Want to balance your hormones naturally? You need to read this

Sick of being at the beck and call of your hormones? Do you want to balance your hormones naturally? You need to read this. If you experience severe PMS in the luteal phase (up to 2 weeks before your period), you are not alone. Mood swings, anxiety, crying attacks, cravings, bloating, fluid retention, menstrual migraine, brain fog, acne breakouts…all super common.

What about your periods themselves? Are they ok or are you one of the 45-95% who experience significant pain? Are you even getting a regular period? Newsflash: a pill bleed is not a period! Perhaps you don’t ovulate every month? Or maybe your natural period has gone totally AWOL? Maybe you’re having trouble conceiving?

All these issues are so common they might be called (statistically) ‘normal’! But this certainly is not what Mother Nature intended (some sadist that would make her) – nor does it have to be this way for most of us.

And we’re not just talking sex hormones here

What about cortisol (your stress hormone)?
How’s your blood sugar control (I’m looking at you, insulin…!)
How’s your thyroid holding up?
Our hormones control a lot more than just our menstrual cycle: Our sleep; how we deal with stress; our mood; our appetite; our digestion; our weight…the list goes on.

Most us women could do with getting more savvy about this hormonal orchestra going on inside of us. For a very general introduction, here’s my no-nonsense guide for if you want to balance your hormones naturally. You need to read this.

The deal breaker

Wave bye bye to hormonal contraception! It is impossible to fix your hormonal issues whilst on the pill, or other synthetic hormones. Why? Because they shut down your reproductive system, stop you ovulating and making your own hormones.

Stop stressing your system….

  1. De-stress daily. Just 20 minutes every day can transform your health. Yoga is fabulous, as is meditation. But it could be anything! A soak in the bath, a boogie round the kitchen, a talk and walk with a friend…
  2. Sleep 7+ hours a night in the dark (unplug electronics, cover standby lights, use black out blinds)
  3. Make sure you are eating enough! So many women don’t. A balanced plate is 50% non starchy veggies (think greens and colour), 25% protein & 25% healthy fats. You need all these food groups – ideally in this ratio – at every meal.
  4. Never go hungry – if you need to snack, snack! But make it protein, fat & fibre (e.g. avocado slices wrapped in turkey, an oatcake with peanut butter, berries with full fat Greek yoghurt, peppers/carrots with hummus, apple with almond butter)
  5. Eat within 1 hour of waking up in the morning (remember the Holy Grail: Protein, fat, fibre)
  6. Exercise…but not too much! HIIT, spinning or running 5 times a week? Your hormones likely won’t love that! Reduce and replace with some gentle yoga or a walk
  7. Being sedentary is not good either – move your body every day. Aim for 30 mins of brisk walking or equivalent most days
  8. Steer clear of ultra-processed foods. How to tell if a food is ultra processed? Does it have a food label? No –> All good! Yes –> check the label. Do you recognise those ingredients/are they things you could cook with at home? Yes –> All good! No–> Avoid
  9. Don’t eat foods you are intolerant to e.g. gluten, cow’s dairy, soy- you know YOU
  10. Make sure you haven’t got some low grade, chronic infection rumbling on in the background. All that inflammation is a hormonal catastrophe! Common ones? Gum disease….your gums should not bleed when you brush! See your hygienist and keep everything tip-top. Constant on-off thrush or bacterial vaginosis? Not normal. Acne? That’s an active infection. See your doctor if something doesn’t seem right.

Clean up your diet

  1. Reduce sugar and white carbs (juice and fruit smoothies are not healthy. Cakes, biscuits and puddings make life sweeter, but have them once or twice a week – not multiple times a day! Switch white carbs for whole grains/starchy veg
  2. Eat a decent serving of good quality protein at EVERY meal (plant based can work with a lot of thought & effort, but truthfully, animal protein works best for most women. Make it organic or grass-fed)
  3. Eat more good quality fats at EVERY meal (olive oil, oily fish, nut butters, avocado, grass fed butter, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, olives, organic dairy – or equivalent if you’re intolerant – quality meat etc.)
  4. Include 2 big servings of leafy greens every day (chard, different types of cabbage, kale,pak choi, spinach, rocket, watercress, spring greens, dandelion greens etc)- lightly steamed, boiled, stir fried or raw
  5. Include cruciferous veg every day – lightly steamed, boiled, stir fried, roasted, raw* (*cook if you have an under-active thyroid)

Love your gut!

