I know life is crazy right now which means we need to up our self care 100%!! Here are my top 11 HORMONE HACKS. I hope this helps remind you that your health is #1.
Hormone Hack #1- Fill Up With Fat
This likely sounds counterintuitive, but trust me, it’s not when it comes to your hormones, energy levels and kicking cravings!
In order for the body to make hormones, it needs you to eat healthy dietary fats that are broken down into LDL and cholesterol to make hormones along with other nutrients such as B vitamins. Yep, you heard me right. LDL and cholesterol are actually necessary to make hormones. They get a bad rap, but they are not bad for you if sourced in a healthy way.
Filling up with healthy fats can also help to balance your blood sugar for longer-lasting energy, to reduce inflammation and to kick cravings.
So what kinds of healthy fats should you indulge in on the day to day?
● Avocado on its own, as guacamole or as an oil
● Full fat coconut milk in your coffee, tea and/or smoothies
● Cold-Pressed and organic olive or coconut oil in cooked or baked goods
● Grass-fed ghee instead of butter (less inflammatory)
● Fatty cuts of organic and pasture-raised meats and eggs
One of my favorite beverages is a matcha latte with full fat coconut milk and vanilla bean ghee. This keeps me feeling full and energized for 5 hours or more!
Focus on filling up with healthy fats at least once a day and notice the way it makes you feel more full, more energized and craving free.
Hormone Hack #2 – Breathe Deeply
This year is filled with so many changes and challenges. This does take a toll on our hormonal health.
These challenges can trigger our sympathetic nervous system and elicits a stress response in the body, aka the fight or flight response. In a stressed state, our body uses a lot of valuable hormonal resources. Cortisol is one of the primary hormones at play but not the only one impacted in a negative way.
In fight or flight mode, our body directs all of its valuable resources outward for quick thinking and quick moving, leaving little resources left for the rest of the critical functions in our body to take place to keep our health in line.
BUT there is something you can do that takes 2 minutes or less to snap yourself out of this reactive place and quickly into more of a rest and relaxation mode so your hormones can come back into balance and your body can heal from all the work it has been doing…
It’s as simple as that. When we adopt the deep, rhythmic breathing patterns of a relaxed person, we can automatically and instantly flip the switch from being in fight or flight mode into a more relaxed state.
Try this ten times…
● Inhale for a count of 5
● Hold the breath for a count of 5
● Exhale for a count of 7
You can use this simple breathing technique anytime you notice yourself moving too fast or when you’ve gone a long time without taking a break, to instantly bring cortisol and other hormones back into balance.
I often do this once in the morning, afternoon and before bed. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to stop at least once a day to breathe deeply and promote hormone balance.
Hormone Hack #3 – Go Green
Inflammation is at the root of all hormone dysfunction or any chronic disease. It drives cortisol out of rhythm, creating a negative domino effect on other hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and thyroid. And over time, chronic inflammation, even at low grade levels, can overwhelm the immune system, kicking it into overdrive and eventually leading to autoimmunity or other chronic conditions.
You can’t always control your exposure to toxins or the need to travel, but there are things you can do on a daily basis to calm down the inflammatory fire.
To help you reduce inflammation on a daily basis – GO GREEN!
One cup of green tea has an abundance of anti-inflammatory effects that can positively impact your hormones and even your gut health. EGCG is the active ingredient in green tea which modulates genes to produce an anti-inflammatory effect.
To keep that inflammation fire contained, aim to incorporate a cup of green tea (decaf if needed) daily.
This is such an easy task! You can grab a cup of green tea almost anywhere while on the road or pack your favorite green tea brand to always have with you. It’s the perfect drink to start your day or keep you warm when it’s cold outside.
As I mentioned in Hack #1 when talking about filling up with fats to keep your hormones healthy, one of my favorite beverage is a matcha latte with full fat coconut milk and 2 teaspoons of vanilla bean ghee. This keeps me feeling full and energized for at least 4 hours, plus has all the added anti-inflammatory benefits.
Go with green tea on the daily to keep that inflammation under control for healthy hormones.
Hormone Hack #4: Wake Up with Warm Water
Beyond just flushing your body, your hormones can hugely benefit by starting your day off with warm water enhanced with a slice of lemon and pinch of Himalayan or sea salt.
Lemons have been shown to help detoxify the liver, and the liver is where we either convert hormones, such as thyroid T4 to T3, or it helps us to excrete excess hormones such as estrogen which can lead to weight gain, sleep and mood issues if it builds up.
