Hormonal imbalance is something that affects many women. It can be due to chemical exposure, nutritional deficiency, stress, or trauma, among other things. An unhealthy relationship with food/exercise is one of the most common reasons why women experience hormonal imbalance. Even dieting that appears harmless can have ill effects when not properly managed.
In my case, a longstanding eating disorder caused my hormones to become really out of whack over the course of several years. Although my disorder manifested when I was much younger than I am now, the side effects did not present themselves until more recently. In fact, many did not become apparent until after I had started embracing recovery.
These signs included hair loss, dry skin, digestive troubles, and amenorrhea (loss of menstruation). I tried to find reasons why these things were happening to me and did everything in my power to stop them. I experimented with hair growth shampoos, acupuncture, elimination diets and more trying to rid myself of my ailments. But at the end of the day, when I was really being honest with myself, I knew that all signs pointed toward unbalanced hormones.
Although my weight was technically at a “healthy spot” and my calorie intake was “adequate,” it was obvious that my body was not where it needed to be to support healthy, happy, regulated hormones. Hormonal imbalance is not just inconvenient–it can have health implications (like bone loss and infertility) that last the rest of your life. Experiencing all of these health issues simultaneously made me realize that there was still more work to be done on my path to recovery.
I consciously chose to make some changes in my life, even though they scared me a little, because I decided that my long-term health was more important than maintaining a certain weight or clothing size.
And you know what? After about half a year of consistently pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and choosing freedom over rules or restriction, my hormones are back to where they should be! Most importantly, I reversed my amenorrhea, which was one of the best things I could ask for with regard to my current health.
These are the biggest changes I made to re-balance my hormones. If you are struggling with your hormones, you may adopt some of these changes as well.
1. More fats
There have been times in my life where I have been pretty fat-phobic, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. A brief stint with the 80/10/10 diet did not help this cause. However, I had read that “fats feed hormones” so I decided to embrace them full-force. This meant cooking everything in coconut oil, eating whole avocados on the regular, and TONS of nut butter.
2. Little to no “formal exercise”
Back when I was a gym rat, I worked out every single day for a certain amount of time and went into super panic mode if anything messed with my routine. Then I realized I should cut back on exercise so the time and intensity dipped a bit. According to my doctor, this amount was acceptable; but according to my body, it was not. So while trying to rebalance my hormones I cut out all formal exercise and stuck to walking and yoga only. I tried to be intuitive and honor my desire to move in a way that made me feel good rather than force myself beyond comfort. I also tried to embrace fluid, feminine movement like dancing.
3. Yoga and meditation
Yoga did not serve only as exercise but also as a way to center and calm myself. Starting out my day on the mat set me forth on a good foot, even if the practice was not very strenuous. It was simply about finding myself, honoring my body and tuning in to my needs/desires. Yoga is both a physical and mental practice that facilitates mindfulness. It also helps to connect the brain and the body, which is important considering hormones begin in the brain.
4. Lots of sleep
One of the most important things when resetting your hormones is getting enough rest. People who have experienced hormone imbalance (especially as a result of an eating disorder) often need much more sleep than average. So I didn’t beat myself up for pressing snooze or passing out way earlier than my friends. I needed it and it made me feel much better during this time to get the extra rest. That being said, lounging around is also beneficial. If you feel the need to lay low, do it. The stress of forcing yourself to stay active all the time can easily upset the hormones.
Like I said, hormones begin in the brain. So doing nice things for yourself that make you feel cared for and loved can help to make you feel more confident and relaxed, and ultimately kick start your hormones. Self-care that highlights your femininity is a plus. Some of my favorites are massages, bubble baths or kicking back with a good magazine and an almond milk latte.
6. Hormone replacement therapy
If all else fails, you may want to temporarily try hormone replacement therapy to get your hormones back to where they need to be. With the recommendation of my doctor, I did this for a while in addition to the aforementioned practices. They assisted me in getting my (very low) hormone levels closer to healthy levels. The hormones that I used were natural, had no major side effects and mimicked the already existing hormones in my body.
Related: Alternative Ways to Get Healthy Fats
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Photo: Lulu Lovering via Flickr