  1. Poop EVERY day. If this ain’t happening, why not? Fibre + Fluid + Movement are key. You should not be relying on coffee to get you to the bathroom, ladies!
  2. Look after your good gut bacteria by feeding them what they love – plants! 30+ plant foods a week is a great place to start. You might want to introduce some fermented foods too. Kefir or sauerkraut are my favourites and easy to incorporate
  3. Avoid antibiotics unless your doctor says it is absolutely necessary. The same goes for stomach acid blockers/antacids and NSAIDS (drugs like ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen)
  4. Chew your food! Seriously, pulverise it…we’re aiming for baby-food consistency before swallowing. You can eat the best diet in the world, but if you aren’t digesting properly and absorbing those nutrients, you might as well not bother. Digestion starts in the mouth
  5. Try to fast overnight, i.e. make dinner the last thing you eat before breakfast. Unless you’re hungry, then eat. Oatcakes with almond butter and banana are a good evening snack


Nutrient density – get enough of the key players

  1. Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for female hormone balance and problem-free periods. Get more into your diet with leafy greens like chard and spinach, almonds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, avocado, black beans and really dark chocolate. Supplementing 300mg of magnesium glycinate and/or malate is a great idea, before bed. Always check with a healthcare professional first if you are taking prescription medication.
  2. Take a quality multivitamin with enough of the right nutrients (B6, folate, zinc, selenium etc) in bioavailable form. I love https://www.cytoplan.co.uk/women-s-wholefood-multi
  3. Get a FULL thyroid panel done (Hint: not just TSH and T4 – but T3, rT3 and antibodies too, and ask for a copy of your results!)
  4. Get your iron levels tested (Hint: you are looking for a FERRITIN blood test, not just a full blood count. You want an ideal level of > 40ng/ml, preferably nearer to 70ng/ml. If you’re low, work with your healthcare professional to supplement (ferrous bisglycinate is best) before re-testing
  5. Check your vitamin D status. You want an optimal level of >50ng/ml.  It’s so easy to get a DIY home test done by post now. The best way to top up? Expose skin to sunlight (April-September in the UK) for 20 mins before you apply sunblock. Supplement vitamin D3 the rest of the year (at the appropriate level to achieve a vitamin D test result in the optimal range).
  6. Are you getting enough omega 3s? If you don’t eat oily fish a few times a week, the answer is probably not! A quality, filtered fish oil supplement (or algae-based version for vegetarians/vegans) with EPA and DHA in the right ratio is a smart idea for most of us. I like https://amzn.eu/d/iumXasO

Reduce toxins to give your liver a break

  1. Who loves coffee? Me too! But wait until after breakfast, try to stick to the one – and not after midday
  2. I can’t not talk about alcohol here. Much as I’d love to report otherwise(!), our hormones don’t love the booze. Sober curious? Now could be the time to test out what it does for your body and cycle If you want to drink, keep to 1 or 2 at a time and <5 drinks/week
  3. Opt for eco, non-toxic, organic and fragrance free products. You’ll want to avoid phthalates, triclosan, SLS – and “fragrance” or “parfum” are not as innocent as they sound! Sadly “natural” means nothing on a label. Check the ingredients list…Would you eat that stuff? If not, question if you want to cook with it or smear it on your skin every day. The Environmental Working Group has lots of information on its website about less toxic personal care and household products
  4. Quit the fragrances….those scented candles, your perfume, those room sprays, the perfumed laundry softener and dryer sheets, strong-smelling cleaning products? We all love them, but they are full of endocrine-disrupting chemicals we know aren’t great for happy hormones! Go for pure essential oils instead
  5. Watch the plastics. Yes they are everywhere, but we can avoid adding to our exposure by: heating, storing & transporting food in glass/stainless steel/ceramic not plastic. Cover food with a plate in the fridge or use a beeswax wrap. Decant ready-prepared food into ceramic to heat/cook. Choose cast iron or stainless steel pans over non-stick. Use stainless steel or glass drinking bottles. Avoid touching till receipts!

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