When hormones are well-balanced you may not think much about them. Periods come and go without issue. However, for some women, their menstrual cycle can become a burden. Issues such as muscle tension, breast tenderness, skin issues, irritability and mood swings can be common occurrences, and sometimes become “the new normal”.
But just because something is common, does not mean it is normal.
When we investigate hormone imbalances holistically, we see that there are a number of possible underlying issues. Excessive stress, environmental influences, diet and lifestyle factors, liver and thyroid health issues, and the prolonged use of synthetic hormonal contraceptives can all be factors.
The good news is that there are effective lifestyle changes and herbs that can support healthy hormone balance, naturally, right now.
1. Manage your stress
Managing stress is one of the most important factors when it comes to improving hormone balance.
When we have acute stress, it signals our “fight or flight” system. Blood is shunted to our muscles so we can run away or fight, and everything that is not deemed necessary for survival is put on the back burner, including our reproductive hormones. With prolonged periods of high stress - day in and day out - it may be difficult to keep your cycle balanced and healthy. Looking at what is important in your life and what things you can de-prioritise can be a helpful first step.
Simple steps such as turning off unnecessary phone notifications or setting an alarm to take a short walk away from your desk are great strategies to turn down your body’s stress response. Belly breathing is another simple (and free!) tool to help manage stress. Set a gentle reminder for three points during your day, and simply close your eyes and take 10 deep belly breaths. This sends a message to your body that you are safe and gets you out of that “fight or flight” mode. It only takes 20 seconds, and it can really turn your day around.
2. Eat your way towards healthy hormone balance
The food we eat can contribute to either balanced or imbalanced hormones.
A well-balanced, healthy diet full of nutrient dense whole foods is a great place to start. Think lots of whole fruits and vegetables, protein, and healthy fats. However, there are a few specific areas which you want to focus on to keep your hormones balanced.
Blood sugar irregularities can contribute to hormonal imbalance. You want each meal to contain protein, fat, and fibre in order to keep blood sugars stable. Support regular blood sugars by eating a diet with lots of whole fruits and veggies (organic, if possible), protein, and healthy fats at each meal. This could look like a salad with chicken or tofu, topped with a sprinkle of nuts and seeds and dressed with olive oil and vinegar. Or a stir-fry with brown rice or quinoa, fresh fish, and some veggies sauteed in olive oil with a splash of sesame oil on top.
There are specific things that our bodies need in order to properly detoxify and excrete our hormones, and many of these are things we don’t get enough of in our average Western diet. A diet high in fibre has been suggested to assist with the excretion of oestrogen, and the reality is most of us don’t get enough. Ideally, women should get 25gm of fibre per day from sources such as whole plant foods.
Brassica veggies are also important for hormone detoxification and excretion. Try adding in veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts to your diet five or more times a week. It is best to start slowly as it can take your digestive system some time to adjust to all the extra fibre in these foods.
3. Move your body
Daily movement is one of the fundamentals for all round good health and hormone health is no exception. It is important for thyroid function, for digestive function, and has been shown to reduce menstrual pain.
This doesn’t need to be strenuous every day, but rather enjoyable movement. Aim to increase circulation and move excess fluid, rather than pushing yourself to exhaustion. Think daily walks outside, yoga, pilates, or dance - anything that leaves you feeling good.
Our bodies need sleep, period.
In our modern culture, we often view sleep as a luxury, rather than a necessity. But nobody functions optimally for very long on reduced or broken sleep. Add to that the caffeine we use to help us feel more alert during the day, and you have a recipe for disaster. Our bodies have a normal circadian rhythm that is governed by both external factors such as the light in our environment, and internal factors like hormones. These factors are deeply intertwined and when one thing is off balance it affects the others.
Try to make sleep a priority – limit your caffeine intake, create a restful space in your bedroom, invest in some blackout curtains, and turn off all screens at least one hour before bed.
5. Support your health with plant remedies
In traditional European herbal practice, which spans over 2,500 years, Chaste Tree berries, Raspberry leaf, Calendula, Yarrow, and Cinnamon are commonly used to support a healthy menstrual cycle and natural fertility.
These plants have been shown to support a regular menstrual flow and hormonal balance needed for a healthy cycle and natural fertility. Some also support healthy liver function which supports hormone clearance. Many of these powerful plants are now backed up with modern science and can be used together in tea blends that are easily absorbed by the body.
5 of my favourite herbs to support hormonal wellbeing
Chaste Tree berries (Vitex agnus-castus)
Chaste Tree has a long history of gynaecological use, with written records dating back to ancient Greece. Modern scientific interest developed in Germany in the 1930s and it is now commonly used to support menstrual regularity and fertility. This extraordinary plant acts to support healthy, balanced hormone levels.
Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus)
A uterine tonic that supports the tone of uterine tissues and a healthy endometrium, Raspberry leaf contains high levels of manganese and moderate levels of iron, calcium, selenium and vitamins A and C – all important nutrients to support fertility.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
With an affinity for the female reproductive system, this plant has lymphatic properties to support breast and uterine fluid balance and menstrual comfort. Its astringent qualities help to support normal menstrual bleeding, while also gently supporting liver function. Healthy liver function is important for the clearance of toxins and excess hormones that can contribute to hormonal imbalance.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow is one of the oldest known plants used in traditional herbal practice and was known as “Venus Eyebrow”, indicating its supportive role in women’s health. It contains natural plant sterols, and supports a regular menstrual cycle, menstrual comfort, and normal menstrual bleeding.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
An aromatic spice with warming and invigorating properties, Cinnamon has a toning effect on the whole body. It supports blood flow to the reproductive organs, which nourishes and supports the function of these tissues. Cinnamon also supports balanced blood sugar levels, and relaxes the nervous system, soothes stress and tension, and supports normal menstrual bleeding due to its astringent qualities.
To support your hormonal health, I recommend taking a holistic look at your lifestyle and consider taking a supporting supplement such as Hormone Balance tea. Artemis Hormone Balance organic tea is formulated specifically for women in their reproductive years to support the balance of hormones associated with premenstrual and menstrual comfort, healthy ovulation and fertility, and a regular menstrual cycle.