A pinch of Himalayan or sea salt promotes better hydration and electrolyte balance which is important for hormone and bodily functions. Plus the magnesium, sodium and potassium in the salt nourishes the adrenal glands which largely produce cortisol and DHEA hormone and also contribute to the production of adrenaline, estrogen and other hormones as well.
Warm or room temperature water aids in the absorption of the lemon and salt nutrients into the body in addition to promoting digestive function and bowel movements, which is how we excrete toxins that can impact hormone balance or excess hormones themselves. Essentially, warm water gives the insides of your body a gentle nudge to get going instead of a cold electric shock to get out of bed – warm water sounds much more pleasing right?
See if you can add in a cup of warm, lemon-salted water to your morning to give your hormones a healthy boost to start your day!
Hormone Hack #5: Crush Some Cruciferous Veggies
One alcoholic beverage can increase estrogen levels in the body for up to 24 hours and then estrogen levels fall back to normal.
Aside from alcohol, there is a whole category of toxins called xenoestrogens, such as certain plastics, that we are likely to come in contact with. Alcohol and plastic can increase estrogen.
Constantly elevated estrogen levels from alcohol consumption or toxin exposures can lead to estrogen dominance which can in turn trigger thyroid imbalances, sleep issues and mood swings.
But don’t worry, you can still indulge sometimes and not worry about every plastic you touch if you focus on crushing some cruciferous veggies when you sit down to eat.
Cruciferous vegetables are a staple in an anti-estrogenic type of diet or lifestyle. They contain a compound called DIM (3’3 diindolylmethane) which helps your body to remove estrogen through the liver.
DIM isn’t the only reason why cruciferous veggies are anti-estrogenic. Most of them also contain chlorophyll (found in the green leaves) which also aids in reducing estrogen through improved liver health.
Next time you go out to eat or cook at home, see where you can incorporate some of these cruciferous veggies…
- Bok Choy
- Brussels Sprouts
- Collard Greens
- Mustard greens
Some of my favorite dishes include different styles of roasted Brussels sprouts and kale salads. Brussels sprouts in general are a big trend these days for appetizers, so look to add them to your meal when eating out. Or double the benefits with some sauerkraut to get in your cabbage to lower estrogen AND promote better gut health.
Keep that estrogen in check by crushing some cruciferous veggies!
Hormone Hack #6: Bank Some Sleep
Sleep is the first thing to go out the window when life gets chaotic.
Burning the midnight oil to meet last minute work deadlines.
But you might have noticed that even when you get 8 hours of sleep or allow yourself to sleep in after a late night, you just don’t seem to wake up feeling as rested as you could if you had gone to bed at a more reasonable time.
That’s because every 1 hour of sleep before midnight is worth 2 hours of rest!
Our body is on an internal time clock according to the sun and moon cycles. Based on this internal timer, our body has specific times of day when it does some really critical functions to help keep our hormones in balance.
For example, in the window of 10pm-2am, the body releases human growth hormone which helps to repair damaged tissues or cells, and create new cells. During this time is also when cortisol levels are supposed to be at their lowest and melatonin hormone is at its peak to support restful sleep. And during the window of 2am-4am is when the liver and gallbladder get to work cleansing and detoxifying to release toxins which will promote hormone balance.
If we miss these windows of sleep, our body does not shift its internal clock on our behalf, we simply miss out on these important functions being performed as they should be, and our hormones take a hit as a result. Constantly staying up late can completely flip your cortisol rhythm, mess with melatonin production and disrupt the rest of your hormones as a result.
Obviously there are some very fun-filled and valid reasons to maybe miss some shut eye, but you can make up for lost time by banking your sleep on the days that you are able to get to bed at a more reasonable hour.
Remember that every 1 hour of sleep before midnight is worth 2 hours of rest!
So on the nights when you don’t have obligations or commitments, aim to be in bed by 10pm or earlier to bank some sleep for late nights you might have ahead or to make up for the ones you already have.
Getting in good quality sleep at the optimal times as much as you can will help to keep your cortisol and melatonin in sync, and allow human growth hormone to get to work on your behalf so you can wake up feeling rested and make it through without your hormones being completely out of whack.
Hormone Hack #7: Sing, Gargle, Gag
Did you know that singing can actually promote hormone balance? So can gargling water and initiating a gag reflex.
You’re probably wondering how in the heck these actions help to balance your hormones,,,,,
Singing, gargling and gagging all stimulate and strengthen the vagus nerve which is the longest nerve in your body. The vagus rules important organ activity in the:
Brain (neurotransmitter hormones!)
Neck (thyroid hormones!)
Ears and Tongue
Heart and Lungs
Intestines (more neurotransmitter, thyroid and other hormone activity!)
