These tips will really help you (and all those around you...)!
With hormones playing a major part in everything from your sex drive to your sleep cycle, they can really put a damper on your day-to-day life when they’re out of whack.
Hormones imbalances, which are produced by your ovaries and adrenal glands, are to blame for a variety of disorders. If your life has been turned upside down by PMS or menopausal symptoms, a low libido or sleepless nights, here’s what you can do to help restore balance to your hormones and regain control of your mental and physical health.
Develop a PMS plan of attack.
If the impending arrival of your monthly period leaves you emotionally and physically drained, you’re likely suffering from an imbalance of the hormones estrogen and progesterone that are produced by your ovaries. In some situations, PMS is a sign that your body is producing too much estrogen or not enough progesterone. But in other cases, it’s actually an indicator that your stress levels are too high for your body to handle. “If your stress hormones are stuck on overdrive, then your adrenal glands will get tired of making them so they will swipe progesterone and convert it to cortisol, which is the main stress hormone,” explains Wendy Warner, MD, co-author of the book “Boosting Your Immunity for Dummies,”and founder and director of Medicine in Balance .
How to beat PMS symptoms:
Launch a multipronged plan of attack by focusing on your dietary habits and stress management techniques, and then add natural supplements if necessary. Avoid starchy and sugary foods and load up on veggies instead, advises Dr. Warner. Studies show that cruciferous vegetables in particular, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and kale, help keep estrogen levels in check. As for stress management, use techniques that go beyond deep breathing to get you into a truly positive emotional state. “Deep breathing takes the edge off if you’re feeling anxious, but it doesn’t end up telling your adrenal glands to stop putting out stress hormones,” notes Dr. Warner. Research shows that meditation, for example, can lower cortisol levels. If a healthier diet and improved stress management aren’t doing the trick, add a chasteberry supplement to your regimen as it’s been shown to ease PMS symptoms, according to Dr. Warner.
Manage menopause with the right diet.
For some women, menopause brings on a barrage of unpleasant symptoms, such as night sweats and hot flashes, which indicate both decreased levels of estrogen as well as increased levels of stress hormones. “We are told in medical school that hot flashes and night sweats are all about dropping estrogen levels, but it’s actually more about where your stress hormone levels are when your estrogen drops,” says Dr. Warner. For example, research shows that women with moderate to high anxiety experience hot flashes at a much higher rate than women with normal levels of anxiety.
How to beat menopausal symptoms:
Since stress can play a major role in the severity of menopause symptoms, use comprehensive stress management techniques, such as the ones created by the Institute of Heart Math, suggests Dr. Warner. You can also take adaptogenic herbs that provide adrenal gland support. “There are a lot of different herbs in this category, so you should go to a health food store and talk with the staff or discuss it with a practitioner who knows about herbs,” advises Dr. Warner. You can also try black cohosh and Siberian rhubarb extract, both of which have been shown to help control hot flashes. As for your diet, steer clear of sugar and starch and give up gluten, if possible. “Gluten-containing grains like wheat change the liver enzymes that metabolize estrogen, so it makes the imbalance worse,” explains Dr. Warner. Resist the temptation to give in to your junk food cravings and fill up on veggies instead. “They’ve got all these lignans and flavonoids in them that help stabilize hormones.”
Eat veggies (and chocolate!) to boost your libido.
If sex just doesn’t hold the same spark for you lately, hormone imbalances may be at least partially to blame. When levels of the adrenal hormone DHEA begin to drop in your body, which can happen when you’re subjected to prolonged periods of stress, testosterone production will eventually taper off as well. “DHEA is the precursor for testosterone, so if you have low DHEA, you are probably going to have low testosterone—and then there goes your libido,” says Dr. Warner.
How to boost your libido:
Integrate effective stress management techniques into your daily life and adopt a diet high in veggies. “Every single step along the way of making hormones, and also getting rid of hormones, requires nutrient co-factors that come from vegetables,” explains Dr. Warner. Though you should keep sugar to a minimum, indulging in chocolate occasionally may actually boost your libido. It contains the neurotransmitter phenylethylamine which has been linked to feelings of pleasure. “I always tell people a little bit of chocolate is good, but if you use too much, you probably just as soon eat the chocolate than bother with your boyfriend!” says Dr. Warner. There are a couple of herbal supplements that may also rev up your sex drive, including maca and horny goat weed (yes, it’s really called that!), but there’s no simple solution to this oftentimes complex issue.
Control your cortisol and catch more ZZZs.
If you spend your nights sleeplessly counting sheep, then cortisol is mostly likely your hormone that’s out of whack. “You’ve really got to fix the cortisol or you’re not going to get to the root of the problem,” says Dr. Warner. “If you try to go to bed at night and you lay there for an hour staring at the ceiling not being able to turn off your brain, well that’s because your cortisol is too high and hasn’t dropped enough.”
How to sleep better:
Effective stress management techniques are the key to improving your quality of sleep. “Stress management tools that only get you to calm and peaceful are not good enough… only positive emotions like happiness and gratitude get the adrenal glands to stop putting out cortisol,” says Dr. Warner. One study shows that meditation not only helps regulate cortisol, but also melatonin, which is another hormone that affects sleep patterns. Disruptions brought on by a melatonin imbalance most often occur when you travel to a different time zone or experience temporary feelings of stress, according to Dr. Warner. In those cases, you can take a melatonin supplement to correct the problem. For example, if you’re about to head across the country for a three-day stay, you should start taking melatonin the week before you leave and not stop using it until a week after you arrive back. “It smooths out the change so you’ll end up sleeping better long-term. And then you may not need to take it anymore.”
No matter what the issue, a comprehensive approach is key. “When people are trying to fix everything, a lot of them try to do it in bits and pieces, like they only work on the estrogen or the cortisol,” says Dr. Warner. You really have to fix all the hormone levels at the same time because they all talk to each other. If you only work on one and don’t work on the others, you’re never going to get back in balance.
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