Unfortunately as women, we’ve been taught that suffering through crippling cramps, mood swings, skin woes, and intense cravings is expected. But I want to let you in on a secret: none of those scenarios are a normal part of womanhood. They are sneaky signs you probably have a hormonal imbalance. Good news is, you can heal your hormones. You can experience drama-free periods, vibrant energy, and stable moods. Today, we’re uncovering how to take a natural approach to balancing your hormones. Plus, essential supplements for hormonal imbalance.
What is the fifth vital sign?
Each month—during the years between puberty and menopause—a woman’s body goes through a number of changes. This series of hormone-driven events is called the menstrual cycle. Some experts refer to it as the fifth vital sign. It starts on the first day of your period and ends before your next period starts. On average, a very healthy cycle looks like 25-32 days, with bleeding lasting approximately five days. That said, every woman’s body is different.
As a menstruating woman, it’s important to understand the four stages of your menstrual cycle. After all, each stage is completely different. Supporting each phase, uniquely, is the key to a more seamless period. For example, here’s everything you need to know about the follicular phase! Once you get to know your flow, it will become an integral part of your lifestyle. You’ll learn how to adapt your schedule (personal and professional), diet, and exercise habits to nourish your hard-working body.
What Causes Irregular Menstrual Cycles?
Every woman’s menstrual cycle is different. Some women get their period at the same time each month. Others are more irregular. Some women bleed more heavily or for a longer number of days than others. Your menstrual cycle can also change during certain times of your life. That said, it’s really helpful to track your periods. Eventually, the goal is to sync your cycle with your life. Pregnancy aside, any of these things can alter your menstrual cycle, causing hormonal imbalance:
- Birth control. The birth control pill may make your periods shorter and lighter (or disappear, entirely).
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). This hormonal imbalance prevents an egg from developing normally in the ovaries. PCOS causes irregular menstrual cycles and missed periods.
- Fibroids. These noncancerous growths in your uterus can make your periods longer and heavier than usual.
- Inflammatory diet. Oftentimes, the root cause of hormonal imbalance is inflammation. Chronic inflammation can damage the cells in your endocrine glands. What’s surprising is that the inflammation (that causes hormonal imbalances) often starts in the gut.
- Endocrine disruptors. When absorbed in the body, an endocrine disruptor can decrease or increase normal hormone levels, mimic the body’s natural hormones, or alter the natural production of hormones.
- An eating disorder. Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders can disrupt your menstrual cycle and make your periods stop.
This is not an exhaustive list of reasons why a menstrual cycle can be irregular. If you sense your period is irregular (short, long, existent, or you spot between cycles, please reach out to your healthcare provider, or let’s work together!)
How to Balance Your Hormones, Naturally
Ultimately, consistency and commitment are key. How to balance your hormones, naturally, is all-encompassing. It includes lifestyle, diet, and supplements for hormonal imbalance. High level, you want to focus on an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense diet, remove endocrine disruptors and inflammatory oils, incorporate stress relief habits, and take the necessary steps to get your gut health on track. Finding a balance with exercise is important, too. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, start small. Begin by getting blood work done (talk to your physician about this). A hormone health panel will give you insight into specific supplements for hormonal imbalance. Next, consider your diet. Swap processed, refined carbs for sweet potatoes, 100% whole grains, and quinoa. The following week, commit to moving your body, every day, for 20 minutes (yes, walking counts!). The week after, begin a daily meditation practice. One step at a time.
How Long Does It Take to Balance Hormones?
As you can imagine, this varies. However, research shows that by taking a holistic, well-rounded approach, you can balance your hormones in less than four months. In fact, you can significantly reduce the amount of chemicals and pesticides in your body, in one week. How so? Switch to an organic diet. And in less than 10 days, you can improve your blood sugar by eating less sugar (a main culprit in estrogen dominance). By incorporating more fermented foods and a potent probiotic, women can more easily detox estrogen, which helps balance hormones—in less than two months. By four months, eating a hormonally-supportive diet makes an impact, slowing the aging process and protecting fertility.
Do You Need to Take Supplements for hormonal imbalance?
The million dollar question. It’s important to understand that we’re all bio-individuals. Meaning, we all have unique nutritional needs—that includes supplements. While supplements are heavily marketed, not everyone needs them. Some women who have hormonal imbalances don’t require additional vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements. They’re able to regain their cycle, minimize PMS, etc. by eating a nourishing diet and keeping blood sugar balanced. However, keep in mind that there’s a difference between a “reference range” and an “optimal range” for nutrients. When possible, optimal is ideal. Supplements can be incredibly useful for not only filling gaps in your diet, but also helping you reach optimal levels for balanced hormones. My supplement guide is here to do both.
