I’d like to introduce you to your hormones…
I like to think of our hormones like an orchestra. With each individual musician (hormone) working together to create harmony in our bodies.
In our world today, it can be a challenge to keep our hormones in harmony. Environmental toxins, xenoestrogens, stress, disrupted sleep, sugar, metabolic syndrome, blood sugar imbalance, gut dysfunction, medications, our age and nutrient deficiencies all can contribute to our hormone shifting out of balance.
Understanding our hormones, and their role can help us to bring more awareness to the caretaking we our bodies need to keep our hormone harmony.
Let’s Talk Sex Hormones
Estrogens, Progesterone,Testosterone, and DHEA are the main sex hormones in the female body. These hormones are known as steroid hormones that have a cholesterol backbone. Meaning they are produced from cholesterol. Which is why cholesterol is so important to us as women! Let’s break those hormones down further.
Estrogen is actually not singular, it includes three types. Estrone, also called E1, Estradiol or E2, and Estriol or E3. We have all three at all times, but in varying levels at different stages of life. Estradiol is our main estrogen, Estriol increases during pregnancy and Estrone increases during menopause.
Estrogen is produced primarily in the ovaries. It is also produced in the adrenals and can be produced in fat cells as well. It’s a major player in the functioning of the female body. Estrogen helps to maintain our brain, bone and heart health. It’s an anti-inflammatory hormone. It helps create our femininity, contributing to the curves of our body, and supports the maturing of breasts.
Estrogen leads in the first two weeks of our cycle, known as the follicular phase. The follicular phase is from day one of our cycle to ovulation – usually around day 14. This is a more energetic phase of our cycle as the body (and estrogen) works to release an egg. Estrogen not only leads at the beginning of our cycle, it also helps to support a thick lining in the uterus for a potential pregnancy.
Progesterone is the calming hormone. It’s produced by the corpus luteum, a temporary endocrine gland that forms after an egg is released. Once the egg is released, the follicle seals, creating a group of cells called the corpus luteum. These cells then produce progesterone. Progesterone also helps the uterine lining thicken and become fluffy so a fertilized egg can implant. It helps us sleep, and calms anxiety in the body. It supports cycle balance, lighter bleeding cycles, and a healthy metabolism.
Progesterone leads in the second half of our cycle known as the luteal phase. Another way to think of it is the lunar phase. This half of the cycle helps to prepare our bodies for fertilization of the egg, as well as implantation of a potential embryo.
Testosterone is an androgen or often known as a male hormone that is produced in the ovaries and adrenals. Testosterone supports our fertility, uterine health, and a healthy sex drive. It contributes to our confidence, bone health and brain health. It helps to turn fat into muscle, helps balance moods, and signals the body to produce new blood cells. It also helps support our motivation, assertiveness and energy levels.
DHEA is produced by the adrenals, and is a precursor to testosterone and estrogen. It is known as the hormone that keeps us young, and peaks while we are in our mid 20’s and declines as we age. DHEA supports a balanced mood and insulin balance. It is anti-inflammatory, supports a healthy heart and supports a healthy libido.
Testing our hormones is an important part of understanding what our hormone levels are, how our bodies are using our hormones, and if we are clearing them properly. There is really only one method of testing that I recommend, and that is the DUTCH test. It is the most comprehensive test available. You can read more about the DUTCH test, in my blog called Test Don’t Guess – Why The DUTCH Test is the Gold Standard of Hormone Testing
The Hormone Balance Caveat:
I always like to drop in what I like to call the “hormone balance caveat” conversation. It’s an important one, as I think there is a great deal of misinformation around this.
As we move into our 40’s, 50’s and beyond, our sex hormones lower to minimums. And we move into a stage of hormone deficiency. By the time we enter menopause (average age is 51) our hormones are 10% of what they used to be at our peak.
It’s really important to me that we name this stage of life, as we are not talking about this nearly enough. It is a stage of “hormone deficiency”. When we move into hormone deficiency, we can’t “rebalance our hormones”.
We can work with what we have… but we are not going to increase those numbers without help.
We can also heal our digestion, we can re-open clogged detox pathways and improve how our body uses the hormones we have, we can balance blood sugar which balances the testosterone we have,, we can reduce inflammation…. And we can RESTORE our hormones through supplementation like Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy, or Physiologic Hormone Replacement Therapy (more on this soon).
Let’s Talk Thyroid Hormones
The Thyroid Hormones are our master regulators. They control a major amount of functions of the body. They regulate our body temperature, and our metabolism. They support our brain health, and energy levels.
If thyroid levels are too low, or underactive, we might feel sluggish, low energy, experience brain fog, or even have joint pain. It might even be hard to make it through the day because we are so exhausted. Low thyroid levels can also contribute to weight gain, and hair loss as well.
If Thyroid hormones are overactive, you might experience feeling hyper-active like an energizer bunny, have trouble sleeping, and feel tired often. You might also feel nervous, anxious or have heightened anxiety levels.
As we age as women and move to a state of hormone deficiency it’s not unusual to need extra Thyroid support as estrogen declines.
Comprehensive Thyroid Testing is a set of six different blood serum tests. Please don’t let your practitioner tell you otherwise. One, two or even three tests, do not tell the full picture.
Be sure you are getting all six:
- Free T3
- Free T4
- Reverse T3
- Thyroid peroxidase antibodies – TPOAb
- Thyroid Antithyroglobulin Antibody – TgAB.
Only all six labs will give you the full picture, and help you to understand if the thyroid is in full balance. Additionally, as we age as women, and move more towards hormone deficiency in estrogen, our thyroid may need more help. This is very common, and very under recognized.
