Integrative Doctor Taz Bhatia’s 30-day Plan for Balancing Hormones
On a recent episode of The goop Podcast, Dr. Taz Bhatia, MD, a board-certified integrative medicine physician and author of the book “The Hormone Shift,” discussed her 30-day plan for balancing hormones at any age.
Hormone Replacement Therapy: Good or Bad?
Dr. Bhatia addressed the confusion surrounding hormone replacement therapy.
With so many contradictory reports on its safety and benefits, she said, confusion was understandable. But hormone replacement isn’t bad therapy, she stressed. The problem lies in how it’s administered. She attributes much of the uncertainty over hormone replacement to the therapy not being bio-individualized
“Individual needs vary,” she said, “and there are no shortcuts. Short cuts produce side effects.”
If you’re considering hormone replacement, it’s essential that you understand the entire health picture, she said, including nutrition, sleep, gut health, and genetics. Only then can you make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you.
As hormone research has grown, though, opinions about hormone replacement have slowly changed. Dr. Bhatia pointed out that in 2022, the North American Menopause Society issued a statement that menopausal women actually do better with hormone augmentation. However, she said, hormone replacement is more effective if we’ve also paid healthy attention to our nutrition, gut health, and sleep quality.
Dr. Bhatia’s own health struggles and frustration over a lack of diagnosis or solution motivated her to study integrative medicine. Slowly, by applying what she learned, not only did she eventually recover, but she also came to the understanding that the human body is intricately interconnected—”a single system with parts that all need attention and communicate with each other.”
As it turned out, it was a hormonal imbalance caused by a thyroid problem that was at the root of her health problems, and her diet was the primary cause of her thyroid issue.
Integrative Medicine Diagnostic Techniques
Dr. Bhatia discussed the integrative medicine diagnostic method at length and how it differs from a traditional approach. In short, the integrative medicine diagnostic process focuses on the patient’s health history, physical activity, sleep, work life, daily stress, and nutrition, and can include lab work and imaging. By utilizing different medical approaches and disciplines—such as Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, and even energy medicine—integrative medicine practitioners gain a real understanding of their patients. And what’s even better, patients also come away with a more complete understanding of themselves. Unfortunately, Dr. Bhatia said, most people don’t have this level of knowledge about their health. However, many of these diagnostic techniques and labs are not expensive and are readily available, and even if an individual chooses to visit an integrative medicine practice for more extensive lab work, it doesn’t need to be costly and can be covered by regular health insurance.
When Should Hormone Testing Begin?
Everyone should be testing their hormones every year, if not twice a year, starting at age 13, Dr. Bhatia said. Why? Because testing serves as a baseline; our foundational hormone chemistry should be the same later in life.
Hormones are not just about hormones, she emphasized—they are related to mental health, energy, and vitality. When it comes to anxiety, depression, and conditions like ADHD, and OCD that impact many teens today, doctors should pay more attention to hormone levels. For example, spikes in levels of hormones such as estrogen can affect mental health. Hormones also affect gut health. In her practice, Dr. Bhatia has seen a fair number of teens grappling with hormonally rooted conditions that have been diagnosed as something else.
The Role of Food
While there are many endocrine disruptors that cause illnesses, Dr. Bhatia stresses the importance of food. Pay attention to food quality, as well as the presence of preservatives, and the amounts of ingredients, like sugar and gluten. All of these can impact hormone levels. For example, individuals going through precocious puberty tend to have high levels of glyphosate, which is a pesticide derivative. But the chemical so pervasive and there is so much cross-contamination in the environment that it’s essential to understand how you can better handle your body’s pesticide load, and deal with the effects of the products like skin creams and lotions that we use every day.
The 5 Hormone Stages
Dr. Bhatia has identified five stages of hormone development. The first stage, which she calls the Rock Star Stage, covers ages 13 to 19 and is marked by instability and confusion.
The next stage, the Hustlers Stage occurs in our 20s and is marked by high energy and a feeling of invincibility. But at this stage we begin seeing symptoms of adrenal fatigue and the ill effects of cortisol on the body and mind.
The next stage, the Superstar Stage, is when there is a measure of settling down, when we start building a family. This is also the stage when hormone levels begin to decrease. For instance, women’s progesterone levels start declining slightly.
The fourth phase covers roughly ages 36 to the early 50s. In this Superwoman Stage, women may experience perimenopause, with heavier menstruations, as well as postpartum hormonal shifts that dramatically affect mood. Hormones decline naturally during this phase, and the stress of juggling the demands of career and family can exaggerate the hormonal shift.
The final shift is menopause, or the Commander Stage. In contrast, to the fear and depression with which many women face menopause, the Eastern medical traditions view this phase as a time to re-create ourselves and fully come into our own and our roles in society. Dr. Bhatia encourages this mindset of taking command.
The 30-Day Plan
Dr. Bhatia’s 30-Day plan is a holistic one, based on a combination of Eastern and Western medicine. The goal of the plan is to lay down a foundation on which to develop a better understanding of your body before deciding whether to undergo hormone therapy.
Week 1 is about repletion, or building energy. Many women lack the fundamental tools to build energy. Through a food-based strategy, such as adding more proteins to their diet as well as foods with glutathione, an antioxidant that increases oxygen levels in cells, women can reverse perimenopause symptoms such as brain fog, low libido, and poor sleep.
Week 2 focuses on gut and liver health with the aim of lowering your toxic load by cleaning the gut and liver. That’s why it’s important for you to identify the sources of toxicity in your life. Air and water quality are common sources; others include food, sugar, alcohol, and gluten. All of these make it harder for the gut and liver to process food effectively.
By Week 3, it’s possible to identify your dominant hormone pattern through testing. This information is then used to create a customized hormone balance plan for you.
The final week is when the mind-body component is introduced, and you begin paying close attention to your emotions, nutrition, and stress levels to keep your hormones balanced as you navigate life’s hormonal shifts.
Dr. Bhatia’s 30-day plan allows you to better understand your body by experiencing how much healthier you can feel based on lifestyle changes. As a result, the plan also prepares you to make a well-informed decision on whether you should pursue hormone replacement therapy.