• Julie McClure

Lifestyle Habits for Balanced Hormones

Want to know the secret to good health, radiating beauty, a happy mood, and so much more? It’s your hormones. Whether your hormones are balanced or not determines so much about how we look and feel. It’s often the root cause of problems we write off as “normal” or just part of being a woman– monthly breakouts or acne, bloating, mood swings (including anxiety, depression and just not ‘feeling like ourselves’), insomnia, trouble losing weight, PMS, fertility issues…the list could go on and on!


Hormone imbalances can also cause more serious health problems too. I suffered from chronic migraines and low-grade anxiety for years before I discovered that the birth control pill was depleting me of key nutrients (magnesium, CoQ10, B complex vitamins), leaving me constantly fatigued. The fatigue itself was a symptom of imbalance with my adrenal hormones.


Having too high cortisol levels for too long (one of the perks of working on Wall Street!) was wreaking havoc on my body internally. Externally, the high cortisol levels left me feeling puffy (what I now term, the ‘puffy banker look’). Once I got my hormones back in check by giving my body back the nutrients it needed and reducing my cortisol levels (more sleep/less stress), I started to both look and feel like myself again. I finally recognized the woman standing in the mirror staring back at me, and life began to change for the better!


Through these personal experiences and all of the studying and learning that I have done for the past 15 years, I now know the importance of hormonal balance and am deeply passionate that all women experience what it feels like to get their hormones back into formation so that they too can feel fully charged!


Hormones 101


When most people think of hormones, they recall distant memories of learning about testosterone and estrogen in sex ed (if you were lucky enough to have this class in school, that is!). Hormones are chemical messengers within our body that direct our organs’ functions and extend way beyond the sex hormones (think of the sleep hormone, melatonin; the stress hormone, cortisol; etc). And while it’s normal for your hormones to fluctuate as your body constantly tries to keep a stable internal environment, too much or too little of a given hormone can cause a range of physical and psychological symptoms.


How to Support Balanced Hormones


The good news is that lifestyle factors, diet, and supplementation can have an incredible impact on re-balancing these important molecules in the body and can get you back to looking and feeling your best! Want to know a few of my favorite ways to do this?


Stay Active


Exercise helps you destress and it’s one of the best ways to regulate hormones, especially cortisol and insulin. Whether you enjoy exercise classes (I love F45 and vinyasa flow yoga classes) or a brisk walk in nature every day, the key is to move your body every. single. day! Whatever type of exercise you enjoy is perfect to support healthy hormone levels. That being said, if you are feeling exhausted and burned out, it’s not the time to take on a vigorous exercise regime (as that will add stress to the body and further add to the hormone imbalance). So listen to your body and do what feels nurturing.


Tune In to Relax


In today’s day and age, usually when we relax, we “tune out.” We lay on the couch and watch TV or scroll through our phones. Relaxing by “tuning in” with activities that keep us mentally present, such as painting, meditating, or practicing Tai Chi helps our bodies reset the nervous system and return stress hormones like cortisol to a base level.


Get Quality Sleep


Sleeping in a dark, quiet environment is essential for helping our bodies regulate our circadian rhythm and hormones. During sleep, your body has a chance to flush out toxins (e.g., in the brain), rejuvenate, repair, and, relax so that other hormones such as cortisol can rebalance. One of the most critical hormones involved in sleep is melatonin, which helps you to fall asleep and stay sleeping deeply. A restful night's sleep also helps you produce hormones that are vital for your overall health, such as growth hormone, which stimulates cell production for healthy muscles and bones. Without sleep, all our hormones become unregulated very quickly (not to mention we start to quickly not feel like ‘ourselves’)– so focus on healthy sleep hygiene and make sure you strive for at least 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep each night!


Keep a Clean Environment


While keeping dirt and germs at bay is one way to stay healthy, keeping your environment clean from toxins is incredibly important for your health (now and over the long term). Endocrine-disrupting ingredients (aka hormone-disrupting ingredients) that wreak havoc on our hormone levels are way too prevalent these days. These ingredients can be found in our body and skincare products, artificial perfumes, candles, air fresheners, cleaning supplies, and more. While it’s impossible to avoid all chemicals, remembering to read the labels of products that you frequently apply to your skin (which are then absorbed into your bloodstream) and avoiding artificial scents in your home will help lower your overall body burden of toxins– keeping your hormones more balanced and your systems humming.


Be Mindful of What You Eat:


Food plays a major role in balancing hormones. The number of resources on the internet recommending diets that support hormonal health can be overwhelming and often sound complicated. While following a healthy diet is pivotal for hormonal balance, I like to follow the 80/20 rule. Focus on mindful and healthy eating 80% of the time and allow yourself to indulge in a few of your favorite treats and less healthy foods (e.g., dairy) 20% of the time.


If you’re eating very clean and healthy, but still feeling fatigued all of the time, you could be lacking key nutrients– similar to when my adrenals were not functioning well and I was feeling burned out (read more about that here). A few tips to keep things simple when it comes to your diet include:

  • Eat lots of vegetables, whole grains (ideally non-GMO), fiber & healthy unsaturated fats

  • Eat whole fresh fruits rather than fruit juice to help keep your blood sugar stable and to reap the benefits from the fiber in fruit

  • Choose organic fruits and vegetables whenever you can and especially avoid the ‘Dirty Dozen’ which are the most highly sprayed produce

  • Avoid or limit dairy and limit sugar, alcohol, simple carbs (cookies, cakes, bread, etc.) & saturated fats (found in fast foods) as these are all inflammatory, which causes our hormones to suffer and become out of balance

  • If not vegan, make sure to mix up your protein sources and minimize red meat, which is inflammatory and contains more fat and toxins. Eat a few portions of wild fish, organic poultry, and beans throughout the week

  • Eat a small handful of raw nuts such as almonds, walnuts, or brazil nuts every day

  • Take a high quality probiotic & probiotic for optimal digestion, and if you like kimchi or kefir, you can throw that into your diet to promote a healthy gut too (which means less bloating, more consistent bowel movements, and stronger immunity)

Remember, It’s a Lifestyle


While it may take a few months to implement these changes and for your hormones to begin to normalize to ideal levels, most people start to feel like a much better version of themselves within 4 to 12 weeks (depending on the symptoms and how long you’ve been feeling off). New lifestyle habits to balance your hormones takes time, so be patient with yourself and keep coming back for more tips that will keep you inspired to live a clean + clean lifestyle and your best life yet!


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