Women’s health: Building balanced hormones
Dr. Crystalin Montgomery, NMD, Lac of Be Well Natural Medicine in St. Paul, Minnesota, shares some important ways to show some love to your hormones and improve your overall health.
National Women’s Health Week is May 8-13, and what better way to celebrate than by supporting women’s hormones! Balanced hormones are key to women’s health. They influence mood and weight gain (or loss), along with bone, heart and cognitive health. Given the important role hormones play, it’s no surprise women feel better when estrogen and progesterone are in balance, oxytocin levels are high and thyroid and cortisol are regulated. Though complex, hormones have basic needs, which are outlined below. Show some love to your hormones and see how many you can build into your routine!
“An hour before midnight is worth two.” Cortisol levels follow the circadian rhythm and should reach a low point around midnight. Your body needs decreased cortisol levels at night to regulate blood sugar and allow optimal levels of growth hormone and melatonin. If cortisol levels are elevated at night, this can lead to weight gain (think stubborn belly fat) and insulin resistance.
MOVE YOUR BODY
One of the most well-researched “medications” is exercise. It decreases cancer risk and insulin resistance, improves bone density and increases flow of blood and lymph through the liver and pelvis. This is essential to maintaining balanced mood, regular menses and optimal fertility. Aim for 30 minutes of intentional movement daily and try to move your body for 1-3 minutes every hour. Depending on the individual, you may benefit from moderate-intensity walking or biking, high intensity interval training, tai chi or yoga. Luckily, there is no shortage of options.
EAT RIGHT FOR YOUR HORMONES
Hormone-related complaints generally respond well to a nutritious diet that is high in B vitamins, magnesium and fiber and minimizes processed foods high in sugar and trans fats. Emphasize cruciferous vegetables as they contain sulphur compounds, indole-3-carbinol and folate, which are needed for cancer prevention and hormone metabolism. High-fiber foods bind excess testosterone and aid in removal of hormone metabolites via the intestinal tract. Nuts and seeds offer fatty acids that help decrease inflammation and provide nutrients needed for balanced blood sugar and thyroid function. Organic meats and those that don’t contain added hormones provide a range of bioavailable B vitamins, which are needed to balance blood sugar, prevent PMS and help replenish deficiencies common with oral contraceptive use.
It may not be possible to eliminate all stress, but it is possible to set boundaries for yourself. Cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone, is helpful for keeping us alert and awake, but saying “yes” to everything can lead to unintended elevations in stress and, thus, cortisol. Prioritize time for self-care and intimacy. And, if you’re holding a grudge, consider forgiveness as it can help increase levels of oxytocin. Not sure how to “manage” stress? Try a few different ideas on for size: acupuncture, mindfulness, walking or simply being in nature for five minutes can have a profound impact on the effects of stress on the body.