Hormonal Imbalance: the ten ways I rebalanced...
One of the main reasons I am so passionate about the book and this website is because I have learnt first hand that you dont always have to live with the ‘cards you have been dealt’. If you’re aware, and have the right information, there is usually something you can do to put yourself in a better position.
I have Polycystic Ovaries - a hormonal issue which is said to be both genetic and environmental - and was told that this could make the chances of conception more difficult. Two years later - I have a baby boy, my periods are now regular and my last scan showed no cysts. Frankly if I can do it - you can.
Of course we are all different - with different sources of imbalance - but there were a few big things I learnt along the way, mistakes I was making that were inadvertently making things worse. Ironically I thought I was being super healthy - from a hormonal standpoint however - I was absolutely not.
Here are a few lessons I learnt:
Carb dodging might make you slimmer but it wont help your hormones: I was big into the ‘carb-light lifestyle’, but what I didnt realise is that it was sending my cortisol levels higher and knocking my hormones off course. When your body feels under threat (which includes not having enough fuel) cortisol is secreted - one of the things it does is pull glucose in to your blood - not good if you have PCOS or any other hormonal imbalance. The key I realised is not to be extreme about anything. Now I am not so afraid of carbs - low GI and towards the latter part of the day is the way to rebalance your cortisol and despite my fears I have not put on weight. Unless you have an intolerance - I have found that cutting out entire food groups is not ideal for balancing your body. Similarly too much of one food group is equally not good with too much refined sugar being equally bad, especially for PCOS
Sweetners and Caffine: once again - on the quest to be slim as possible, when I was hungry I reached for Diet Coke or Coffee. Sweetners (in the DIet Coke) are particularly nasty for many things - your gut health being just one. The coffee and caffine intake (I was on at least three cups a day) was also aggravating my Cortisol levels. I ditched the Diet Coke, cut back to one coffee a day and found a few herbal teas that I love (try the Pukka Camomile, Vanilla and Manuka Honey - amazing). Green tea is also known as being friendly to your hormones.
Sleep: I guess coming hand in hand with cutting back on the caffine - I started to prioritise this. We all have our own optimal amount of time (mine is 7-8hrs which is pretty normal). Modern life usually means we try and do it all and sleep comes last (I was getting 6 at most on average). We all know the old ‘you can sleep when you’re dead mantra’. However, I think that is now going out of fashion. There is a reason why over thousands of years of evolution our need for sleep hasn’t changed - ask Ariana Huffington. It sounds strange but I started making getting to bed at a decent time a big priority and I genuinely feel like it made a difference. Dont feel embarrassed about it (I did for a while) - you’re protecting your health and your body and will feel better for it.
Ditching the water bottles: Once again - I thought I was being really healthy by drinking two to three massive bottles of Evian a day. Not only is this bad for the environment (and your wallet) it is not good for your hormones. The trouble is that you dont know where the plastic bottles have been stored - exposure to heat/the sun leaves that type of thin plastic vulnerable to seeping in to the water you’re drinking. This is a known endocrine (hormone) disruptor - especially if you’re drinking it in the quantities I was. I now drink filtered water from a big glass bottle - bit less convenient but cheaper and definitely healthier.
Cutting back the HIIT: you may notice a trend here - I was pretty in to keeping slim, that involved a lot of high intensity classes and running. Once again not good for your cortisol levels in particular. That being said I dont just exercise to lose weight - I exercise because I like it and it makes me feel good. It also has a lot of benefits - including for your hormones if done in the right way. Once again its about not doing anything to excess. In fact, doing a mixture of weight training, cardio and yoga is much better for you and can have the reverse effect - actually being a positive for your mood, health and hormones. I now limit myself to one high intensity cardio session a week, I do two strength sessions and a yoga session and walk as much as possible. Trying not to overly stress your body is a good idea.
Keep it varied: Keeping your gut health in optimal condition is important for many aspects, hormones and staying balanced are one. Back to my slimming days I had a few favourite low cal foods that I liked and was pretty reticent to deviate from this too dramatically. We now know that diversity of what we eat is great for the diversity of the microbiome - just what you want and need. Whole and unprocessed is the way to go - lots of colours and lots of variety.
Hand in hand with this - Pesticides: this has been a big learning for me. I always knew intuitively that organic was better - I just didnt realise how much the science suggested this was important and how damaging these chemicals are to your system overall (please click here to learn a lot of hard truths about this). I now eat organically as much as possible. When I cant find organic or my budget is a bit stretched I reach for the Activated Charcol to give a helping hand shifting some of these chemicals that are on our food. Pesticides are proven to have many negatives - but hormonal imbalance for sure is one.
A helping hand: I have historically been a bit sceptical of supplements - however - after extensive research (Nerd Alert) I realised that there really are a few that can help particularly when it comes to rebalancing hormones. For me Maca, Ashwagdha, Vitamin D and Magnesium have been instrumental in helping my body rebalance. Maca and Ashwagdha are known as Adaptogens (click the links) and have proven benefits. Most PCOS sufferes are deficient in Vitamin D (most people that live in England and work in offices too).
Meat, milk, fish and cheese: these days unfortunately the big producers want to get as much as possible as cheaply as possible. That means that many of the food we are eating is treated with antibiotics, artificial hormones and steroids. I dont avoid any food group these days - I just try to be smart with when I do eat it. For me, I only now eat meat at home. If you can buy it yourself you can find out where it comes from. I would rather eat less of better quality. Same goes for fish where I go for wild vs farmed. Milk and cheese products I always buy organically. For me it is an investment in my health - plus it often works out cheaper than eating out.
Alcohol: I have gone through my phases with alcohol. I also think it is tricky unless you have a problem to tell people to cut it out entirely. Obviously if you’re trying for a baby or are pregnant it is something to avoid. For me now, I stick to a couple of glasses of red wine a week - moderation really is key particularly when it comes to your hormones and balancing your body.
Everyone is different so experimenting is smart to find out what works for you. I am lucky in the sense that I dont have any major food intolerances but these too can have a significant impact on your body and hormonal balance so it is worth paying attention to what makes you feel good and what doesn’t. I also found being more organised with food helps (click here for some key tips). There are other things you can do. I personally found Acupuncture helpful. Of course that is great if you can find the right person and have the budget - it is not necessarily for everyone. A great start for everyone? Be kind to your body, try and limit the stress you put it under. Prioritise health and balance, minimise nasties and eat whole unprocessed food whenever you can - zero downside to that.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.