Everyone has a lot to balance in life – family, friends, work and so on. Balancing our health can be challenging because there is much to consider. Diet, exercise, rest and de-stressing are pillars of our health, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed as we look for the right solutions.
Men and women each have different things to balance when it comes to health – some of which is due to differences in anatomy, such as reproductive systems, metabolism and hormones. For women, breast and gynecological health are major concerns, but so too are behavioral, bone and sexual health.
One aspect of health women should always be mindful of is hormone imbalance – especially estrogen. Hormone imbalance, while most commonly associated with menopause, can occur at any age and lead to serious health issues, including weight gain, fatigue, muscle weakness, sweating, joint pain, gut issues, loss of libido, dry skin, depression, hair loss, acne and irregular periods. This long list illustrates how even just a slight imbalance can have a negative impact on overall physical and mental well-being.
Estrogen plays an important role in female puberty and the regulation of menstrual cycles. The hormone is also key to keeping heart tissue healthy, maintaining stable blood pressure, helping protect the brain, and maintaining bone and muscle strength. Estrogen is also important for sexual health. When estrogen levels are too low, some may experience vaginal dryness, pelvic floor disorders or vulvodynia, all of which make sex painful.
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So, what can be done? Like finding balance in other aspects of health, the first place to start is with lifestyle changes. A good night’s sleep – for adults that’s seven to nine hours – can have a lot of benefits. As does avoiding light at night, which is why health professionals recommend putting electronics aside well before bedtime. Good sleep habits also help manage stress. Overall, try to avoid stressful situations, take up meditation or yoga, and surround yourself with people whose company you enjoy.
Food is a big factor. Many things we love to eat are bad for hormone levels, so avoid sugars and carb-heavy foods like processed grains. Instead, try some hormone balancing options that are loaded with phytoestrogens like soybeans, lentils, chickpeas, edamame, tofu, flax seeds, garlic, peaches and berries.
To support lifestyle and dietary efforts to balance hormones, try supplementation. There are a number of products tailor-made for this purpose. Look for those with magnesium, B vitamins, probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D3, and antioxidants. For vaginal dryness, try vitamin E vaginal suppositories and take orally omega-7, which is sea buckthorn. Be sure to consult with a dietitian or pharmacist to determine what is right for you.
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The liver plays an important role in helping process excess estrogen, so be sure to support it with cruciferous veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage. Additionally, look for supplements like turmeric, vitamin C and alpha-lipoic acid.
For skin care, steer clear of chemicals like triclosan and look for products that are devoid of complex chemical names, choosing instead organic and natural alternatives.
Discussing the more intimate parts of our health and the impacts it may have on our bodies – even with regard to sex – shouldn’t be taboo. Physicians, pharmacists and dietitians want to have these discussions to learn how they can best help. Some interventions go beyond what we’ve shared, so talking with your health care team is critical to determine what is ideal for you and the life you want to live.
Gary Kracoff has a degree in naturopathic medicine and is a registered pharmacist and John Walczyk is a compounding pharmacist at Johnson Compounding & Wellness in Waltham, Mass. For more information, visit www.naturalcompounder.com.