Suffering from a Hormone Imbalance? Fix Your Digestion First
It isn’t uncommon to hear coworkers complaining about how tired they are — because we are.
Most of us spend our adult life struggling with compromised immune function, infertility, and sleepless nights, using stimulants like caffeine and sugar to make it through the day. When you consider the fact that more than 21 million Americans drink six or more cups of coffee a day, referred to as the “most commonly used mood altering drug in the world” by Johns Hopkins with the potential to induce anxiety and disrupt sleep, the modern-day exhaustion epidemic makes sense.1,2 Add to that the fact that the average American eats more sugar than ever, at an estimated 160 pounds a year, and we have created the perfect storm.3
By the time that retirement is an option, many of us are on at least two to three pharmaceutical medications — if not more. As of 2014, close to 50 percent of Americans took one or more medications, with prescription drug use more likely to increase with age.4
Dr. Shiao-Ting Jing, a sixth generation physician at the Traditional Chinese Medicine Healing Center in Los Angeles specializing in hard-to-treat disorders and women’s health, believes that natural medicine such as acupuncture and herbology creates an opportunity for people to live long and full lives.
What many women consider to be normal symptoms of PMS, like breast tenderness, headaches, low energy, and irritability, could be caused by an underlying hormonal imbalance. A ready-made probiotic like Body Ecology’s CocoBiotic can help to cleanse the liver so the body can once again balance itself.
Dr. Jing was on her way to becoming a surgeon in China, until she began her internship working in an emergency room. There, she realized that Western medicine focused on disease care, rather than on prevention and sustaining quality of life. Changing her specialty to obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Jing became a teacher and a chief physician at Beijing Immunology Hospital. She has been practicing medicine for the last 28 years.
Do You Have a Hormone Imbalance During PMS?
It is now more common than ever to see both men and women in their 20s struggling with infection, fluctuations in hormones, and declining libido.
While disease can have many faces, in traditional Chinese medicine all things, including disease, are an expression of yin and yang. Yin and yang are two fundamental and opposing forces that come together in the creation of the natural world. The Classics of Traditional Chinese Medicine exhibit held at the National Library of Medicine described how this delicate relationship is thought to affect the health of the body, “Good health is believed to come from a balance of Yin (negative, dark, and feminine) and Yang (positive, bright, and masculine).”5
Dr. Jing tells us that to achieve radiant health, “We are looking for yin and yang balance.”
Such imbalances of the two are found in PMS and menopause. Dr. Jing believes the signs of PMS and menopause that women experience today are not normal. The profound shift in hormones suggests an underlying imbalance.
Imbalances that women should be aware of include:
- Breast tenderness
- Emotional restlessness
- Hot flashes
- Low back pain
- Low energy
- Night sweats
Balanced Hormones Rest on Strong Digestion
Around the age of 35, a woman usually begins her transition into menopause. While she may not notice this shift until she reaches her fortieth year, there may be small clues indicating the rise and fall of certain key hormones. Up to 75 percent of menopausal women in the U.S. experience hot flashes and night sweats — lasting as long as seven years for many women, according to 2015 research published JAMA Internal Medicine.6 And anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of women approaching menopause turn to non-hormonal therapy to treat these hormonal symptoms, often because of the dangers associated with hormone replacement during menopause.7 Effectively addressing these hormonal changes during menopause is critical. Because we are living longer, a woman could spend 40 percent of her life in a postmenopausal state.8
Early hormonal indicators of menopause include:
- A change in skin quality around the face
- Thinning hair
- Weight gain around the middle
In Chinese medicine, there is a focus on what are known as The Five Elements: Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire. These five elements are used to explain how the body progresses from one state into another. The Earth element, or our digestive force, is the foundation of The Five Element system. According to Dr. Jing, in order to have a healthy reproductive system and well-balanced hormones, it is essential to first take care of digestive function.
To improve digestive function, we must strengthen the Earth element.
10 Steps to Strengthen the Earth Element and Your Digestion
- Eat cooked foods. While enzyme-rich raw vegetables can support digestion, many people’s digestive systems are too weak to digest raw foods, even with the help of these natural enzymes. Baking, simmering, sautéing, or lightly steaming vegetables can make them easier to digest.
- Chew food more thoroughly. Digesting carbohydrates, including starches and sugars, starts in the mouth with the release of saliva and enzymes. These beneficial enzymes help to break down food and attack harmful bacteria. Chewing food well makes digestion smoother once food reaches your stomach.
- Limit cold foods. Just like eating raw fruits and vegetables, many of us don’t have the digestive power to process cold foods yet. Warm, cooked foods are easier on digestion and can strengthen the Earth element.
- Limit cold drinks. To prevent a cold shock to the digestive tract, try drinking smoothies and water at room temperature, without ice. Drinking a cup of warm tea can also aid digestion — however, remember not to drink liquids 15 minutes before and an hour after eating.
