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Almost half of all U.S. women aged 30 to 60 say their hormones have at one time “negatively affected their overall wellbeing.” What’s more, a majority had no idea at the time that it was their hormones affecting them.
“There is just no reason to suffer like this because of a hormone imbalance, when there are known diet and lifestyle choices we can make to alleviate our symptoms, and even calm our fears,” stated Dr. Anna Cabeca, author of The Hormone Fix, in a 2019 interview with the New York Post.
I wholeheartedly agree! It is important for women (and men!) to know about hormonal health. After all, how can you “fix” something if you don’t know what is wrong in the first place?
What are Hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that help control many body functions, including in the liver, digestive system, the nervous system, and, of course, the reproductive system. Hormones also help to regulate responses to stimuli and emotions.
The endocrine system is the network of hormonal communication that happens in glands and receptor sites throughout the body. The “commander in chief” of this system is the thyroid. Other glands and organs play a part, including the pancreas, the gut, the liver, the hypothalamus, the pineal body, the pituitary, the parathyroid, the thymus, the adrenal glands, the ovaries in women, and the testis in men.
All of these organs and glands produce the hormonal substances that our bodies need. Many people have heard of the most common hormones that can contribute to healing, such as dopamine and serotonin. You may also have heard of the stress-related hormone cortisol. But did you know that insulin, which helps metabolize glucose, is also a hormone? There are actually dozens of hormones in our bodies, and they each have a job to do.
Are Our Natural Hormones and Stages of Life to Blame for Hormone Imbalance?
We are taught from day one to fear our hormones, especially estrogen, and to even take drugs to stop their production. However, both women and men have certain hormones for a reason, and we both naturally go through the cycles of life where these hormones may change. Think about it. For women, puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause are all natural processes we have gone through for centuries.
I’m just going to say it: Natural processes and substances do not cause disease. Epigenetic stressors such as toxins, stress, nutritional deficiencies, and poor diet do!
“Don’t be afraid of your body’s naturally-produced hormones,” says Dr. Veronique Desaulniers of BreastCancerConqueror.com (and one of our Ask the Expert contributors). “Your hormones are part of your overall biological makeup. They are essential for the healthy function of all of your body systems, not just your reproductive system. What’s more, they are an important part of what makes you uniquely you!”
Endocrine Disruptors: Chemicals That Can Throw Hormones Off
The real cause of pain and suffering around hormonal imbalance has to do with toxic load. And the biggest culprits are endocrine disruptors (EDs). In a nutshell, endocrine-disrupting chemicals create artificial “mimics” of natural hormonal substances in the body. Some examples of endocrine disruptors are xenoestrogens and halides. Many endocrine disruptors are especially harmful because they take a long time to break down in the body.
Xenoestrogens are endocrine disruptors that mimic the aggressive form of estrogen in your body called estradiol. They also interfere with healthy gene expression in response to estrogen.
While the three kinds of estrogen that are produced naturally in your body (estradiol, estrone, and estriol, as well as estrane if you are pregnant) are vitally important for many functions in a woman’s body (and for men too, in smaller amounts), xenoestrogens bring nothing but disease.
Xenoestrogens are linked to reproductive cancer in both men and women. They are found in dozens of products in our modern world.
Some of the most common sources of xenoestrogens are:
BPA, or Bisphenol A, found in plastic water bottles, styrofoam, tin cans, epoxy resins, and dozens of other materials
- 4-MBC, in sunscreens and other sundry products
- Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that exists in everything from fabrics and insulation materials to laundry soap and cosmetics
- Phthalates, found in many items like toys to cosmetics
- Triclosan, primarily in hand sanitizers and soaps
- Parabens, a carcinogen included in many sundry products
- Glyphosate, the main ingredient in fertilizers like Roundup and also in GMO foods
- Metalloestrogens, including aluminum, mercury, lead, copper, and found in many sundry products, such as aluminum in antiperspirants, as well as in cookware and in the environment at large
- Growth Hormones, found in commercial meat and dairy products
- BHA, in processed foods
- Waste products from oral contraceptive and synthetic hormone replacement therapy products found in municipal water supplies
How Halides Affect the Thyroid
Halide chemicals contain halogen atoms. The “big ones” include chlorine, bromide, fluoride, and perchlorate. These chemicals can be found in everything from table salt (chlorine) and bread (bromide) to jet fuel (perchlorate) and municipal water supplies (all four).
