Balancing female hormones can be a tricky balancing act, but adjusting an imbalance in hormones is well worth it! There are many different moving parts that could contribute to how you feel. But, having well-balanced hormones can help you to really have a zest for living and drive to create the life you dream of.
You are more than just your hormones. If you’re just joining me for this 6 part series on holistic health, then here’s a little spoiler alert– your gut health, HPA axis and adrenals, thyroid function, and exposure to toxins all play a role in how well your hormones operate.
So things are easier to explain “in person” so let’s take a minute and discuss what an imbalance in hormones looks like and what you can do to get your female hormones back on track:
Important Parts of the Reproductive Cycle
The Main Female Hormones
- estrogen- builds up the uterine lining
- progesterone- a relaxing hormone; main hormone to sustain a pregnancy
- testosterone- made in the ovaries and adrenal glands; important for libido, muscle mass, bone strength, and zest for life
- DHEA- precursor to reproductive hormones
- FSH- Follicle-Stimulating Hormone
- LH- Luteinizing Hormone
Typical Menstrual Cycle
Menarche when you first started having periods. Menopause is when your period stops.
For a typical menstrual cycle:
Day 1- Start of the Follicular Phase:
- Day 1 is the first day of your period; this cycle continues until the first day of your next period
- starts with low levels of estrogen and progesterone
- pituitary gland releases FSH
- FSH gets a follicle with an egg in it ready
- the follicle makes more estrogen to get the uterus ready for potential pregnancy
Day 12-14- The Ovulatory Phase:
- a spike in estrogen triggers a spike in LH from the pituitary gland and an increase in testosterone
- this leads to the egg being released from the follicle
- The rupture follicle secretes progesterone and estrogen to prepare the uterus for potential pregnancy
- If pregnancy does not occur, then estrogen and progesterone levels decrease
- Leads to menses and start of the next cycle
When You Have an Imbalance in Hormones
Many symptoms are possible when your female hormones are too high or too low.
The classic example is menopause, when all the female hormones are at much lower levels. Technically, this is considered an estrogen-dominant state because of very low progesterone levels. Estrogen is much lowered than when you’re having periods, too, but the body still makes some from stored fat and the adrenal glands.
Possible Reasons for an Imbalance in Hormones
- thyroid dysfunction- the thyroid plays a role in the regulation and break down of reproductive hormones. If you don’t break them down appropriate, you can have too much of something lingering in the body
- inflammation from the gut
- HPA axis dysregulation, sleep deprivation, stress
- weight loss or gain; dietary changes or deficiencies
- toxin exposure
Symptoms of Imbalanced Hormones
Symptoms of low estrogen:
- sleep disturbances, especially waking up in the middle of the night
- vaginal atrophy, dryness, painful intimacy
- irregular or absent periods
- mood swings, depression
- brain fog
- hot flashes
- breast tenderness
- decreased desire for intimacy
Symptoms of low progesterone:
- mood changes like moodiness, anxiety, depression
- decreased desire for intimacy
- irregular periods
- weight gain
- uterine fibroids
- thyroid dysfunction
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS deserves its own special section. As many as 1 out of 10 women suffer from PCOS! Yikes!
If you have PCOS, the good news is that there’s a lot that you can do to improve your health and symptoms.
What Happens When You Have PCOS
With PCOS, your reproductive hormones get out of balance and make multiple cysts on your ovaries.
There are significantly increased levels of androgens (mainly testosterone) and low levels of estrogen, leading to lots of symptoms.
There is inflammation occurring with PCOS. One of the leading theories is that PCOS is caused by the inflammation coming from insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance means that your body produces insulin to balance your blood sugar levels, but it doesn’t recognize and use the insulin efficiently. Then the body makes more insulin, but it’s not recognized well, so it creates a vicious cycle that can result in elevated blood sugar levels and ultimately diabetes.
In the conventional medicine world, if you have PCOS, you’re given a prescription for Metformin, which is a medication for diabetes. Metformin helps your body to be more sensitive to insulin and use the insulin that you already make better. This can lower levels of inflammation and help your reproductive hormones to be at better levels, too.
Symptoms of PCOS:
- multiple ovarian cysts
- hirsutism- hair growth following male pattern hair growth (on the face, arm pits, etc)
- hair loss on the scalp/balding
- difficulty getting pregnant/infertility
- weight gain/obesity; difficulty losing weight
- sleep apnea
- skin tags
- increased risk of heart disease
- insulin resistance
Natural Solutions for PCOS
This totally deserves its own blog post, but here’s a quick run down of things that can naturally help to heal up PCOS.
- getting enough iodine and iodide in your diet
- vitamin D and calcium
- magnesium– low levels of magnesium have been linked to diabetes. Magnesium can improve insulin sensitivity naturally. It’s best taken at bedtime.
- Chromium- may lower blood sugar levels
- Omega 3 fatty acids- may lower androgen levels in women
Diet and Exercise:
- HIIT workouts- High Intensity Interval Training helps to increase human growth hormone, which can play a role in balancing reproductive hormones and is very helpful if you have PCOS. Here’s my favorite one that takes just 20 minutes, 3-4 times a week.
