No one likes being out of balance, especially when the hot flashes, low libido and mood swings of menopause leave us feeling like a pale reflection of our former selves. But it’s important to realize during this hormonally challenged time that the extent to which we suffer from unwanted symptoms has a lot to do with the extent to which our lives, and our hormones, are out of balance.
Picture if you will, synchronized swimmers moving through the water in petal formation, all pointing their toes in the air at the exact same moment. Suddenly one of the swimmers, let’s call her progesterone, takes off in a different direction, while another swimmer, let’s call her testosterone, dives to the bottom of the pool … meanwhile the other three, call them the estrogens, start to take over and dominate the entire routine. All that synchrony, lost.
So it goes with us – when our hormones are out of sync, we’re out of sync – mentally, physically, and emotionally. And because hormones are so mutually-dependent (a deficiency of one can create an excess of another and vice-versa), there are countless opportunities for imbalance. Some of the most common include:
Estrogen dominance high estrogen/low progesterone levels cause multiple symptoms in mid-lifers including weight gain, depression, low libido, and, raise risks for thyroid and breast cancer. Younger women who don’t ovulate regularly can also be estrogen dominant, plagued by monthly migraines, heavy periods and PMS. Too much estrogen is just as much an issue as too little, and it is now recognized that menopause is not just an ‘estrogen deficiency’ disease. Having said that….
Estrogen deficiency with low levels of estrogen relative to other hormones in the mix, can cause heart palpitations, night sweats, and foggy thinking among other things. The right balance of estrogen to progesterone is crucial to protect the health of our bones, brain, heart and reproductive organs.
Low Testosterone/high cortisol imbalance is a bad combination that negatively impacts bone and muscle mass, mental clarity and the strength of the libido. The two hormones are inversely proportional to each other, so when the stress hormone cortisol, goes up and stays up, testosterone starts to go down and stay down. It’s a negative ratio for bone and muscle building that can be turned around with strength training and weight bearing exercise, good nutrition (with the spotlight on hormone-free foods, fish oil, fiber, flax), and lots of water, clean air, and time for yourself.
Fluctuating hormones of all the above, particularly during perimenopause when ovarian hormone production becomes erratic, are usually behind the more hair-raising symptoms known to menopausal women as the “emotional roller coaster.” Fortunately, we have much more control over the ups and downs of our hormonal health than we think! Consider the collective WIB wisdom below to empower yourself and to balance hormones naturally!
- For starters: take the Your Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance quiz
- To confirm symptoms and identify specific imbalances, have your hormone levels tested. It is important to monitor levels regularly when you are supplementing with hormones to adjust for appropriate dosage.
- Locate a natural-hormone friendly doctor in your area who can partner with you to restore balance through necessary lifestyle changes and bioidentical hormone therapy if needed. Here are 10 questions to ask your doctor.
- Avoid xenoestrogens, the chemicals that mimic estrogens: synthetic HRT, pesticides and pollutants to lower estrogen dominance. Use only natural cleansers, makeup and moisturizers on your face and body, and ‘green’ eco-friendly cleaning products in your home
- Choose stainless steel rather than plastic drinking bottles which leach xenos into the water
- Never microwave foods under plastic
- Choose hormone-free meat and dairy and eat organic as much as possible
- Cruciferous vegetables, fiber and flaxseed help to metabolize and eliminate excess hormones from the body – add them to your daily diet
- Take a daily multi-mineral vitamin that includes anti-stress vitamins, C, and B-complex along with the Omega-3s
- Try natural nut milks in moderation, and phyto-estrogens such as black cohosh, red clover, dong quai etc. for natural symptom relief
- Never use estrogen alone – include bio-identical progesterone that duplicates the body’s accustomed way of maintaining balance. Natural progesterone has been shown in studies to relieve hot flashes in 80% of women
- Counteract bone-crushing stress with regular bone building exercise that you enjoy
- Use caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants sparingly to reduce nervous stress and balance cortisol levels
- Boost energy with protein snacks -not sweets
- Strength training can raise testosterone levels naturally to restore bone and muscle mass
- To stay cool, stay cool – Learn how to meditate
- Get enough sleep – take cat naps
- Find reasons to laugh out loud as often as possible!