As an OB-GYN with a background in integrative and holistic medicine, I see many female patients wondering if they’ve got a hormone imbalance. That’s because as a woman heads into her 40s and 50s, estrogen and progesterone levels can change, causing weight gain that stubbornly sticks on, poor sleep, lackluster skin, and skipped periods. And that’s not all: big hormone shifts can start to happen as early as your 30s.
That’s the bad news. Now, here’s the good news: you can rewind your hormones to youthful levels. And, you can do it naturally.
To make lasting change, it is crucial to develop lifestyle strategies that gradually rebalance hormones. These are not overnight fixes, but rather interventions that reset the ways your hormones function. Here’s what I suggest to my patients who have a hormone imbalance, and want to tackle it naturally:
Put out the fire in your body
Your body might be experiencing inflammation. Certain eating habits (more on that below) can cause an overproduction of insulin, which in turn increases the production of cortisol – our stress hormone. This is the one that exacerbates inflammation, so try tweaking your diet a bit. There’s a lot of research on the anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 fatty acids, found in nuts, avocados, and olive oils, which also all contain vitamin E: a wellness superstar. And in general, eating in a way that favors plants and clean proteins (lean an organic meats, nuts, fish, etc.) will enhance your digestion and mineral intake, setting up your hormones to work as efficiently as possible, minimizing inflammation.
What happens when you eat the opposite way? Taking in lots of rice, cereal, and white bread daily? You run into insulin and cortisol overproduction, which negatively impacts the delicate balance of other hormones in your body, such as estrogen and progesterone. Those two in particular are responsible for helping us feel youthful and energetic, so think of today’s meals as an investment in tomorrow’s vibrancy.
Try some energy hacks
I know I know, I’m probably the 25th person this week to preach to you about sleep – but guess what? It’s all true! Sleep amount and quality really does have a profound effect on your hormone levels. That being said, spotty sleep may not be your fault: diminishing levels of estrogen and progesterone as we age can certainly affect your slumber. So here’s what I suggest: carving out time for meditation.
“But wait – I thought I needed to use any extra time I have to sleep, not meditate?” you may ask. Great point. What we’re doing here though is training your brain to power off. With time, your waking brain will get used to shutting down (and staying down) throughout the night. So power down all devices, phone, TV, etc., 45 minutes to an hour before bed, then settle into a meditation of your choice. It needn’t be long: 10 minutes to start is fine. This practice help you fall into a deep, peaceful, restorative sleep, and what’s more? It will help regulate your stress hormone levels, which in turn benefits our estrogen and progesterone levels.
Supplement like a pro
Not a pro wrestler (ha), but a pro wellness expert.
When you’ve got a hormone imbalance, it’s so important to holistically evaluate your lifestyle, with practices like an anti-inflammatory diet, better sleep, and meditation. Each will help take the load off your adrenal glands, and make sure you’re not over-pumping cortisol into your body.
However, it’s equally important to supplement strategically, so that you’re not only cutting down on the production of particular hormones (like cortisol), but actively encouraging the production of others. So, which vitamins/supplements help us restore our natural vitality?
My number one recommendation is chaste berry. It’s been found to help support the production of progesterone, which impacts nearly all cells of a woman’s body. It boosts serotonin production, memory, bone strength, and conversion of stored fat to energy. My favorite product to recommend patients is Asensia, because research suggests it can boost progesterone by 153 percent.
I also advise patients to take black cohosh if they’re experiencing hot flashes, an herbal medicine that also works to support female hormone levels. Moreover, a good B-complex also enhances optimum hormone levels, eases your body’s response to stress, and has been shown to help with both PMS symptoms and fatigue.
By giving all of these lifestyle practices a try, you’re not only rewinding your hormones back to youthful levels – you are healing your body in deep ways. Take note of the positive changes, and look forward to the energy, peaceful sleep, and vitality of your youth. Cheers!
For more information on Dr. Suzanne Gilbert-Lenz, visit online at www.thedrsuzanne.com
Photo: Lesly B. Juarez