The human body is a complex interconnection of various cells, tissues, and systems designed to carry out specific tasks.
While you can see these organs and tissues as “hardware,” hormones are somewhat messengers that tell these body parts what to do and how to function.
In this article, we would make a detailed analysis of hormones. However, our focus will be on how these messengers can send wrong messages because the body over/under produces them. Even chiefly, we would look at healthy natural ways to balance hormones production.
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers produced by the glands located in the body’s endocrine system. These chemicals move to different organs and tissues through the bloodstream, delivering messages to these organs on what they should do and when they should do it. Hormones control nearly every process in the body, including metabolism, sleep, growth and development, emotions and mood, blood pressure, sexual health, hunger and appetite, stress levels, and more.
Understanding the Endocrine System
The endocrine system describes the interconnection of all the glands and organs that produce and release hormones for proper body function. This system includes various integral body parts from the hypothalamus in the brain, thyroid in the throat, pancreas, ovaries, gut, and more.
It is easy to say that the endocrine system controls and regulates all biological processes in the body from conception until the very end of life.
What is Hormonal Imbalance?
Hormonal imbalance describes a condition of too much or too little hormone production and secretion in the bloodstream. Although hormone production isn’t the same throughout the life of any living person, precisely, it typically decreases with age and other factors. However, slight changes in the standard amount of hormones needed at any instance can have serious effects.
Causes of Hormonal Imbalance
Surprisingly, it is inevitable and very natural to experience fluctuations in hormone production that wouldn’t match the amount your body needs at that moment few times in your life. This possibility is highest during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. Yet, that does not pose so much of a threat to your overall health.
The real issue occurs when the endocrine system isn’t functioning correctly and cannot exactly match the body’s needs for a long time. Many health conditions, prolonged use of specific drugs or habits can distort the activities of the endocrine system and trigger hormonal imbalances. They include
- Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Addison’s disease
- Turner syndrome
- All diseases and cancers involving the endocrine glands (Hyper and Hypothyroidism, throat cancer, stomach cancer, ovarian cancer, etc.)
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI)
- Eating disorders
- Being overweight
- Poor diet and nutrition
- Hormone replacement and birth control pills
Signs and Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance
The subject of hormonal imbalance is quite broad. Hence, the symptoms that denote the condition are as well wide range. Nevertheless, some of these symptoms aren’t standalone proofs that you have a hormonal imbalance, so it is best to consult a doctor for a diagnosis before making any decision or conclusions that you have hormonal imbalances.
Meanwhile, the followings are common symptoms of hormonal imbalances.
- Muscle weakness
- Joint pains
- Indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea
- Reduction in sexual drive
- Excessive sweating
- Pink or purple stretch mark
- Weight gain
- Decrease or increase in heart rate
- Clitoral enlargement
- Heavy, painful, or irregular periods
- Excess hair on chin or face
- Acne on the chest or face
- Darkened skin around groin and neck regions
- Painful sex
- Vaginal dryness
- Uterine bleeding (Not associated with menstruation)
- Breast tenderness
6 Ways to Balance Hormones Naturally
Although the symptoms and effects of hormonal imbalance are broad, the natural approach towards balancing hormones isn’t. By following the nutritional changes below, you can restore your body’s endocrine system to produce the proper amount of hormones necessary for each task.
Increase your Protein Consumption
Protein offers an essential, irreplaceable part of hormonal production and our overall health. Precisely, it provides essential amino acids needed to maintain the skin, bone, and muscle health and influences the release of leptin and ghrelin (satiety and hunger hormones, respectively).
If your protein intake is low, leptin production is stalled, and your body might not signal to you quickly that you are full. Some proteins also function as hormones themselves and are secreted by the endocrine ells to foster and regulate physiological processes like growth, development, metabolism, and reproduction.
However, your choice of protein is as important as increasing your protein intake. First, for vegans, you can opt for quinoa, seeds, spirulina, or vegan protein powders because they contain the essential amino acids the body needs. Also, as much as you can, for organic products because they have fewer toxins that distort the endocrine system.
Finally, experts recommend between 20 to 39 grams of protein in each meal to boost hormone health.
Reduce Sugar Intake
Reducing or avoiding sugar plays a crucial role in improving overall hormone functions and preventing distortion of essential hormones like cortisol (stress hormone), aldosterone (the hormone that controls blood pressure), and other organs that control hormone secretion like the thyroid gland.
