Holiday hormone chaos – how I healed my mind and body

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I was thrilled to go back to South Africa for 6 weeks over the summer break. It was a spectacular trip filled with my family, beautiful scenery, and incredible eats. But there was one problem – my hormones went crazy on me!

Within 3 weeks I started noticing some interesting symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Insomnia and irritability – rare for me these days – plus physical things like bloating, swollen breasts, puffy face (a sign of fluid retention), and weight gain around my thighs. My weight is typically stable, so I was surprised by the sudden flux. I hadn’t experienced symptoms like this for years, and suddenly I was feeling very out of control in my own body. As nutritionists, we try to diagnose ourselves; with so many things going on I was unsure what to treat first.

There could have been a variety of factors contributing to this hormonal havoc.

  • I was feeling slightly more anxious about the year to come. Hello cortisol – a major stress hormone.
  • I had changed contraception methods. Perhaps an imbalance of sex hormones, like estrogen and progesterone.
  • My iodine levels had come back low in recent lab tests, indicating a possible thyroid complication.
  • I was drinking more alcohol than usual, which can cause liver congestion.

When it comes to the endocrine system, imagine an orchestra. If one hormonal system is out of tune, the rest are out of sync. As the conductor, it’s our job to help our hormonal systems work harmoniously.

Key hormonal systems:

-Your adrenals, cortisol and adrenaline

-Your sex hormones – progesterone, estrogen and testosterone

-Thyroid – TSH, T3, T4, RT

-Blood sugar – insulin

An example of this symphonic relationship: progesterone and cortisol. When cortisol is high, progesterone will fall low. Why is this a problem?

According to Dr. Libby Weaver, a nutritional biochemist and one of my wellness inspirations:

Progesterone is a hormone that we all want bucket loads of forever. In our body, its actions are anti-anxiety, anti-depressive, a diuretic (meaning it allows us to excrete excess fluid) and it allows us to burn body fat as an energy source. Women make progesterone from their adrenal glands, which sit just on top of the kidneys, as well as from the corpus luteum, the crater that is left on the surface of the ovary following ovulation.

High cortisol is also directly linked to blood sugar imbalance and insulin resistance.

Another example? High estrogen can impact the thyroid, as estrogen binds to the thyroid receptor and blocks its ability to make thyroid hormones.

So you can see how beautifully intricate this system is.

It’s also important to understand the liver’s function as the organ in charge of excreting hormones. When the liver is clogged, you can imagine what happens; we have a traffic jam of hormones leading to more of a particular hormone than we need/want. This is one of the main reasons why so many women experience estrogen dominance.

So how did I heal myself? 

Here, my top natural hormone balancing tips:

Excellent nutrition – of course!

* Greens, greens, greens: enjoy a daily green juice and ensure 50% of your plate is green

* Incorporate plenty of good fats: fish, walnuts, flaxseeds and avocado. Good fats make hormones!

* Drink lots of water to excrete toxins

* Increase fiber intake, which helps sweep out excess estrogen

Support the liver

* Cut caffeine, alcohol, dairy and sugar

* Lots of brassica vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts (must be cooked)

* Supplements: combination of B complex, milk thistle and dandelion. Glutamine and N-acetyl cysteine are also fabulous for liver support. Found in supplement form.

Support adrenal function

* Cut caffeine completely for 2 weeks

* Supplement with 2g vitamin C daily

* Make rest and meditation a must

* Deep belly breathing upon waking and before bed

Support digestion 

* For optimal absorption of necessary nutrients for hormonal balance and to put less pressure on the liver (digestive health is linked to liver health)

* Drink warm lemon water each morning

* Take a daily probiotic

* Cut wheat and gluten

* Chew food until liquid

* Eat slowly and in a relaxed environment

Restorative exercise

Practice yoga and brisk walking

Consider adding these supplements to aide hormone imbalance:

  • Magnesium
  • B-complex
  • Zinc
  • Fish oil – EPDA/DHA

When adding supplements, always seek the guidance of practitioner.

Heal the mind with spiritual practice

According to Dr. Northrup, thyroid complications result from a belief that we cannot voice how we truly feel to our friends, family and colleagues since the thyroid is situated in the throat chakra. She also links thyroid complications to our tendency to rush. We never give ourselves enough time to do what we want to do and have a hard time being patient; the mentality of “when will it be my turn.”

Author Louise Hay believes that thyroid complications are all about creativity being blocked. She explains that many women feel torn up by the pressure to “be all the things,” and in turn, their creative self gets blocked.

