In my last post, I started to talk to you about your skin's health. In that post I covered the importance of decreasing inflammation by healing and strengthening your gut. If you missed it, you can check it out here.
Today, I want to talk to you about how balancing your hormones is absolutely crucial in order to have even, radiant, beautiful complexion (as well as healthy weight, a good sex drive, plenty of energy, a rocking fertility, and a positive mindset that can manage stress well).
At least once a month I get an email from a woman somewhere in the world, who is struggling with her skin. These email always really touch me, because I can literally feel the pain that many of these women are experiencing on a daily basis and how much it affects their confidence and how they literally face the the world.
Here are 3 typical scenarios:
1. Women who are coming off the birth control pill. Their skin hasn't been an issue while they were on the pill and all of a sudden they are breaking out.
2. Women struggling with acne who are also often diagnosed with PCOS.
3. Women with dry skin (& usually also dry hair and brittle nails) who are often also faced with an underactive thyroid (many of them have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, but many are mis- or under-diagnosed).
ALL of these skin conditions are a result of imbalanced hormones that are not only causing skin problems, but are also majorly impacting your periods and your fertility as well as your mood and psychological health!
As I said in my last post, your skin is really a mirror of how your body is working on the inside and your hormones are key players in this game. Especially as women, we go through hormonal cycles every month -we are truly cyclical beings!- and so making sure that our hormones are balanced and working FOR (not against!) us is super important!
In this post, my main goal is to teach you the basics for how to keep your hormones healthy and balanced.
*Please keep in mind that this is not a post dedicated to PCOS or any specific thyroid condition (I'll write posts on these in the future), but these recommendations are general guidelines for all women who need to balance their hormones and want to have healthy, glowing skin as a result.
Step 1: Balance your blood sugar
I'll say it again: YOU.MUST.PAY.ATTENTION.TO.YOUR.BLOODSUGAR.
Blood-sugar rollercoasters that result from things like not eating regularly, eating the wrong things, consuming too much caffeine (esp. on an empty stomach -> hello to all my NYC ladies;)), and too much stress are a huge culprit for imbalanced hormones.
The reason this happens is because when your pancreas pumps out a whole lot of insulin to deal with your blood sugar spikes, your body signals to your ovaries to produce more male sex hormones called androgens, for ex. testosterone. Testosterone then goes through a few more reactions which ultimately leads to increased sebum production, which leads to oilier skin, clogged pores and yes, you guessed it, acne. (1)
In order to balance your blood-sugar, you want to stay away from sugar (including things like white carbs and alcohol) and pay more attention to healthy proteins and fats, which you want to include in any snack and meal you have throughout the day.
Step 2: Show your liver some love
You want to make sure that your liver is happy and functioning well because it has a big, serious job to do every day: it is your key detoxifying organ.
Hormonally speaking, your liver is hugely important in detoxifying used up estrogen ("bad" estrogen) that will otherwise keep circling in your bloodstream, causing something called estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance is no joke. It happens when your estrogen and your progesterone are imbalanced, which occurs either when your progesterone is too low and/or when your estrogen is too high.
Women who are estrogen dominant often have problems with their period (from painful and heavy to non-existent), their fertility (difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant), and their mood (hello anxiety, worry, listlessness and sadness).
In addition, when your progesterone is too low it cannot do one of its many important jobs and that is keeping sebum production at bay.
Do you see what's happening here? Too much testosterone coupled with too little progesterone is not a fun combo for your body and certainly also not for your complexion. (1)
What to do?
a. give your liver a break and help it detox properly (keep an eye out for my upcoming detoxifying fall cleanse!)
b. introduce detoxifying spices like turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, saffron, and cayenne pepper.
c. include more of the following liver loving foods into your diet: Garlic, Beets, Leafy Greens, Grapefruit, Green Tea, Avocados, and Cruciferous Vegetables
Step 3: Go organic and stay away from endocrine disruptors/ environmental toxins
In addition to this also being a great substep to showing your liver some love, the unfortunate truth is that there are a ton of estrogen mimicking chemicals in the pesticides that are commonly used to grow our food as well as in the manufacturing of many common household items.
According to the Environmental Working Group, "there is no end to the tricks that endocrine disruptors can play on our bodies: increasing production of certain hormones; decreasing production of others; imitating hormones; turning one hormone into another; interfering with hormone signaling; telling cells to die prematurely; competing with essential nutrients; binding to essential hormones; accumulating in organs that produce hormones." (2)
This is bad news for your whole body, but especially for your ovaries and thus everything that has to do with your hormonal system including your skin.
*** for those of you who want to become pregnant, this is especially important because carrying around a large toxic load in your body can affect your baby in utero.
While this is quite a big discussion, there are a few simple things you can start with:
a. go organic as much as possible. Stick to the EWG's recommendations of the dirty dozen and clean 15, which tells you which fruits and veggies you absolutely must buy organic and which ones are fine to get commercially grown.
b. stay away from BPA. BPA is a master as pretending it's the real deal estrogen, which causes all sorts of confusions and harm in your body that you don't want (shockingly, studies show that 9 out of 10 blood cord samples showed that babies were exposed to BPA in utero :(). The best ways to avoid them is to stay away from canned food, avoid contact with receipts, store your food in glass containers and never microwave your food in plastic containers. (3)
c. invest into a good water filter. Check out the EWG's guide page for more information.
Step 4: Go for pleasure and simplicity
Hello! Yes you. How is it coming with the pleasure in your life. Be honest.
Most of us are totally lacking the kinds of pleasures that are calming to our system, soothing for our mind, and nourishing for our spirit!
I am not talking about the wild parties and big social gatherings (although they can surely be fun too;)). I am talking about simple things like time in nature, laughing with your girlfriends, doing creative things like painting or writing. Basically anything that doesn't count as productive, showy, or energy-exerting.
I don't have to tell you that calming our stress-response system is something you should do, but in case you need another reason to take this serious, then know that your sex hormones (the ones responsible for baby-making, but also for your skin, mood, and energy levels) are massively impacted by your adrenal health.
It's so important to take time to yourself and create space where your thoughts can wander freely and where they are not drilled by deadlines or expectations.
Take some time to journal on two simple question: What brings me pleasure? How can I simplify my life?
Alright love, I know that I covered a lot, but I also know that you can do this. In the comments below I would love to hear from you: do you struggle with your skin? What's your biggest challenge and what will you try to begin solving this problem?
Next week, I am going to talk about how to keep your skincare and make-up routine natural and toxic free (think: minimize unnecessary toxins and help your body literally glow from the inside out + I'll be sharing my personal skincare routine and favorite make-up lines), so stay tuned:)
Thanks for reading and I hope this was helpful :)