8 ways to balance your hormones naturally this winter


It’s not just your mood and body temperature that can shift during the winter time, your hormones can also be impacted by the change in seasons which can affect a variety of symptoms including weight, mood, libido, energy, sleep, and digestion.
What is it about winter that can impact hormones?
There are a number of changes that occur in the winter time that can affect our physical bodies including shorter days, colder temperatures, lack of daylight, and of course the holiday festivities.
The seasonal shifts invite us to re-assess our current lifestyle and make the appropriate changes to support our bodies as we transition into a slower season.
What may have been working well for us during the summer and fall won’t necessarily translate the same in the winter. For example, instead of ice cold foods and staying up later with the sun, the colder months invite us instead to turn to more nourishing options like warm and cooked foods and sleeping longer.
Today we’re giving you some simple yet powerful tips to help you transition into the darker and colder months while giving your hormones much needed attention and care for greater balance and wellbeing.

How to balance your hormones during the winter time

Warm up with seasonal foods

Eating with the seasons means rather than continually eating the same foods all year round we choose foods that are grown locally and organically. 

Nature is literally guiding us to the most appropriate and nutrient dense foods for our systems and when we don’t follow nature’s natural rhythms and seasons, we can experience it physically.

Foods that grow and thrive in the winter should ideally be consumed during that season, these may include root vegetables, ginger, garlic, kale, brussels sprouts, chard, rapini, and collards. 

Though you can find all foods at any time of the year at the grocery store, a great way to shop with the seasons is to grow your own food or visit the farmer’s market.

In addition to seasonal fruits and vegetables, the way you consume your food also makes a difference according to the season.

Traditional Chinese Medicine suggests that every food has an energetic property, such as warming or cooling, that can affect the body as a whole as well as weaken or strengthen particular organ systems.

Leave the overly cooling foods such as raw foods, salads, iced foods and drinks to the summer months and opt for nourishing foods that are warming to the system such as cooked foods, teas, curries, broths, animal protein, stews, and soups during the winter season.

Tune up your thyroid

The thyroid is the body’s main thermoregulator which means that as the temperature starts to drop, the thyroid may be prompted to work a little harder in order to regulate heat in the body. 

People with hypothyroidism are more prone to experiencing cold intolerance and may be more sensitive to lower temperatures, causing stress on the body.

If you are hypothyroid, the arrival of cold weather may impact you a little more by causing common symptoms such as seasonal depression, brain fog, fatigue, weight gain, and cold hands and feet.

TSH levels have been shown to elevate during the winter and spring months and decrease in the summer and fall months, especially among women (1)(2).

Many individuals will often get diagnosed with seasonal hypothyroidism due to the hormonal fluctuations that can come naturally with the season change as the body attempts to cope with the cold by generating more heat. This is why it’s important to test at different times of the year.

If you are taking medication or notice symptoms arise with the change in seasons it may be appropriate to check in with your doctor to verify your thyroid levels and adjustment your treatment accordingly.

Though the cold may have an impact on your thyroid, and hormones, you don’t just have to wait it out and count down the days till spring. There are a number of ways you can help keep your body nice and warm and support your thyroid activity:

  • Eat thyroid boosting and thermogenic foods that generate heat through digestion such as brazil nuts, chicken, green tea, olive oil, salmon, turmeric, berries, eggs, garlic, dark chocolate, coconut oil, and avocado.
  • Get moving! Regular exercise not only helps to generate heat internally but it also can improve your mood and relieve stress, supporting thyroid and hormone levels.
  • Dress appropriately with plenty of layers and avoid unnecessary exposure to the cold.
  • Get your thyroid as well as your vitamin D levels checked.
  • Manage your stress with plenty of rest (you will likely need more during the winter time) and stress relieving activities.

Light up your morning

Our circadian clock, influenced by light and darkness, plays a major role in hormonal balance.

It’s not uncommon for both men and women to experience a drop in libido during the winter months.

One of the reasons for this dip in desire that can be felt by many individuals is the lack of sunlight exposure which can impact hormone levels as well as mood.

Lack of sunlight in the winter can result in a a drop in hormones such as serotonin and testosterone, which can lower sex drive in men and women (3)(4)(5).

The good news is that exposure to light can help to remedy this and improve hormone levels and mental wellbeing.

Research has found that just 20 to 30 minutes of sunlight on a regular basis can support the production of serotonin as well as testosterone (6)(7).

But what if your location isn’t too sunshine friendly? Even if it’s cloudy it does make a difference! You can also invest in a light box as a great way to gain consistent light exposure no matter what in the comfort of your home.

Avoid screens before bed

It’s not just daylight exposure, artificial light in the evening is also a major factor that can influence hormonal output. 

