Understanding Hormones & How to Support Our Bodies

In a recent podcast, I talked to Dr. Aviva Romm, MD, midwife and herbalist, about women’s hormones and cycles. We discussed what exactly hormones are and their function; how the menstrual cycle works; how to know when something is off with our hormones and what to do; how to support our hormones and cycles through nutrition and other lifestyle factors; trends like intermittent fasting and seed cycling and their true effect on hormones; what a healthy cycle looks like; conditions like PMS, PMDD and PCOS; what to do about PMS symptoms like acne, and so much more. So, if you struggle with hormones or just want to learn more, here are a few nuggets from our discussion…

In recent years, it seems as though western medicine has been shifting more to a holistic approach to treating conditions, rather than throwing medication at every problem. Dr. Romm has an interesting background because she has both a medical degree from Yale and decades of experience as a midwife and herbalist. She’s also the author of New York Times Best Seller, Hormone Intelligence. Dr. Romm talks about the importance of having an integrative approach to her practice by blending her lifestyle and nutrition background with her medical experience.

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to hormone health, so if you’re wondering what exactly a hormone is, then you probably aren’t alone? A hormone is basically a chemical messenger. As women, we tend to think of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone as hormones that stimulate ovulation and our menstrual cycles. However, there are dozens of other hormones throughout our bodies that are equally as important when it comes to our overall health. For instance, insulin is a blood sugar hormone that plays a huge role in our metabolism which can affect other parts of our body. Our thyroid hormones are critically central to our energy and ovarian function. When your cortisol (the primary stress hormone) levels are unbalanced, it can impact female functions like ovulation, menstruation and fertility. So, they’re all interconnected and govern anything from our mood and emotions to our energy levels, food choices and lifecycles.

Some signs of hormone imbalances include: irregular heavy or missed periods, low energy levels, hair loss, low sex drive, fertility challenges, cravings, issues with sleep, pelvic pain and so much more. Lifestyle choices are incredibly important when it comes to hormone health and Dr. Romm suggests focusing on two major things that affect our hormones: our sleep cycles and blood sugar balance. A lack of sleep can lead to stress, sugar cravings and a slew of other female issues. If your blood sugar balance is off by skipping meals or not getting enough protein and fats, then you drive your body into a stress response. Your body also relies on basic nutritional building blocks to create hormones. So, if aren’t getting enough nutrients then your body can’t produce the hormones it needs to function properly.

The majority of studies conducted on intermittent fasting have been done on men or those who were overweight or prediabetic. So, there’s limited data to support the benefits of intermittent fasting on women of all ages and sizes. Overall, the restriction that happens with intermittent fasting may actually rebound on women since blood sugar levels impact hormone production. It’s best to listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.

Other things you could to to support healthy hormone levels include limiting your sugar and dairy intake and avoiding environmental toxins. Include as many items on the clean fifteen list and avoid the dirty dozen. Don’t store your food in plastic containers and try not to drink out of plastic water bottles. We absorb chemicals from plastics into our circulatory system which are known to disrupt hormone balance. Also, try to use clean beauty products and cosmetics that your body absorbs.

To learn more about hormones, their function and how to support them through nutrition and lifestyle, you can listen to my full episode with Dr. Romm here.