Updated: Jul 6, 2020
Everyone wants to feel younger. We want to look younger. We don't necessarily want to BE younger- that comes with its own set of woes, right? I'll take the experience without the saggy rear end, please. Thank you.
Most of us would be happy with bodies and minds that feel sharp and tight and energized. Bodies and minds that creak and crack and fog and creep along are a constant source of frustration and drain, and if you are like the women I work with, you are looking for solutions to help you feel increasingly better.
The way our bodies feel are impacted by hormones. Hormones are simply chemical messengers that tell the body what to do. Thyroid hormone tells your body to increase heat, digestion, and heart rate. Estrogen tells your body to have a regular period. Progesterone tells your body to calm down and sleep and grow a thick uterine lining in order to have an egg implant safely. Cortisol tells your body to release stored blood sugar and get ready for action. Insulin tells your body to open up the cells to receive glucose.
If these hormones are off, as they often are, a woman will start to feel tired and irritable and sleepy but unable to sleep and fat and puffy and....hormonal.
It is wise to test all of your pertinent hormones while you are in your 20s and while you are feeling pretty good so you have a baseline of what your body ought to be at when you get a little older.
Sure, in your 50s and 60s, your delicately balanced hormones may stop humming along quite so nicely. But increasingly younger women are feeling this decline, this imbalance, and this is unacceptable. Women in their 20s and 30s should have normal periods, be perfectly fertile, have plenty of energy, and be able to maintain a normal (not idealized) body weight.
Of course, nothing is perfect.
However, there are natural ways to bring your hormones back into a relative balance. Let's get started.
Diet First, Please
I've said it before and I will say it again: humans need animal products. We do. There are no indigenous people groups that survived 100%, completely on plants.
I adore my plant-based friends, and like any diet, this one is sustainable for a period of time. Perhaps even an extended period of time. And every body is different, so some women may feel as though they thrive on plants. Good on ya. Truly. However, if you are plant-based and you begin to experience mood problems, skin problems, weight problems, or energy problems, you may do well to add some clean organic pastured animal products into your diet. It does not have to be a lot- once a day may suffice.
That said, the building blocks of a healthy diet include:
Fats (butter, coconut, olive oil)
Vegetables (including starchy tubers and squashes)
Fruits (any and all!)
From there, you are free to add foods as desired. But for a truly healthy body, you must put in truly healthy things. You need amino acids to build muscle (meat!), essential fatty acids to build brain and sex hormones (fat!), sugars to create energy to run the body (fruits and vegetables!), and caped crusaders to fight off invading pathogens, yeasts, and oxidative stress (fruits and vegetables again!)
Without enough fat and protein, you will not have a period, your skin will look a mess, you will have no energy, and your digestion will slow down.
The girl needs a steak. And a sweet potato. And gobs of butter. And broccoli. And oranges.
All the stuff that kids don't want. You are the mom. Make her eat.
Cortisol is our fight or flight hormone. It is "nature's alarm clock". It gives us our get-up-and-go. If you have lost yours, your cortisol may be low. You can order a 24 hour salivary cortisol panel or urine panel through me or another practitioner to check your cortisol.
If you are exhausted even after a good night's sleep, you may be low in cortisol.
To make enough #cortisol, you will need meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and saturated #fats like #butter and #bacon. If you are so low in cortisol that you cannot digest meat, you should use a digestive enzyme or hydrochloric acid.
To increase cortisol, you can also use a natural aid like licorice root. I like this one and so do my clients.
You can also use 400IU of Vitamin E each day to boost cortisol levels.
Estrogen is a steroid or sex hormone, and to make sufficient estrogen, you must eat enough food. This is why women who restrict their food too much stop having periods. Protein and fat specifically set the stage for a proper production of estrogen. Estrogen also gives us breasts and hips and keeps our skin smooth. It gives us plenty of lubrication for sex. It keeps us not depressed. It actually protects the brain, joints, heart, bones, and immune system also.
This is why women past menopause are prone to brittle bones and heart trouble. It is a reason they lose interest in sex, and why they can often become depressed. You want plenty of estrogen in your body!
Food that will boost estrogen production include beef, eggs, fish, tuna, chicken, and spinach for my plant girls!
Natural ways to boost estrogen include using phytoestrogens like soy, black cohosh, and evening primrose oil. I can bet almost 10 times out of 10 that when I give a woman black cohosh for her hot flashes, it will work nearly right away. Use it for yourself or suggest it to a woman who needs it.
You can also use 100 mg Vitamin B6 taken at bedtime to boost estrogen.
Progesterone is made from Pregnenolone, your master hormone. Pregnenolone is synthesized from cholesterol. You really do need cholesterol, and lots of it if you are a woman. Eat all of the meats and fat and fruits and veggies and do not restrict your calories. Do, however, restrict food that is not nourishing to the body. Examples: refined sugar, processed food, fried food, excessive caffeine and alcohol.
Progesterone calms you down and helps you sleep. It also provides the raw material for a lot of your body's cortisol production, so plenty of progesterone is necessary to help you rev up for action and also to calm back down again to cuddle and sleep.
You need B6 and magnesium to make progesterone as well, so make sure you are getting plenty of those nutrients.
Progesterone is available as an oral prescription or an over-the-counter cream or liquid. Be careful, as it is a hormone. Hormones are powerful. Make sure to get your levels checked and work with a practitioner to get to optimal amounts.
Thyroid hormone is the big daddy, in my opinion. The more research I do on the thyroid, the more I am convinced that most of us are deficient in thyroid hormone. While I routinely screen for hypothyroidism in blood work, I now clinically look for corresponding symptoms of subclinical hypothyroidism, including but not limited to:
body temperature under 98.6
resting heart rate under 75
thick, swollen tongue
extra dry skin
inability to pinch just the top layer of skin
low or high blood pressure
Stay tuned for more on the thyroid, but I have been heavy into the research and will be incorporating this in my master's thesis. It is fascinating and applicable for so many of us.
To make enough thyroid hormone, you have to eat enough! So many of us have damaged our thyroid glands through too few calories, too few carbs for too long, too much stress, not enough iodine in the diet, and exposure to too many chemicals.
Eat your fats, your proteins, your fruits and vegetables. Add dried sea vegetables to your soups and salads for iodine.
Get your thyroid labs tested and make sure your Free T3 is close to 4.0 pg/mL. That is functional range, not "normal" range, so push your doctor to treat you if your symptoms are there and your T3 is not optimal. Get on Armour or another NDT and titrate up to 2-5 grains. Yes, I am serious. If you are on 1 grain of NDT, you probably still feel terrible. The research is there to support high doses of thyroid hormone. However, your iron and cortisol levels need to be right before you can get to those therapeutic doses. Again, watch this space for more to come.
This quick guide on optimizing hormone health is a great way to get started on your health journey. Make good, nourishing food a priority. Optimize sleep. Have sex. Rest. Take your vitamins. Laugh. These things build true health.