Halide overload can be devastating to healthy hormonal activity. Halides will “take up space” in cellular receptors for iodine in the thyroid and pretty much everywhere else that utilizes this essential mineral. Iodine is the “food” for the thyroid as well as for mammary glands and other areas of the reproductive systems of both men and women.
A study done at UCLA found that exposure to perchlorate resulted in significantly lower thyroid hormone levels as well as higher incidence of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a common thyroid-related autoimmune condition, Perchlorate is used in the aerospace industry and shows up in water supplies and in the air.
10 Natural Ways to Restore Hormonal Balance
Now that you understand the major causes of hormonal imbalance, let’s take a look at what you can do NOW to regain balance.
1 | Stay Away from Endocrine Disruptors
After all that we discussed above, this may seem obvious. Simply replacing harmful foods, sundry products, and household cleaners with non-toxic ones will begin the process of balancing your hormones.
Be vigilant and know what you are buying with each purchase. A great resource is the Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Living App which grades food, sundry, and cleaning products based on safety. You can also view a listing of endocrine disrupting chemicals created by six European Union member countries by clicking HERE.
2 | Detox Heavy Metals and Halides
Heavy metal toxicity, including metalloestrogens, is no joke, since these substances can not only affect your reproductive system, but your brain as well. If you feel that you have heavy metal toxicity, be sure to get tested if you need to and then put into place a protocol for yourself to start detoxing them right away.
The best way to do this is through natural foods, especially those that have chlorophyll in them. Green leaves like kale and spinach are great in this regard, but the best is probably cilantro. Put cilantro on salads, soups, and in any way possible, or consider including a juice of celery and cilantro a few times a week to help you flush the metals.
In order to get metals out of your system, they often need to “bind” to another substance to be flushed out. Activated charcoal is great for this, as is bentonite clay.
An “iodine loading test” can help you determine if you are low in this essential mineral. Many labs that offer this can test for halide toxicity in the same panel. There are different protocols to flush each of the different halides from your body if you have them. Be sure to do your own research or connect with a natural health professional to what works for you!
3 | Consider Gentle Phytoestrogens
Estradiol estrogen dominance is the key factor in everything from fibroid tumors and PCOS to breast and uterine cancer. Phytonutrients found in plants replace xenoestrogens and leave them no room to land. Good riddance!
The whole food that has the most research behind it in terms of being both hormone balancing and cancer preventative is flaxseeds. A 2014 University of Toronto study found that flax assisted in metabolizing estrogens in larger quantities than soy. Other studies have found a connection between daily consumption and breast cancer prevention and healing.
Flax also contains omega 3 fatty acid, gut-healing Alpha Lipoic Acid, and is high in magnesium.
Other substances that can have a mild estrogenic effect include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, celery, green tea, milk thistle, sea kelp and sea cucumber, and many forms of medicinal mushrooms.
So, what about soy?
Soy in its natural form also contains phytoestrogens which mimic milder forms of estrogen. However, soy has been genetically modified to such an extent that pretty much all of the soy products you see out there tend to do more harm than good. If you want to use soy for hormone balancing, make sure to stick with non-GMO, natural forms such as tofu, natto, or fermented varieties.
4 | Support Your Thyroid
Remember all those nasty halide chemicals I mentioned earlier? You may recall that they tend to accumulate in areas of the body that are iodine dependent. Their favorite place is the thyroid. The thyroid can also be negatively affected by radiation exposure, including chemotherapy radiation.
There are many things you can do to help your thyroid get back “online” without taking thyroid replacement medication. I am not recommending going against the advice of your physician. I would like to point out, however, that the majority of the thyroid issues these days are actually autoimmune in nature. Many natural health experts will say that while drugs like Synthroid may work for some people in the short run, they are not addressing the root cause of the autoimmune component. This means that, in the long run, they may be doing more harm than good.
Besides healing Leaky Gut and lowering stress, which are two components of almost all autoimmune disease, there are some supplements that can help. The B vitamin thiamin, thyroid glandulars, and especially a gentle form of iodine called nascent iodine can all be greatly beneficial to helping to get your thyroid back online. Remember that iodine is the “food” for the thyroid!
Finally, essential oils can gently coax the thyroid towards health. Clary sage in particular has been shown to be beneficial for hormonal health across the board. It can also lower cortisol levels and lift mood. Healing the thyroid and helping it to function properly again can be tricky. The best thing you can do is to connect with a natural health professional to help you, especially if you intend on supplementing with iodine for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or Grave’s disease.