- Low Glycemic Index Diet- balancing your blood sugar and eating a diet that doesn’t causes spikes in blood sugar is huge! Personally, I love the Trim Healthy Mama diet, and there are thousands of women who have followed THM and improved their PCOS to the point of being able to have babies! Yay!
- One recent study noticed HUGE improvements in PCOS when women ate more calories earlier in the day and less later in the day. They had significant improvement in insulin, glucose, and testosterone levels when they ate 1000 calories with breakfast, 640 with lunch, and just 200 with breakfast.
Labs To Check Your Hormones
If you have PCOS, you’ll likely have your doctor check:
- blood sugar level
- insulin level
- cholesterol panel
- thyroid tests
- prolactin level
- female hormones
- cortisol level
- insulin-like growth factor (IGF) 1
- transvaginal pelvic ultrasound
- possibly a pelvic CT scan or MRI
If you think that your female hormones may be imbalanced, you should check these labs listed below. You can get them tested at home through EverlyWell if you prefer.
- TSH, Free and Total T3 and T4, anti-TPO antibodies; the thyroid plays a vital role in reproductive hormones, so checking the thyroid and for autoimmune thyroid disorders is vital
- DHEA (saliva testing is quite accurate)
- cortisol (saliva testing is preferred)
Natural Ways to Balance Your Hormones
First and foremost, get your labs done and see a holistic healthcare provider.
If there’s an imbalance in hormones, a prescription of bioidentical hormones can be very helpful for correcting things. These hormones can be tailored to exactly what you need based on your labs. Most integrative medicine providers will write you for a prescription cream that you can get from a compounding pharmacy.
I’m sure that this will never happen to you, but I just feel like it needs to be said– estrogen should NEVER be prescribed unopposed (without progesterone to balance it). While the right amount of estrogen is important to feeling your best, too much estrogen can have disastrous results, including significantly increased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and blood clots. The ONLY exception to this is estrogen cream that gets applied vaginally for women who have already gone through menopause.
There are several natural options that may help to restore female hormone balance as well, and these include:
1. CBD Oil
THM Feminine Balance has had great results for people! It does carry the potential for you to test positive for THC (marijuana) on a urine drug screen, so check out their other Hemp Oil products that will not if needed.
2. Work On Other Issues
Your body works in harmony or dissonance, so working on other major body systems will help to improve your hormone levels, too.
So, work on healing up your leaky gut. Gut inflammation has been linked to hormone problems.
Be good to your HPA Axis. Your adrenals make some of your hormones, as well as DHEA, the precursor to more reproductive hormones. Managing your stress and sleep well can help to make great strides in this area.
Work to reduce your exposure to environmental toxins and detox from possible toxins. Many environmental toxins are endocrine disruptors, and they will mess up your reproductive hormones.
Read up on how to have a happy thyroid-– an optimally functioning thyroid is vital for well-balanced hormones.
Focusing on a low glycemic index diet (like Trim Healthy Mama, my personal fav!), healthy omega 3 fatty acids, filtered water, and organic fruits and veggies can be a great way to support your hormone health.
Quick list of hormone-balancing foods:
- nonGMO foods
- soy from whole food sources- edamame, etc
- filtered water
- cruciferious vegetables
- healthy, omega 3 fats
You may benefit from going gluten and dairy free. Even milk from organic cows can have extra hormones if the cow is pregnant.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises are preferred if your hormones are out of balance.
This is my personal favorite workout set for women, both to help your keep feminine shape and to improve things a weak pelvic floor and possible diastasis recti (separate of abdominal muscles after pregnancy). And in just 5 weeks, it helped me to get one pants’ size smaller even after I was at goal weight!
Dive Deeper Into Holistic Health Topics
Thanks for reading this Holistic Health Intro (from a holistic healthcare insider!). Beyond answering “What is leaky gut?,” you’ll find the rest of this series on these important Holistic Health Topics:
- What Is Holistic Health (and what to know on your first dr’s visit)
- Fix That Leaky Gut and Food Sensitivities
- Heal Adrenal Fatigue and Reset Your HPA Axis
- How to Have a Happy Thyroid
- Detox from Heavy Metals and Improve Your Health
Resources That I Love
…to help you be healthy naturally:
- Supercharge Your Weight Loss- Need a little extra “oomph” to help you stay on plan? Several of my friends recently introduced me to HealthyWage. If you’re losing weight well with THM or if financial rewards motivate you to stay on track, then HealthyWage is perfect for you!
- Save on Healthy Meat– ButcherBox is my new favorite way to buy antibiotic free, grass fed beef, pork, and chicken! It’s cheaper than I can get it in the local stores, and it comes right to my door! Use the code AP10 to get $10 off your first box and FREE nitrate-free bacon!!
- Get Healthy Foods for Less- Thrive Market is like the online Costco for healthy groceries, and they even have healthy meat and seafood! We love saving money with wholesale prices on healthy groceries and products that get sent right to our home! Get an extra 25% OFF your first order when you sign up at Thrive Market HERE!
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