How to manage the changes naturally
I’m sure that we have all been aware of our hormones at one time or another. We certainly remember our teenage years, when everyone said our hormones were “raging”. But today as adults, we still experience hormonal shifts, whether it’s when we as women, have experienced the fluctuations before and during our menstrual cycle, or you may be experiencing the many mood changes as well as body changes, if you are in the perimenopause or menopause phase of life. Men actually go through the very same fluctuations also, called andropause. Understanding what hormones are, and the profound effect they have on us, physically, mentally and emotionally is critical. Hormones are chemical messengers that control things like your mood, your weight, your appetite and more.
Hormonal imbalances have been become all too common. Some things that have an impact on hormones are stress, the fast pace of life, the decline in some hormones as we age, and even food and activity (or inactivity) can all cause our hormones to get out of whack. But fortunately, eating a nutritious diet and adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors may help improve your hormone health so that you can feel and perform better.
Here are some tips on improving hormone balance. Keep in mind that some folks have medical challenges that may need to be addressed separately, things like underlying chronic illness, thyroid issues, diabetes, obesity, etc)
- Get adequate amounts of protein (but not over consume) Keep in mind that protein does not necessarily have to come from an animal. We tend to forget, or are unaware that many plants and whole grains are loaded with protein. Protein provides amino acids that your body doesn’t make on its own, but that are needed on a daily basis to maintain muscle, to keep bones strong and our skin healthy. Also, protein influences certain hormones that control our appetite, like whether we feel hungry all the time or we feel satisfied after eating a meal. The key is to keep our glucose levels steady throughout the day so that they don’t’ keep spiking and falling with each meal ( thus impacting our hormones) by eating slow digesting foods, foods that are in their whole form ( not processed and full of refined sugars and additives).
- Engage in regular exercise. Physical activity can strongly influence hormonal health. A major benefit of exercise is its ability to reduce insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that has several functions. One is allowing cells to take up sugar and amino acids from the bloodstream, which are then used for energy and maintaining muscle. While insulin is good and a little goes a long way, but too much is dangerous. When insulin levels get too high, they have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The best forms of exercise have proven to be, aerobic, strength training and endurance. Lastly, being active may also help boost levels of muscle maintaining hormones that decline as we age, such as testosterone, IGF-1, DHEA and growth hormone. So get out there and at the very least, take a nice vigorous walk.
- Learn to manage your stress. We all have stress, but it is critical to our health, that we learn to manage it. Two hormones that are effected by stress are cortisol and adrenaline (also called epinephrine). Cortisol is also called the stress hormone because it helps the body cope with stress over the long term. We’ve heard of the “fight of flight” response and that would be adrenaline, it provides that surge of energy when you are in danger. Sadly, chronic stress leads to elevated cortisol, which has been shown to produce extra belly fat (especially in women) and when chronic stress elevates adrenaline, people can experience high blood pressure, anxiety, rapid heart rates. We can help keep these hormones balanced by adopting some lifestyle changes, such as, yoga, meditation, massage and even listening to calming music, along with breathing techniques.
- Avoid overeating and undereating. Overeating raises insulin sensitivity, especially folks that are overweight and who are insulin resistant. The opposite of that would be undereating, and cutting calories so low that it stresses the body and cortisol levels raise. All bodies are different, so find what works for you. Personally, I’m a big advocate of a whole food plant based diet. I eat lots of slow digesting whole grains and vegetables and minimal animal meat. I never have to count calories, but I am just mindful of what I’m taking in and it works!
- Sleep. Sleep is so important, and not just any kind of sleep, but getting quality, uninterrupted sleep. No matter how nutritious your diet is, or how much you are exercising, if you’re sleep is poor, it will have a dramatic effect on your hormones, not to mention your neurotransmitters that are needed to regulate your moods and overall sense of wellness. We produce the growth hormone that our body needs when we sleep, but we need to get through all five sleep stages before that happens. If you aren’t sleeping well, chances are, you’re overeating, overweight, and experiencing low and poor moods and fatique.
These are the types of things I work with my clients on. Nutrition definitely plays a major role when it comes to balancing our hormones, as well as fueling our body so it performs optimally. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected]. Initial consultations are always no charge. I’d love to partner with you on your wellness journey.