5 Ways to Support Hormone Imbalances
February 06, 2022
There are many practices we can include into our day to day to help support hormone imbalance. Hormone imbalance can be caused by numerous factors including; environment, lifestyle habits, nutrition, stress levels, sleep quality, and digestion. Depending on the individual, herbs can be helpful in addition to nutritional and habitual changes. These practices can be especially helpful if a client has recently come off of birth control or a hormonal IUD. Below are some areas of focus when supporting hormone imbalances.
1. Liver Detoxification
- To support hormone imbalance ensure to eat plenty of fresh, whole foods with a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and protein. Favour sulphur rich cruciferous vegetables like; broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and collards. Ensure to ingest a diverse amount of vegetables from the Allium family which includes garlic, leek, onions, & chives. When bitter greens like dandelion leaves, arugula, endives & mustard greens are ingested they help to stimulate bile production and release excess estrogen supporting regular elimination pathways and thus balancing estrogen levels.
- Ingest a variety of animal and plant proteins like turkey, beef, eggs, fish, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. This will support phase 1 and 2 of liver detoxification, which is helpful to maintain sex hormone balance. In phase one, Cytochrome P450 enzymes break down fat soluble toxins to smaller molecules. These molecules become more reactive and harmful in this phase. Getting plenty of antioxidants through food is important to counteract this. This phase also requires a variety of B-vitamins, antioxidants, glutathione and branched chain amino acids. In the second phase of liver detoxification, known as the conjugation pathway, the liver attaches another molecule, a glycine or sulphate, to the chemical to render it less harmful and convert it to a water-soluble molecule. These now water-soluble metabolites can be excreted by the body via the kidneys and bowels.
2. Support a Diverse Microbiome
- The health of our microbiome directly impacts our sex hormones, especially estrogen. Support your microbiome by eating whole foods rich in soluble and insoluble fibre, eating prebiotic and probiotic rich foods, and practicing mindful eating. Minimize processed sugar and refined grains, alcohol and make sure to keep hydrated throughout the day.
- Include more freshly ground flax in your diet. Lignans in flax bind to estrogen in the intestine, which helps estrogen excretion in bowel movements. This interrupts the reabsorption of estrogen back into the body via the liver. Studies have also shown that consumption of 1 tbsp of freshly ground flax a day reduces frequency of anovulatory cycles, directly influencing the balance of estrogen and progesterone levels.
- Increase consumption of probiotic and prebiotic rich foods; ingest ferments like sauerkraut, kimchi & miso. Prebiotics are considered food for probiotics. Prebiotics can be found in asparagus, chicory, artichoke, onions, garlic, dandelion greens, oats, bananas, legumes.
3. Blood Sugar Balance
Low blood sugar can cause the adrenals to release excess cortisol, increasing our blood glucose. Over time this can lead to high insulin, or insulin resistance, which lowers sex hormone binding globulin; a protein made in the liver that binds to hormones. This can cause an increase in free hormones circulating, especially testosterone and estrogen, leading to an imbalance.
Try these tips to support stabilizing blood sugar throughout the day:
- Eat a protein and fat rich breakfast.
- Balance your meals with a protein, fat and complex carb.
- Bring snacks with you on the go and try to avoid skipping meals.
- Notice when your blood sugar is too low. You will feel jittery, anxious and sweaty, or ‘hangry’.
- Avoid processed sugar in food and beverages.
- Stick to water and herbal tea during the day.
- Avoid alcohol at night, especially right before bed.
- Minimize caffeine intake, especially after 12pm.
4. Nourish your Adrenals
- The HPA axis is a complex system of neuroendocrine pathways that function as an adaptation to stressors. The HPA axis helps our body maintain homeostasis when under threat. This stress response system is activated by the hypothalamus gland which connects to the pituitary and adrenal glands. When this system is dysregulated by long term stress, it can lead to hormonal imbalance.
- We can help keep this HPA axis regulation by managing stress. Completing the stress response cycle, or sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ nervous system response, can happen even if the stressor has not gone away.
- We can do this a couple ways; getting into nature, exercising regularly in a way that you love, fostering creativity, including more positive social interactions, feeling your emotions and letting yourself cry when you need to, laughing and physical intimacy.
- Get regular, consistent and quality sleep. Avoid alcohol before bed, caffeine after noon and try to keep blood sugar balanced throughout the day and night. For some people, a small protein rich snack before bed is helpful for those who consistently find they wake up a few hours after falling asleep.
- Adaptogens and adrenal tonics to support the function of the adrenals and the glands themselves. Herbal nerve tonics and sedatives can support deeper, more restorative sleep as well.
- Pay attention to how you’re feeling and honour when you need to rest. This is actually difficult to do considering we live in a society that pushes productivity 24/7. Exposure to screens and social media also disrupts our sleep patterns and can increase anxiety. Take breaks, get into nature, and find ways to manage stress in your day to day.
5. Avoid Environmental Estrogens:
We are exposed to xenoestrogens multiple times a day via chemicals, pesticides, plastics, unfiltered water and industrial toxins. Environmental estrogens can mimic our endogenous estrogens, creating potential estrogen dominance.
Some ways to reduce exposure include:
- Reduce ingesting pesticide & herbicides. If possible, buy local or organic produce.
- Reduce plastic use; avoid plastic containers, water bottles and plastic wrap. Switch to glass or metal containers, and if you are using plastic, avoid heating food in these containers.
- Switch to all-natural cleaning products for your home, or make your own!
- Topical make-up, lotions, shampoos and conditioners: avoid chemical laden products, and switch to all natural. We absorb so much through our skin, so what we put on it every day is important to keep in mind. Some chemicals to watch out for include: Phythalates, Parabens, BPA/BPS, food dyes, mycotoxins, atrazine aka herbicide and benzophenone.
- At home water filtration system to reduce exposure via tap water.
Written by Riley
Riley is a medical herbalist and nutritionist and has a passion to work with those looking to balance and support hormones. You can book with her for a full consult either online or in person.
Book here: https://apothekaherbal.janeapp.com/#/staff_member/2/treatment/11
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