However, hormonal imbalances have become increasingly common with today’s fast-paced modern lifestyle. In addition, certain hormones decline with age, and some people experience a more dramatic decrease than others.
Fortunately, a nutritious diet and other healthy lifestyle behaviors may help improve your hormonal health and allow you to feel and perform your best.
Use Adaptogen Herbs
Adaptogen herbs are a unique class of healing plants that promote hormone balance and protect the body from a wide variety of diseases, including those caused by excess stress. In addition to boosting immune function and combating stress, research shows that various adapotogens — such as ashwagandha, medicinal mushrooms, rhodiola and holy basil — can:
- Improve thyroid function
- Lower cholesterol naturally
- Reduce anxiety and depression
- Reduce brain cell degeneration
- Stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels
- Support adrenal gland functions
Address Emotional Imbalances
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, internal emotions have a direct impact on a person’s health and addressing emotional imbalances, external factors and lifestyle choices can help to prevent health conditions associated with hormonal imbalances.
TCM practitioners believe that the emotions of fear cause disease in your reproductive organs, kidneys and adrenals, affecting cortisol levels. This can lead to serious conditions like PCOS and infertility. The emotions of frustration, impatience and un-forgiveness cause disease in your liver, which can lead to an estrogen imbalance. And emotions of worry and anxiety can cause issues with your insulin levels, which can then affect several hormones.
A major component of balancing your hormones naturally is addressing any emotional imbalances that you are dealing with. You can do this by reducing stress levels, engaging in personal reflection and taking time for yourself. Practicing meditation or healing prayer can be extremely beneficial, and so can deep breathing exercises, spending time outdoors and exercising every day. Traditional Chinese Medicine therapies like acupuncture and massage can also help to improve hormonal balance, combat stress and improve blood flow.
Your emotions and hormones are connected, so by working to balance one, you are impacting the other. If you are ever feeling stressed, angry, agitated or even fearful, understand that this is affecting your hormone balance and can lead to even bigger health issues. Keep working on your emotional balance by making it part of your daily routine.
Eat Enough Protein at Every Meal
Dietary protein provides essential amino acids that your body can’t make on its own and must be consumed every day in order to maintain muscle, bone and skin health. To optimize hormone health, experts recommend consuming a minimum of 20–30 grams of protein per meal. This is easy to do by including a serving of high-protein foods at each meal.
Engage in Regular Exercise
Insulin is a hormone that has several functions. One is allowing cells to take up sugar and amino acids from the bloodstream, which are then used for energy and maintaining muscle. High insulin levels have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. What’s more, they are connected to insulin resistance, a condition in which your cells don’t respond properly to insulin’s signals. Being physically active may also help boost levels of muscle-maintaining hormones that decline with age, such as testosterone, IGF-1, DHEA and growth hormone. For people who are unable to perform vigorous exercise, even regular walking may increase these hormone levels, potentially improving strength and quality of life.
Avoid Sugar and Refined Carbs
Indeed, avoiding or minimizing these foods may be instrumental in optimizing hormone function and avoiding obesity, diabetes and other diseases. In one study, people with pre-diabetes experienced similar increases in insulin levels and insulin resistance whether they consumed 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of honey, sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.
In addition, diets high in refined carbs like white bread and pretzels may promote insulin resistance in a large portion of adults and adolescents
Learn to Manage Stress
Adrenaline is the “fight-or-flight” hormone that provides your body with a surge of energy to respond to immediate danger.
However, unlike hundreds of years ago when these hormones were mainly triggered by threats from predators, today they’re usually triggered by people’s busy, often overwhelming lifestyles.
Unfortunately, chronic stress causes cortisol levels to remain elevated, which can lead to excessive calorie intake and obesity, including increased belly fat.
Elevated adrenaline levels can cause high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and anxiety. However, these symptoms are usually fairly short-lived because, unlike cortisol, adrenaline is less likely to become chronically elevated.
Avoid Overeating and Underreacting
Eating too much or too little may result in hormonal shifts that lead to weight problems. Eating within your own personal calorie range can help you maintain hormonal balance and a healthy weight.
Get High-Quality Sleep
No matter how nutritious your diet is and how much exercise you get, your health will suffer if you don’t get enough restorative sleep. Unless you get 7–8 hours of sleep every night, you’re doing your body no favors.
Poor sleep has been linked to imbalances of many hormones, including insulin, cortisol, leptin, ghrelin and growth hormone. Moreover, it’s not only the quantity of sleep you get that matters. Quality of sleep is also important.
Your brain needs uninterrupted sleep that allows it to go through all five stages of each sleep cycle. This is especially important for the release of growth hormone, which occurs mainly at night during deep sleep.