Let’s Talk Stress Hormones
Cortisol is our main stress hormone, and regulates our response to stress. It is produced by the adrenal glands. The adrenals are walnut sized glands that sit on top of our kidneys.
Cortisol helps to regulate our blood sugar, controls our metabolism, supports our wake and sleep cycles and helps boost immunity by tempering inflammation. Cortisol supports our bodies response to danger, supports our fight flight and freeze response, and controls our blood pressure.
We need cortisol to support our daily functions… and… the way many of us have been living has pushed our cortisol levels beyond what they were meant to be pushed. Oftentimes we are living in a chronic stress cycle where our cortisol response is just never shutting off. It’s like the gas pedal is just on, all the time.
There are a couple ways to test cortisol. Saliva testing is one of the most common options, but it really only tells half the picture. The saliva test shows you what your current availability is. It doesn’t show you how much “gas” you have in the tank so to speak.
This is why I like the DUTCH test for cortisol testing for cortisol as well. It not only will test our cortisol current availability, but also will show our production which is like showing how much gas there is in the tank. If the tank is empty, we are really going to struggle with our energy levels. We might have a quick burst of energy, and then a big crash after that burst.
So now that we have a good outline of our hormones, let’s talk about how to keep our hormone orchestra in harmony.
Let’s Talk Tips to Keep Your Hormones In Balance
Sleep with intention. Sleep is key to keeping our cortisol in check, and helps everything in our body restore and replenish.
Start with these sleeps to upgrade your sleep routine:
- Start by creating a good sleep routine, Dim the lights in your home in the evening. Set the intention to relax and chill in the evening, maybe take a bath, or read a book before bed to allow your nervous system to wind down.
- Have your last bites of food by around 7pm to optimize your digestion, and create about a 12 hour fast which helps with sleep.
- Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
- Instead of using your phone as your alarm clock, use an old school alarm clock. The EMF’s from phones can disrupt sleep, and so can notifications!
Reduce Your Blue Light Exposure
I know… this is a big trigger for people, but the blue light in phones, ipads and laptops keeps us awake. It disrupts our melatonin, and can even cause us to wake in the middle of the night too. Blue light is awakening to the body.
So to avoid blue light, do the following:
- Put devices away at least one hour before bed.
- Place your phone at least 6 feet away from your bed, so you are not tempted to look at and expose yourself to the blue light.
- Stop scrolling right before bed. This is activating to the nervous system, and the blue light
Get Ample Protein
Eating ample protein is KEY to balancing blood sugar, keeping our metabolic health strong, and important to building muscle which becomes more and more important as we age.
- Shoot for 100-130 grams of protein per day. If this is a very new number for you, then start slow, and work your way up. This is easier than all-in right away.
- For example, if breakfast does not include protein right now, start by adding in a couple eggs – this will give you 12 grams of protein, then slowly work your way up with each meal. If you make each meal average about 30-40 grams of protein per day, you will be in that range.
Balance your blood sugar
Blood sugar balance is key to hormone balance. So please read the part on protein above, if you haven’t already. When our blood sugar is out of balance, we overproduce insulin, creating insulin resistance, which can increase testosterone levels. Leading to high testosterone, and potentially PCOS. Keeping your blood sugar in balance staves off metabolic issues, and type 2 diabetes.
- So start your day with a breakfast that has at least 30 grams of protein.
- Eat 100-130 grams of protein per day
- Eliminate sugar
- If you know your blood sugar is off, consider adding a supplement like Chromium to help support health blood sugar levels.
This is so important. Xenoestrogens are hormone disruptors. They mimic our own hormones, and confuse the body… not to mention they are toxic. And xenoestrogens disrupt our own healthy estrogens. Follow these tips to eliminate xenoestrogens.
- Clean up your makeup, skin care, health and beauty products. Look for non-toxic, and organic options.
- Buy organic foods whenever your budget allows you to avoid pesticides… which disrupt the reproductive cycle of the pest… (guess what they do to humans?)
- Ditch plastic and start storing your leftover food in glass containers.
- Use a glass or stainless steel water bottle.
- Add in my favorite gentle, yet powerful detox product Clean Slate to open detox pathways, and clear toxins that we have been exposed to.
Heal Your Gut
Healing your gut is paramount to hormone balance. Sugar, antibiotics, medications, the Standard American Diet, stress, heavy metals, toxins, parasites, mold exposure and even viruses/illness can be disruptive to our gut health.
When our gut health has been disrupted, it can leave us with a condition called Leaky Gut. When this happens, food, spent hormones and toxins pass through the gut lining to our blood stream and circulate. This can cause inflammation, joint pain, and hormone imbalance symptoms.
Gut healing can be tricky. Sometimes we can tackle this on our own with adding supplements, and removing foods that cause inflammation. Other times we may need a practitioner to help us get to the root, and help us heal further.
Below are my go-to first steps. So start here, and if you are still struggling after implementing these for 4-6 months, then connect with me and we can do the deeper work.
- Start with my favorite gut healing product Clean Slate to eliminate heavy metals, toxins, parasites, candida, fungus and more. Email me to get the low and slow directions on getting started with this product.
- Eliminate Gluten, sugar, maybe dairy, and any foods you know are creating sensitivity issues to your gut. This will give your gut a deep rest, and allow it to heal in a big way.
- Start your day with a full glass of water, and drink 8 ounces of water 15 minutes before each meal.
These steps should get you started on balancing your hormones, or balancing the hormones that you have. As always if you have any questions, let me know in the comments below.