Liver (excretion of excess hormones!)
Pancreas (insulin and related hormones!)
Gallbladder and Spleen
Kidney (cortisol and DHEA hormones!)
And reproductive organs (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone hormones!)
Whoa, that’s a lot of organs producing important hormones and performing important functions in the body! Basically the vagus nerve is the most important nerve in your parasympathetic nervous system.
If the vagus nerve is weak or not stimulated, that means it won’t be able to do as good of a job telling the rest of the organs in your body to do their job and therefore hormone production and balance will take a hit.
Your vagus nerve also translates information between the gut and the brain. If one of them is not getting the right signals, the whole ship can sink! Your brain or gut won’t be able to tell the body what it needs to do.
But don’t worry, it’s super easy to strengthen or keep your vagus nerve strong! Next time your favorite tune comes on the radio, sing your socks off to stimulate that vagus nerve.
You can also gargle water several times a day- your gargle should be long enough to make it feel challenging. Or the next time you brush your teeth, lay your toothbrush on the back of your tongue and push down to activate a gag reflex.
Hormone Hack #8: Benefit of Bone Broth
Bone broth is a superfood for your immune system and gut health, which is where a LOT of hormone interactions take place such as…
The conversion of thyroid T4 to T3
Conversion of glucocorticoids into androgens (a group of steroid hormones)
Where neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine are made
Approximately 80% of your immune system is housed in the gut (aka the intestinal lining). The immune system cells also synthesize, store and secrete hormones, which are identical to the hormones of the endocrine glands (thyroid, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, insulin hormones etc.)
Bone broth helps to keep your gut healthy and therefore your hormones healthy too, because it is rich in minerals for immune system function plus it has healing compounds for the intestinal lining such as glutamine, collagen, glycine and proline.
Don’t get it wrong though, bone broth is different from your everyday chicken, beef or vegetable stock. Bone broth is made by simmering the actual bones of the animal (commonly chicken or beef) which is where all of the beneficial nutrients come from to support your hormones!
You can grab grass-fed, organic bone broth at just about any health food or grocery store.
Here are some ways you can incorporate bone broth into your day to support your hormones through the holidays:
Drink it as a hot cup of tea with some added spices; ginger, dried savory herbs, sea salt, and cayenne are great!
Use it in any recipe that calls for any kind of stock or broth (gravy!)
Make a simple soup of celery, carrots, sea salt and pieces of chicken (boil then serve)
In addition to supporting the immune system and hormone functions, bone broth also improves your overall gut health so you can absorb more nutrients from other foods you are eating to promote positive hormone balance.
Give yourself and your hormones the gift of bone broth!
Hormone Hack #9: Turn Down the Intensity
Before I dive into today’s topic about turning down the intensity to support your hormones, let’s set the scene by redefining the word stress. When we hear the word stress we often think of the typical mental or emotional stress that we encounter from work, our relationships or having to make tough decisions.
STRESS IS ANYTHING THAT CREATES A BURDEN ON THE BODY
Stress can come from the foods you eat that don’t agree with you, lack of sleep, toxins that clog up your detoxification system, mental or emotional aspects, and exercising too intensely when your body is already under a lot of stress.
Stress initiates inflammation which is the root of all dysfunction, especially when it comes to your hormones.
What we don’t realize is how stressful intense exercise can be when our body is already under a LOT of stress. Hitting the gym hard after a late night, getting poor sleep, overindulging in treats or when dealing with a lot of emotional stress is actually the exact opposite of what you should be doing.
Stress depletes the body of its vital resources and increases inflammation making it harder for the body to recover and to keep your hormones in balance.
When you exercise too intensely while the body is already dealing with a burden of stress, it can put more strain on your hormones such as cortisol, estrogen, thyroid and testosterone and have the exact opposite effect of what you hope it would be doing. So instead of maintaining your body weight or de-stressing from a mental sense, you’ll find yourself feeling worn down, getting sick and feeling fat.
I’m not saying you should stop all exercise when you are “stressed”, just turn down the intensity to better support your body and help your hormones rebound.
Instead of forcing yourself to run, hit the weights hard or push yourself in a class, simply opt for some kind of movement that is more restorative and rejuvenating such as:
A nice long walk
A yoga class or pilates
Interval training with 1-2 minute breaks to recover between sets
Moving your body daily is essential for hormone balance too, just be mindful of what your body is capable of doing on a day-to-day basis depending on the collection of stressors you might have encountered over the last 24-48 hours.
