Alternative Approaches To Balancing Your Hormones (That Don’t Include Birth Control)
As most honest and raw female friendships go, I recently had a very informative conversation with a dear friend about our struggles with our feminine health, specifically our hormonal health. My friend has battled with hormone imbalances, severe acne, and a multitude of other side effects for years due to her PCOS. Although she’s tried dozens of different avenues to manage this, she found that birth control was the "only" right solution for her. This is why millions of women are on some form of birth control for non-contraceptive reasons. It absolutely is a viable and sufficient solution. She notices an immediate difference in her period regulation, PMS symptoms, and acne flare-ups when she’s off the pill.
However, there are still many women who suffer from harsh hormone imbalances and don’t take well to birth control. As my own hormonal health fluctuated over the years depending on my environment, stress levels, diet, among other factors, I tried an array of different solutions. I took different types of birth control on and off for several years. No matter what version of the pill it was, none of them were a complement to my body. I would have uncomfortable and extreme night sweats (every night), dealt with dramatic shifts in my weight (up and down), had weird and long episodes of brain fog, fatigue, and irritability. I didn’t feel like myself and I knew it was the effects of the pill.
So, I was committed to finding alternative solutions that work for me. It can be a long, frustrating process with a lot of trial and error. But, it is necessary to regulate because your hormones are a vital part of your overall physical, emotional and mental health.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
First, I would highly suggest getting your hormones checked by your doctor if you suffer from persistent symptoms like:
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Trouble sleeping
- Irregular periods
- Excessive sweating/night sweats
- Chronic acne
- Brain fog/long periods of fatigue
- Gut issues
- Mood swings/depression/anxiety
- Hair loss/thinning hair
- Reduced sex drive
- Increased thirst
- Breast tenderness
If you already know that you have some type of hormonal imbalance and birth control has not worked for you, here are some other possible options that could help. Some of these may seem obvious, but implementation and consistency are essential to see a positive impact on hormones.
THINGS YOU CAN TRY (THAT ARE ALSO GOOD FOR YOUR OVERALL HEALTH)
Getting a full restful night’s sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our health and hormone regulation. According to a 2015 study, poor sleep has been proven to have adverse effects on hormones and may contribute to obesity, insulin resistance, and increase stress hormones. Aiming for at least 7 hours of quality sleep every night can help maintain optimal hormone balance.
Maintain a Healthy Diet:
Paying close attention to what we consume daily, avoiding processed foods, added sugars, and refined carbs are critical to our health and natural hormone balances. Several medical experts have emphasized that refined carbs and sugar (in most forms) drive insulin resistance and contribute to several metabolic diseases.
Instead, make sure you’re getting enough protein daily. This helps with the production of hormones that help keep you feeling full. In addition, consuming enough healthy fats, like coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, avocado, and nuts help regulate your appetite, stimulates digestion, and can reduce inflammation. All integral factors in balancing your hormones.
It’s also highly recommended to eat plenty of fiber and fatty fish. Eating soluble fiber has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and trigger the production of hormones that control hunger. Fatty fish that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids contain beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. Research also indicates that fatty fish can decrease levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine, and help balance your mood.
Stick To A Consistent Exercise Routine:
It’s no secret the countless benefits that come from regular exercise, and hormone balance is one of them. A combination of strength training, cardio, walking, and other forms of physical activity have been shown to improve hormone levels, reduce the risk of disease, and help boost hormones dedicated to muscle maintenance that tend to decline during the aging process.
This is one of the most important steps to consider if you’re committed to balancing your hormones. Stress has been proven to destroy your hormones. Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone” and epinephrine (aka adrenaline) known as the “fight or flight” hormone are significantly impacted by stress. A 2017 study indicates the connection between stress and the increase in these hormones is strong and can cause further complications like obesity, mood changes, anxiety, high blood pressure, and even cardiovascular issues.
Engage in stress-reducing activities frequently (if possible, daily), like yoga, meditation, listening to calming music, getting massages, deep breathing, and spending time with loved ones.
Aside from the long list of damage caused by smoking, tobacco has also been indicated to disrupt several different hormones. Research shows that smoking can change thyroid, pituitary, and steroid hormone levels.
Some Supplements to Consider:
In addition to a nutritious diet, regular physical activity, and stress reduction, several supplements could contribute to balancing your hormone levels.
Magnesium, vitamin D, B vitamins, probiotics, and liver-enhancing nutrients like turmeric and vitamin C can all help regulate hormone imbalances and reduce the symptoms that accompany them.
It’s important to understand how balanced hormones are a pillar of our overall health. If you’re someone who suffers from any of these symptoms and birth control has not been helpful, try a combination (ideally all) of these approaches. It’s not a quick fix and not an alternative to consulting with your doctor, but can be extremely beneficial in the long run.