This information is for educational purposes only and not intended to diagnose or highlight imperfections. You've likely landed here following your results of my quiz at YourHormoneQuiz.com. No matter what you discover in these results, you're beautiful and perfect as you are. You're good enough and trying hard enough. We're all unique and will experience hormonal shifts differently. This information is here to highlight that, despite what we've been told, we're not just little men — our bodies work differently — and if our hormones have us feeling less than our best, we absolutely can do something about it. My aim is to support and empower you on your journey, where you need and want it. Take what you need, leave what you don't. No judgement here, just good honest support.
Keeping our hormones in harmony is doable but not always an easy task. Our hormones are like a symphony, working together in harmony — or so we hope. When one hormone is out of tune, it throws other hormones off too. It can be a mess!
When women’s hormones are in harmony it looks like:
- Strong immune system
- Regular periods with a moderate flow & minimal or no PMS (for women in pre-menopause)
- Stable, healthy weight
- Ability to burn fat and gain muscle
- Moderate, stable appetite, and minimal cravings
- Healthy, active libido
- Able to get adequate restful, restorative sleep
- Waking up feeling refreshed
- Feeling great about skin and hair
- Daily, healthy bowel movements
- Stable energy throughout the day (no crashes or dips)
- Confident, stable, happy mood
- Energy to pursue your dreams and goals
- And more…
Keeping hormones in balance – The top 10
Keeping your symphony of hormones beautifully in tune requires a bit of thought and attention. While there are many factors at play, here are my top 10 helpers of hormone harmony, which are also key players in your foundational health. I also call them the “non-negotiables” as without them, we’re likely to send our hormones off track.
Which ones do you have dialed in? Which could use some attention?
1. Nutrient dense, whole foods diet for your body and hormone type
We’re all wonderfully unique and at different phases of our lives — biologically, mentally, emotionally, genetically, geographically, etc. It’s important that your diet be supporting you and your hormones (not your colleague’s, your sister’s, your best friend’s, or that guru on Netflix. What good would that do?!).
Getting adequate nutrients for your body’s needs is essential and not every moment of our life requires the same levels of nutrients. Even men and women have different needs at different phases of life.
Nutritional needs change with:
- your age and the phase of life you’re in (reproductive years, perimenopause, menopause)
- your activity, a stressed-out corporate traveler will have different needs than a work-from-home marathoner, or than a marathoner trying to get pregnant.
- your stress levels, the bigger your stress load, the more your nutritional needs shift
- illness or health challenges
- your genetics and your environment
- your lifestyle
- your goals.
There are a few guidelines that apply to everyone, such as:
Skip artificial ingredients, processed or refined foods as much as possible (nutrient density is key and you won’t find that in processed foods!), such as refined sugars, white flours, highly refined seed oils or fats such as sunflower or canola oil, margarine or shortening, or any foods made from these.
Working with a knowledgable practitioner can help dial in your current nutritional needs, and to make necessary tweaks as your needs shift — keeping you and your hormones continually supported.
Blood sugar balance is equally important here and having a nutrition plan that supports your blood sugar levels is essential for hormone harmony.
2. Support your gut & your poo
A healthy gut helps regulate and balance hormones. Some hormones are even produced in the gut. Gut health is important for being able to absorb the nutrients we eat. It’s not just what we eat, but also what we can absorb.
Healthy digestion and absorption starts in the olfactory system with our sense of smell. Then it moves to the mouth, the esophagus, the stomach, the liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and small intestine, the colon, and then out of the body. Each play a part and keeping our digestive juices flowing and transitioning at adequate speed, and supporting the microbiota in our gut, helps keep our gut, body and hormones in balance.
Having less than one bowel movement a day can lead to higher than optimal estrogen levels, amongst other things. This is the primary way we excrete estrogen. When you’re constipated, estrogen can be reabsorbed in the gut and re-circulate in the body. Regular solid, healthy bowel movements help move out waste before it gets reabsorbed. This goes for hormone waste as well as other waste.
Moving waste out in a timely fashion helps reduce the burden on our liver, the regulator of our stress, sex, and thyroid hormones, as well as others.
Without adequate hydration, our body functions sub-optimally. Period. Taking care to getting enough clean water and hydrating foods, while reducing dehydrating ones such as caffeine, diuretics and alcohol, can help you keep things optimized. Balance is key here.
Aaah, sleep. You know you need it and you know you need a sufficient amount. It can sometimes escape women with hormone imbalance which can be frustrating. Prioritizing sleep in every way can be helpful here — optimal and consistent timing, restful location, cool temperature, adequate darkness and quiet, winding down and dimming the lights, and reducing stress.
It takes a bit of trial and error and some tweaks. Like nutrition, our needs change often. As stress levels and stress load rise, so does our sleep need and attention to restoration. Your hormones depend on it.
5. Movement in balance
There are so many amazing benefits to movement and exercise. Getting the right amount for your body and your current hormone status is key to finding and keeping your hormones in harmony.
Quality, duration, frequency and intensity are important to consider when it comes to hormone health. Doing much more than your body is ready for, or not including enough time in between sessions (for recovery), can send a women’s hormones into havoc. And what’s too much for one woman may not be for another.
Overtraining or exercising for your body or hormone status can initiate a cortisol response and over time create a situation of chronic stress, leading to burnout, loss of period, infertility, and other hormonal issues.
For someone who already has a heavy stress load, even a small amount of strenuous exercise can be the tipping point, leading to hormone havoc.
I recommend honoring where your body is at now and start there. If you’re tired, struggling with sleep, your weight, or other hormone-related issues, reducing your movement and exercise or reducing the intensity, can be beneficial to your hormones and goals.
