A Simple Guide to Hormone Health for Exhausted Moms
Hormones play a vital role in a whole host of things that go on in our bodies. They’re involved in everything from sleep and appetite, regulating our energy levels to how and where we gain weight. Hormones can also play with our moods, and lead to increased anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness, depression and rage! Yes – rage! Though we typically only think about sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone, there are many others at work in our bodies. These can have a big impact on how we feel mentally and physically.
Hormone Health is Important
Healthy hormone function is one of the key building blocks to good health. Hormone imbalances can lead to a whole host of problems including things like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), PMS, PMDD, infertility, insomnia, adult acne, hot flashes, endometriosis, early menopause and can even play a role in developing breast cancer. Often estrogen dominance is one of the key issues that needs to be addressed. Our thyroid and adrenals can also go into overdrive, pumping out even more hormones that create a cyclical feedback loop.
We know that our hormones take us on a wild ride during pregnancy, labor and postpartum – this is expected. However, many moms struggle after babies and deal with constant fatigue, mood swings and general feelings of poor health. When these hormone issues are compounded by stress and exhaustion we’re left with is a perfect storm. A perfect storm that leaves you feeling like garbage.
Symptoms of Hormone Imbalances
Symptoms of sex hormone (estrogen) imbalances can include:
- Irregular periods
- Sleep problems and/or chronic exhaustion
- Chronic acne
- Stomach or GI problems
- Brain fog
- Mood swings and depression
- Weight gain and changes in appetite
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of libido
- Breast changes
Symptoms of thyroid imbalances can include:
- Weight gain or loss
- Changes in heart rate
- Feeling too hot or cold
- Changes in energy
- Hair loss
- Irregular periods
- Dry skin and brittle nails
- Stomach or GI problems
- Vision problems
While you’re in the perinatal period, most health care providers won’t probe your hormone health unless there are big red flags or an obvious issue. But this doesn’t provide you with solutions or strategies to feel better now. So what’s an exhausted mom to do about her hormones that’s simple, practical and easy? These three suggestions give you a starting place to take back a little control and start setting the course for better health. Because the reality is – you’re tired and want to feel better, as soon as possible.
Visit Your Health Care Provider and Ask for Blood Work
Take the time to book an appointment with your health care provider to specifically talk about your hormones. Before the appointment, write down how you’re feeling, any symptoms you have and their impact on your quality of life. If your health care provider doesn’t offer to do blood work, make sure you ask to have it done. Ask to check your thyroid. Make sure to have your sex hormone levels tested. Talk about your adrenals. Advocate for yourself, your needs and your health. Ensure that you rule out any other major causes of your symptoms.
When you do get the results from your blood work, ask for a copy that you can take with you. If you don’t feel that your doctor has provided you with enough information or adequately addressed your concerns, don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion. Also consider seeing a specialist, like an endocrinologist, if you have additional concerns or questions.
Explore Food-Based Solutions to Hormone Imbalances
What you choose to eat can play a big role in the health of your hormones and and the symptoms you experience. For example, things like starchy carbs and sugar are typical culprits that send your blood sugar racing all over the map while your body produces insulin (another hormone) to manage and counteract blood sugar levels. Unregulated blood sugar can cause fatigue, weight gain, insulin resistance and eventually type II diabetes.
To help, you can make simple food swaps that are easy and take little thought or effort. Trade in your morning muffin for whole grain toast. Try plain yogurt with a bit of honey or a zero-carb sweetener like stevia instead of the sugary flavored stuff. Always try to pair the carbs that you do eat with protein for sustained energy and more stable blood sugar. Eat more full-fat dairy and incorporate healthy fats like avocado and extra virgin olive oil into your meals. Support your body with leafy greens like spinach and kale, nuts, and organ meats.
To address irregular periods, heavy menstruation, or painful cramps, try incorporating seed-cycling into your diet. This practice sees you add 1 tbsp each of freshly ground flax and pumpkin seeds to your diet for the first 14 days of your menstrual cycle. During days 15-28 (or until your period starts) you eat 1 tbsp of each freshly ground sesame and sunflower seeds. These can be easily be put on yogurt, cereal, soups or salads.
While there hasn’t been a significant amount of research about the practice of seed cycling, there is evidence to support regular consumption of flax seed to help regulate estrogen. Anecdotal evidence supports seed cycling to support your sex hormones and regulating your period. An added bonus is that eating any of these seeds also adds fiber to your diet, which can help with stomach problems.
Consider Adding Supplements to Your Diet
Consider adding key supplements to your diet to help your hormones do their job. Before starting any supplements, make sure you speak with your health care provider. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, ensure that you seek medical advice before adding any supplements to your daily routine. The supplements you’ll want to explore further include:
- B-complex vitamin. B vitamins help with energy regulation among other necessary functions in your body. In particular, vitamin B6 helps to increase progesterone production that in turn balances estrogen. Too much estrogen is often the culprit behind irregular periods, painful cramping and other hormonal issues. MegaFood makes a wonderful, whole food, plant-based balanced b-complex vitamin.
- Magnesium. There are a lot of us walking around with significant magnesium deficiencies and this impacts not only our hormone health but also over 300 other bodily processes. Our bodies also eat through magnesium rapidly when we stressed or overtired (sound familiar?!). Magnesium controls our pituitary health which is responsible for producing lutenizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone and thyroid stimulating hormone. All these hormones play a role in your menstrual cycle. Natural CALM is a powered magnesium citrate supplement that mixes with water. Magnesium citrate is one of the more easily absorbed forms of magnesium available to our bodies.
- Probiotics. We read a lot about the importance of a healthy gut and GI tract to overall health and here’s why. A healthy gut not only enables our bodies to optimally metabolize and detoxify hormones from our blood, it also produces neurotransmitters that regulate our mood and most of our immune function is in our GI. Taking good care of your gut is one of the best ways to improve your overall health. Microbiome Plus provides high quality probiotic strains together with prebiotic fibre and it doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge.
- Vitamin D3. Research is increasingly showing just how important vitamin D3 is to general health and well being. It’s responsible for helping to regulate sleep, mood, immune function and you guessed it, your hormones. Low concentrations of D3 can lead to estrogen dominance, which as you know can lead to poor health. Ora Organic offers a vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free whole food based vitamin D3 supplement that is high quality.
- Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Healthy fats are essential to supporting healthy hormone, immune and brain function. Most of us don’t get enough in our diet and supplementation is an easy way to increase our daily intake of this nutritional superstar. Typically sourced from fish, a lot of people avoid omega 3 supplements because of the aftertaste. A good option that is fish-taste free includes any of NutraSea’s line of omega 3 oils that are citrus flavored. Ora Organic also offers a vegan, plant-based omega 3 spray that is orange flavored.
Start with these three building blocks to develop your own plan to address your hormone health. While you’re exhausted and probably running on fumes, taking care of your hormones is a good way to start feeling like yourself again.
The content in this post is for informational purposes only and doesn’t substitute a visit to a qualified health care provider. It also contains affiliate links to various products that we already use and suggest. If you do purchase through one of these links we will receive a commission.