The 101 on Hormones and How to Balance Them
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.