Have you ever stopped to wonder why you might be tired one day and energetic the next or irritable for a stretch of time before suddenly feeling better? In situations like these, it’s easy to say ‘I’ve been stressed out at work and it’s made me tired’ or ‘I got a good nights sleep and am feeling better’, and while those do play a role, the truth is usually a much more complex interaction of factors.
The internal chemistry of our body, which controls our emotions, sleep, appetite, mood, reproductive system, metabolism, heart rate, and more are all influenced by a cascade of hormones that course through our bodies on a regular basis. These hormones are responsible for cravings, weight fluctuations, and symptoms of PMS during menstrual cycles in women. They also play a vital role in reproduction and pregnancy.
Hormones are essentially chemical messengers that travel throughout your bloodstream to different tissues or organs. They’re produced by the endocrine system, which is made up of glands throughout the body. Major endocrine glands include the thymus, pituitary, thyroid, pineal, and adrenal. There are also endocrine glands in the pancreas. Women produce hormones in their ovaries as well, while men produce hormones in their testes.
The body contains several hormones, all of which are powerful and contain a host of major responsibilities in the body. This is why even the smallest disruption in hormone balance can cause such significant changes.
There are actually a number of factors that can lead to imbalanced hormones. Experiencing hormonal imbalance is most common (and quite normal) during menstruation, pregnancy, puberty, and menopause. For example, estrogen levels rise and fall twice a month during a woman’s monthly cycle. They rise during the mid-follicular phase (during menstruation) and fall significantly after ovulation (about two weeks before menstruation).
Menstruation, menopause, puberty, and pregnancy aren’t the only things that can wreak havoc on our hormones. The endocrine system is also significantly affected by our external environment. There are certain chemicals known as endocrine disruptors that actually mimic the body’s natural hormones. Because of this, they can bind to hormone receptors and create a significant imbalance in natural hormone production.
Endocrine disruptors can be found everywhere in industrialized societies. Common examples of endocrine disruptors include:
It’s easy to see how hormones can become imbalanced, regardless of whether it’s “that time of the month.”
While the endocrine system is extremely complex and there are several different factors that can lead to hormone imbalance, there are a variety of ways to naturally balance your hormones. Here are a few that can easily be introduced to your everyday routine:
Healthy fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids are extremely beneficial for hormone balance. They’re precursors of locally produced hormones and are vital for hormone synthesis. Consuming plenty of omega-3 fatty acid-rich food is suggested to help with hormone imbalance. While fish is one of the highest sources of omega-3s, they’re also found in plenty of vegan food sources. Nuts, seeds like chia, flax and hemp, seaweed, kidney beans, and Brussels sprouts are all great vegan sources of the omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for hormone health.
Coconut oil is another healthy fat beneficial for hormone health. Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides, which are necessary for hormone production. The fatty acids found in coconut oil can also assist hormones in getting where they need to be in the body. Coconut oil is particularly high in lauric acid, which can improve gut health by supporting the body’s defenses against viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, and yeasts. The lauric acid in coconut oil essentially inactivates these harmful microbes that can invade the gut and result in hormone imbalance. Coconut oil also converts cholesterol into pregnenolone, which aids the creation of thyroid hormones.
In nature, you don’t have to look too far to find everything we need to thrive and live our healthiest lives. There are several natural supplements you can consume that support hormone health, offering a bit of assistance to balance hormones naturally.
Sleep is vital for all bodily functions, including keeping hormones balanced and healthy. Our natural circadian rhythm is regulated by hormones like cortisol and melatonin. These hormones literally work on a schedule in tune with our body’s 24-hour biological clock.
Melatonin is released by the pineal gland at night when it gets dark. Cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, is regulated at midnight where it drops to its lowest levels. These levels begin to rise and then peak about an hour after you wake up. When we don’t get enough sleep, the body is more likely to produce more cortisol, meaning you’re exposed to more of the body’s “flight or fight” response than necessary.
Sleep is vital for keeping our stress hormones balanced. Ideally, you’re getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you’re one of the millions of people who don’t get enough sleep, taking steps to naturally get a rejuvenating night’s sleep could be seriously beneficial for balanced hormone support.
There are several causes for hormone imbalance. Fluctuating hormones during a woman’s menstrual cycle, menopause, inflammation, poor gut health, and everyday toxins can all have a significant effect on hormone health.
Fortunately, there are natural ways to promote hormone balance that can allow you to thrive and live your best life. A healthy diet, exercise, and regular sleep are your best tools for maintaining that balance and feeling great. Keep in mind that the natural tips we mentioned here should not supersede medical supervision by a licensed physician when necessary. Hormone imbalance can vary widely from person to person, and you know your body best. So experiment with what works well for you, keep a journal to track progress, and always be aware of the connection between your physical and mental health.
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