Part 1: Hormone Support
As I write this blog on day 29 of my first cycle without synthetic hormones since age 14 (ten years ago) I can’t help but to feel liberated by the notion that I am no longer a slave to my nightly alarm clock reminding me to take my pill. I don’t have to worry about forgetting my pack at home, or dropping tiny pills in my shaggy carpet..
I was prescribed birth control at age 14 for severe cramps, which was and still is the norm for dealing with any sort of hormonal issues for young women. But what I didn’t know then, and what many of us truly don’t know, is the very real and serious side effects that go along with tricking your body into thinking it is pregnant for an extended period of time.
Birth control does not fix the underlying cause of your cramps, PMS, breakouts. Let’s get real–no pill on the market fixes the root cause of any issue.
It simply masks the symptoms, while also throwing your hormone production, and your ability to truly understand your body’s own mechanisms, completely out of whack.
I’ve been putting my body first for a year and a half now—no longer eating processed foods, focusing on nutrient density, movement, sleep, stress reduction, and cutting out all forms of medications (except one). So I figured it was time to boot the pill, detox and balance my hormones, and learn how to be in tune with my body and my cycle.
I’m now using the Fertility Awareness Method of birth control (FAM) which I’ll get into in another post. Not only is this method just as preventative as the pill, but it’s all natural (just the way I like it) and forces me to educate myself about my body and the process of menstruation, which really is an amazing thing.
As I’m just one cycle into the natural method of birth control, my primary focus now is creating a healthy level of hormones and supporting my body in its attempt to normalize after ten years of thinking it was pregnant. Below are a few tips, tricks, and supplements I’m using to support healthy hormones during this time.
The one thing I didn’t mention below, albeit the most critical component, is a healthy, balanced, nutrient-dense diet. But that’s part of my day to day regardless, so I’ve left it out here. But keep in mind if you are hoping to support healthy hormones, a healthy diet is truly the most beneficial thing you can do.
Adaptogens are naturally occurring substances that help the body adapt to a variety of stress inputs. While adaptogens don’t have a specific action, they work to help restore balance throughout the body and normalize physiological functions. As you can imagine, ten years of synthetic hormones can really play a toll on your body’s natural physiological functions.
Not only does melatonin aid in regulating female sex hormones, but it also plays a critical role in helping manage our circadian rhythm. When we are exposed to blue light after the natural blue light of the sun sets, we are sending signals to our brain to down-regulate melatonin as to keep us awake and alert during the day. This alertness will hinder the ability to get quality sleep which is imperative for overall health. The lack of melatonin production may also hinder the regulation of sex hormones. And since my partner has to fall asleep watching TV, a sleep mask was imperative!
The liver aids in hormone production and works as our body’s filtration system. Supporting your liver is key in supporting your body’s ability to filter out excess hormones and rebalance hormone production. Milk thistle is a natural supplement that aids in rebuilding liver cells and removes toxins that have been filtered through the liver. Dandelion root is also a great way to support liver detoxification as well as stimulate a sluggish liver. After ten years of bombarding my liver with various forms of synthetic hormones, it needs all the love that it can get.
Healthy animal fats:
Cholesterol is a lipid molecule that serves as the precursor for the creation of our sex hormones. Without sufficient cholesterol levels most hormones are impaired. Keep in mind that you cannot get cholesterol from ANY plant foods so it is crucial to ensure you are not limiting it, especially when working to balance your hormones. My favorites are bacon (of course), eggs, grassfed butter, and nice fatty cuts of meat!
Stress is the root of all evil. Not really, but kind of. Let’s look at the science-y reason behind why keeping your stress in check is SO important for healthy hormones. When your body is in a constant state of stress it requires cortisol (the stress hormone) to be created constantly. When your body is in overdrive and focusing on creating stress hormones, creating sex hormones becomes a secondary process. This is referred to as the pregnenolone steal. In times of stress, the body ‘steals’ pregnenolone (a precursor hormone to both stress and sex hormones) away from sex hormone creation and diverts it to utilize for creating stress hormones. You want to ensure your body is producing all the hormones is needs for healthy functioning equally!
Besides eating a healthy and balanced diet, I truly believe stress management is the most important thing you can do to support healthy hormones. So take some time to decompress, meditate, do some yoga, take a bath, get a massage, whatever you can to unwind and reset. And make sure you create a space that promotes relaxation and ease, not chaos and stress! Outer order, inner calm.
Endocrine disruptors are everywhere, and although it isn’t realistic to avoid any and all completely it is important to try and reduce your toxic load where possible (especially for those with endometriosis, PCOS, and other hormone-related illnesses). And though my home and skin care routine is nowhere near completely non-toxic, I am making strides to use products that will not disrupt my hormones or general health (like Beautycounter). Did you guys know that Europe has banned more than 1,300 chemicals in personal care products and the US has only partially banned 30 to date?—most recently being in 1938..Yuck!
These are just a few of the products and mechanisms I am using to assist myself in healing from the burden of a decade of synthetic hormones. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. But I can assure you that if you want to regulate your hormones, the most important factors to consider include a healthy nutrient-dense diet, stress management, quality sleep, liver support, and minimizing your toxic load. If you have any other favorite products or tips for hormone support, I’d love to hear from you!