Take Natural Steps to Balance your Hormones

by Blake Herzog

Hormones are crucial chemicals released into your bloodstream from several sites within your body that regulate how organs function and affect nearly every aspect of your health.

Their over- or underproduction is related to many symptoms and conditions and can result from biological processes like puberty and menopause, genetics, diseases, medications, environmental factors and other causes.

Women are more predisposed to hormonal imbalances because they experience more fluctuations throughout their lives, but they affect many men as well.

Scores of prescription medications have been developed to address many of these illnesses and effects. Following healthy lifestyle habits including the ones below may reduce or eliminate your need to rely on them.

Dietary changes — Four aspects of a healthy diet are particularly important to hormone health.

Consuming protein triggers production of protein-derived peptide hormones, which regulate metabolism, reproduction and other functions. High-fiber diets stimulate the release of hormones linked to feelings of satiety.

Reducing sugar intake lowers the risk of insulin resistance and disruptions of the gut microbiome, which lead to hormonal imbalance. Eating healthy fats including omega-3 fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides also improve insulin sensitivity.

Weight management — Obesity has been strongly linked to insulin resistance, hypogonadism (reduced output of reproductive hormones from the ovaries and testes) and decreases in leptin, which regulates appetite and energy balance so we don’t crave more food when we don’t need the energy boost it provides.

Keeping your weight in a healthy range is important since low weight has also been associated with reduced output of reproductive hormones.

Consistent exercise — Physical movement benefits hormone health by increasing blood and hormone circulation, improving the sensitivity of cells’ hormone receptors so they can carry out their functions and lowering resistance to insulin.

All forms of exercise contribute to a healthy hormonal balance; those believed to be especially effective include high-intensity interval training (HIIT), strength training and walking.

Stress reduction — Chronic stress leads to chronic exposure to cortisol, which triggers many reactions that can be useful during the immediate response to a stressor but contribute to overeating, insulin resistance and ultimately to obesity or cardiovascular disease.

If you don’t have much control over the situations causing your stress, try adding something healthy like yoga, tai chi, meditation, vigorous exercise, listening to music or journaling.

Prioritizing sleep — This applies to sleep quality as well as quantity.

The release of most hormones is tied to your circadian rhythm, so disrupted and inadequate sleep can lead to numerous imbalances starting with cortisol, the “stress” hormone that also plays a key role in triggering the release of other hormones.

Too little sleep can spike your appetite and reduce your immunity while too much of it can lead to reduced metabolism and fatigue, so work to keep it between seven and nine hours per night.