Perhaps at the start of last year you set out with good intentions and as lockdowns happened AGAIN across the globe, and social restrictions were applied etc. we let some healthy practices slide and reintroduced some unhealthy habits. But if you are ready for a fresh start, here's some suggestions for healthy hormones and healthy habits.
So let's start with some things to avoid and some things to implement. If it’s easier for you to cut something out, start with that and then add on when you’re ready. Or, if it’s easier to add something in, get that boost to your health for the New Year and then ride it to the point of cutting out some unhealthy habits.
REDUCE OR STOP
1. Ditch the alcohol
There are lots of anecdotal reports from people who are self-medicating their anxieties with some extra alcohol consumption. We also know that the festive season brings a higher than usual consumption - we're human and it is understandable, but we also understand it’s not healthy. The effect of alcohol on your hormones can be significant, and excessive or binge drinking could actually affect your cycle.
Consider giving your body a break and reducing your alcohol intake or dropping the drink entirely for a while. Given time, this may improve your egg quality too. Soda is not going to be a super healthy replacement for your hydration, so consider water, seltzer, or unsweetened tea.
2. Stress less
The festive season can also bring additional stress. This is a factor that can cause elevated cortisol levels, also bad for your reproductive health. Inflammation and hormonal imbalances can go along with elevated stress levels. Short periods of high stress may affect a particular cycle, often delaying ovulation. But long-term stress can put pressure on your endocrine functions.
Some ways to reduce stress are to reduce the amount of time spent on social media or even turning off all devices for a set amount of time every day, getting some time outdoors in the natural light, and—yes—meditating.
Prayer or meditation can be wonderfully calming, as can a good soak in the tub or a mindful walk outside. In fact, exercise is a great stress-buster, and moderate exercise is excellent for your hormonal health. (Too much exercise or too strenuous exercise isn’t so good for you in that respect, so you might be happy to hear me say "you shouldn’t overdo it".)
START OR ADD
3. Start a seed fund
A varied healthy diet supports healthy endocrine function. Though there’s little scientific proof of effectiveness as yet, you may want to practice “seed cycling.” For those of us who don’t obsessively stay up to date with every Pinterest craze, seed cycling means periodically introducing different types of seeds into your diet. Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seed and on and on until you’ve tried all of those fatty little dietary guardian angels.
4. Food is medicine
Maybe you’re not interested in seed cycling but want to look at your diet to improve hormonal health. In general, you’ll want foods with lots of natural folate, vitamins, and healthy fats. Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower are all good contenders for folate. Cauliflower has folate and B6 and fatty acids too, which can also be found in various seeds. (Did I mention you may want to try seed cycling?)
Vitamin D is vital to hormonal health and much of the population has sub-optimal levels. If you’re supplementing vitamin D (as many may want to do especially over the winter), don’t forget you need good magnesium levels to process that vitamin D and avoid muscle cramps!
If you have PCOS and need to manage your insulin levels, make the switch to healthy carbs. Beans, brown rice, apples and some other whole fruits are examples of healthy carbs, as well as berries. Don’t forget to combine them with protein! Along with fiber, of course, protein with your carbs will help balance your blood sugar.
Do some research, consult with your trusted healthcare provider, and see what healthy foods you can add to your diet. Your body will thank you.
5. Got milk?
This change is especially for those looking to conceive this year. There is evidence showing that the addition of some servings of full fat dairy positively affect cycles and fertility. If you’re lactose intolerant, this won’t be for you, but if you digest dairy well, then whole milk, whole plain yogurt, and cheese are great options. If you’re due for a sweet treat, you could even consider a little ice cream as your fertility dairy serve of the day. You can look into the Harvard Fertility Diet for a rundown of this approach.
And a BONUS option to consider!
6. Start a chart!
Did you know that charting your cycle does more than just help you plan pregnancies? It can also be a useful way of monitoring your health. Charting basal body temperature (BBT) can help clue you in if you’re not ovulating, you have a fever, or your thyroid is out of whack. Charting cervical fluid observations can give you insight into things like estrogen and progesterone levels and hydration.
Improving your hormone health starts with knowing yourself. You already know yourself pretty well (you’ve had your body a while now), but charting can provide greater self-knowledge in some remarkable ways!