Whenever you’re increasing your movement and exercise load, do so only when your body is ready to take on more stress, and go slowly. Listen to your body and have patience. Building fitness takes time and can be very rewarding when you’re in it for the long haul, or detrimental when rushed.
When working with a trainer or fitness professional, I recommend working with someone who’s well educated on women’s hormones. I’m also happy to help.
6. Reduce exposure to environmental toxins
Environmental toxins — many of which are endocrine disruptors — abound and are hard to avoid but by “living a detox lifestyle,” as Maria Claps, one of my mentors calls it, you’re supporting your body to handle what we can’t avoid.
You’ll find environmental toxins in pesticides of non-organic foods, additives and artificial ingredients, plastic food containers, commonly used beauty products, household detergents and cleaners, medications, the off-gassing of paints, glues, solvents, and most commercially made furniture, the air outdoors as well as indoors, and more.
Thankfully, there’s much we can do to reduce our exposure and at the same time, reduce the burden on our body’s detoxification pathways, and known endocrine disruptors. By choosing your products wisely, you chose to reduce your exposure.
7. Watch your alcohol intake & give cigarettes and second hand smoke the boot.
Not wanting to be the bearer of bad news here but I’ve got to include this one. As little as one glass of wine or one cocktail a week can negatively impact your hormones, especially during certain times of the month. Ugh. Like it or not, it’s proven.
Those who are moderate drinkers, max 3 small glasses a week, might notice an increase in estrogen (leading to estrogen dominance) and impact your overall insulin response. And more than 3 glasses a week for women constitutes heavy drinking which comes with even more health and hormone challenges. As we get older and our hormones shift, you might find your body, health or hormones are more greatly impacted. This is when limiting, or even eliminating, our intake becomes even more important to our hormonal health.
Heavy, moderate and even light drinking can burden our liver, the powerhouse for hormone regulation. Keeping our liver healthy helps keep our hormones in harmony.
One of my favorite at-home ways to test your body’s reaction to alcohol is with a continuous glucose monitor.
8. Easy on over-the-counter meds, and consider risks of prescription meds that could be reduced or avoided (always check with your physician here first).
Pharmaceutical meds can be hard on your liver and increase your body’s toxic load. We’re all exposed everyday, but there are certain areas we can influence. Take stock of your medication use and explore ways, if any, that you can reduce your regular use of medication. Some medications are important and necessary and I’m not talking about those.
Are you using medication to push through pain, to numb feelings, out of fear, to avoid resting when you need it (such as when you’re ill)? If so, consider reducing what you can bit by bit. Check in with a trusted health professional who can help you develop a plan and find other solutions.
Our thoughts and words speak to our brain and our brain reacts based on the signals it receives. Our hypothalamus, the conductor-in-chief and master gland of our hormonal symphony, picks up the subtle and not-so-subtle signals of safety or danger that we interpret. Then it decides how best to conduct our hormonal situation. Safety means we repair, renew, grow, reproduce, digest. Danger means alertness, we store energy (often as fat) while consuming quick energy,
10.Balance stress. Dial down stress inducing and dial up stress reducing activities.
If your stress response is chronically being activated (which can happen for a number or reasons), your neuroendocrine system will be hard at work managing it. In this state, your body is prioritizing survival and not optimum hormone balance.
Balancing stress is like the movement of the ocean and the daily balancing of the high tide with the low. As our daily stress load rises, we match it with daily stress lowering practices, day in and day out, helping to keep a consistent flow of harmony.
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When hormone therapy is needed to help bring your hormones back in harmony
Our nutrition and lifestyle (that’s a big one!) play an important role here. At times, though, women could require hormone restoration with hormone therapy to help bring hormones back in balance — either with bio-identical or synthetic hormones. This could be temporary or longterm depending on the woman and situation.
The choice is up to you and your trusted physician and it’s always a good idea to thoroughly educate yourself on the options and risks first. Most physicians will not be up to date on the latest or full-scope of options available, the most recent research, nor the risks of either using hormone therapy or not. Take the time to seek out a knowledgeable practitioner for support here, whether that be a Functional MD or ND specialized in women’s hormones or a specialized functional health coach who’ll support you in working with your physician of choice. I’m happy to help here.
Thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, even cortisol can be used as part of a hormone replacement protocol. But in order for hormone replacement therapy to be successful for the long-haul, dialing in hormone-supporting nutrition and lifestyle is essential. That’s your hormone-harmonizing foundation. Without it, the structure will eventually come crashing down.
Many practitioners believe that for most hormone-balancing needs, it’s important to start with the foundations first before bringing in exogenous hormones. When our foundational health and environment is hormone supportive, hormones will often restore balance on their own. At other times, bringing in exogenous hormones while optimizing nutrition and lifestyle simultaneously can be equally supportive, and necessary.
Opting for hormone replacement therapy without optimizing nutrition and lifestyle to support it is not recommended as it can lead to further imbalance and is more likely to fail at offering preferred results.
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This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, manage, or treat disease or serious conditions. Always check with your doctor before making any changes. It's important to consult a well-informed health practitioner for personal advice about your situation before relying on general information — we're all wonderfully unique.
Laurie Villarreal, FNLP, CHWC, FNS, LMC, CPT, RYT
As a functional nutritionist and fitness expert specializing in hormone health, I help active, driven women, like you, get back to feeling, performing (heck, even looking!) your best when nothing else has worked. From personalized nutrition and lifestyle guidance to doing the deep, much-needed inner work of coaching, I help you soar to new heights — to show up and play bigger (and brighter!) than you’ve ever imagined. So you can get back to living your best life and chasing your dreams — with much more joy and ease.
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