For many women, irregular periods can be something of a regular occurrence. What's tricky is pinpointing the exact cause of the irregularity to make lifestyle adjustments, rebalance hormones, and get back on track. But one common culprit messing with our hormones is quite counterintuitive. Felice Gersh, MD, board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist and founder of Integrative Medical Group of Irvine in California, recently called out something we do to relax and reduce stress as something that "can definitely wreak havoc with your hormones": travel. In MindBodyGreen she details how travel could be to blame for irregular periods and outlines strategies for turning things around.
Most of us see vacations as a way to dial down stress, but even the getaways especially crafted for relaxation can induce stress, disrupt sleeping habits, and meddle with your diet—three major factors that cause hormonal fluctuations. The further the flight, the higher your risk for inducing stress on your body and experiencing missed periods and irregular cycles.
"When we travel across time zones, we disrupt our circadian rhythm, and this leads to an abnormally high and improperly timed release of the hormone cortisol," explains Gersh. "This, in turn, affects thyroid hormone production and reception." Factor this in with the stress as well as the change in food and sleep times mentioned previously, "and you have a recipe for hormonal chaos." Furthermore, air travel in and of itself is enough to alter the microbiome of your gut, which increases inflammation and affects hormones.
Gersh proposes some strategies to keep your hormones happy and balanced wherever you're traveling.
Stick to a sleep schedule. Gersh insists on following a strict sleep schedule whenever you're traveling. "Wherever you are, try to get to sleep by 11 p.m. and get seven to eight hours of sleep," she advises.
Cut the snacks. Healthy food choices are key to proper hormone balance anytime, but especially when under stress from traveling. Gersh suggests eating lots of vegetables and only a small amount of healthy animal products. "Do not snack," she warns. Instead, she advises just two to three meals a day and says to time them to reset your circadian clock.
Use essential oils. A lot of keeping hormones balanced is reducing stress levels in the body. Essential oils can be excellent to calm down and recharge. Gersh suggests rubbing a couple drops of soothing lavender essential oil onto the soles of the feet each night before going to bed.
Diet is an important part of keeping hormones humming when you're on vacation. Here's how to eat healthy while you travel.