5 | Get Enough Vitamin D
Getting enough vitamin D in your system is absolutely vital for your hormonal health. This is because, in reality, vitamin D is not a “vitamin.” It is a steroid hormone that affects dozens of genes in your body.
Vitamin D helps to regulate estrogen pathways in women, and there is a direct correlation between low D levels and reproductive cancers. In addition, an investigation sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Durham, North Carolina, found that women of menstruating age with D levels below 30 ng/ml had low naturally occurring estrogen levels (remember that naturally occurring estrogen is a good thing). The researchers speculated that this had something to do with Vitamin D’s role in regulating fecundability, or the timing of when conception can occur.
Sadly, there is a vitamin D deficiency in the United States. This may be one of the causes of the rise in hormonal imbalance and estrogen dominance overall. The United States currently lags behind in official vitamin D recommendations. The official US safe level of vitamin D in the blood is 30-60 ng per liter, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Many other countries recommend amounts that are much higher for optimal health.
Be sure to get your D levels checked periodically since they can change over time and spend a little time in the sun every day if possible. Most people also have to supplement as well. Activation of vitamin D occurs at the cellular level with the help of vitamin K2, so be sure to take vitamin D3 and K2 together if you supplement.
6 | Cut the Sugar
Cutting sugar helps the hormones that are responsible for metabolism first and foremost. You probably already know that eating high-sugar/high-carb foods spikes insulin. What you may not know is that high sugar can also wear out your pancreas over time.
Insulin is made in the “Islets of Langerhans” within the pancreas. Somatostatin, glucagon, and pancreatic polypeptide (PP) are other hormones created there that help with metabolism and communication with the liver. High sugar consumption over a long time can not only lead to weight gain (another major avenue of hormone imbalance) but can also lead to a permanently damaged pancreas and Diabetes mellitus.
Another way that sugar can lead to hormone imbalance is through the gut. Did you know that the gut houses its own nervous system and also produces neurotransmitters as well as hormones within its “microbiome?” One of the key hormones that is produced in the gut is melatonin. Melatonin is necessary for healthy sleep and for the production of serotonin, as we will learn about later on.
Studies have found that consuming added sugars in childhood can cause gut microbiome alterations which can affect the absorption of nutrients and also immune function, neurological health, and hormone production. A 2017 study conducted by Georgia State University found that increasing fiber in the diet had the opposite effect, while also helping to lower obesity and strengthened the colon.
This vicious cycle can be stopped, but first, you have to stop the sugar! Cutting sugar doesn’t mean you can never have a piece of pie or a chocolate chip cookie. It does mean that you may want to consider a lighter sugar load or using natural sugar replacements such as monk fruit or stevia for a while as you let your system heal. Scaling back on the amount of sugar and simple carbs you consume is a healthy choice over the long term as well.
7 | Lower Stress
When you are under stress, you are also under the hormones of stress. Stress responses are hormonal in nature, and chronic stress ties directly to hormone imbalance. Cortisol is the main stress hormone that is released during periods of “fight or flight.” When this hormone is being released the majority of the time (as is the case with chronic stress), the body begins to create more cellular receptor sites for cortisol.
This means fewer receptor sites for healing hormones like serotonin and dopamine and higher inflammation systemwide. It also means that estrogen and progesterone levels get thrown off, as does gut chemistry. This can affect the absorption of nutrients, such as vitamins A and D, that are essential for hormonal health.
With chronic stress, other stress-related hormones get released on an ongoing basis as well. Two are adrenaline and norepinephrine. This constant release causes burnout in stress hormone centers. Over time, these centers become less effective and cannot perform when they are needed most, such as in times of real emergency. Chronic stress can be an underlying factor for pretty much all disease, including anxiety/depression.
The research is also clear regarding the ability of stress to raise cancer risk, too, especially reproductive system cancers. A 2006 study conducted at MD Anderson Cancer Center found that chronic behavioral stress led directly to tumor growth for ovarian carcinomas. In particular, the researchers discovered that stress led to greater expression of VEGF, a growth hormone connected to cancer tumors in adults.
If you suffer from chronic stress, have unresolved trauma, have PTSD, or just feel as if you are on a roller coaster that you can’t seem to get off of most days, then it is time to put into place new behaviors which can lower stress.
There are dozens of modalities out there that can help. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a type of meditation that has been studied the most for its benefits for overall health. A modality called EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique, has been shown to help reduce pain by calming pain receptors and inflammation. Studies with Vietnam Veterans, amongst others, have shown that it can help heal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
8 | Get Enough Sleep
The key to quality sleep is the ability to enter into deep restorative sleep and be able to sleep through the night. Quality sleep ensures adequate melatonin production. Low melatonin levels have also been linked to reproductive cancers.
