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Natural Awakenings Fairfield & Southern Litchfield Counties

Hormonal Ups and Downs: Take Control and Feel Better Now

Jun 29, 2020 03:45PM ● By Patricia Staino
Hormonal imbalance can wreak havoc on your health affecting everything from digestion to weight, brain health, energy, mood, memory, sex drive, sleep and fertility. Samantha Gladish, a registered holistic nutritionist and metabolic balance weight loss coach, wanted to help women realize there were simple, foundational steps they could take to get back in balance, without depriving themselves. In her book, The 30-Day Hormone Solution, she helps women learn more about regaining control of their hormones to optimize health. Natural Awakenings’ managing editor Patricia Staino sat down with Gladish to learn more about how hormones work and the habits we can change to bring them back in balance.

The book is so informative and helpful. What motivated you to write it? 
I thought to myself, if I had 30 days to spend with a woman, what would I teach her about her health? What does she need to know to really move the needle and optimize her health?
Hormonal imbalances are very common, and they mean a lot of different things—everything from PMS issues, adrenal fatigue, PCOS, diabetes, thyroid issues, and more.

Typically, hormonal imbalances are caused by a variety of things—it could be environmental toxins, unhealthy eating habits, dealing with a lot of stress. Then there’s a cascade effect: If we’re suffering from poor-quality sleep, for example, it will drive up cortisol, imbalance our insulin, then lead to food cravings and poor eating choices, which will further imbalance our insulin, and that cycle will spiral out of control. 

What are some common 
misconceptions about hormones in women? For women who still have a regular menstrual cycle, there’s a misperception that if they’re taking birth control pills, that’s going to end PMS symptoms and “regulate” their cycle. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Ingesting any kind of synthetic hormone will cause a lot of hormonal chaos in our bodies. 
Synthetic hormones shut down our ovaries from producing our own natural estrogen and progesterone. Essentially, it’s like the ovaries are getting lazy, and our own natural rhythms are no longer functioning like they should. Instead of taking synthetic hormones, we need to look at the root causes of PMS symptoms: Why are you experiencing an irregular cycle in the first place? Why do you have cramping, bloating, breast tenderness, or migraines during your cycle? The pill isn’t addressing the cause, it’s just masking it. 

Another misconception is “adrenal fatigue.” That’s a term that gets thrown around quite frequently. What “adrenal fatigue” really indicates is a miscommunication between the brain and the adrenal gland; you’re not going to fix that by taking a supplement. We need to look at our lifestyle, how we react to and manage stress, how we’re sleeping, how we’re eating, how we’re integrating self-care, and that all plays a big role in our adrenal health.

One other thought: Post-menopausal women often ask if they can get anything out of reading my book. Absolutely. The chapter on the menstrual cycle may not relate to them, but the rest of it—adrenal health, sleep, detoxification—is all still relevant and will affect the symptoms they experience post-menopause. 

Is hormonal imbalance more of a female issue, or do men have issues with hormones as well?
There are definitely a lot more issues with females, primarily because we have cycles and we give birth. Our hormonal issues are a little more complex than those of men. Women are functioning on a 30-day cycle, and men are going through a 24-hour cycle. That’s not to say that men won’t have issues, though. They can experience problems with sleep, cravings, moodiness and weight gain as well.

You offer a diet plan and 60 recipes in the book to help readers get started, but the first half of the book lays out how hormones work, how they are impacted by lifestyle, and how they can be returned to balance. Besides dietary changes, what other adjustments can women make to optimize hormonal health?
Number one, sleep. That’s an important area that so many women need to focus on. That’s when our body detoxes and rejuvenates, so I recommend all women start to implement healthier boundaries around their sleep routine. Don’t go to bed after 11—10pm should be the cutoff point—and follow this rule every day of the week so you can set your internal clock; your body and your hormones crave that routine. Don’t use bright lights, phone and iPad screens late at night; you want to signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down, which supports melatonin production.

Number two is something I think so many women forget about: hydration. Drink more water! Water is essential to detoxing our bodies, supporting our bowel movements and digestion, and lubricating our joints to protect against inflammation. I recommend women drink at least three liters of water every day; if you’re very active and you’re sweating a lot, you may need to drink a bit more. Another little tip is to add a very small pinch of really good quality sea salt to the water, because it is those electrolytes that help hydrate the cells, not just the water alone.

Finally, be conscious of your snacking habits. If you’re a snacker or a grazer, try to focus on eating meals instead. That’s what going to keep you satiated and curb your cravings. The more frequently we eat throughout the day, the more we spike our insulin levels. Insulin is a fat-storing hormone, and it can lead to inflammation in the body, so it’s important to manage how many times we spike our insulin during the day. The less frequently we eat, the better. 

So, you don’t agree with the 
often-recommended idea of eating five or six small meals throughout the day?
When I was in school, we were taught to tell our clients to eat small meals every two to three hours. Now we realize that if you are an elite athlete training at a high level, and your body efficiently handles insulin, it makes sense to eat many times a day to stay fueled. But the average woman who’s working a desk job and isn’t very active, even if she is going to the gym three or four times a week, doesn’t need to snack and graze. Every time she eats, she’s spiking her insulin, which communicates with the adrenals, so cortisol levels go up as well. Both insulin and cortisol are fat-storing hormones and stressors on the body. Those spikes are going to take a toll on fat storage and weight.

And it’s not just about fat loss; if insulin and cortisol levels increase, that’s communicated to the ovaries and causes issues with your sex hormones—estrogen and progesterone. Continuously spiking insulin can stimulate the ovaries to overproduce testosterone, which can cause PCOS, cystic acne, and facial hair growth. 

So, I recommend just three meals a day, focusing on getting protein, fat and fiber in each meal, which satiates your appetite and balances your blood sugar. Doing that and getting in your three liters of water a day will curb your cravings, so you don’t feel the need to snack and graze. 

What’s the most important thing for women to remember about hormonal health?
At the end of the day, I just want women to know that it doesn’t have to be hard. Being healthy doesn’t have to be about deprivation. It’s important they take the time to educate themselves so they can become the master of their own health. Focus on sleep, good quality food, simple movement, and simple protocols. It’s really not that hard and it really can be quite delicious. 

For more information on Samantha Gladish, as well as access to recipes, her podcast, and special deals on her book, visit 

Patricia Staino is the managing editor
 of Natural Awakenings’ Hartford and Fairfield County editions. Connect at [email protected].
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