When I sensed these negative shifts in my hormones, I would state the following affirmation by Louise:

I move beyond old limitations and now allow myself to express freely and creatively. 

It took some time, effort, and patience with myself and my body, but soon I began to feel like me again. Our bodies truly are wondrous – when we aren’t tending to them properly, they tell us exactly what we need.




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Hi Jessica, I believe in synchronicity so when I was guided to you .on FB I was intrigued and inspired. I turned 46 last week and my husband bought me your book. I wanted to thank you for sharing your wisdom in such a beautifully presented way. My  copy is now filled with tabs and post it notes with actual notes throughout. I am dairy intolerant since having my gallbladder removed 15+ years ago, I don't eat meat, very minimal gluten and was told 12 months ago my gut was not digesting my food properly so I wasn't receiving sufficient nutrients and taking supplements would be a waste of time.  My weight fluctuates tending to gain rather than lose but now I believe I have a tool to help me bring my body back into balance that I need for my health and longevity of life - so again thank you. The first few steps to creating a stronger path forward for my health has found its foundation in your beautiful book, The Healthy Life.

With kindest regards Samantha

I'm writing this email because I wanted to tell you how much I love your blog and how you really helped me in my health journey. Thank you for sharing all your advices and experiences.

When I started my studies, I was drinking lots of coffee and I was eaten the wrong foods, and feel bad about it, I wasn't at my best. So I had done some research on the net but at first I didn't found advices that are for me, and then I found your blog. It was exactly what I was looking for, good advices and healthy recipes. Now I'm following your advices on rest more, and snacks between meals and prep the meals and take time for myself to reconnect with my body and let go my anxiety, etc, and I have a more balanced life and have a new relationship with food thanks to you.

I bought your book and it's honestly the best book I have ever bought. I suffer from IBS and anxiety. I have paid so much money seeing naturopaths however after reading your book and all of your tips I'm noticing so much of a difference, so simple and easy to follow. And symptoms have dramatically decreased. Also you have helped me to relax. Currently drinking the protein health smoothie! Thankyou your amazing.


Hey Jessica!
I haven’t yet brought ‘The Healthy Life’, but I do have the clean life and your slim down plan! I would like to thank you so much for the knowledge your share and the message you put across about health and wellness. I’m studying Nutritional Medicine in Melbourne and absolutely love the philosophy that you share with your JSHealth community. The work you’ve done to show people that leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t boring, tasteless, difficult or depriving is amazing and hope to share the message myself one day. You’ve inspired me to start my own blog , to share the message and have taught me so many things about my own health! You should be proud of your achievements! Thank you again

- Jacinta

I searched for help and tips through the Internet and found Jessica Sepel. This is seriously not exaggerated, but she was the reason why I have dared myself to eat again, to have snacks in between, to nourish my body. I could slowly improve my negative thoughts about my body image and my stupid anxiety of gaining weight. Besides, The Cleanest Gut was awesome too! A huge thank you! Especially from my mum. Seriously, without you I wouldn’t be where I am now!


Congratulations on your new book! It looks absolutely gorgeous. I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few years and you’ve inspired me to slowly but surely eat healthier without giving myself a hard time when I don’t. It made me so happy (and weirdly proud) to see the Daily Mail article on The Healthy Life. I remember trying out your recipes before you even had your eBook out! I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. Keep up the great work.

– Sophie

Cooking in this way truly brought out the foodie in me and has instilled a huge passion for health and wellness! Life throws you hard and frustrating things sometimes but I truly believe that this is where we learn more about ourselves and what our passions in life are! Thank you for inspiring me on my journey to health and wellness!


I am a yoga teacher in Johannesburg and am thrilled to have bought your book today. I love making healthy, nutritious food for my family, friends and fellow yogis! Thank you for this book and your inspiration (had to share a pic of my book on my recipe stand in the kitchen).

– Helene

I bought your beautiful book during the week and told my bestie to go out and buy it also! I love love love it. It is the book I would give to my younger self if I could (I am 41 years old). Everything is just so sensible and informative and is definitely a book all teenagers should have. This should be a text book for girls becoming teens. I will love going back and re-reading it many many times and can't wait to make more of the recipes. Thank you Jess - you are an incredibly inspiring woman and you should feel so proud

Michelle Curtis

My fiancé bought your book and we have cooked some of your meals. Amazing! I love your outlook on a healthy lifestyle and your hints and tips with preparing tasty meals are fantastic. Thanks for reviving us to live a healthier lifestyle and get our bodies wedding ready.