I know this concept probably goes against all that you’ve been taught about diet and exercise, but as I’ve been talking about in this 12-day series, there are WAY MORE pieces of the puzzle to keep your hormones healthy.
So trust me and your body. Turn down the intensity, your hormones will thank you 🙂
Hormone Hack #10: Introduce Intermittent Fasting
Warning: Consult with your holistic or functional health practitioner before playing around with the concept of this topic if you suffer from more severe stages of adrenal and thyroid dysfunction.
Intermittent fasting is a hot topic in the holistic and functional health industry these days for its therapeutic benefits in aiding to reverse insulin resistance and therefore helping to restore hormone balance and gut health.
You don’t have to be diabetic to have insulin resistance. I see clients all the time who are “eating healthy” and working out, yet they have insulin resistance. So how does this happen and what does it do to your hormones?
Simply put, insulin resistance occurs when your body has become so over saturated with simple carbs and sugars, so the cells of the body that are supposed to absorb glucose literally reject it, leaving sugar circulating in the blood and insulin levels high as a result. Having imbalances in cortisol or leptin hormones, and poor sleep habits are other big contributing factors to insulin resistance as well.
Based on how insulin resistance occurs, it only makes sense that when we can run the risk of developing or contributing to insulin resistance as we indulge in carb-rich side dishes, other desserts and sugar-loaded beverages.
Introducing some intermittent fasting can help to offset this larger than usual intake of carbs and sugars so the body doesn’t become over saturated, thus keeping your insulin levels more normal and promoting better hormone balance.
There are different philosophies around intermittent fasting and it works in different ways for different people. For example, people who have more severe adrenal or thyroid imbalances are more sensitive to extended fasting periods, so I always recommend easing your way into it.
Here is what I do and what I recommend for my clients as a way to intermittent fast from carbs or sugars specifically:
– Stop eating by 7pm (if you wake up around 6am, if not shift this time earlier or later)
– Fast overnight while sleeping and into the next morning
– You can have a bulletproof style coffee or matcha green tea made with ghee and full fat coconut milk if you feel like you need something
– Have your first “meal” that includes carbs around lunch
This will result in about a 12-14 hour fasting period to give your body a break from carbs or sugars, yet the ghee and/or full fat coconut milk still give your body some fuel.
Introducing intermittent fasting 2-3 days a week can help your body become more “fat adapted”- meaning your body will be able to tap into your own fat stores for fuel and be less reliant on carbs as a source of energy. Being more fat adapted promotes better balance and utilization of the hormone leptin which regulates fat distribution and loss.
Intermittent fasting really doesn’t require much work at all, it’s just about being mindful of what you’re putting in your body. If you find yourself overindulge often, give it a try to help keep your hormones happy!
Hormone Hack #11: Embrace Joy & Epigenetics
We either underestimate or usually aren’t aware of the influence that our mindset has on our hormones or the power of epigenetics.
Our genes determine only about 20% of our health, leaving 80% to be determined by our choices in life, our mindset and our environment. The concept of epigenetics looks at this interplay of hereditary genes versus how they actually express themselves based on a person’s lifestyle. A recent study about epigenetics and endocrinology (the study of hormones in the endocrine system) stated:
“Mounting evidence now suggests that epigenetics is the missing link between genetics, the environment, and endocrine function. In this regard, genetics provides a basis for epigenetic modifications and a blueprint for hormone action. However, the great variability in endocrine function and susceptibility to endocrine-related diseases among individuals or populations is clearly determined by epigenetics.”
This is thrilling news! This is proof that you are not destined to become the collection of your genes, but that you can alter your gene expression and thus set yourself up for better hormone health by maintaining a positive mindset, a clean environment and making healthy choices.
Embracing the joy in life and adopting an attitude of gratitude is one of the simplest actions you can take to support your hormone health. Sure we all go through crappy stuff in our lifetime – things don’t go as planned, there will always be struggles and conflict – but how we choose to deal with it is what can make the difference in our hormone health.
It’s important to reflect on all that has happened over the past year, to find gratitude in even the darkest of moments for the lessons that have been learned and to look ahead for happiness in the future.
So today I leave you with this last tip of the 11 Healthy Hormone Hacks. If you do nothing else that I have talked about, please consider simply embracing joy and the positive influence you have on epigenetics, your hormones, and ultimately your life.
Take a moment today and for the rest of the year to write down at least 3 things that brought you joy or that you are grateful for.
This is how I end every evening, by writing down 3 things I am incredibly grateful for. As I look back at what I have written down over the past year I can see the vast changes that have happened in my body and in my life, the challenges I have overcome and what I was able to appreciate even on the toughest of days.
What are you truly grateful for?