When it comes to the internal workings of the body, have you ever wondered who, or rather, what is calling the shots? What decides how well you sleep, how tall you are, whether you are prone to acne or if you’ll experience strong PMS symptoms? Well you can look no further than your hormones, the trusty (and sometimes pesky) chemicals that play a crucial role in who you are and how you feel.
As the messengers of the body, hormones perform the very important job of controlling the processes and functions your body goes through everyday. Created in a series of glands known as the endocrine system, hormones are secreted directly into the bloodstream. This allows them to travel around the body delivering directions on what each body part, large or small, needs to do.
Your hormones affect your fertility and reproductive health, metabolism, growth, movement, respiration, sexual development, and more. While there are perfectly normal reasons for your hormones to be in flux, like puberty, pregnancy, or menopause, there is a delicate balance needed to function optimally. If your body starts producing too much cortisol, or too little estrogen, for example, this can affect the different bodily processes, leading to health issues.
Hormone imbalance can be hereditary or disease induced, but for many of the causes, they originate in our habits and lifestyle choices. Amongst the many possible causations of imbalanced hormones are stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, little to no exercise, and exposure to endocrine disruptors. The good news is, we have the power to reverse these habits to help our hormones naturally rebalance themselves.
Because our environment and our lifestyle highly influence our hormones, we went to our favorite detoxinista, Joy McCarthy to learn how she overcame her hormone imbalance. As a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and best-selling author, Joy shares her expert insight, practical tips, and clean eating recipes on her blog, joyoushealth.com and through her books Joyous Health and Joyous Detox.
The Hormone Health Network defines environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) as “a substance outside of the body that may interfere with the normal function of the endocrine system.” They go on to say, “some EDCs mimic natural hormone binding at the target cell receptor. EDCs can start the same processes that the natural hormone would start. Other EDCs block normal hormone binding and thereby prevent the effects of the natural hormones. Still other EDCs can directly interfere with the production, storage, release, transport, or elimination of natural hormones in the body. This can greatly affect the function of certain body systems.”
Hormonal Healing with Joy McCarthy
Q. What are some of the signs and symptoms of a hormone imbalance?
The signs and symptoms are vast and varied but some of the more common symptoms range from hair loss, to acne, PMS, brain fog, anxiety, headaches, and more. Two different people could be suffering from low estrogen and testosterone but their symptoms could manifest quite differently. No two people are exactly alike and this is why the standard medical approach to medicate people with hormonal imbalance not only masks the symptoms but can make things worse.
Q. What was your experience with hormone imbalance, and how did it affect you?
A. The main symptoms I had were hair loss, anxiety, and amenorrhea. I also had chronic digestive issues from constipation to bloating and heartburn. I felt like no matter what I ate my tummy was bothering me. However, I was eating a lot of the same foods day after day. I had no idea that dairy, soy, and gluten were all inflammatory foods and they were negatively affecting my digestion and my health. Once I understood that my digestive health was the foundation of my whole body’s health, things changed for the better.
6 Steps to Reduce Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors
1. Ditch your makeup and personal care products with EDCs in them (check the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic Database to get started).
2. Replace your teflon cookware with cast iron, stainless steel, and ceramic cookware.
3. Dump the plastic tupperware for glass containers.
4. Swap the chemical cleaners for non-toxic versions or make your own at home.
5. Buy flame retardant-free furniture.
6. Forego the plastic water bottle for a reusable stainless steel one that you can fill up with filtered water at home.
Q. How did you balance your hormones naturally?
I focused on improving my digestive health by eliminating foods that were triggering many of my digestive symptoms. I ate more natural hormonally-balanced foods like cruciferous vegetables including kale, cauliflower, broccoli, arugula and good fats such as olive oil, flaxseed oil, avocados, and coconut oil. I eliminated dairy, gluten, and soy from my diet completely.
While that may seem like a drastic change, when I cut these foods out I had to re-learn how to eat. That’s when I discovered how lacking in variety my diet was and I became creative with recipes and eating. Now, I absolutely love cooking and eating! I am able to eat gluten and dairy on occasion, but I have such a strong reaction to soy milk and other processed and unfermented soy foods I have to avoid them completely. I’m not saying that what I did from a nutritional perspective is the key to fixing everyone’s hormonal imbalance. Everyone is biochemically unique and what makes me thrive may be very different than someone else. For example, someone with considerable inflammation in their gut would not do well eating raw cruciferous veggies.
Everyone is biochemically unique, and what makes me thrive may be very different than someone else.
Another important factor in my healing was the introduction of natural health supplements and the additional detoxifying habits and herbs. I started taking fish oil, probiotics, and vitamin D daily. I also cleansed my body every morning with lemon and water or apple cider vinegar with water, always followed by a yummy and nourishing smoothie. I drank tea with milk thistle and other liver-cleansing herbs and practiced dry skin brushing before every bath or shower. A big part of my healing journey was understanding the emotional connection to my overall health. Your emotional state deeply affects your hormones because thoughts are hormones after all!
Natural Ways to Support Hormone Balance
• Think of food as medicine; Eat an organic, non-inflammatory diet and avoid high-processed foods to lessen your toxic exposure and support a healthy gut.
• Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to stay hydrated and flush out toxins.
• Get enough sleep on a daily basis to allow your body to rest and rebuild.
• Incorporate low impact exercise and weight training as this helps regulate a multitude of hormones including estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol.
• Add adaptogen herbs to your routine, which have been shown to fight inflammation and stress and help balance an array of hormones.
• Lessen your exposure to endocrine disruptors.
If you think you may be suffering from a hormonal imbalance, speak to your doctor about diagnosis and treatment options.
This story originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of KIWI Magazine. Read the full issue here, or check out the latest from KIWI Magazine.