Sleep is a tricky one though since hormonal imbalance, especially during menopause, can absolutely affect it. Then again, when you don’t get enough quality sleep, inflammation levels rise, and both melatonin and serotonin levels decrease.
So, what can you do?
As you stay away from toxins and sugar, you will probably see your sleep habits improve. Cutting sugar, especially at night, can stop those middle-of-the-night insulin spikes which may wake you up. In addition, lowering stress can calm inflammatory mechanisms and cortisol levels which can impede melatonin production.
There is also concrete evidence that exposure to “blue light” from computers and phone tablets has an effect on melatonin production as well. A report put together by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in 2018 found that long-term blue light exposure raised the risk of prostate and breast cancer. Be sure to turn off electronic devices (or wear glasses that block blue light) at least an hour before bedtime.
Supplements that help calm the nervous system and reinforce sleep hormones are L-Theanine, 5 HTP, magnesium, and even melatonin itself. Herbs such as chamomile and valerian can help you get a good night’s sleep as well.
9 | Move Your Body
Studies have found that some of the most influential and important hormones in the body are influenced positively by regular exercise. These include estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone but also the stress hormone cortisol. The key is to find what works for you so that you can experience the positive benefits of working out and not overstress.
Basically, chronic stress or overstressing the body in the short term leads to higher cortisol levels, adrenal burnout, inflammation, and hormonal imbalance. Short bursts of stress produce positive effects for your whole body, including your hormones.
Exercise inherently puts you in a state of stress. Short bursts of stress, caused by exercise or anything else for that matter, is called hormesis and is actually good for you. After all, dealing with short bursts of stress is what cortisol is designed for!
One of the mechanisms that can contribute to the positive effects of exercise is the creation of Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs). Healthy HSP production greatly improves metabolism at the mitochondrial level. It also produces a substance called PGC-1alpha, which is a vital component for mitochondrial biogenesis (the creation of new cellular mitochondria) and the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats.
A study conducted at Yale University found that “mitochondrial dysfunction is an important component of different diseases associated with aging, such as Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Participating in a HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) class, doing some Burst Training, or simply taking a brisk walk on a regular basis can all increase HSP production, boost the immune system, and balance your hormones!
10 | Go Bioidentical If You Are Considering Hormone Replacement
Finally, sometimes you just need a little reinforcement to get your hormones balanced again, especially during perimenopause and menopause. Many women turn to hormone replacement therapy as a way to get that reinforcement. Before you do, however, you should know the risks of pharmaceutical hormone replacement (SHR) therapy.
Even conventional sources recognize these risks. Based on countless studies, the Mayo Clinic states that taking SHR can raise a woman’s risk for stroke, blood clots, heart disease, and breast cancer.
There is another hormone replacement method that is side-effect-free for most women. Bioidentical hormone replacement (BHR) therapy uses all-natural herbs and other natural substances to provide extra estrogen and/or progesterone that the body may be lacking.
The French “Fournier Study” lasted over a decade and had over 80,000 participants. In the end, Fournier researchers found absolutely no increase in breast cancer risk to those women who used BHR therapy as well as natural progesterone.
In women, estrogen and progesterone are created in the ovaries, and both must be in balance. Supplementing with additional progesterone to correct the balance of estrogen to progesterone has been found by studies at Cambridge University and elsewhere to be cancer-protective.
BHR therapies can be a safe alternative to pharmaceuticals during menopause or whenever you need it. For millions of women, bioidenticals work to balance hormones and provide relief.
You CAN Heal from Hormonal Imbalance!
I know that all of this can be pretty overwhelming, especially if you are already experiencing brain fog, fatigue, pain, heavy periods, mood swings, weight gain, thyroid issues, or even infertility associated with hormonal imbalance.
You don’t have to heal it alone, however! I hope that this article has given you some insights into what may be causing these symptoms and what you can do about it. Putting these practices into place has helped thousands of women. They can lower your risks of reproductive cancer as well.
In addition, be sure to reach out and get the counsel of a qualified natural health practitioner or health coach to get the right tests, determine exactly what is going on, and come up with a game plan so that your body’s chemistry can balance again.
If external, i.e., epigenetic, factors such as xenoestrogens and halides can cause your hormones to go out of whack, then that means that putting into practice some healthy habits to get rid of them can heal them. These 10 actions are the first step towards a brand new, more balanced, and more vibrant YOU!
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