Ready to think outside the pillbox and balance your hormones naturally?
When your lifestyle is balanced, your body chemistry will also have balance. To summarize my best advice for balancing hormones, take this prescription: eat well, move your body, and let go of stress. If you want to learn more about how and why hormones go out of balance, read on. Hormone imbalance gets complicated. A hormone is a regulatory substance transported through bodily fluids that stimulates specific cells or a group of cells into action. When dealing with hormone imbalance, it can be hard to locate the guilty culprit. Is it the gland secreting the hormone? Is it the mode of transportation?
Or is it a lack of intelligence by the cells receiving the information?
Specialist run tests to check hormonal levels in the body, but imbalances can only be detected when too much or too little of a certain hormone is already in the blood stream. At this point it's likely your adrenals are taxed and you're exhausted, or your thyroid is under or over producing and you're anxious or depressive . . . Or the insulin producing portion of the pancreas is making it difficult for you to metabolize glucose causing you extra weight around the middle.
With the study of Ayurveda, you learn to fine tune the connection between the mind and the body and you are better able to take subtle cues from the body that alert you of trends toward imbalance.
Sadly, it is easier to take a pill than it is to change your life. This is why so many of us are prescribed hormone replacement therapy at the doctor's office, but provided little to no information or education about how and why our bodies got so off track. The body is always striving toward maintaining a constant internal environment and hormones play a huge role in this process. Insulin controls blood glucose, renin helps to control blood pressure, endorphins block pain, and cortisol aids in the metabolism of fat.
When our internal environment lacks stability in the secretion of essential hormones the immune system is comprised and we become vulnerable to disease.
As explained by Claudia Welch in her book Balance your Hormones, Balance your Life, to maintain healthy hormone levels in the body, it's important to understand the duality our sex hormones (e.g. estrogen, progesterone) and our stress hormones (e.g. adrenaline, cortisol). Our stress hormones are considered masculine, they are stimulating, motivating and lightening. And our sex hormones are considered feminine . . . they're grounding, nourishing, and calming.
Adequate amounts of both stress hormones and sex hormones are essential for robust health.
The feminine aspect is responsible for receiving and building, and masculine aspect is responsible for digesting and transforming. Without a balance between the two we will either waste away or become clogged, congested, and overweight. This is why one of the best ways to go about balancing the hormones is to maintain a healthy weight. Too much weight results in an overproduction and excess of sex hormones as adipose tissue acts as an extra endocrine gland leading to lethargy, growths in the body and depressive moods. On the contrary, too little weight can result in an overstimulation of stress hormones, leading to high blood pressure, lack of menstruation, anxiety, and osteoporosis. Our current fast paced lifestyle has become obsessed with masculine qualities. Every man (and woman!) wants to be driven, active, focused, and thin (all masculine qualities). We place very little value on the feminine attributes of softness, wetness, and relaxedness. Inevitably this puts us in a constant state of fight or flight and our adrenal glands become taxed by the constant demand for the production of cortisol to keep us going, producing, and exercising at all times. Ironically, the more cortisol we have in the bloodstream, the more sensitive we become to stressful events. If we go about this way for too long, being stressed becomes a way of life.
Give it a rest.
Allow the lunar qualities to set in. In Chinese medicine, this duality is the yin-yang concept. With too much yang or stress or masculinity, the body begins to break down the yin (bones, muscles, skin and brain) and the body wastes away. Weight gain in the middle is a common complaint for many people. When we want to lose weight, we look to exercise. Lots of jumping, running, and jogging increases our cortisol production and can further stress the body leading to even more weight gain. This is why it's so important to place just as much emphasis on gentle yoga, meditation, rest, and sleep as we do on exercise. It can seem counter intuitive, but a stressed out body leads to stagnation in the body. Where there is stagnation, there is low energy and where there is low energy, there is a problem. The body works best when it is circulating smoothly. The most effective way to maintain a smooth circulation of energy through the body is through breath work. Breath is energy. By practicing alternate nostril breathing for as little as 10 minutes a day you will begin to balance the masculine and feminine aspects of the body by giving yourself direct access to the right and left side of the brain by way of the nostrils.
Here's how to maintain a smooth circulation of energy throughout the body:
1. Sit on the floor in a simple cross-legged position
2. Close the right nostril with the thumb of the right hand and exhale the air in one long breath through the left nostril
3. Once you have completed the breath, close the left nostril with the ring finger of the right hand
4. Remove the thumb from the right nostril and inhale through the right nostril
5. Again, plug the right nostril with the thumb and begin the inhale through the left nostril
6. Again, plug the left nostril with the ring finger, remove the thumb and exhale through the right nostril
7. Continue this pattern, do not expect to have it right the first couple of times. Give it time and create a rhythm As you become comfortable with this technique, begin to retain the breath at the end of each inhale and each exhale. You should practice this exercise on an empty stomach best first thing in the morning for up to 15 minutes. Breathing exercises allow you to cultivate a connection with your inner state. By forming a connection, you will know exactly how to eat, sleep, live, and exercise without any guidance from any other source but yourself. Your body will provide all the answers; all you have to do it listen.
References: Welch, Claudia. Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life: Achieving Optimal Health and Wellness through Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, and Western Science. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Lifelong, 2011. Print.