- Limit dairy and meat. It takes extra energy to digest animal-based protein, and many people don’t have enough hydrochloric acid to support the massive amounts of animal protein we eat each day. Restricting protein, or limiting protein for several days, can help boost digestion and immunity by allowing the body to recycle protein in a process called autophagy. Meat is best eaten with cultured vegetables, and when you do eat dairy, fermented, full-fat dairy is recommended.
- Avoid eating proteins and grains/starchy vegetables in the same meal. We now know that digesting a meal takes a large amount of energy. Increase your digestive “fire” and efficiency with Body Ecology food combining so that your digestive tract doesn’t have to work overtime to give you the nutrients you need.
- Avoid bread and pasta. Grains, breads, flour products, and pasta can damage the digestive system, while feeding pathogenic bacteria and yeast. Flour products act like glue and form mucus in the intestines. These inflammatory foods can cause constipation and create a toxic gut that is a breeding ground for pathogens. Body Ecology-friendly grain-like seeds, like buckwheat, millet, amaranth, and quinoa, are recommended as a gut-friendly grain alternative.
- Eat fermented foods and drink probiotic beverages. When rehabilitating your gut, probiotic foods and drinks pack the most powerful punch, rich in B vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Microflora in fermented foods and probiotics can also increase the bioavailability of the nutrients in the foods you eat by hundreds of times. Dong Quai is a recommended ready-made probiotic drink that works as a hormone-balancer and blood tonic, with benefits to boost circulation, improve male and female fertility, and ease PMS and menopause symptoms.
- Use ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric. Well-known “warming” herbs and spices, like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and fennel, help to warm the digestive system and make the breakdown of food easier.
- Use digestive enzymes. Stomach acid is a critical component of the digestive process, and special enzymes are needed to help your body extract nutrients from the food you eat. The enzyme pancreatin, found in Assist SI, can help to ease gas, bloating, and other digestive discomfort considered “normal” after eating a meal. When protein-eating is resumed, you can support digestion by taking hydrochloric acid in the form of Assist Dairy & Protein before or during a protein-rich meal.
Besides weak digestion, people with a weak Earth element often overwork, worry, crave sweets, and have a proclivity to gain weight. Exercise and seated meditation are also said to be beneficial in strengthening the Earth element.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Research confirms that many adults continually struggle with a compromised immune system, infertility, and lack of sleep, relying on stimulants like caffeine and sugar to make it through the day. This chronic exhaustion can lead to the use of multiple medications by the time we reach retirement age.
Today, it’s more common than ever to see young men and women in their 20s experiencing fluctuating hormones, declining libido, and infection. But according to traditional Chinese medicine, all diseases and disorders are an expression of Yin and Yang — caused by an inner imbalance.
Balancing hormones begins by strengthening digestion. In Chinese medicine, the Earth element is related to digestive force and can support healthy reproduction and balanced hormones.
To strengthen your digestion and Earth element, use these helpful steps:
- Eat cooked foods.
- Chew food more thoroughly.
- Limit cold foods.
- Limit cold drinks.
- Limit dairy and meat.
- Avoid eating proteins and grains/starchy vegetables in the same meal.
- Avoid bread and pasta.
- Eat fermented foods and drink probiotic beverages, like the hormone-balancing probiotic drink Dong Quai.
- Use ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric to warm food.
- Support digestion with Assist SI digestive enzymes or use Assist Dairy & Protein when eating protein-rich meals.
- “25 Shocking Caffeine Addiction Statistics.”
- “CAFFEINE DEPENDENCE.” Johns Hopkins Medicine.
- “Is Sugar More Addictive Than Cocaine?” Here Now RSS.
- “Health, United States, 2013.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Li CL. A brief outline of Chinese medical history with particular reference to acupuncture. Perspect Biol Med. 1974 Autumn;18(1):132-43.
- Nancy E. Avis, Sybil L. Crawford, Gail Greendale, Joyce T. Bromberger, Susan A. Everson-Rose, Ellen B. Gold, Rachel Hess, Hadine Joffe, Howard M. Kravitz, Ping G. Tepper, Rebecca C. Thurston. Duration of Menopausal Vasomotor Symptoms Over the Menopause Transition. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8063.
- Bette Caan, Andrea Z. LaCroix, Hadine Joffe, Katherine A. Guthrie, Joseph C. Larson, Janet S. Carpenter, Lee S. Cohen, Ellen W. Freeman, JoAnn E. Manson, Katherine Newton, Susan Reed, Kathy Rexrode, Jan Shifren, Barbara Sternfeld, Kris Ensrud. Effects of estrogen and venlafaxine on menopause-related quality of life in healthy postmenopausal women with hot flashes. Menopause, 2015; 22 (6): 607 DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000364.
- “2011 Women’s Health stats & facts.” The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.