How to go with the flow… literally.
Sure, you’ve heard about balancing your hormones—but do you know why and how to actually do it? Hormonal expert Alisa Vitti debunks popular myths on hormone health and shares how to live prosperously by syncing up with your natural flow.
What are symptoms of poor hormone health?
There are so many signs that women don’t know to look for! Moreover, the symptoms are often sneaky. On the more obvious physical front: period problems are absolutely an indication that something is off with the endocrine system. In fact, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recently declared the menstrual cycle as the fifth vital sign in determining your overall health. But period problems can take a lot of different forms: irregular periods, painful periods, heavy bleeding, no bleeding… All of these variations are indications that something is wrong with your hormones.
The major signs women tend to ignore are often written off as “PMS.” Here’s the big secret: PMS is not normal! If you’re feeling bloated, fatigued, irritable, anxious, moody at one time of the month or another, you’re not living in what I call ‘FLO’, and you’ve got to fix that issue with the right lifestyle tools. You can check to see what your hormone levels might be by answering 7 questions on this period-evaluation tool.
What causes our hormones to become unbalanced?
Estrogen dominance is at the root of countless conditions like hormonal acne, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, fibroids, PCOS, and more. It happens when there’s just too much estrogen in the body in relation to progesterone. This can be a direct result of the foods we eat, the products we use, stress, disrupted gut microbiome, micronutrient deficiencies, poor sleep, and other environmental factors. It can be very hard to completely avoid estrogen excess, because we are surrounded by endocrine disruptors. Luckily, knowing how to eat and live in a hormonally-supportive way can help you avoid the toxins that lead to estrogen dominance and the subsequent issues that result from it.
What should we know about the way diet effects our hormone health?
Food is everything when it comes to hormonal health! The right foods can help support the thyroid, the adrenals, and the metabolization of estrogen through your elimination organs. Foods like leafy greens, complex carbohydrates, and colorful, vibrant veggies can completely rehabilitate an imbalanced endocrine system.
Of course, much of our hormonal dysfunction stems from eating the wrong foods. Sugar is the number one enemy when it comes to hormonal harmony. When you eat a lot of sugar or carbs and there’s a ton of glucose in your system, your body sends out lots of insulin to deal with this. Over time, this disrupts ovulation and causes a hormonal imbalance and leads your fat cells to secrete estrogen. The more sugar you eat, the more fat cells you create, and the more estrogen they secrete. This hormonal imbalance is a root cause of common issues like PMS, cramps, irregular cycles, acne, along with PCOS and infertility issues. If you have insulin-resistant PCOS then having excess glucose in your bloodstream will cause inflammation, which leads to many chronic health issues.
What are the worst offenders to avoid?
Just one coffee in the morning will throw off your whole endocrine system for an entire 24 hours. Caffeine messes with your blood sugar and cortisol levels, and your body won’t be able reset until you go to sleep and wake up the next morning. Caffeine also depletes essential micronutrients and minerals that we need for happy hormones.
Soy (the processed kind found in so many packaged foods) is terrible for women with estrogen-dominance hormonal imbalance conditions because of the phytoestrogens it contains. Processed soy is anything that substitutes like soy milk, soy meat, soy cheese, soy yogurt. Fermented, organic, unprocessed soy is tempeh, miso, and tamari.
Can you tell us a little about Cycle Syncing?
In my research I found that the right foods can offset and nourish the hormonal ratios present in each phase of the menstrual cycle. It not only brings them back to optimal levels but also maintains ideal hormone ratios for the long term. This is the Cycle Syncing Method™, that I created and have been pioneering for the past 15 years. It was made popular through my bestseller, WomanCode and the the much beloved MyFLO period improvement and biohacking app. You can get much more information on what foods and activities work for each phase by downloading the MyFLO app.
To start though, here are the four phases of your menstrual cycle and a few tips on how to support your hormones at each phase:
Eat fermented foods.
Do a fun new group fitness class that challenges you and is cardio focused.
Eat raw foods.
Do a mix of something strenuous and social and that’s HIIT focused.
Eat root veggies.
Focus on pilates and power yoga.
Eat proteins and fats.
Focus on walking and stretching.
What about hormonal birth control?
There are so many reasons to avoid all forms of hormonal contraception:
Hormonal birth control acts just like an antibiotic in your gut, destroying the essential microbiome balance. Repairing a damaged microbiome, while not impossible, takes time. The impact of the pill on the microbiome will last long after you stop taking it without concentrated, focused actions to replenish good gut bacteria.
Hormonal birth control also prevents the absorption of micronutrients, vitamins and minerals. It robs your body of B vitamins, magnesium, and vitamin C in particular. This has short and long term impacts on your health. Once you’re micronutrient deficient, and unable to absorb what you need even from additional supplementation, you are set up for poor physical and mental health. It takes a nutrient dense, targeted diet to replenish your body’s reserves and repair the avenues of absorption.
If you are prescribed the pill for cramps, PMS, or other common period problems, you should know that those issues result from hormonal imbalance and inflammation in the body. The pill does not treat these root causes — it’s only a Band-Aid solution. Once you come off the method, the problems will return and potentially have worse symptoms than before, as well as becoming harder to treat and resolve. It’s better to tackle these problems head-on and not wait until you’d like to conceive or suffer the long-term health consequences.
What forms of birth control should we use for optimum hormone health?
Condoms! They allow you to forgo synthetic hormone exposure and they actually work. When used correctly and consistently they are about as effective as the Pill at preventing pregnancy and they prevent bacterial and viral infections. Your lady parts are very sensitive and prone to picking up bacteria or viruses. STD’s can impact your fertility as well as being super uncomfortable and unpleasant. If you want to be a mom at some time in the future – use condoms today! It’s the best way of protecting your vaginal environment and keeping your reproductive organs healthy.
A few more natural options:
The diaphragm. A new one-size-fits all diaphragm just came to the US! Caya is available by prescription, but you no longer need to find a doctor who knows how to do a fitting.
The sponge. Even though you can still buy the sponge at RiteAid or CVS, you never hear about them anymore. I don’t know why, because it’s a great natural alternative contraceptive. You do use spermicide with this, but you could choose a natural option like ContraGel.
The copper IUD. If you want something more permanent, then this is a very effective and safe option. There are risks with the implant, and many women report having increased cramping and bleeding while it’s implanted.
What changes have your clients experienced by using the FLO Living method?
The success stories have truly been awe-inspiring. Women have put every kind of menstrual disturbance into remission – from PCOS, to fibroids, endometriosis, to ovarian cysts, PMS, to synthetic birth control syndrome. They’ve lost weight, cleared painful cystic acne, and restored their energy and moods. Women have been able to improve their fertility as well! Most importantly, many have reclaimed their health and happiness.
When I was in my early 20’s and struggling with major symptoms of PCOS myself, I dreamed of a place that would have been able to help me with my issues. The FLO Living Hormone Center was created because I know first hand how overwhelming it can feel when your hormones are off balance to know what to do that is really going to make a difference. The FLO Living Hormone Center takes care of women from all over the world through our digital health programs. I’m proud that we have a huge community that we call the #FLOsisterhood.