other posts on my site about balancing your hormones:
Matt Stone's Diet Recovery Program — My Experience
How I Raised My Body Temperature with Carbs
Why I Ditched Low Carb
Is It Wheat Belly? Or Cortisol Belly?
How Intermittent Fasting Caused My Insomnia and Belly Fat
Lunaception: How the Moon Can Balance Your Hormones and Make You Fertile
Herbal Infusions for Fertility and Hormone Balancing
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Photo credit: Pablo Miranzo via Flickr