Hormones, chemical messengers in our body that dictate how we think feel and even look, have a huge impact on our daily living and influence almost every aspect of our lives. Hormones can control our appetite, mood, energy levels, immune responses, and even our sleep. Hormones are needed in specific amounts for various functions in the body. When all of our hormones are in balance and interacting with each other in the correct quantities, we are able to find peace and harmony in our lives.
However, sometimes life gets the best of us through improper nutrition, inflammation, toxicity in the body and even aging. Hormone imbalances not only wreak havoc on our bodies but can have seemingly catastrophic effects on our lives. Depression, anxiety, allergies, sensitivities, chronic pain and insomnia are some of the few devastating outcomes of not being in hormone harmony. Needless to say, balance is key. Hormone harmony brings us back to peace.
Addressing our hormone imbalance can reverse some of the negative side effects we experience when we are out of sync with the proper hormone concentrations in our body. Succumbing to the notion that genetics is the reason why your hormones are out of balance can be very dis-empowering. Although genetic causes may contribute to your hormone issues, there are lots of ways we can reclaim our bodies so we can lead fulfilling lives, uninterrupted by unbalanced chemical nuances. From nutrition to food supplements and lifestyle changes to hormone replacement therapy, there is a wide variety of actions we can take to bring our hormones back into harmony.
It Starts With Food
There are many hormones in our body surrounding food. These hormones manage your glucose levels in your bloodstream, the amount of fat you’re going to produce, signaling when to eat and when to stop. Needless to say, our diet is a huge aid securing hormone harmony.
You can start by eating nutrient rich foods when you are hungry. Eating slowly allows time for our body to process what is coming in and accurately gauge when you have had enough to eat. It takes 20 minutes for your satiation hormone response to turn on and let you know that you are full and have had enough to eat. Be patient when eating. Eating proper amounts of food at appropriate intervals can keep your blood sugar from hitting high highs and low lows, which will keep your hormones from having to swing wildly as they respond to the input you give them through your nutrition.
Avoiding added sugar and refined carbs will also help control your blood glucose levels. Removing these types of food from your diet can be relaxing to your system because you won’t have to kick the system into overdrive at the drop of a dime. Foods with high glycemic indexes can be researched. No need to worry, you don’t have to cut out all sugar from your diet. Natural sugars found in fruits, vegetables and dairy, in the proper amounts, can be wonderful ways to indulge in something sweet without knocking your system off kilter too far. In addition, fruits and veggies can add fiber to your diet which is also beneficial for hormone harmony. Always work with your doctor or nutritionist to decide on the diet that is right for you.
Not all fats are bad fats, but some definitely are. Fats found in raw nuts and seeds or fats that are liquid at room temperature (mono- and poly- unsaturated fats) are going to be better for you and are actually necessary for proper neurological functioning of your body. We want a healthy level of these good fats in our body. Not only are nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy fats, but fish can provide omega3 and 6 fatty acids which are essential for hormone balance.
Saturated fats, found in some meats, and trans fats, found in highly processed foods, are much harder for the body to break down and metabolize. Because of this, your body is more likely to store these fats as fat on your body. Not only can this be problematic for weight management, but many hormones are fat soluble. This means that the hormones can be deposited and stored in your fat, potentially throwing off the very specific levels that your body needs to perform specific functions. Yikes!
Stress Management for Hormone Harmony
One hormone that loves to be out of balance, especially in our stressfully busy lives, is cortisol. This hormone is produced when we experience stress in any amount. To high levels of cortisol has been shown to cause tissue degradation, leading to chronic pain and weakness. Luckily, we have meditation, sleep management and exercise as tools to help us fight for our hormone harmony.
Meditation can come in many different forms and can look very different from person to person. Some people like to do breath work. Although there are many types of breathwork to choose from, one common technique is box breathing. During box breathing, you have the duration of your inhale match the duration of your exhale, with the same amount of time between breaths. Example: Inhale count of 4, Hold count of 4, exhale count of 4, hold count of 4… Let this cycle continue. Other types of meditation can happen when you focus on an object like a waterfall or the center of a flame or a memory of gratitude and appreciation. There are countless apps and programs you can engage in for meditation. The most important thing is that you meditate because mediation has been shown to reduce stress levels (goodbye unbalanced cortisol levels!) and increase quality of life.
It is not news to any of us that a full night of restful sleep can be one of the greatest gifts in the world, leaving us feeling revitalized, energetic and focused. However, when our hormones are reckless, a full night of sleep seems unimaginable. Some tips for a great night’s sleep are turning off electronics at least one hour before bedtime, having the room a cooler temperature to support your natural metabolic processes, and to try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
Working out 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week is a receipt for happy hormones. Activating your muscles increases circulation and gets the hormones in you body moving easily to where they need to be. Not only will you release feel good hormones when you complete that workout you’ve been putting off, but your body will increase its capacity to flush out toxins and metabolic waste products. Movement can be very enjoyable, especially if you find an activity that fits your lifestyle and personality. Walking 30 minutes a day in nature might do the trick for one person whereas running a national triathlon might do the trick for another. Follow your heart when it comes to movement because some movement is better than no movement when it comes to hormone harmony.
Learning to listen to your body can be a very empowering experience to help manage your hormone levels. Our bodies can be very good at telling us when we are hungry AND when we are properly full. Our bodies will gladly share what foods we are in need of. We are signaled by our hormones that we are tired or have a burst of energy. The trick is learning the subtle and not so subtle ways that our bodies try to communicate with us and also honoring that signal. As in any relationship, we must build trust and good communication; this rule is just as applicable when we are looking at our own relationship with yourself. We need to be compassionate and understanding of what we truly want and need.
Written by Shantee Scheel