Yet, most definitively, sugar affects insulin production, which links to metabolic-related conditions like insulin resistance, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and more.
Although sugar, like every other form of food, is essential for proper bodily function, the definitive factor lies in the kind and amount of sugar consumed (see the full article on sugar here). Natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables like grapes, bananas, and cherries, and green peas mix with vitamins and minerals in these fruits to offer numerous health benefits, including stabilizing metabolism and increasing satiety.
However, refined sugar or added sugar found in high-carb foods like white bread, soda, processed cereals, canned fruits, and more causes insulin spikes, stalls metabolism, and increases the body’s insulin resistance(1).
Overall, cutting down on high-carb foods and replacing them with healthy natural sugars found in fruits or natural sugar substitutes will go a long way in helping your body balance its hormone production.
Physical activity has a strong influence on hormonal health. Studies reveal that being physically active, say taking the stairs instead of an elevator, or regular walking can boost muscle-maintaining hormones that decline with age, like DHEA hormone (a natural hormone that helps to correct hormonal problems, improve sexual function and decrease body fat).
Better yet, aerobic exercises, strength training, and endurance exercise can increase insulin sensitivity, reduce insulin levels, insulin resistance, and regulate leptin production.
So, as much as you can, try to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle, or better, engage in aerobic exercise.
Stress affects two powerful hormones in the body- cortisol, and adrenaline. While cortisol helps the body manage stress, adrenaline gives your body the energy surge required to respond in times of danger.
Chronic or prolonged stress will cause cortisol levels to remain elevated. On the other hand, high cortisol levels typically shut down some of the body’s functions to direct its energy towards the stressor. Hence, increased calorie intake and belly fat.
Prolonged stress also keeps the adrenaline levels high, causing a temporal increase in blood pressure, anxiety, and heart rate.
Overall, irrespective of the stressor, distressing activities such as massage, healthy eating, and mediation can help to improve both hormone performances (7).
Lack of quality sleep plays a significant role in contributing to hormonal imbalances. In fact, several studies show links between sleep and imbalances in cortisol, growth hormone, ghrelin, insulin, and leptin.
So, it is necessary to pay attention to the quality of sleep you get because sleep helps to release growth hormones and balance other hormones in the body.
Though it varies by age, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends daily sleep between 8 – 10 hours.
Increase Healthy fat Intake
Healthy fats like Medium-Chain triglycerides (MCT) found in coconut oil, yogurt, or seeds like chia seed, flaxseed, and nuts can help reduce insulin resistance and increase leptin production.
MCTs are unique fats that the body converts directly to energy rather than fats. They speed up metabolism, regulating metabolic-related hormones.
Trans fats such as fried fast foods (chicken and French fries), cheese, margarine, and more promote insulin resistance and increase belly fat (2)
Overall, it would be best to consume healthy fats at each meal to improve your hormone health.
In simple terms, toxins alter lots of the body’s metabolic activities and, ultimately, your overall health. Although the liver is responsible for detoxing (removing toxins) the body, it can become overpowered by high amounts of toxins and affect its hormone levels.
Each day, we expose ourselves to many chemicals, including those in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the products we use, and the water we drink. These chemicals disrupt the endocrine system, even chiefly the production and operations of the hormones.
You can limit toxin exposure by thoroughly washing vegetables and fruits, consuming organic foods, and other steps we shared in our blog, “how toxins cause weight gain.” However, you can take care of already ingested toxins and reboot your metabolism by following the steps in this free 3-day cleanse guide.
Hormonal imbalances describe distortion of the endocrine system’s normal functioning, causing hormone production and secretion changes in the bloodstream. Hormonal imbalances can affect anyone and are caused by many reasons, including medications, chemotherapy, stress, eating disorders, menopause, PCOS, and more.
Fortunately, hormonal imbalances can be reversed naturally through regular exercise, stress management, decreased toxin intake, reduced sugar intake, and increased protein intake.
It would be best to start with removing toxins from your body and applying other suggested changes to your rebooted and fully-function endocrine system. You can start with my free 3-day mini cleanse or my 2-week winter/fall detox program for a more comprehensive yet stress-free approach to removing toxic compounds and restore your natural body function.