Hormones have the power to control more than just a woman’s menstrual cycle. Mood swings, acne, low sex drive, and infertility are all signs that you may have a hormonal imbalance. If left untreated, these symptoms can worsen over time, developing into chronic issues.
The good news is, you don’t have to let the hormonal roller-coaster control your health. Below are six lifestyle changes you can make to balance your hormones.
1. Use Hormonal Birth Control
Many women use hormonal birth control to help prevent pregnancy. However, birth control’s benefits go far beyond family planning. Hormonal options, including the pill, patch, and ring, can help women dealing with hormone disorders better manage their symptoms.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is one of the leading causes of female infertility. Many women dealing with this condition develop ovarian cysts. While ovarian cysts aren’t dangerous, they can be painful. To prevent the growth of ovarian cysts and treat other symptoms associated with PCOS, many doctors prescribe their patients hormonal contraceptives. When combined with lifestyle changes, birth control can help women with hormonal conditions regulate their symptoms.
2. Get the Right Amount of Movement
From promoting heart health to building strong muscles, exercise benefits your body in myriad ways. But many people don’t know it’s also a powerful tool to help regulate your hormones. When you make movement part of your day, you increase your body’s hormone receptor sensitivity. This increases both hormone signals and nutrient delivery.
However, too much of a good thing has its drawbacks. Women who engage in extreme exercise, like marathon training, may experience a spike in cortisol. This can cause insomnia, irritability, and loss of menstruation. You don’t need to toss out your running shoes, but make sure you’re getting adequate rest between workouts.
3. Reduce Your Dairy Intake
Dairy products are a great source of protein and calcium. But if you’re dealing with hormone imbalances, you may want to cut back on the ice cream. Animal milk contains the hormone Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1). This hormone is amazing for helping baby animals grow but not so amazing for folks dealing with hormone imbalances.
IGF-1 encourages your body to produce more androgen hormones like testosterone. This can worsen hormonal imbalances, causing acne, thinning hair, and weight gain. Reducing your dairy intake helps reduce excess androgens in your body, improving symptoms. If you’re not ready to cut dairy out completely, try incorporating a few dairy-free substitutions into your day. You might replace half-and-half with soy creamer or swap out cheesy toppings in favor of nutritional yeast.
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4. Find Your Zen
Work deadlines and life obligations are unavoidable, but too much stress takes a toll on your health. When you’re under extreme stress, your body produces more cortisol. This negatively impacts your sex drive and can lead to irregular periods. Cortisol also increases cravings for junk food, making you more likely to overeat and gain weight.
Eliminating all of life’s stressors isn’t a realistic solution. However, learning how to manage stress can help reduce cortisol production and improve your hormonal health. Mindfulness activities like meditation and yoga have been the go-to solutions for stress reduction. However, research shows that music also has the power to improve mood and reduce cortisol.
5. Eat Healthy Fat
Fat-free diets have given fat a bad rap. The popularity of fat-free foods has caused women to avoid eating this macronutrient, fearing it will make them gain weight. However, eating enough healthy fat can promote both weight loss and hormone health. Fat helps our body maintain a healthy hormone function. Omega-3 fat sources, in particular, make it easier for women’s bodies to balance testosterone.
If you’re looking for ways to increase your fat intake, try adding more fatty fish to your diet. Salmon and mackerel are both rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Don’t have access to fresh fish? Top salads off with canned mackerel or turn canned salmon into salmon burgers.
6. Get More Sleep
It’s hard to hit the sheets when you’re in the middle of watching “Stranger Things.” But unfortunately, all those late-night Netflix binges can take a toll on your hormonal health. A poor night of sleep impacts many hormones, including cortisol, insulin, and leptin. This can lead to increased hunger and stress.
If you’re not used to going to bed early, getting the recommended amount of sleep may be a challenge. However, developing an evening routine that prepares your body for rest can help. Activities like taking a warm shower and reading a good book help relax the mind, making it easier to fall asleep.
7. Skip the Sugar
Starting your day with a Starbucks frappuccino may sound delicious, but it wreaks havoc on your hormones. Eating excessive amounts of sugar can lead to insulin resistance, causing increased testosterone production and inflammation.
So how do you keep the sugar cravings at bay? Eating well balanced meals full of healthy fat, protein, and complex carbs is a great place to start. Filling, healthy foods help to stabilize your blood sugar, reducing cravings.
Don’t let the hormonal roller-coaster get in the way of living your healthiest and happiest life. If you think you have a hormone imbalance, talk with your doctor about implementing the changes above.