Advice and suggestions for how to balance hormones naturally
Are you struggling with your hormones? And if you are, do you know which ones precisely? Could it be changes in your oestrogen levels that are making you feel so tired? Or is it down to progesterone? Do you need more testosterone? Or less? And which is it that increases your likelihood of cancer - and which do you need to stop the onset of wrinkles, hair loss and old age?
So many of us simply haven’t a clue, and in not knowing, do nothing. Visit your doctor and they are likely to automatically reach for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) - yet does that seem any safer? Again, you may have multiple unanswered questions racing through your mind. Dangerous? Or perfectly sensible? Then there are the bio-identical hormones, said to target more precisely individually, and to be ‘better’ for you than their pharmaceutical cousins.
Opinions are numerous and varied and confusingly the science presents in both directions. HRT may solve problems for some people; for others the side effects, which often include headaches, breast tenderness and bloating, are worse than the original symptoms. More serious side effects also include increased chances of blood clots, hormone-related cancers, heart disease and stroke. HRT is not a straightforward decision. Take your time and do your research before you make it.
We all suffer from declining hormone levels as we get older. Some of us more than others. It is an indisputable fact that as we move through each decade, we lose more collagen, muscle tone and tissue elasticity.
So, what to do if, male or female, you have a feeling your tiredness, low libido, sweating, mind fog, weight gain, hot flushes or any of a multitude of unhappy symptoms that come with middle age may be partly down to an imbalance in your hormones?
1 First find your hormone baseline
This is the most important step of all because how else can you be sure whether the treatment protocol you decide to follow is working - or not? Are you improving? Or are things getting worse? You need a test that will record your current hormone levels in black and white as a reference, for yourself and for your doctor, to monitor any changes and track what’s going on from year to year as time passes.
Get blood and saliva hormone tests: Blood tests are only ever a snapshot in time. Hormones fluctuate rapidly, so any blood test should be seen clearly as just an indicator - of what’s going on with you right now today. Blood tests for hormones are usually available through your doctor, and will show your current levels of oestrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone.
But while blood hormone tests show which hormones are circulating in your bloodstream, saliva hormone tests give a more accurate picture of the quantity of hormones available to the body at a cellular level; the hormones that are being taken up from the blood and actually used by the body. Saliva tests are simple, non-invasive and can be done at home. They can be bought from specialist labs on the Internet or ordered via a qualified nutritionist, who can also talk you through your results.
A blood test and a saliva test, side by side, will give you a more comprehensive picture of your hormone health than each on its own. And once you know what is out of kilter, above or below the ‘normal’ range, your doctor can advise the best course of treatment. Specialists in bio-identical hormones offer a more natural HRT route than the solely synthetic hormone option available via your GP.
2 Spring clean your detox organs
Men and women, as we all know, are different. We are each, in theory, designed to efficiently balance the ebb and flow of our hormones throughout our lives. In practise outside influences can throw that balance off. Shock, stress, diet or environmental challenges can all affect your hormones - but for women there is an additional hurdle, and around menopause hormone havoc can really up its game.
There are several ways that the female body deals with getting rid of toxins – through the bowels, the liver, the kidneys and, the one that differs from their male counterparts, via their periods. When the latter finally stops at menopause, a major part of the normal detox process is thrown off and unbalanced, so your body has to find other ways to get rid of what it needs to.
Clean up your gut: A series of colonics, or enemas that you can do in the comfort of your own bathroom, will wash away any toxin build up in your gut, flushing through excess hormones and unburdening any excess load on your body’s ‘clean up’ systems - read more on how to detox.
Strengthen your organs: Do a liver and kidney detox. The less burdened they are by toxins, the more efficiently they will sort your hormones. Any symptoms are likely to reduce, and your energy levels will increase. Three ways to support your liver. Most health shops offer natural remedies and kits that will gently and slowly reboot your liver and kidneys.
Cut down on caffeine: Best to avoid coffee, tea, alcohol, cigarettes and spicy foods which all aggravate menopausal symptoms. Any hot drinks can also flare up hormonal heat, so drink cold when you can.
3 Keep cool
Hormones can wreck havoc with your sleep. And if you can’t sleep, you simply can’t function. A cold temperature keeps your body’s temperature fluctuations better in check so keep your room cool at night and invest in a fan if you need to. Keep an eye on your symptoms by writing a regular sleep diary and whatever the problem, take the steps you need to ensure you get as close to 7 hours a nights of restorative sleep as you can. Read more about sleep here and get a copy of my sleep book.
4 Use CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)
CBT can help reduce the anxiety and helplessness so often associated with fluctuating hormones. CBT helps you change the messaging in your mind and researchers found that four sessions were enough to reduce the number and severity of hot flushes and temperature changes significantly.
5 Up your exercise
Exercise really does make a difference. Endorphins released during exercise ease anxiety and depression and those low moods frequently triggered by the ebb and flow of hormonal tides.
6 Experiment with essential oils
Clary sage oil is one of the most effective of the essential oils for balancing hormones. It reduces anxiety and lessens hot flushes. Roman chamomile oil reduces stress, peppermint oil can help cool the body from hot flushes, and thyme oil and basil oil help to balance hormones naturally. Try rubbing basil oil across the back of your neck to help cool you down. A research study on citrus oil in 2014 found that postmenopausal women who inhaled it regularly experienced fewer physical symptoms and an increase in sexual desire. Citrus also has anti-inflammatory properties, and can help ease the joint aches and pains associated with menopause. Oregano oil is also anecdotally helpful for menopausal symptoms.
7 Try herbal medicine
Consult a medical herbalist or naturopath for a personalised prescription tailored to your specific symptoms. Herbs and natural plant medicine shown to help with hormonal symptoms include red clover, maca, evening primrose oil, liquorice root, wild yams, red raspberry leaves and sarsaparilla. Chasteberry, or agnus castus, has been clinically proven to regulate hormones and lessen hot flushes. Black cohosh stops night sweats and hot flushes and improves sleep. Aspoetida powder or ‘Hing’ helps with menstrual pain, regulates heavy blood flow and boosts progesterone levels. Proper dosages and combinations are important here, so please don’t just self-prescribe.
8 Up your vitamin D levels
Research shows that the lower your vitamin D levels, the more likely you are to suffer from hormonal symptoms. Check with your doctor and get a blood test. And be guided by his or her advice, because overly high levels can cause as many problems as a deficiency. Find out more about vitamin D.
9 Lose weight if you can
Are you struggling with your weight? You may find you put on additional pounds and find it hard to lose them with all the hormonal fluctuations. Your body will try to hold on to as much oestrogen-producing fat as possible as your customary oestrogen levels wane. Testosterone levels drop during menopause too, which slows down your metabolic rate. Eating the same amount as usual will increase your weight, so make your portion size smaller and cut your processed food consumption. If you are having a particularly bad time with your menopause, the stress of the situation will raise your cortisol levels too, and increase fat around your stomach.
10 Book in for acupuncture
Acupuncture is all about re-balancing, and it can certainly rebalance your hormones. There are specific protocols and points that will normalise your hormone production. Book in for a series of sessions - you can do it intensively; a daily appointment over the period of a week, or take more time, progress more slowly and go once a week, or month.
Experiment. Take your hormonal health a step at a time. Pick one of the above options and give it a go. Notice if it helps and if it doesn’t, move on through the list until you find what works for you.
Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, founder of one of the UK's leading breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Haven. With over twenty years' experience in holistic health, Sara's digital dose of wellness teaches you to listen to your body, tweak your lifestyle and improve your health.
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