Sleepless nights, crushing fatigue, unstable moods, unexplained weight gain, hair loss, digestive distress, menstrual irregularities, low libido, skin problems, etc. The list could go on but if you experience some or many of those symptoms, there is a good chance your hormones could use some love.
Hormones are chemical messengers in the body that travel in the blood to organs and tissues, signaling them to do the work they were designed to do. They can affect many different processes in the body including reproduction, sexual function, metabolism, growth and development, and even mood. Endocrine glands, which are special group of cells, make hormones and the major endocrine glands are the pituitary, pineal, thymus, thyroid, adrenal glands and pancreas.
Hormonal imbalances arises when there are alterations in the complex production of hormones and they affect both men and women. However, they seem to be more common among women with accompanying symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, irritability, hair loss, palpitations, mood swings, problems with blood sugar, trouble concentrating, infertility, and many more. Things like poor diet, lack of exercise, disease, and chronic stress can increase a man’s susceptibility to hormonal imbalances.
For men, hormonal imbalance occurs following the gradual decline of testosterone production, which naturally occurs with age. It affects every system in our body so, getting them back to normal is a must for feeling good, staying healthy and achieving body composition.
There are many reasons you could experience symptoms of hormonal issues. If you are feeling like something isn’t quite right, it is best to talk to your doctor about getting some tests done. But there are natural remedies that can give you some relief in the meantime or can prevent your hormones from getting out of sorts all together.
There are many changes that can be made to balance the hormones and I will be splitting this up into two parts:
If you are feeling tired, it is easy to reach for caffeine to pick up and if you are stressed, it is tempting to unwind with some alcohol. I love coffee a lot but both coffee and alcohol can be hormone disruptors that can wreak havoc on the endocrine system if used in excess. Besides, regular consumption can negatively impact sleep.
Fats and starches have their place in a healthy, hormone balancing diet. Eating enough carbohydrate (not refined carbohydrates) tells your body it is well fed and healthy fats (such as olive oil and coconut oil) are literally the building blocks of hormones, so it is important not to drop too low on that either.
Blood glucose swings are stressful on the body and can wreak havoc on hormones. Eating well balanced, regular meals of protein, vegetables, healthy fats and some starch will keep blood glucose stable.
A healthy gut equals healthy hormones as gut bacteria have a much bigger effect on hormones than many people realize. Proper digestion ensures hormones like estrogen are being eliminated from the body. Feast well on vegetables, especially the cruciferous kind and take steps to ensure your gut remains healthy.
Vitamins and minerals like vitamin B, D, zinc, selenium and magnesium should be an essential inclusion into your diet. If you are not getting these through diet, it is a good idea to supplement to fill in nutrition gaps.
At the root of many hormonal imbalances is the one thing we all have in common. Stress. While some stress is considered normal and even necessary, issues arise when it becomes chronic and unmanaged. In today’s world, it is easy for that to happen, considering we are bombarded with a variety of stressors on a daily basis.
It is imperative to find ways to manage stress and incorporate self-care practice into your daily routine as best as you can. Each person will have found relief from stress in different ways, so it is best to do what will relax you the most, whether that involves spending some time alone, going for long walks, getting a massage, doing yoga, deep breathing, etc. But one thing everyone should be doing is getting at least 7 – 9 hours of sleep every night. During sleep, the body is extremely active removing toxins, recharging the mind and producing hormones, so inadequate sleep has tremendous impact on hormones.
An often overlooked form of stress comes from too much high intensity exercise or dieting for too long (or both). If you have been undergoing intense workouts 6 days a week, going for runs on your “off days”, and eating like a bird for months on end, then you are doing your hormones a disservice. The only way your body will adapt to those stressors is to give it the rest it needs. For every hard workout you do, balance that with 1 – 2 recovery activities. Also, consider taking a break from dieting where you bring your calories up to maintenance level to restore your hormones.
Another hormone disruptor many take for granted is the environmental toxins such as xenoestrogens. These compounds mimic estrogen in the body and can lead to estrogen dominance which causes lots of unpleasant symptoms and can lead to more serious conditions. Buildup of xenoestrogens in the body have also been linked to cancer, obesity and infertility.
Harmful chemicals found in pesticides, plastics, household cleaners and some beauty care products can contain hormone disrupting chemicals that mimic hormones in the body and keep the body from producing real hormones. It may seem like a hassle but I encourage you to start switching to safer cleaning and personal care products. There are many options that are just effective as their toxic counterparts. A simple switch is to start using less plastic by drinking out of glass or metal bottles.
Also, reduce storing all your food in Tupperware (or, at least, do not microwave with it.)