The words came out of my doctor’s mouth in slow motion, “you will never get pregnant.” I stared at her blankly as I was cursing her out in my head. The same doctor who diagnosed me with amenorrhea (a hormone imbalance in which menstruation stops) was trying to explain that my hormone imbalance had advanced to premature ovarian failure. FAILURE?! Excuse me what? How at 31 years old does a marathon running yogi health freak have premature ovarian failure? I stormed out of her office and refused to accept the diagnosis.
From that moment on I became the Sherlock Holmes of periods. I was on a mission to get my period back and rebalance my hormones. I hit the books, became a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, and completely changed my diet and lifestyle. Three years later my period was flowing again with predictability of Old Faithful.
And now, I’m 4 months pregnant with a baby girl – conceived naturally at the ripe age of 37.
It was no medical miracle; it took a lot of research, shifts in my diet, and lifestyle change. Here are a few hormone balancing tips I learned along the way. Whether you struggle with amenorrhea, fertility, or any other hormone imbalance, these diet and life style tips can help.
1. Take a therapeutic dose of vitamin D:
Vitamin D is a master nutrient that controls almost every function of the human body. Practically every cell in the body interacts with vitamin D. Sounds serious huh? Because it is! Vitamin D is so incredibly important, yet we are chronically deficient. Even the “recommended daily amount” is not enough for most people. Hormone balance and Vitamin D go hand in hand. If you are even slightly deficient your hormones will suffer. How much is enough? Most people can benefit from least 2,000 IU daily, but usually it’s more. You should work with a practitioner to determine a safe dose. Give me a call, I can help.
2. Eat dark meat, butter, and potatoes:
Just pretend you’re having dinner at Grandma’s house every night. Poor dark meat, butter and potatoes have gotten such a bad wrap over the years. In reality they are WAY more nutritious than their boring low fat tasteless alternatives. Repeat after me… I will never eat chicken breast again!” Dark meat is more nutritious and delicious! If you want to learn more about the health benefits of butter read my blog post “Eat Butter Feel Better.” As for potatoes… Come on! Who doesn’t love a baked potato smothered in butter?! It’s a beautiful thing. The nutritional content of dark meat, butter and potatoes support hormone balance in many ways. The delicious fat is full of fat soluble vitamins, which build healthy hormones, and the carbs provide support to prevent stress on the adrenals, a common cause of amenorrhea.
3. Workout every other day (or less):
If you have amenorrhea and you work out every day there’s a good chance you need to slow down. But I know how hard it is to just quit cold turkey. If someone had told me to stop running when I was in the depths of my health crisis I would have slapped them. So I’ll make you a deal. You can keep your crazy workouts, but you have to take a day completely off in between. ONLY workout every other day, MAX. And don’t even think about doing a “light workout” on your off days. Rest day means rest. The only way to balance hormones is to give your body time to rest and recover. No ifs ands or buts about it! Obviously if you don’t work at all, this does not apply to you. I’m talking to all of the spin, running, and Crossfit addicts out there. If you don’t exercise at all, start with light activity a couple times a week. Movement is important for healthy hormones, but you shouldn’t kill yourself in the gym everyday.
4. Act like you’re on vacation:
PARRRRTYYYY! Even better, go on vacation. Relax, eat food, read, eat, drink (responsibly), have vacation sex with your partner, eat dessert. Did I mention… EAT! I’ve worked with so many women who called me after (or during) a vacation yelling, “OMG! I got my period!” I too got my first period back during a weekend getaway filled with chips, guac, sex, and margs. Physiologically speaking, your body is relaxed; it’s the ultimate stress management. Stress is the main thing that causes hormone imbalance. Your goal should be stress management at all times. Now go book a weekend getaway, or at least pretend. Staycation anyone?
5. Cleanse once a year:
Speaking of margaritas, it’s time for a cleanse. Haha! A significant cause of hormone imbalance is toxic burden. Mainly driven by environmental toxins and heavy metals. Exposure to these toxins is basically unavoidable so a good cleanse once a year can benefit most. Especially those with hormone issues. It doesn’t have to be miserable juice cleanse. You can accomplish a good cleanse through eating specific foods and specific supplements. I highly recommend working with a qualified practitioner (like me!).
6. Eat fermented food:
Sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, kimchi, miso, kefir, and tempeh are all fermented goodness. Fermented foods are packed with probiotics that keep your digestive system healthy and happy. A healthy digestive system is vital for healthy hormones. Hormones are built in the gut. If your gut is unhealthy you will not produce the right hormones. Eating fermented food is a simple and very effective way to improve gut health. Plus it’s delish! Keep a jar of yummy kraut in your fridge at all times and plop it on top of salads, eggs, meat, soup, basically any savory dish.
Sleep an average of eight hours a night. Some nights it’s ok to get seven, but others you need nine or ten. The body heals itself during sleep. You will not heal your hormones unless you get adequate sleep. I know it sounds impossible, especially if you have babies, work at night, work two jobs, or simply can’t fall asleep before 2 a.m. But I promise, you can adapt. Slowly start adding 15-minute increments to your sleep schedule. You simply have to prioritize sleep over everything else. Your health depends on it.
Although this is not a complete list of hormone balancing tips and tricks, if you commit to these changes your symptoms can improve. You are not your diagnosis. Things can change. The healthy baby growing in my tummy is proof. Feel free to reach out to me if you need help finding health and happiness. I’m here for you!
Lisa Kara, NTP