If you don’t sleep well, if your sex drive isn’t what it used to be, if you have a temper, if you’re holding onto excess weight, or if your moods seem to be all over the place, there’s a good chance that your hormones are imbalanced. While all of these concerns can be frustrating and even hard to talk about, there are a variety of hormone-balancing solutions for you to try, and many of them are natural.
In a recent Bulletproof Radio podcast episode (iTunes), T.S. Wiley, a prolific health writer who specializes in women’s hormonal issues and who is the brain behind a bioidentical hormone replacement therapy known as the Wiley Protocol, shares how she got turned onto hormones.
“I remember being in bed with my husband and thinking this would be what it’s like if I had a brother, because I don’t have a brother,” she say. “What the hell happened to my libido? I have a raging libido, and it was just gone one day. I thought, ‘I need hormones. I’ve got to figure this out.’”
What are hormones?
Hormones like estrogen, testosterone, cortisol, adrenaline, and growth hormones act as chemical messengers in your body. They are secreted by various glands and work in concert as part of your endocrine system to keep you in homeostasis, your body’s auto-regulated healthy state. Specifically, hormones govern your thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands, as well as your ovaries or testicles, and pancreas. The key to their functioning is in their proper levels and balance with each other.
Interested in how your hormones work together synergistically? Check out this post about Dr. Sara Gottfried’s book “The Hormone Reset Diet.”
What happens when your hormones are not balanced?
When your hormones are off, you may experience irregular periods, infertility, weight changes, mood swings, fatigue, hair loss, and insomnia. While hormone levels change with natural cycles like menopause, sometimes the result leaves you feeling less than powerful. There are also other unnatural causes of imbalanced hormones, like exposure to environmental pollutants and high levels of stress.
If you work with your doctor to get your hormone levels checked and find that they could use some recalibration, read on for tips to gently guide them back into balance.
7 natural hormone-balancing hacks
Eat healthy fats instead of carbs
Saturated fat serves as the building block for all hormone creation in your body Research confirms that male athletes who eat saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and cholesterol have higher testosterone levels. However, testosterone is not just for male bodybuilders and athletes. Women need testosterone too, otherwise they may experience diminished sex drive and weight gain.
Carbohydrates, on the other hand, actually deplete your hormones, specifically testosterone. One study found that consuming 75 grams of glucose (19 teaspoons of sugar) is sufficient to lower testosterone levels by 25 percent.
Bottom line: While carbs throw your hormones off, saturated fat helps your body to create just the right amount of hormones. Good sources of saturated fats include:
- Organic, grass-fed red meat, which is lower in dioxins (highly toxic chemical compounds that destabilize your hormones) than conventionally raised meat
- Grass-fed butter or ghee
- Coconut oil
- Dark chocolate (at least 70 percent cacao)
- Pastured egg yolks
- Krill oil, wild salmon and sardines
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Brain Octane Oil
Use adaptogenic herbs
An adaptogen is an herb that simultaneously protects the body from stress and combats the effects of stress. Ashwagandha and holy basil have very specific effects on your stress hormone (cortisol) as well as your sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone):
- Ashwagandha: This adaptogen has hormone-balancing properties that help to treat sexual dysfunction and diminished sexual desire.
- Holy basil: Holy basil also helps to balance hormone levels, specifically by decreasing cortisol. Holy basil protects against chemical and environmental pollutants, which can contribute to other hormone imbalances.
Try essential oils
Essential oils are aromatic compounds that can help to bring your hormones back into balance. They are typically used either topically on your skin, as a tincture you swallow, or as a spray mist in your home. Clary sage and geranium have proven hormone-balancing benefits:
- Clary sage: Clary sage balances estrogen levels by taking the place of estrogen at its binding site. It also helps to reduce cortisol levels in the body and improve thyroid hormone levels.
- Geranium: Geranium relieves perimenopausal symptoms like hot flashes and breast tenderness that are caused by low levels of estrogen. It also aids your body to secrete more estrogen.
Related: Do Essential Oils Actually Work?
Take vitamin D
Vitamin D is a necessary precursor to the creation of testosterone, human growth hormone, and estrogen. Like saturated fat, you want to ensure your body has enough vitamin D, so that hormones can be created.
Aim for 125mcg, or 5,000 IU, a day. Also consider taking vitamin D with vitamin K2 for maximum benefit. You can try Vitamins A-D-K. The combination works together to support your bones, heart, and immune system.
Use stress management techniques
Stress-management techniques can go a long way to help your hormones to self-regulate:
- Meditation: A mindfulness practice like meditation lowers cortisol levels in the blood, leading to reduced stress.
- Deep breathing: While your hormones ultimately control your breathing, regulating your breathing through concentrated effort also stabilizes your cortisol levels and reduces stress.
Focus on regular HIIT exercise
As Bulletproof founder Dave Asprey points out in “The Bulletproof Diet,” body composition and shape are directly related to your hormones. So, it’s logical to use exercise as a tool to control your hormones too. High-intensity interval training (HIIT), in particular, helps to increase testosterone and human growth hormone levels in the body.
Aim for quality sleep
Sleep time, duration, and quality affect your hormones. In “The Bulletproof Diet,” Dave also talks about the benefits of deep sleep, or stage three sleep, to restore your brain and body so that your hormones can be released. Growth hormones, cortisol, and hunger hormones are particularly dependent upon this quality sleep for proper release. While deep sleep only lasts a few minutes per cycle, your hormones are dependent upon these crucial moments to self-regulate and release into your bloodstream.
Try the Wiley Protocol
The Wiley Protocol is a bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) devised by T. S. Wiley. Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is the use of hormones in the form of pills or cream that are identical to those found in your body.
The Wiley Protocol uses topical hormones made from yams to address hormone imbalances affecting sleep, memory, libido, and pain levels. There are male- and female-specific protocols that take rhythmic dosage into account:
“[For the women’s protocol] I knew I had to figure out a dosing schedule. I found something that was 20:1. One milligram of estrogen to 20 milligrams of progesterone. I figured out how every three days (every 72 hours), there’s a receptor roll over (steroid receptor rollover). Every 72 hours, you make new ones [hormones]. I changed the dose every three days. You build it and they will come. I made the tipping points.” To learn more, listen to the Wiley podcast episode [LINK].