This is because exposure to bright light delays melatonin production at night and alters cortisol secretion (8). These two hormones are highly influenced by light exposure and impact our daily sleep and wake rhythms. They don’t just influence how sleepy we are at night and our energy during the day, they have a domino effect on all other hormones and organ systems in the body affecting things like appetite, metabolism, and even fertility.

A study found that a single night of light exposure was enough to create changes in hormonal and metabolic responses in healthy individuals (9).

Nocturnal lifestyles, like shift work, are said to represent a risk factor to consider in the rise of chronic health issues in our society today (10).

Now does this mean you have to give up all electronics and go to bed as soon as the sun goes down? Not at all, though this is a good opportunity to take note of your bedtime routine and make it more hormone friendly by reducing exposure to bright lights.

Watching Netflix, scrolling social media, or checking your email before bed is a surefire way of experiencing sleep troubles at night and feeling groggy in the morning, while making it harder for your hormones to come into balance.

You can help your hormones help you by finding some new activities and routines that are less stimulating and don’t require electronics such as yoga, stretching, walking, reading, meditation, artwork, and spending time with loved ones.

Another great way to support healthy hormones in the evening is by watching the sunset or a fire, dimming the lights, or lighting candles instead.

 

Get outside

The cold weather can be an easy excuse to stay indoors, however, making the time for some outdoor exposure can not only benefit your hormonal health but also your mental health.

Even better, if you can combine exercise with the outdoors you are receiving increased benefits including reducing inflammation, increasing circulation, enhancing metabolism, improving cardiovascular health and immune function, and decreasing stress hormones (11).

What’s more, outdoor physical activity can help to boost serotonin levels, the happy hormone, while regulating your circadian rhythm from daylight exposure (12)(13). This can help you to feel more energized during your day and fall asleep more easily at bedtime which further improves hormonal balance.

Instead of resisting winter, start exploring some new activities that you can have fun with in the outdoors like snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, or ice skating.

 

Choose your sweets wisely

Though it may seem tricky to avoid all the sugary treats and sweets during the holiday season, minimizing added sugar in your diet will go a long way in terms of optimizing hormone function and avoiding chronic health risks such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Take advantage of naturally sweet produce that are in season during this time such as carrots, sweet potato, yam, and pumpkin to provide healthy nourishment to your endocrine system while at the same time curbing that sweet tooth.

If you are wanting more of a treat that will satisfy your tastebuds without  causing hormonal troubles, there are plenty of alternative baked goods and sweets that you can either make yourself or find at your favourite health food store. Remember this season is all about finding balance, not eliminating your favourite foods!

That being said if you do find yourself being strongly influenced by sugar cravings, it’s time to look at your stress levels and make sure you are including plenty of protein and healthy fats at mealtimes to keep you more satiated and satisfied.

 

Take your stress seriously

Colder temperatures, lack of sunlight, isolation, over indulging in rich foods, and the many stressors that come with the holidays can all add more stress onto the body.

Too much stress can affect the body physically, mentally, and emotionally and when we don’t properly manage our stress and emotions this can affect many different hormones. 

Chronic stress can dysregulate hunger and satiety hormones, glucose and insulin, sex hormones, and hormones associated with sleep. 

Taking time out of your day to practice stillness and mindfulness can go a long way in combatting stress and as a result support overall hormonal balance.

Experiment with ways that help you naturally cope and reduce stress which could be meditation, breathwork, nature therapy, or healing prayer.

It’s important to note that rest is a vitally important part of managing your stress and can’t be overlooked so make sure you are prioritizing your sleep and allow yourself more of it according to your body’s needs.

 

Support your liver 

If there is any organ that could use some more TLC during the winter, it’s the liver. 

Festive eating, reduced physical activity, irregular sleeping patterns and increased alcohol consumption can all add a lot of stress onto the liver and give it a lot more work.

The liver has a significant role in hormone balancing as it impacts your ability to clear estrogen, balance your progesterone to estrogen ratio, regulate your blood sugar, convert thyroid hormones, and make cholesterol in order to produce sex hormones.

This doesn’t mean you have to skip the holidays, parties, and festivities all together however there are ways you can help your liver out :

  • Go easy on the alcohol consumption and experiment with some alternative holiday drinks instead
  • Choose anti-inflammatory foods like ginger, turmeric, onions, garlic, leafy green vegetables, cilantro, parsley, and cruciferous vegetables
  • Stay hydrated by choosing to consume liquids like filtered water, natural coconut water, broths, and herbal teas
  • Eat plenty of fiber rich fruits and vegetables
  • Supplement with herbs like milk thistle and dandelion for extra support

 

 



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