For as long as I can remember I have had menstrual cramps. Periods were always incredibly painful. I had to miss school and work on a regular basis. And I always had to load up on Tylenol and Ibuprofen.
I thought that was just the way it was. All the girls around me were also struggling with menstrual cramps or other PMS symptoms like mood swings, bloating and cravings. As far as I could tell, it was normal and there wasn’t much to be done about it.
My cramps were so bad that I asked my doctor about it. She put me on birth control pills. This didn’t help with the cramps but it helped me feel “normal” since all my friends were on birth control pills too.
Many women would agree with me, that PMS is normal, and there isn’t much to be done about it.
This is wrong.
Just because something is common, does not mean that it is normal. Hormones are meant to be balanced. They don’t go all crazy and out of whack on their own.
When you experience the symptoms of PMS or menopause, you are experiencing a hormone imbalance. And that hormone imbalance is a symptoms of some deeper malfunction in the body.
Let me explain.
It really comes down to your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are two pyramid shaped glands that sit above each kidney. They produce your sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone). The ovaries produce sex hormones as well.
The adrenal glands also manufacture the stress hormones, like cortisol. Cortisol, while a stress hormone, is also needed in certain amounts every single day. It is meant to be highest in the morning and the lowest at night. Having cortisol in proper amounts is crucial to having motivation, energy and happiness.
When you are stressed, cortisol will be produced in increased amounts. The excess of cortisol is what allows you to react quickly in times of danger. Elevated cortisol is what gives people super human strength to survive emergency situations. Cortisol is a survival hormone.
So because cortisol is a survival hormone, when there is stress, cortisol always gets made first, at the expense of your other hormones.
That means when stress is acute or short duration, it isn’t a big deal. Once the stress is over, your adrenal glands go back to producing your much needed sex hormones. The problem is that many of us are chronically stressed. Chronic stress means stress is ongoing and this means that cortisol gets made first. Your sex hormones get put on the back burner.
See what I’m saying? Hormone imbalance is a generally a symptom of chronic stress.
Let’s talk about stress. What is stress? When we talk about stress most people default to talking about mental and emotional stress. But this is only a small piece of the puzzle. Stress can be anything that disrupts homeostasis or equilibrium in the body.
Stress can be a food intolerance, liver congestion, gut dysbiosis, leaky gut, inflammation, a biomechanical alignment issue or Candida overgrowth. Stress can be a lot of things and often times we don’t always know about it. The stress is hidden in the body.
So the key to unwinding hormone imbalance is to start removing each and every stress from the body so that the adrenal glands no longer need to constantly make cortisol.
The interesting thing is that women in underdeveloped and primitive societies do not suffer the way Western women do when it comes to PMS and menopause. In many primitive societies women have easy child birth, painless menstrual cycles and smooth transitions through menopause.
So what’s going on in the West?
Western women have a lot of stress, both mental and emotional and also an excess of hidden stress.
Poor diet and nutritional deficiencies play a large role in the development of hormone imbalance. Poor liver function can also lead to excess hormones in the blood which can bring on hormone imbalance. Additionally, we are exposed to chemicals daily which disrupt our endocrine system and mimic human estrogen.
We have a lot of challenges.
How do you know you have a hormone imbalance? Here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Menstrual cramps
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
- Weight gain
Since hormones are the chemical messengers of the cells, when hormones get depleted and unbalanced, sh*t goes sideways. The cells are no longer getting the message about what to do. And this is why you can end up with so many different types of symptoms.
I believe that there is a lot we can do to balance our hormones. And it all starts with having the proper information.
5 things you can do now to improve your hormone balance
1. Eat Real Food
Eating a healthy diet is truly the foundation of any healing protocol. Before you do anything, take a good look at your diet. The most important thing is to remove processed and refined foods and sugar and eat as many whole foods as possible.
2. Ditch Chemical Skin Care
Statistics say that women put up to 515 different chemicals on their bodies before they even leave their house in the morning. And unfortunately, many of these chemicals contain synthetic estrogens and endocrine disruptors. Switch to organic skin care products of make your own in your kitchen
Learning how to deep breathe is critical to managing your stress. When you are overwhelmed, angry or running late you can signal to your brain that danger is near. When this happens cortisol increases and the brain shuts down digestion and detoxification, two crucial bodily functions. By breathing deeply when your stressed out, you can signal to your brain that the stress has passed. This means you can get back to those important rest and digest functions.
4. Eat Your Fat
Dietary fat is one of the building blocks of hormones. If you don’t enough, your body will struggle to make hormones. We have been fed a lot of lies about fat. The result is that many of us are eating low-fat diets. Don’t be afraid of healthy fat. I often recommend that my clients eat 2 tablespoons of fat with every meal. Healthy fats include coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, grass-fed butter, red palm oil, tallow and lard.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is so important for not only health but also for hormones. Not getting enough sleep not only affects you energy levels but generally leads to poor food choices and inactivity. Make sure to get to bed before 10:30pm each night. Implementing a no screens rule after 8:30pm can help wind your body down for sleep.