Hormone Balance: The Holistic Answers You’ve Been Searching for to Heal Infertility, Bloating, Headaches, PMS, and More
So much of my health coaching deals with helping women balance their hormones using food as their primary medicine. This is because many (maybe even most!) of the symptoms we commonly experience in the western world are related to hormonal imbalances including infertility, PMS, bloating, headaches, high blood pressure, dryness, and muscle tension. Perhaps we’re aware that these symptoms are external manifestations of an internal hormone imbalance, but what so many of us do not realize is that our problem goes deeper.
How can symptoms like infertility and dryness be related, when they affect different parts of the body? Well, I’m about to explain how they can be and probably are related to the same root cause. The good news is that by making a few simple changes, all of our symptoms can dissolve without any invasive treatments or "therapies." We might intend to treat high blood pressure, for example, but once we target the root cause of that symptom, lo' and behold we realize our headaches have also faded away!
What controls the ebb and flow of our hormones? Is there really something else at the root of our imbalance? Let’s dive right in.
Here to help me explain how our hormones work on this deepest of levels is the ancient system of Chinese Medicine.
Chinese nutritional medicine identifies five “Elements” or organ systems that work in balance with each other to create the state of our health. When any of these organ systems are out of balance, our health declines, and we experience different symptoms. Symptoms are the language of our bodies. They’re amazing tools for understanding what is going on. When we ignore or suppress a symptom with a cream or pill (without also identifying the root cause), then the problem will manifest as a new symptom in a different way. It doesn’t simply “go away.”
Now let’s talk about the liver.
The liver, as it's known in Chinese medicine, is a chemical processing factory that stores and purifies our blood. Those symptoms I mentioned earlier — bloating, headaches, PMS, high blood pressure, dryness, and muscle tension — are all signs that there is a blockage of energy around the liver meridian, or energy channel. When this interruption exists, hormones are thrown off balance. You might notice that your physical symptoms are also paired with emotional ones like lack of motivation, drive, willpower, and happiness. This is because Chinese medicine doesn’t view the liver as an isolated, purely physical entity but as a part of a larger median system that affects all aspects of health, including emotional and spiritual!
So what can we do?? As a holistic nutritionist, I look to the edible kingdom as my first and primary method of healing. Let's get right into it.
The foods to avoid:
Caffeine. A major stressor on the liver. While it seems to get things moving in the immediate, overtime, it actually causes stagnation.
Meat and dairy. Ok, I know not everyone will be open to eliminating them, but can you limit them to once or twice a week? I find that so many people believe they need dairy and especially meat to feel full and satisfied. But the thing is, I have all of my clients fill out a food journal for a few days before we speak, and they make note of their hunger levels after each meal. Well, I rarely see any correlation between these foods and satiation, and they are some of the hardest foods for the liver to process, not to mention that the majority of meat and dairy we see at the grocery store contains hormones in and of themselves, hormones that throw off our own hormonal balance. No wonder girls are beginning their cycles so much earlier than they used to, and we're seeing more androgynous signs in our boys. The real issue I see clients having, once they realize that they don’t need meat and dairy to feel full, is that they don’t know what to eat instead. We’ll get to that soon.
Oils. Limit as much as possible. When healing our liver meridian, we want to eat whole and unprocessed foods that the liver easily recognizes. A tablespoon of oil is about 100 calories of pure, isolated fat. Even a seemingly "healthy" oil like olive oil is not a whole food - it is the isolated fat from an olive in a dose that is extremely hard for the body, especially the liver, to process. Stick with whole fats from avocados, seeds (hemp, chia), and coconuts.
Sugar. Processed sugar is our worst enemy when trying to heal the liver. I understand what it’s like to have a sweet tooth, but if we eat enough carbohydrates from whole, unprocessed sources during our meals, those sugar cravings dissipate. If you must eat something sweet, try making bliss balls (I have an awesome, brain-boosting recipe in my ebook!), finding raw cacao bars, dried or fresh fruit, medjool dates, or a homemade vegan and gluten-free dessert (lots of these recipes in my book, too! Can you tell I like sweets?). Don’t worry if one of these desserts has more calories than your typical, egg- and dairy-fueled dessert. Calories are not the main issue, even when it comes to weight loss. The issue is the type of calories we’re eating. It’s a matter of calories that our bodies understand and are designed to eat, versus calories from processed foods with zero nutrition. Those calories throw off our metabolism and natural processes completely.
Now let’s talk about the foods to eat up to your eyeballs. Your daily food intake is the basis of your transformation. Your food becomes your blood, cells, organs, body, mind, emotions and thoughts.
Vegetables. These are the staple of your liver-loving diet. Choose plenty of greens, yellows and reds, complemented by pungent and sour flavors (citrus, vinegar, pickles, plums, sour cherry).
Think in ratios. Protein should be about 10% of your diet, carbohydrates about 30% and fruit and vegetables 40-60%.
Eat less and at least 3 hours before bed. Eating simpler meals gives the liver a chance to reset and heal. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. You will feel a difference. Think about it this way: a piece of bread seems like a simple food in our western diet. Then we go ahead and add a few toppings like meat, cheese, tomato, mayonnaise…How many ingredients do you count? Five? Think again. The bread alone might have ten or more ingredients. Same with the mayonnaise. A “simple” snack can easily have 30 different foods in it, foods that the liver must process, and each one digests and breaks down at different speeds. The body is constantly overloaded in this way and our hormones are proof.
Quick remedies. Who doesn't love a quickie? Eating one raw carrot a day provides a special kind of fiber that helps the body eliminate toxins. Eating cruciferous vegetables (kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc) twice daily helps with liver detoxification process, as well. Drinking warm or hot water with lemon or apple cider vinegar first thing every morning. Try it!!
Fresh fruits, like fresh vegetables, are very healing for a liver-in-need.
Sprouted grains. Mung beans and lentils are particularly healing.
Again, a general rule of thumb is to eat simple, whole, unprocessed foods as close to their natural state as possible. When it comes to healing the liver and rebalancing hormones, less is more!
If you’re feeling like this is a lot of information and you don’t know where to begin, that’s totally normal! I work with clients 1:1 to devise a strategy that feels doable, accessible, and even fun (I definitely have fun!). If you’re trying to make changes on your own, remember: simplicity is key! Maybe begin with just a glass of water with lemon every morning. Commit to that for a week, and then add on. Eat fruits or vegetables with or for your breakfast if you normally do not. Substitute one meat meal for a fish or veggie meal. Try a delicious broccoli and cauliflower roast. Do what works for you, and do it consistently!
If you wish to speak with me more, I invite you to schedule an appointment or a free 20 minute phone consultation. Until then, grab a copy of my book, see what's happening on Facebook and Instagram, and if you know someone who might benefit from this blog post, I would be so grateful if you feel inclined to share it with them. Happy healing, sister! I love you!