Balancing Hormones

We have all heard of hormones, but what exactly are they and why do they become imbalanced?

The endocrine system is a network of glands throughout the body that produce a range of hormones or chemical messengers. Working similarly to the nervous system but at a slower pace, hormones are secreted into the bloodstream and act as signals, travelling to different glands to trigger the release of other hormones or creating changes in target tissues of the body.

An example of this is the hypothalamus producing the hormone TRH which signals the anterior pituitary gland to release TSH, telling the thyroid gland to increase production and secretion of thyroid hormones.

Hormones can be broadly divided into peptide hormones and steroid hormones. Peptide hormones such as insulin and glucagon are made of amino acids whereas steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol. Our sex hormones including oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone are steroid hormones that are produced within the same pathway as our stress hormone cortisol. 

Signs of a hormonal imbalance include:

Fatigue, weight gain, weight loss, sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures, dry skin, low libido, infertility, heavy and painful periods, PMS symptoms, mood disturbances, anxiety and much much more.

Some common causes of hormonal imbalances include:

Poor nutrition

A diet high in nutrient deplete processed food, refined sugar and refined carbohydrates that is lacking sufficient protein, healthy fats and micronutrient cofactors (vitamins and minerals) required for hormone production.

Poor elimination

Being constipated means our hormones that have been metabolised by the liver and released into the bowel for elimination are lingering, becoming de-conjugated by microorganisms in our gut and released back into our bloodstream to wreak havoc on our system. 

Toxin load

We are exposed to toxins through the air we breath, the food we eat and what we put on our skin and hair. Many of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors, which means they mimic our natural hormones leading to hormonal imbalances. In addition, high toxin load taxes the liver, reducing its ability to metabolise hormones destined for elimination.


The body will always favour the production of our stress hormone cortisol over other steroid hormones, therefore stress is one of the most common contributing factors to hormonal imbalances. 

So how can we support a healthy hormone balance?

Swap out refined sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods for a wholefoods diet consisting of:

  • Whole grains – quinoa, buckwheat, millet, brown rice
  • A wide range of colourful vegetables and fruit
  • Plenty of healthy fats – avocado, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, coconut, ghee, butter, salmon, sardines, mackerel
  • Protein with every meal – organic free range meat, chicken, eggs, salmon, organic tempeh, organic hemp seeds

Supporting the pathways of elimination by:

  • Consuming fibre rich foods daily – flaxseeds, chia seeds, green leafy vegetables, kiwifruit, wholegrain oats
  • Drinking 1.5-2.5 litres of filtered water daily
  • Physical activity – walking, running, gardening, basically moving your body

Reducing our toxin load:

  • Swapping personal care products (shampoos, creams) to natural products – a good rule of thumb is if is good enough to eat, it’s good enough to go on your skin
  • Investing in a water filtration system that removes heavy metals, halides and other nasty chemicals and microorganisms – I recommend the Waters Co. brand. 
  • Swap from storing foods in plastics to glass or stainless steel and NEVER heat foods stored in plastic in the microwave!
  • Eliminating Teflon (non-stick) cookware and using cast iron or stainless steel with an 18/8 or 18/10 stamped at the bottom
  • Choosing organic foods if and when possible, especially the dirty dozen list of fruit and vegetables that are heavily sprayed with chemical pesticides, meat and dairy. If eating canned foods, opt for BPA free cans and whenever possible choose fresh or frozen over canned.

Identifying the root cause of your stress & supporting stress reduction by:   

  • Adopting a mind-body practice such as meditation, yoga or tai chi
  • Spending time in nature – in particular physical activity in green spaces
  • Journaling thoughts or feelings at the end of each day
  • Connecting with loved ones
  • Scheduling in time for rest and fun
  • Seeking the support of a trained professional such as a counsellor or psychologist

How infrared sauna treatments can encourage healthy hormone balance:

The use of infrared saunas aids the elimination of toxins, including heavy metals and endocrine disrupting toxins such as BPA and phthalates, through the process of sweating. Endocrine disruptors mimic our hormones, docking onto receptor sites on our cells and wreaking havoc on our hormonal balance, so their elimination supports our hormonal balance. In addition, there is evidence that regular sauna use can help with stress management as the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged during the cool-down period after heat therapy, bringing us into a calm and relaxed headspace, which we know is key to a healthy hormone balance.


Written by Shaz Andrew, Holistic Nutritionist at Hana


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