As young women, we’re typically not presented with sufficient information that empowers us to proactively care for our bodies and support hormone balance, as we flow from our first period to monthly cycles, and through the various stages of our life. Most of us don’t learn much about hormones at all until something like PCOS, infertility, endometriosis or PMDD sends us running to our doctor. But, why wait until something is amiss to support our hormone health? Hormones affect everything from mood and digestion to skin and sleep, so we might as well do what we can daily to create greater hormonal balance. From puberty to menopause and at every stage in between, we can make little changes that can have a big impact on our hormone health—and that can mean the difference between surviving and thriving as a woman. Here are a few things that have made a big difference in my life and the lives of my clients that I recommend:
Manage Your Blood Sugar Levels
Little known fact: unstable and/or high blood sugar is the number one factor affecting your hormone balance. Because the standard American diet is loaded with added refined sugars and processed foods that wreak havoc on blood sugar, this is a factor that likely affects more women than not. The easiest way to balance your blood sugar without having to overthink it is to eliminate processed sugar and processed foods from your diet. Easier said than done, though, right? Here’s a baby step in the right direction if that’s biting off more than you can chew: balance your carbohydrate intake (fruit, starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, grains like rice or any sweets) with the protein + fiber + fat trifecta.
Our carbohydrate intake strongly influences our blood sugar levels and when our bodies are in an unbalanced blood sugar state—insulin, a hormone that allows our cells to use the circulating sugar in our blood—is released in high concentrations when we eat carbohydrates then lower once the sugar is distributed to the cells.
When insulin levels are too high, due to high carb intake, and an excess of insulin is left in the bloodstream, it can lead to other hormone imbalances in testosterone and estrogen levels. Large peaks and drops in our blood sugar can be tied to imbalances in carbohydrate intake, so by planning meals out appropriately, you can improve your blood sugar management and thus bring balance to your hormones.
Both internal stressors (like blood sugar spikes) and external stressors (like your boss yelling at you) have a huge impact on your hormones (and, of course, your overall health and well-being). Incorporating stress management tactics like mindfulness, meditation, breath work or mindful movement (like yoga) into your life will train your brain and body to respond to stressors more effectively. Not only does this fare well for your sanity, it also means those pesky internal and external stressors are less likely to disrupt your hormone balance and cycle. Another powerful way to support a healthier stress response and endocrine system is by incorporating balancing adaptogens like maca powder (I add a teaspoon into my matcha tea with cacao powder every morning). More on that below!
Incorporate Hormone-Supporting Foods and Herbs
Adaptogens like ashwaganda, rhodiola, shisandra and maca are popular for supporting hormone health, thanks to their balancing effect, but you can also support your hormones with more common choices like cacao and matcha. I start every morning with a matcha tea whisked with one teaspoon each of gelatinized maca powder, cacao powder and collagen peptides. The combination is balancing and energizing (without spiking cortisol, thanks to an amino acid called L-Theanine found in green tea).
Top 3 Hormone-Balancing Superfoods
Maca, or Peruvian ginseng, is a potent adaptogen that is widely regarded to provide numerous health benefits. Adaptogens work with the body’s endocrine system, which regulates our hormone levels and their functions—including energy, mood, sleep, metabolism, and more. Studies suggest that maca root helps regulate cortisol levels. Cortisol, a stress hormone, affects hormone production, including estrogen and progesterone in women. By incorporating maca into your diet, you can help your body produce the correct amount of other hormones as well.
Matcha green tea contains a variety of compounds that help reduce inflammation and improve insulin sensitivity. Matcha has a high concentration of anti-inflammatory compounds called polyphenols, which is extremely beneficial for hormone health, as inflammation is the underlying cause of hormonal imbalances.
EGCG, epigallocatechin gallate, is an antioxidant that is present in Matcha and is also one of the most researched antioxidants to date. Studies suggest that EGCG can increase insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar, which, in turn, help provide hormonal balance.
Navitas Organics’ premium Matcha Powder is cultivated in Japan using traditional production methods to ensure it has the best taste, quality and nutritional value. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Cacao is a versatile superfood that you can easily implement into your daily routine to balance hormones. Cacao is high in magnesium, which a study found can help reduce painful contractions, cramps and PMS symptoms. Cacao is also full of antioxidants, which are great for reducing inflammation.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Romanesco, cabbage, kale, arugula and radishes are particularly useful in any hormone-friendly diet, too. They help us flush out excess hormones and are also excellent sources of indole-3-carbinol, which helps with estrogen dominance.
Be Good to Your Gut
In addition to immune function, mood, digestion and skin, our gut bacteria also have a tremendous impact on our hormone balance. To support a balanced gut, and therefore, more effective hormone modulation and excretion, consider eating plenty of high-fiber fruits and vegetables (especially leafy greens and the cruciferous ones mentioned above), as well as taking a high-quality probiotic and/or eating probiotic and prebiotic foods daily. Fermented or pickled foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha are great probiotic sources. Sunchokes, artichokes or cooked then cooled rice are all good sources of resistant starch— a prebiotic that is food for the good bacteria in our gut. Bone broth or collagen peptides are also supportive of gut health and easy to incorporate into smoothies, soups or even (low-sugar) baked goods. Finally, Navitas Organics Essential Blends are not only incredibly tasty and easy to incorporate into your favorite smoothie or dessert recipes, but they also contain six billion CFUs of probiotics and four digestive enzymes that contribute to a healthy gut and maximize your body's use of the vitamins, minerals and proteins found in them.
Empower Yourself with Knowledge
Alisa Vitti’s WomanCode and Dr. Sara Gottfried’s The Hormone Cure are two quick reads full of validating eye openers, helpful distillations of the science behind our hormonal cycles, and most importantly, tools to help us better navigate them with holistic approaches. You don’t know what you don’t know, and unfortunately the women’s health knowledge gap is a huge impediment to achieving and maintaining optimal well-being. Pick up one of these books and bridge that gap!
Explore Acupuncture and Other Holistic Modalities
Holistic and integrated approaches to balancing hormones and managing hormone disorders tend to be more inclusive of natural, lifestyle and diet therapies—all of which have had a dramatic and lasting positive impact on my personal hormone health and that of my clients. Even if only to understand the breadth and depth of options you have as a woman, I highly encourage an exploration of naturopathic medicine and acupuncture in particular. Any treatment or practice that improves health without harmful or long-term side effects is worth exploring on my blog!