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The 101 on Hormones and How to Balance Them

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

Why hormones matter, Western medical approach


Hormones get a bad rap, but they are critical for every aspect of your health. They’re not just pesky annoyances that bug you during your period or when you’re transitioning into menopause. You actually need hormones to survive.


Hormones act like traffic controllers in the body, directing every system, organ, and even other hormones. They affect everything from our mood to our digestion to our skin and hair’s appearance. Because hormones impact our entire body’s functioning, when our hormones are out of balance in any way, it shows.


Symptoms such as irregular or absent periods, fluctuating moods, unwanted hair loss or hair growth, dry, dull, or blemished skin, brain fog, light or heavy periods, vaginal dryness, chronic infections, hot flashes or night sweats, and low libido can all result from imbalanced hormones.


So the question becomes, what causes imbalanced hormones?


Well, in today’s modern world, almost everything! Things like interrupted and poor quality sleep, stress, processed food, sedentary living, and excessive screen time can all negatively impact your hormones.


But don’t worry; it’s not all doom and gloom. There are steps you can take to help support your hormonal health, reduce symptoms of PMS, hot flashes, acne, and feel like the glowing, vibrant person you are!


How TCM looks at hormones


Jing is known as the essence of our bodies. It has three main energy components one of which is related to your hormones.


Jing is stored in the kidney’s. Jing is also responsible for keeping the mind, body and spirit in balance. I am sure you have heard of yin and yang at some point of your life, right? Well Yin is the fluid in your body, like blood and other body fluids, that balances Yang which is the warming element of the body. Yin cools and Yang Warms. How this relates to hormones is that when yin and yang are not balanced you experience an imbalance in your body with symptoms mentioned above.


How Jing fits into all this is overtime the yin and the yang steal from the Jing to try and naturally balance themselves out. During the course of a lifetime we only have a certain amount of Jing, unless, we do things to build Jing. Jing is responsible for nourishing cells, tissues and organs. When the hormones are unbalanced the Jing depletes.


Therefore, in Chinese Medicine our goal is to restore Jing.


Step 1 - Stress is a killer! Actively manage it



Step 2 - Eat to beat blood sugar imbalances


Have you ever wondered why so many women struggle with skipped periods, cysts, unwanted facial hair, or hair loss? Or how about why so many men struggle with building muscle and instead develop extreme amounts of belly fat and gynaecomastia (enlarged male breast tissue)? The culprit is often insulin resistance.


You might have heard of insulin resistance before. Every time we eat, our bodies produce insulin, a hormone necessary for breaking food down into glucose that we use for energy. This is a critical part of our survival; however, when we eat too much of the Standard American Diet (SAD) and our body pumps out more and more insulin to keep up with the processed starches and sugars we eat, we eventually struggle with imbalanced blood sugar and insulin resistance.

Insulin has a huge effect on hormones like estrogen and testosterone. For instance, when insulin is high, testosterone can rise and progesterone can drop, which can lead to symptoms such as infertility, excess facial hair in women, and acne.


Sustained high insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance, a primary cause of PCOS, a common hormonal condition in women that can cause infertility, weight gain, and interrupted menstruation. High insulin levels can also lead to progesterone deficiency and cause symptoms such as sore breasts, fibroids, and heavy menses.


Step 3 - Sleep


Really, focus on getting better sleep, have a routine, don’t too late at night and go to bed before 11pm for optimal sleep.



Step 4 - Clean up your household and skincare products


Environmental exposures are one of the fundamental root causes of hormonal imbalances and many chronic diseases. Unfortunately, endocrine or hormone disruptors are present in many everyday items, such as plastics, pesticides, and medicines. These disrupters quite literally disrupt normal hormone function and have been linked to health effects such as infertility, reduced ovulation and lactation, breast disease, breast cancer, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids.


Step 5 - Exercise and if necessary,

go easy on the workouts

We’re all used to hearing that exercise is good for you, right? And it is—but like most things in life, too much can also be harmful. If your body is already stressed, adding too much high-intensity exercise can actually increase cortisol levels.


Everyone is different, of course, but for some people, even small amounts of high-intensity workouts, such as weightlifting, burpees, sprints, or pull-ups can trigger a stress response.

When it comes to working out, longer and harder isn’t always better and instead, you should aim for moderate-intensity workouts if you’re in the process of trying to balance your hormones. There is a lot you can do to stay active without adding too much

stress to the body.


One common sign for menstruating people that exercise may be contributing too much stress in their body is amenorrhea, or the loss of their menstrual cycle. The combination of exercising too much and undereating is especially challenging for our hormones.

For Women:


1. WORKOUT IN ALIGNMENT WITH

YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE


Believe it or not, there is actually tremendous benefit in timing the type

of exercise you do with the phase of your menstrual cycle you’re in. Your hormones shift depending on where you are at in your cycle. And because those hormones play a role in brain function, cognition, emotional status, sensory processing, appetite, and energy, you can optimize the levels according to your cycle phase.

→ Try incorporating the following routine throughout the month:

• Menses: Prioritize rest and gentle movement such as yoga and walking.

• Follicular phase: Moderate exercise and restorative movement such as yoga, pilates, dance, and work up to higher intensity workouts.

• Ovulation: Higher intensity-level workouts.

• Luteal: Continue with your regular work out routine until your period starts or a few days before your period.

Step 6 - Support your liver and your gut


You might be thinking, what the heck do the gut and liver have to do with my hormones? The answer is a lot.


The liver is our body’s primary detoxification organ for our hormones. If the liver is overburdened with toxicants, physical damage, inflammation, infection, or other stressors, it can be difficult for the body to efficiently regulate hormones.


Why is this important? Because excess estrogen can contribute to things like endometriosis, adenomyosis, ovarian cysts, uterine polyps and fibroids, estrogen-sensitive cancers (like breast and uterine cancer), and PCOS (people think of this condition as one of high estrogen, but actually this is more a case of estrogen dominance relative to low progesterone).

The bottom line: a healthy liver and gut are necessary for supporting optimal hormonal health.

Tip: A simple & smart way to support your hormones today















Kelsey Bru is a licensed acupuncturist and TCM Herbalist in the Comox Valley, British Columbia. She loves sharing her passion for natural approaches to health and wellness through her online articles and at her clinic, The Remedy Room, on Cliffe Avenue, Courtenay. Call for an appointment at 250-800-7738.

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