3 Things to Consider Before Taking a New Supplement
Whether you’re eyeing new supplements or you’re already taking a few, here’s how to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck:
- Have you been diagnosed with a deficiency (iron, vitamin D, etc.)? What does your blood work report? Make sure that what you’re taking has a targeted purpose. Rather than waste your money on unneeded supplements, get your healthcare provider’s stamp of approval first. In the context of nutritional counseling, supplement guidance by a professional is key.
- Just because a supplement comes from a “natural” food store, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. Do your research. Be wary if you’re currently taking other prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs.
- Know how much of the supplement you’re supposed to take. A common misconception about dietary supplements is that if a vitamin or mineral is good for you, increasing your intake might deliver additional health benefits. This isn’t the case. For example, too much vitamin D can actually weaken bones, and biotin—a popular supplement to improve skin, nails, and hair—can interfere with lab-test results when taken at high levels.
Work with your healthcare provider to sufficiently answer these questions.
Simple Supplement Guide
Eating a well-rounded diet should provide you with most of the nutrients your body needs to produce hormones. However, it’s nearly impossible for us to eat perfectly balanced foods all the time. And unfortunately, the typical standard American diet is void of most major nutrients we need for optimal health. In part, this is why women have hormonal imbalances! In addition to seed cycling, below are my recommended supplements for hormonal imbalance. However, please consult your physician or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement routine.
Vitamin D / K2
Did you know that vitamin D is actually a hormone? The more you know! Every cell in the body has a receptor for vitamin D. Vitamin D is responsible for hormone health, immune regulation, absorption of calcium and phosphorus, maintenance of healthy bones, and protection against multiple diseases. Research shows that more than 100 million Americans are deficient in vitamin D. At any rate, it’s essential to help balance hormones. As a fat-soluble vitamin, take it with your fattiest meal of the day to ensure absorption. Or, take your vitamin D and your fish oil supplement together. Last but not least, vitamin K2 is ideally taken with vitamin D, as vitamin K2 is the key to bone health. It helps to ensure vitamin D gets to your bones.
The B vitamin family consists of B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6, B7 (biotin) and B12. Each B vitamin has a different function: reducing inflammation, supporting hormonal function, supporting nerve and heart health, and maintaining a healthy metabolism and digestive system. A B12 supplement, specifically, is important for plant based-eaters. Low levels of B12 can cause extreme fatigue, anemia, numbness, and more. Below is my favorite supplement for B vitamins. It provides a whole-food source of all eight B vitamins + choline, inositol, and PABA. This supplement helps support and balance your energy, metabolism, mood, and nervous system. Plus, it’s made with certified organic ingredients.
Omega-3 Fatty Acid (Fish Oil)
Due to large doses of industrial seed oils, most Americans are over-consuming omega-6 fatty acids. We now have an average inflammatory ratio of 15:1 (omega-6:omega-3), instead of the ideal 1:1 ratio. To combat this, it’s helpful to include an omega-3 supplement. The best omega-3 comes from fish oil, like cod liver oil. Omega-3 fatty acids are the starting point for making hormones that regulate everything from blood clotting to inflammation. They’re also a wonderful source of lignans—compounds that may have a weak estrogen effect.
Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body. This includes calming the nervous system, improves blood sugar balance, activates vitamin D, supports thyroid health, and can help minimize PMS.
Last but not least, consider adding a spore-based probiotic to your supplement routine (especially if you don’t eat fermented foods, dairy, etc.). Roughly 80% of our immune system is located in our gut. Supporting its health is key. Unfortunately, our gut’s delicate ecosystem can be broken down by a number of influences—antibiotics, stress, sugar, and chemicals. Consuming probiotic-rich foods—like sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchi—as well as supplementing with probiotics can support your digestion, hormones, and more.
Estrogen dominant? Consider a DIM supplement. DIM supplements appear to help adjust the hormone, estrogen. A few clinical trials have shown that it supports healthy estrogen levels, lowering the risk of certain cancers and diseases that are linked to estrogen.
I hope this guide to supplements for hormonal imbalance is helpful! For best results, we can work together create a personalized plan for you.
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