4 years ago when I found myself alone in china suffering from severe hormonal imbalances that made me tired, with mood swings, water retention, weight gain, the worst acne of my life and oh, did I mention I was without a period for 6 months?? To make matters worse, I had NO IDEA how this happened!!! Coming off Birth control pill was the catalyst that set me down this roller coaster of anxiety and depression. None of it made sense to me. No one explained what could happen when on birth control pills for 4 years nonstop. I turned to the internet and found that I was not alone in what I was experiencing. There were so many women out there who were suffering just like I was. Thus began a journey of healing and self-exploration. Here are a few things I was I had known when I first started.
1. STRESS IS HUGE
Once upon a time stress just meant the acute spike of fear and anxiety when you see a lion making their way toward you. In modern times stress can be rooted in any of the following: work and relationships, overtraining, not enough sleep, overdoing, traumatic events, car accidents and a poor diet (I will talk about this last one in a minute). If you were to stack up all the bricks of stress that is in your life it could be enough to tip the scale towards hormonal imbalances, especially for women.
You may have heard of the stress hormones cortisol, well when this hormone is released in response to a stressor it begins a cascade reaction with other hormones. For one thing stress hormones take top priority for the reason of being able to combat the source of stress, good if you are running from a tiger bad if you want to get pregnant. For example stress hormones can actually steal receptor sites from other important sex hormones like progenenolone. It’s a thing, it is literally called pregnenolone steal. Stress can also interfere with your bodies attempt to ovulate, communicating that it is “not safe” for a baby. All that cortisol can also release insulin from your liver stores and contribute to blood sugar issues, a contributor to hormonal imbalances by itself. Excess stress can put a lot of pressure on your adrenal glands to the point of exhaustion which can lead to adrenal dysregulation. There is always a price to pay when it comes to stress, so it’s important to be aware of if it’s worth it.
2. TOXICITY: BPA, pesticides, heavy metals.
It’s sad to say that our environment isn’t as pristine as it once was. We have landfills full to the brim with plastic and evidence is mounting to support the theory of global climate change. However our earth is not the only one getting sick, we are too.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals or EDC’s are industrial chemicals in our food, clothes, cosmetics, personal care products, food containers, packaging, and even our furniture that mess with how our hormones function. These chemicals include: phthalates, pesticides, fly-spray, solvents, fire retardants, heavy metals and plastic softeners such as bisphenol A (BPA). These chemicals can greatly affect fertility, increases your risk of breast cancer and hormonal disorders like PCOS and endometriosis.
Now I am sure you are imagining me writing this while wearing a tinfoil hat but before you judge listen to these startling studies. For example one study at the University of Michigan school of public health discovered that people with higher levels of Phthalates usually had higher levels of inflammation and oxidative stress.
3. POOR DIET
Did I mention that a poor diet is a form of stress?? Take processed food for example, a lot of food manufacturers fill their labels with ingredients that are impossible to recognize or even read. With too much sugar, trans fats and absolutely NO nutritional value, a diet on processed food will leave you fat, tired and STARVING for the real nutrients you need in order for your body to function properly.
Processed food is a giveaway but food sensitivities can truly be the kryptonite that is hidden in plain sight. These food kryptonite cause inflammation by irritating your immune system causing your immune system to produce inflammatory cytokines. The top contenders: wheat, sugar, diary and alcohol.
In 2008 the CDC came out with a large scale study linking BPA exposure with diabetes, heart disease and liver toxicity.
2016 study at Harvard found IVF patients who had higher levels of Phthalates were significantly less likely to get pregnant. BPA was found as a toxin that compromises egg quality and mimics estrogen. These chemicals have infiltrated our lives in a more intimate way than we could have imagined.
Sugar alone is incredibly stressful on the delicate female hormonal system. For one thing it actually gloms onto your cells like glue which then sends the alarms to your immune system which responds by sending out its defense soldiers (inflammatory cytokines) as if it were under attack. Excess sugar also can lead to insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes, PCOS and cause the production of inflammatory cytokines by the immune system.
Dairy has the protein A1 casein that many people do not have the enzyme to break down, so for some, even organic pastured dairy products could be a problem.
The protein Gluten is incredibly inflammatory to a delicate system, to make matters worse the protein found in modern grain has been found to be actually bigger than grains of the past. Additionally modern farming practices use pesticides such as glyphosate, a chemical that is banned in the European Union.
Finally alcohol can be a huge factor in hormonal imbalances. Alcohol can cause all kinds of ugly damage by damaging intestinal bacteria, impairing liver detoxification, and depleting you of the anti-inflammatory protein glutathione. A powerful antioxidant that helps to manage the immune response and supports the body to clean up free radicals and toxins.
4. POOR DIGESTION:
You know that old saying: if mama ain’t happy, nobody's happy?? Well your digestion is like mama, you want it to be happy. Poor digestion effects so many other systems in your body it's a wonder why we don’t talk about it more. Unknown parasites and bacterial infections wreak havoc on your system by stealing your food and irritating your digestion. If you have chronic constipation you could be re-absorbing toxins that were meant to be eliminated affecting your detox systems. Due to the stressors in your life you could have a compromised digestive system which can result in not enough stomach acid to break things down which ultimately leaves you depleted of nutrients. Even if you have the best diet in the world, if you aren’t absorbing it, your body isn't’ getting the nutrients it needs in order to keep your hormones happy. So if tummy ain’t happy, nobody's happy.
Even if you have the best diet in the world, if you aren’t absorbing it, your body isn't’ getting the nutrients it needs in order to keep your hormones happy. So if tummy ain’t happy, nobody's happy.
Okay now I know this is overwhelming but before you go out to buy your very own tinfoil hat: Take. A. Breath. The most important step you can take is just being conscious about how your diet and lifestyle affects you. After that, it's just minor baby steps to a diet and lifestyle that heals your hormones and doesn't break them. If you haven't already be sure to download my Goddess Glow Guide below, which has a 2 week action plan to help get you started.