From gravity-defying planks to youth-boosting serums, many are on an eternal search to reverse the clock—or at least slow the process. But focusing on exercise, diet, personal products, and spa retreats alone neglects a key ingredient to feeling—and looking—your best: hormone balance.
Consider hormones and you might think of you or your best friend’s second trimester, or the week of discomfort that arrives before your period. Hormones, however, are a daily and constant part of life. Released by glands such as your adrenal and thyroid, they exert a profound influence on everything from your mood and energy to your creativity and sex drive—in essence, how lively and youthful we feel at any given time.
If your chief players become imbalanced, or if one is deficient or excessive, the results can range from minor dissonance to major hormonal cacophony. But when we’re balanced, we can feel on top of the world, compassionate towards others, well-grounded, and physically on fire. And, the age-defying benefits certainly don’t hurt.
1. Eat Your Veggies
To be more specific, eat your cruciferous vegetables. Broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts—not only are these vegetables terrific for maintaining or whittling your waistline, but they’re also a boon for women in their late-30s and beyond.
Starting roughly around this time, many women experience a drop in estrogen as they head into menopause, which can lead to everything from bluer moods to premature aging. Cruciferous vegetables, however, which are a rich source of the phytonutrient, indole-3-carbinol, can help women (and men!) achieve a healthy estrogen metabolism—and with that arrives suppler skin, better sex, and a sunnier disposition.
2. Reach for Herbal Support
While estrogen may dominate most discussions about hormones, progesterone is just as essential in attaining—and sustaining—hormonal equilibrium. Consider it your age-defying hormone: it promotes calmness, helps you “relax” your connective tissues, aids in your ability to sleep soundly, and, when balanced, can result in more even moods. What’s more, progesterone may lessen anxiety linked with menopausal hormone fluctuations. If your levels are low, consider supplementing your diet with chaste-tree berry.
Classified as a phyto-progesterone on account of its ability to foster your body’s natural production of progesterone, this herb can enhance hormone balance, contribute to more radiant hair, skin, and nails, and encourage weight management. While it can be taken on its own, chaste-tree berry is also one of the primary ingredients in the herbal formula Asensia. Studied extensively at Stanford University School of Medicine, Asensia—which was originally formulated to help women conceive—has shown a 153% increase in women’s progesterone levels, with test subjects reporting enriched vibrancy, smoother moods, greater mental clarity, and a more robust libido.
3. Get Your Thyroid Hormones Checked
Few of us realize that our thyroid hormones play a fundamental part in our ability to navigate life with ease, energy, and confidence, which is, for many, the epitome of youthfulness. Produced in your thyroid gland, which is a dynamo when it comes to energy production, your thyroid hormones help you generate the drive you need to surmount new challenges in life, overcome limitations, and achieve your goals (in short, a healthy 22-year old!) It also helps you maximize your vivacity and reach and maintain your ideal weight.
Too much or too little thyroid hormone, on the other hand, can send your health into a tailspin. Excessive amounts can lead to hyperthyroidism and the symptoms that come with the condition: weight loss, anxiety, increased heart rate, heat sensitivity, and irregular menstrual cycles. Inadequate amounts, meanwhile, can lead to its converse, hypothyroidism. Much more prevalent among women, hypothyroidism may decrease the rate of your entire metabolism and set off a slew of symptoms, from easy weight gain and lethargy to hair loss and dry skin.
The first step to resolving a potential thyroid complication is to have yours tested. Standard blood testing, combined with a basal body temperature test, is more accurate and helpful than urine or saliva testing and can provide you with the information you need to get on the right path towards hormone health.
As you aim to defy age, do know that you can take control of your own hormonal harmony. You have the power to direct your key players towards optimal balance, in each new phase of your life, and to influence your hormones’ performance—all without resorting to pharmaceutical and synthetic measures. Balanced, and you’ll relish the timelessness, and vitality, that comes with it. Consider it youth without the bottle.
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, Lac, is a naturopathic physician, acupuncturist, and passionate spokesperson for educating and empowering women to transform their lives with better health through natural medicines and practices that work with, rather than against, the body’s own healing processes. She is the Naturopathic Medical Advisor to Daily Wellness Company, and the coauthor of three books: the bestselling Natural Choices for Women’s Health, the critically-acclaimed Great Sex, Naturally, and her latest, Growing Younger Every Day. A leading advocate for natural medicine, Dr. Steelsmith is the medical director of Steelsmith Natural Health Center in Honolulu, where she has a busy private practice and is an associate clinical professor at Bastyr University, America’s leading centre for the study of natural medicine.