June 17, 2010

Balancing Your Hormones to Feel Better and Be Healthier

Fluctuations, deficiencies, and excesses in hormones create changes in the mind, emotions, and physical body. When your hormones are in balance you feel good, sleep well, think clearly, are emotionally steady, and your chances of being healthy are greatly increased. When they are not in balance any number of symptoms can arise: low energy, rage, depression, fibroids, weight gain, loss of sex drive, hair loss, even cancer.

We often hear that hormones are difficult to keep in balance, but when you take a holistic approach and heal from the inside, hormones can work together as nature intended. One reason for the general belief that hormones are difficult to balance is because many different factors affect them. Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint what exactly is affecting your hormones. It is often a combination of things.

Exposure to sunlight and moonlight, food, emotions, stress, and environmental pollutants affect hormone levels. The amount of time spent indoors under artificial lighting in relation to being outdoors in nature and fresh air can affect hormones. Then for women, nature herself causes fluctuations: the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause.

Simple tests are available to you to have your hormone levels tested. For example, hormones in your saliva can give an overview of your levels of estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, cortisol, and DHEA. Saliva tests can help evaluate how your body metabolizes estrogen, an important issue for both men and women, and particularly for women with problems associated with the reproductive system. Saliva tests are easy and noninvasive, performed at home by putting your saliva into small vials that are labeled and shipped for testing.

Common sense tells us it is better to heal the root cause of an imbalance, in ways that support the body. However, many people take estrogen-blocking drugs, synthetic hormones, or the popular bioidentical hormones without any idea of what the drugs are doing to their bodies. It’s best to be informed and know your alternatives. If you want to see how your body metabolizes estrogen and other hormones, request the tests from your doctor. Do-it-yourself test kits are available online, but it is wise to work with a natural health practitioner to translate your results. You can then be guided to your unique personal plan to harmonize your hormone levels.

There are many ways to bring hormones into balance. One supplement your practitioner might recommend is diindolylmethane (DIM) known to stimulate natural detoxification enzymes and hormone metabolism. Derived from indole-3-carbinole and cruciferous vegetables, DIM has been shown to assist with estrogen metabolism and promote hormonal balance.

Your diet and food choices will help balance your hormones. Avoid foods and products that increase xenoestrogens (fake estrogens). These lead to estrogen dominance, a modern malady due in part to chemicals and pollutants in our environment that create an estrogenic effect in the body. Minimize and/or eliminate your exposure to synthetic products and harmful chemicals, including plastics that touch your water or food.

We are rarely advised to strengthen our endocrine system when we have symptoms of hormonal imbalance. But the adrenals, thyroid, and pituitary glands play important roles. A competent holistic doctor or naturopath can advise you on how to best proceed with supporting your endocrine system based on your hormone test results.

While there are many things you can do to bring your body into balance, having some knowledge of where to begin and why is helpful. It’s certainly time to stop accepting the prevailing viewpoint that some of life’s natural processes, such as menopause, are diseases that need to be treated with drugs. For most people, the body, mind, and emotions can achieve greater wellness with food, gentle supplements, and lifestyle adjustments.

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