3 years ago

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!

SLEEP
“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.

MANAGE STRESS
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.