This article looks at techniques, herbs and supplements which can help balance hormones naturally and alleviate acne and other pre-menstrual symptoms.
As you’ve probably learnt from my previous two posts (catch up here and here), unbalanced hormones are probably one of the most common reasons for acne outbreaks in adult women and it’s not just acne that’s a result of unhappy hormones – they can also impact on processes like growth, metabolism, sexual function, fertility and mood! Did you know that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists estimate that 85% of women suffer from at least one PMS symptom! This is NOT normal and if you’re suffering from monthly PMS symptoms, whether its acne, headaches, bloating, cramps, mood swings or sore boobs – it’s a sign your hormones are playing up!
10 tips to balance hormones naturally and heal acne
Here are my top tips you can implement today to get your hormones back into balance….the natural way!
Balance your blood sugar
If you’re suffering with hormone imbalances that are wreaking havoc on your skin you 100% need to keep those blood sugars as stable as possible! When you eat something high carb, sugary, or you skip a meal, your blood sugar will spike. When sugars get digested, they can cause the pancreas to produce more insulin and the insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) to help maintain the balance of blood glucose. Too much insulin and IGF-1 will, in turn, trigger a release of androgen hormones. An excess of androgens means that our skin will produce too much sebum, which will then lead to clogged pores, blackheads and whiteheads which can then lead to inflamed, cystic acne. Avoid all sugar and sweeteners and over consuming carbs – including natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup and ‘healthy’ whole grains like rice and quinoa.
Support your liver
The liver is the target for nearly every toxin, chemical and contaminant that we come into contact with during the course of our busy lives. The liver also has the important role of breaking down and removing excess hormones from the body therefore it’s vital to support our liver to ensure it can do its job of storing vitamins and minerals and detoxing out the bad hormones for optimum health and acne-free skin. Read my top tips for supporting your liver naturally here.
Time for tea
Spearmint Tea: A small study showed that PCOS women who drank 2 cups of spearmint tea everyday for a month showed a significant reduction in the level of excess androgens!
Green Tea: Consuming green tea on a regular basis has been scientifically proven to help balance your blood sugar levels and hormones as well as reducing inflammation, all thanks to a polyphenol found in green tea called EGCG. (Read more about tea to balance hormones naturally here!)
Love the good fats
Cut out the bad industrial fats such as vegetable oil, canola oil, margarine or other chemically altered fats and start enjoying healthy fats such as avocado, coconut oil, oily fish, fatty cuts of meat, nuts, seeds, butter, goats cheese (if you can tolerate it) and grass-fed ghee. Vegetable oils are high in omega-6 which is an inflammatory fatty acid whilst healthy fats contain more omega-3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation and are also fundamental building blocks for hormone production as well as boosting your metabolism and promoting weight loss! Most my clients aren’t eating anywhere near enough fats on a daily basis – you should be getting 55-65% of your daily calories from healthy fat!
Exercise is great for balancing your hormones but overdoing it can make your symptoms worse! Chronic cardio workouts can put too much stress on your body and spike cortisol levels which can cause inflammation and trigger hormone imbalances. Light, regular exercise such as walking, swimming or pilates is a great way to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and short interval training for 20 minutes 3 times a week is more than enough to help boost your immune system, reduce stress levels and balance hormones.
In addition to following a healthy, whole foods diet rich in health fats, studies have shown that these supplements and herbs are worth keeping in your home to help support optimal hormonal health:
Evening Primrose Oil: EPO has been shown to ease symptoms of PMS such as bloating, cramps and breat tenderness. Those suffering with PMS tend to have higher levels of omega-6 in their system and EPO is high in healthy gammalinolenic acid which is an effective anti-inflammatory.
Reishi Mushroom: Reishi mushrooms or ganoderma lucidum have been shown to help lower testosterone levels ad are considered an anti-androgen. A study in 2006 showed that ganoderma contains oils called triterpenoids which can reduce the production of 5-alpha-reductase, a hormone that can increase testosterone production!
