Ahead of her upcoming women’s wellness workshop on 13th September 2020 with nutritional therapist Le’Nise Brothers, yoga/somatic movement teacher and nutritional therapist Gabriella Espinosa shares ten key steps you can take now for establishing long term hormonal balance.
From periods to pregnancy and birth through to the menopause, our hormones set in motion all of our body’s processes controlling our moods, memory, hunger, sleep, energy, menstrual cycles and sexual desire just to name a few.
Hormones are continually communicating with us and with each other, so if one is not happy another one will typically respond in disharmony. Hormonal imbalance is likely influenced by nutrition and lifestyle factors such as nutrient deficiency, digestive health, inflammation, sleep patterns, stress and over exercising.
Common symptoms that arise from hormonal imbalance include premenstrual tension, irregular or non-existent periods, migraines, fatigue, period pain and digestive issues. Hormonal imbalance can be a sign of other underlying conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Endometriosis and Fibroids.
When we experience pain or discomfort around our menstrual cycles, we blame our hormones, disconnect from our bodies and numb the unpleasant feelings with food, sugar, caffeine, painkillers, or alcohol. The truth is your hormones are probably trying to tell you something.
You can take control of your hormonal health by befriending your hormones
You can take control of your hormonal health by befriending your hormones – know how they function in relation to your menstrual cycle, connect to your body with yoga, breath and movement and make simple and effective changes to your diet and lifestyle.
Here are ten steps for looking after your hormones:
- Realise food is medicine – Food sets the foundation and provides building blocks for our bodies to find balance and function optimally. Drink lots of water and eat a whole “real” food diet that is processed free, including lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds and pulses, good quality meat and dairy. Choosing organic where possible.
- Manage stress – Stress is often at the root of many hormone imbalances because the body will do whatever it can to deal with a threat (real or perceived) and can create a cascade effect on other hormones. Create a toolbox of practices to help you resource during times of stress or anxiety. These include taking time out for yourself to practice slow deep breathing, Restorative Yoga, journaling, connecting with a friend, going for a walk, running a magnesium salt bath at the end of the day.
- Choose healthy fats – Fat is needed to build our stress and sex hormones. It’s crucial to get enough fat to have enough of the building blocks required for proper hormone functioning. Great healthy fat sources include nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut, fatty fish like salmon, organic meat, eggs & dairy, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil.
- Balance blood sugar – It is important to maintain a stable blood sugar level. Over time, blood sugar spikes and drops can deplete essential nutrients, put stress on the body, affect the gut, lead to inflammation, worsen our mood and mental abilities, and alter our ability to manage blood sugar. Remember two things: eat consistently throughout the day (no skipped meals) and include protein and healthy fat at each meal.
- Support your liver – Your liver is responsible for removing toxins and waste products from the body. A sluggish liver can affect the natural detoxification of your hormones, especially oestrogen. If oestrogen is not properly eliminated it can accumulate and potentially cause PMS, bloating, headaches, mood swings and breast tenderness. Support your liver by eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and kale, drink plenty of water, sweat it out in a Hot Yoga class, switch to natural household and personal care products, avoid plastic, reduce alcohol and choose organic foods.
- Limit your caffeine intake – Caffeine is good for some women and not so great for others. Caffeine stimulates Cortisol, our stress hormone. If you are stressed or have abnormal Cortisol levels and feel like you NEED that cup of coffee to get going then it could be a sign of an imbalance. Try to limit caffeine to the morning and turn to alternatives in the afternoon such as herbal teas, adaptogenic drinks, chicory or golden milk.
- Move – Moving your body in any form is a great way to release anxious energy and manage stress. Exercise mindfully and check in with yourself and your body. The appropriate level of activity will vary throughout your monthly cycle. Sometimes a sweaty Vinyasa or cardio workout will be right, at other times Restorative Yoga or a walk in nature will be more soothing. Become aware of your energy levels and note if you feel depleted or relaxed and uplifted after class.
- Breathe deeply – Breathing is our only bodily function that is both automatic and voluntary. Make time in your day to notice your breath. Place one hand on your belly and one over your heart to gain a felt sense of the location, rhythm and depth of your breath. Deep, slow breathing by lengthening the exhale switches on the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for rest and digest.
- Sleep well – Sleep is essential to every aspect of our hormonal health, impacting our immunity, digestion, energy levels and of course mood. Create a ritual to set yourself up for a good night of sleep – dimming the lights, limiting screen time an hour before bed, winding down by reading a book, listing to soft music, writing a gratitude journal, doing a few restorative poses such as legs up the wall with slow deep breaths to shift into relaxation.
- Spend time in nature – Time spent in nature reduces stress hormones and improves our mood. Take advantage of the longer days to increase your exposure to sunlight for a boost of Vitamin D which supports your immune system and regulates circadian rhythm for better sleep. It’s also a beautiful way to connect to the earth by walking barefoot and experiencing the benefits of Earthing. Connect to all your senses (sight, taste, hearing, touch, smell) to welcome an additional layer of sensory aliveness.
Click here for more information on Gabriella and Le’Nise’s upcoming workshop – women’s wellness: moving into hormonal balance – happening on Sunday 13th September 2020. Attend in person at triyoga Ealing or online via Zoom. Workshop includes embodied movement, restorative yoga, breath work and in-depth discussion about how to nourish and support your menstrual cycle and balance your hormones with key nutrition and lifestyle modifications.
Gabriella is the founder of Wisdom Body Wisdom holistically supporting women’s hormonal health through yoga, breath, movement and nutrition. Learn more at www.gabriellaespinosa.com Featured image photo credit: @yogaandphoto