Healthy hormones aren’t just about hormones. Hormones need your whole body and lifestyle to be working to support each other.
Below is a list of factors to consider when balancing your hormones. It is important to get to the root cause and to also get the foundations right if you have hormonal problems.
Stress contributes to many chronic conditions including hormone imbalances. Stress increases cortisol which is made by the adrenals. This fight or flight hormone helps you in dangerous situations or other acute challenges such as infections. It is meant to be released in short-term survival, eg imagine if you were being chased by a tiger. Then you would want cortisol released to get blood flow to your limbs. During this time processes such as digestion aren’t a priority, but instead, your body is focused on keeping you alert, raising your heart rate and raising your blood sugar for energy.
Cortisol is not meant to be pumped through your body constantly. Chronic stress puts your body under chronic cortisol activation. This reduces your sensitivity to insulin and also can shut down your ovulation. Your body does not want to reproduce under stress. This then leads to what is called HPA dysfunction.
HPA Axis Dysfunction
This is impaired communication between your hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenals. It is caused by stress where cortisol activation has been prolonged but also can be due to factors such as poor sleep, under eating, nutrient deficiency, and circadian disruption. Blood sugar problems can cause HPA dysfunction too. If you have blood sugar regulation problems you want to ensure your eating low GI. You can get your cortisol levels checked and also you could get a blood test to check your DHEAS. DHEAS can become low during chronic stress.
Add Sweetness Into Your Life
I’m often telling clients to add sweetness into their lives and I’m not talking the food kind. Happiness and rest make a dramatic difference to your life. If you are constantly trying to make other people happy you’re going to slowly kill you inside. I mean that emotionally. Life is short. I like to think of it as an adventure.
Start small if you must. Maybe for you, that is one hour a week where you dedicate just to taking care of you. Some examples may be going to a yoga class, getting a massage, having a facial, laying at the beach, playing a game of tennis, cooking or reading a novel. Do something you like and you know will help you feel good.
Exercise is important for hormones. The type of exercise you choose is up to you. The best form is always what you enjoy the most and that you’ll do. If exercise really just isn’t something you can get yourself to do, I do encourage you to try a personal trainer. I also offer group Pilates classes which is gentle but still effective.
Regular exercise benefits us in numerous ways, it helps with the cortisol stress response, it improves sensitivity to insulin (important in PCOS), reduces inflammation and improves circulation to your pelvic organs.
Inflammation is a good thing in the right amount. It helps the body in times of infection or sickness. But, when we have too much, then we have problems. The inflammatory cytokines that are chemical messages which fight the infections can block or reduce communication between your hormones. Different parts of the body talk to each other. Eg your pituitary talks to your ovaries and this happens with hormones. If there is blocking well then you’re not going to ovulate or it may be unpredictable. Not only this, but inflammation can block the receptors for your hormones and can hyperstimulate receptors for estrogen and testosterone.
Sources of inflammation include:
- alcohol. Even a small amount will have negative effects. Alcohol impedes estrogen detoxification, damages your gut bacteria and depletes you of glutathione a powerful antioxidant.
- sugar (if you have PCOS with insulin resistance, you need to be strict with sugar)
- food intolerances. Common ones include wheat, dairy, gluten.
- histamine intolerance
- processed vegetable oils
- environmental toxins
You need to remove the source of your inflammation and also be consuming anti-inflammatory foods. Vegetables are powerful at reducing inflammation with their phytonutrients and antioxidants.
A note on phytoestrogens, these bind to estrogen receptors. They can benefit those with symptoms of excess estrogen. They include nuts, seeds, legumes, flax, and soy. It’s a little confusing but after menopause, they become pro estrogenic, therefore they can help relieve menopause symptoms.
Healthy hormones require nutritious food.
- Protein: Protein provides amino acids which repair and maintain your hormones and organs. If you’re going to consume meat or fish I encourage you to choose organic. These are less inflammatory. Limit red meat to one serve per week or avoid completely.
- Complex carbohydrates: Carbs help with estrogen metabolism and also help feed your gut bacteria. If you have hormonal issues a low carb diet could be making your condition worse so I encourage you to speak to myself or a health practitioner to ensure you’re eating enough. Women need carbs to ovulate. Good sources include oats, rice, sweet potato, gluten-free pastas, and fruits.
- Fat: Cholesterol is needed to make hormones. That is right, cholesterol is not bad at the right amounts. Omega 3 fats are also anti-inflammatory. Good sources include fish, leafy greens and eggs.
Supplements will vary depending on the individual and the exact hormonal problems. Below are a few of the most commonly prescribed ones:
- Magnesium: stress and toxins cause the body to deplete of magnesium. Magnesium regulates your HPA axis, it also improves insulin responses.
- Vitamin D: vitamin D is more like a hormone than a vitamin. It is essential for insulin sensitivity and ovulation.
- Zinc: zinc reduces inflammation and helps the body’s stress response. It also nourishes ovarian follicles assisting in ovulation and progesterone and has anti-androgen effects.
- NAC: NAC helps with insulin sensitivity and also detoxification.
- B6: B6 is important for estrogen detoxification, relieves histamine intolerance, and helps with the synthesis of progesterone and GABA (GABA the calming neurotransmitter).
- Curcumin: Curcumin reduces inflammation and lowers estrogen.
As you can see from reading through all the different health areas that need to be addressed, hormones are tricky. But balance can be achieved. I have personal experience with PCOS and I successfully pieced together all the areas. With careful management I no longer have symptoms.
If you would like a health plan specific to your condition or imbalances please make an appointment. Guessing rarely works, professional advice with the right testing and the foundations set up can get you feeling yourself again.
If you missed part one please read here.