Cyclical fluctuations in the levels of the ovarian hormones estrogen and progesterone are necessary for producing a regular menstrual cycle. Mild symptoms like cyclic breast tenderness, mood changes, and fatigue are commonly associated with normal hormonal fluctuations. However, more bothersome symptoms such as heavy periods, fibrocystic breast changes, and cyclic depression and anxiety may indicate a condition termed “estrogen dominance.”
Estrogen dominance arises when the body synthesizes excess estrogen relative to its counteracting hormone, progesterone. The role of estrogen is not only to regulate the menstrual cycle but also to influence the development of secondary sex characteristics (breasts, hips, etc.), control cholesterol levels, maintain bone health, and support cognition.
When unbalanced, estrogen has been linked to bothersome premenstrual and menopausal symptoms, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and reproductive cancers.
Here are five tips to use for hormone balance.
1. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Eating a diet rich in diverse organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and raw nuts and seeds can give your body the building blocks needed to create healthy hormones and the nutrients needed to support detoxification and elimination of their metabolites. For example, vegetables of the Brassicaceae family (broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc.) are a dietary source of indole-3-carbinol (I3C). When exposed to stomach acid, I3C can be converted to DIM (diindolylmethane), a powerful phytonutrient that balances estrogen metabolism. Flax meal is an excellent source of both dietary fiber and lignans. Lignans help reduce the availability of active estrogens, and adequate dietary fiber encourages regular and healthy bowel movements, a primary method of eliminating excess estrogens.
2. Limit Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals
The endocrine system is the system of various glands within the body that produce hormones, the chemical messengers that send information and instructions between organs to regulate vital bodily functions like reproduction and metabolism. Plastics, parabens, and pesticides in our food and/or our environment can be a source of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, chemicals that mimic the activities of our natural hormones and disrupt their balance. Opting for glass and avoiding consuming foods/beverages contained in plastic packaging, replacing your skin and hair care products with those labeled “paraben-free,” and choosing organic when possible are some ways to reduce your exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
3. Maintain a Healthy Relationship with Your Body
Adipose/fat tissue is a key site for the production and metabolism of estrogen. If severely overweight or obese, reducing the amount of adipose/fat tissue in the body with daily movement and a minimally processed whole foods diet can promote healthier estrogen levels.
4. Manage Stress
Active stress avoidance and stress management techniques like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing are essential to maintaining hormone balance. Practicing the 4-square breath is a free and easy way to regulate cortisol, the stress hormone that can have a negative impact on the production of other hormones when imbalanced.
- 4-Square Breath: In a quiet space with your feet planted on the ground, scan your body from head to toe for any areas you may be storing tension, and release.
- Inhale for 4 seconds
- Hold for 4 seconds
- Exhale for 4 seconds
- Hold for 4 seconds
- Repeat as needed
5. Consult with an Experienced Healthcare Professional
Naturopathic doctors, for example, can help you pinpoint which hormones may be imbalanced and are trained in the safe and effective use of the many nutrients and botanical medicines that can nourish the endocrine system and rebalance hormones.
Common treatments like birth control and other medications may provide some temporary relief but are most likely not addressing the root cause of your symptoms. On the other hand, a naturopathic approach combines taking a detailed history of your symptoms, performing an in-depth assessment of the hormone levels, and treating the root cause of any imbalances with safe, effective, natural solutions.
Dr. Aviles is a naturopathic doctor at Whole Health Natural Family Medicine in Hamden, CT, where she specializes in women’s health and pediatrics. She has a special interest in the management of gynecologic, hormonal/endocrine, and mental health conditions, acute and chronic pediatric care, as well as chronic diseases, such as diabetes and high cholesterol.
Whole Health Natural Family Medicine, 203.288.8283, firstname.lastname@example.org