Balancing Hormones: Is Medication the Only Way or Can I do it Naturally?

A special guest article by Maiysha Clairborne MD, an American Board Certified Family Physician, Holistic Wellness Consultant, Life Balance & Fulfillment Coach practicing in Atlanta, GA.

Laughter Helps Balance Hormones -

The symptoms of hormone imbalance can be devastating to our lives, interfering with our productivity, relationships, and overall quality of life.  The body is a like a philharmonic orchestra always regulating neurotransmitters and hormones to keep itself in balance. When one hormones is off, the entire system can become a chaotic mess.  As more and more research is done, importance of hormones to the major function of the cells and organ systems is being recognized.  
Hormone replacement therapy has long been used to treat a variety of medical conditions including hormone imbalance, severe menopause symptoms and others.  It is also used when hormone producing organs or glands have to be removed due to other medical conditions. Some hormone replacement therapies caused undesirable side-effects, but the recent transition towards “Bioidentical Hormones” has proven favorable long term results both in the balancing of the various hormones, and in overall quality of life. 
Bioidentical hormones are identical on a molecular level with the hormones produced by the body.  This means that when they are properly introduced, the body will respond just as if they were naturally made, eliminating any unwanted side-effects. A recent double blind study involving bioidentical hormones found that they can help maintain a more natural level of a variety of hormones as people age. This can help reduce cardiovascular disease and maintain bone density through menopause and beyond.  This type of advanced hormone therapy is believed to have many other positive benefits, and additional clinical studies are ongoing. Choosing bioidentical hormones over chemically altered or synthesized hormones will help maintain the benefits of hormone therapy while eliminating virtually all unwanted side effects. 
Maiysha Clairborne , MDTreating the body with hormones (bioidentical or synthetic) is not the only way to promote and maintain balanced hormones.  There are major factors that can contribute to the suppression of hormones. These include stress, diet, sedentary lifestyle, and environmental toxins.  The latter are fairly simple to correct, however stress can be one of the most variable factors to manage with outside circumstances playing a role. Here are 7 ways to naturally maintain and enhance your hormone production.

Moderate exercise

Not only does physical activity enhance endorphin release giving you a nice euphoric feeling, lowers cortisol levels and builds muscle which supports both testosterone and growth hormone production. It’s important to engage in both cardiovascular and resistance training to get the biggest boost of hormone activity. Most of all, engaging in some sort of moderate intensity movement lets you blow off some steam relieving you of irritability and stresses from the day.

Get Your Sleep

It is recommended to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep nightly. Some people who sleep less than that on a regular basis may need to consider taking mid day naps to get in that rest. Getting enough rest is the main way the body regenerates, and renews itself. This is because this is also the time when the adrenals are replenishing, the growth hormone is secreting, and the thyroid is converting it’s hormones to a more active form. It’s best to create a bedtime routine to let your body know that it’s time to power down before sleep. This can include the usual before bedtime rituals like brushing your teeth, taking a shower or bath, or even reading. However, if you are one of those people who gets caught up in TV shows, or whose work takes you past your bedtime, you might consider seting yourself a GO TO BED ALARM. Remember, the environment is Stronger than your own Will Power.  

Eat  Hormone Healthy Foods

There are many foods that promote healthy hormone production and balance. Foods high in protein such as lean meats and nuts are great for testosterone and growth hormone production. Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli are great for flushing the body of an over abundance of estrogen. Foods rich in iodine such as kelp, potatoes, strawberries, cranberries and navy beans keep the thyroid healthy. Foods that decrease stress are also important to maintaining healthy hormones. Foods like dark chocolate (70% or greater), turkey, bananas, citrus fruits, oatmeal, nuts and seeds (including walnuts, almonds, flax, and pumpkin seeds), salmon (and other wild seafood), spinach, and certain herbal teas (chamomile, peppermint, and green tea) both decrease stress and support the adrenal glands (which are the primary stress glands in the body).  Finally, healthy fats (especially those rich in Leptin such as coconut oil), flax seeds, hemp seeds, and other foods that contain high omega 3 (salmon tilapia, and other low mercury seafood) are important to the production cycle of hormones. Lipids are necessary for the productions and so even organic dairy (cage free organic eggs or organic goats milk) can be beneficial in maintaining healthy hormones.  

Avoid toxins that suppress hormone production

Caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, chemical pesticides, and BPA (from plastic bottles) are major offenders that create havoc with your hormones. BPA from plastic bottles as well as the Teflon from nonstick pots can lead to high levels of estrogens which not only can cause infertility, but can lead to estrogen sensitive cancers. Caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco all suppress the production and interfere with the proper conversion of hormones to their active forms. Some chemical pesticides can even lead to low thyroid dysfunction. The bottom line is to avoid these toxins for a healthy hormone existence.

Supplement Wisely

While this should mostly be done under the supervision of trained health professional there are a few supplements that are known to support healthy hormone production and can be taken safely. These include Vitamin D, Omega 3 supplement such as fish oil or Flax seed oils, Coenzyme Q-10, and Alpha Lipoic Acid.  While healthy levels zinc and magnesium are often deficient and support hormone conversion to active forms, they should be taken with caution to avoid toxicities. 

Manage your stress with Music, Connection, and Laughter

  • Music can actually change the brainwaves to a more relaxing state. Music therapy has been used for decades to treat anxiety, depression, and attention disorders in both adults and children.  Make a daily practice of listening to at least 30min of soothing sounds to literally relax your mind. 
  • Laughter actually reduces stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, and dopamine while enhancing endorphins and other feel good neurotransmitters. It also improves the immune system by increasing the effectiveness of the T-cells which help fight infections in the body.  Finally, laughter brings focus away from anger, guilt, and sadness and promotes community among even strangers.  Playing gets you active and creates laughter, so play! Watch funny movies, tell jokes, and honor your inner child.
  • Connecting with people - We are social beings by nature and emotional connection is paramount in every aspect of our lives. Research has shown that the experience of intimacy (or close connection with others) contributes to lowered stress levels, improved immunity, and better overall health.  Make it a priority to take time to connect with the people in your life every day. It will not only satisfy their need for connection, but it will ultimately benefit your health, hormones and quality of life.
When choosing which approach to take in balancing your hormones, it’s important to consider the benefit of all the options, so that you can choose the what is best suited for you. However, it is important to include a trained healthcare professional in this conversation. A physician or naturopath who specializes in hormones can help you to come to an informed decision of the path that would not only work best for your body, but would also be safe and effective in the long run.
Have questions about balancing your hormones? Ask Dr. Clairborne by calling her office at 877-473-4839 or by submitting a question on her profile.

Photo By Sander van der Wel [Creative Commons]