Berberine and Cinnamon: Studies have shown that Berberine (500mg 2-3 times a day) and Ceylon cinnamon (no more than 1tsp daily) can be excellent at helping to manage blood sugar and insulin levels which in turn can help to regulate hormones.
DIM: Diindolylmethane, or DIM, is a natural, food-based supplement derived from cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli and is thought to help balance hormones by effectively regulating estrogen metabolism and helping to do away with those horrible symptoms of PMS.
Agnus Castus: Also known as shatavari or Chaste Tree, Agnus Castus is a well known herb that’s frequently used to increase the production of progesterone and promote balance within the female reproductive system.
Vitamin D3: Vitamin D deficiencies can cause low oestrogen in women and low testosterone in men impacting your sex drive and moods. Supplement in the form of an oral spray or fermented cod liver oil for maximum bioavailability.
Cut down on caffeine
Cutting back on the caffeine could do wonders for your hormones! Whilst the occasional coffee after food won’t do any harm, too much caffeine, especially on an empty stomach, drives the adrenal glands to produce the stress hormone; cortisol. This increases the production of insulin, which causes a rise in sebum and inflammation which can lead to breakouts.
Drinking coffee first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, is one of the worst things you can do for your hormones. One reason coffee can be problematic for those with hormone imbalances is because it depletes vital nutrients for clear skin and balanced hormones such as Magnesium and B vitamins. However, the biggest problem with coffee can’t be rectified with some additional supplements….
When you drink coffee on an empty stomach, the caffeine alone causes a massive cortisol and insulin surge which plays total havoc on your hormones for the rest of the day! That’s right, 24 hours of blood sugar ups and downs – it’s so bad that your body won’t actually recover till you wake up the following morning, where you’ll probably start the whole process all over again. This reaction is amplified if you take milk or sugar with your morning cup of coffee so if you do one thing this week, stop the early morning coffee and switch to a caffeine free alternative instead.
Avoid hormone disrupting chemicals
Unfortunately, it’s near impossible to avoid all hormone disrupting chemicals in our day-to-day lives. They’re everywhere! These environmental toxins are commonly found in household cleaners, toiletries, cosmetics, plastics and pesticides. These chemicals mimic hormones in the body and send your whole endocrine system out of whack! I’ve written a list in this post (here) of the ways you can reduce your exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals.
One of the easiest ways for our hormones to go gaga is by not getting enough shut eye! If you suffer from sleep deprivation, it could be one of the key reasons your hormones are imbalanced and you’re feeling like crap! When you sleep, your body repairs, detoxifies, regulates hormones and adjusts blood sugar levels and in order for our bodies to fulfil these functions properly, the brain must pass through four different levels of sleep cycles.
To maximise hormone function while you sleep, try to get to bed by 10 p.m. Hormone experts claim that one hour of sleep between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. is the equivalent to two hours of sleep before or after these time slots!
This is probably the most common, yet most overlooked reason for unhappy hormones! I know for a fact that stress management is my Achilles heel, I’m terrible at it! I’m a born worrier, a workaholic and too much of a people-pleaser, putting everyone else’s needs before my own! It’s something I’m trying really hard to work on but it’s so much easier said than done, right?!
What I’m saying is, even if you’re doing everything right – if your stressed out, then your adrenals will be overworked and high levels of cortisol will throw your entire endocrine system out of balance. Studies have shown that deep breathing can help to balance your hormones, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day! If you’re like me and struggle with self meditating because your brain Just. Does. Not. Stop. Try some guided meditation apps such as Calm, Headspace or Walking Meditations.
Implementing these simple tricks into your daily routine will not only improve your hormone balance, but will also improve your overall health! Remember, your hormones aren’t going to fix themselves overnight so be patient with yourself and try not to stress about it!
Do you have any tips to balance hormones naturally? Let me know in the comments below!
Peace, Love & Clear Skin,