Does this sound familiar?
•Getting through the day is a struggle
•You feel tense and ready for a meltdown at any moment
•Your body feels sluggish and achy
•You have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night
•Weight gain seems to be your new best friend
•And you crave sweet or salty foods all the time
•One minute you are happy and the next minute the world is coming to an end
•Maybe you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or cholesterol or diabetes, arthritis, PMS, or menstrual issues
•Gas and bloating seems to happening much more often
If you suffer from any or all of these, then you are experiencing the effect of whacky hormones. When they are balanced, they make you feel great and when they are out of balance, they make you feel miserable.
When the word “hormones” is used, most think of reproductive hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. The truth is, we have many hormones that interact with each other to keep your body in check making them more complicated than the average person would assume.
In addition to the reproductive hormones, other body parts that produce hormones include the adrenals, the thyroid, the liver and the digestive track. Hormones play a crucial role in our health and are responsible for controlling most bodily functions – everything from how well we sleep, puberty, how we manage stress and how we digest our food. When the hormones are balanced they help the body thrive. Yet, when they are out of balance they can be detrimental to your health. There are many causes that contribute to your hormones becoming out of whack such as chronic stress, nutritional deficiencies and inflammation.
Unfortunately, in this day and age we are under so much more stress. Research has shown that excess stress contributes to over 90% of all health related conditions. We all have stressors in our lives, some stress is a good thing, it keeps us alert, helps you focus and can keep you motivated. The problem arises when we have to much stress, we push our self to hard, take on more than we can handle and run from one appointment to the next. Let’s examine the role stress and the adrenals and ways to counteract it.
When we are stressed, the adrenals work overtime to protect us from what they consider physical stress (even though we are not really in danger). This is called our fight or flight response. It causes the adrenals to produce higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol. The adrenals convert testosterone to estrogen and blunt progesterone production to allow for the production of more cortisol, the number one hormone the adrenals like to use to help you feel energized enough to deal with stress. The problem arises when you are stressed all the time the adrenals keep producing cortisol and they are not designed to do this all the time.
A surplus of cortisol is linked to many symptoms including fatigue, blood sugar problems, weight gain, depression, mood swings, anxiety and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and low sex drive. It is also linked to the development of degenerative illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Excess cortisol can suppress thyroid function, put extra pressure on the liver, hinder sex hormones and inhibit digestive and intestinal function.
The key to hormone health is stress reduction. Choose something that relaxes you such as meditation, deep breathing or going for a walk as this helps lower cortisol. Exercise is also an excellent way to reduce cortisol levels. It stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and elevates your mood. Positive thoughts and uplifting words helps you shift your focus to something good and in turn reduce the stress.
Diet is also important to counteract the effect of stress. When you eat well every cell in the body is nourished and in turn helps keep your immunity strong. The foods that support the hormones especially the adrenals are foods rich in the B vitamins. Listed below are some examples of foods that can be added into your daily diet.
Example of foods rich in B vitamins are:•Whole Grains: whole wheat (especially the wheat germ), rye, spelt, kamut,
•Nuts and Seeds: chia, hemp, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, brazil nuts, pecans, pistachios, chestnuts, sesame seeds, tahini, walnuts, cashews
•Legumes and Lentils: peanuts, all types of beans such as adzuki, cannellini, green, yellow, kidney, fava, lima, black, pinto, soybean (including edamame, miso, tempeh), chickpeas (garbanzo beans), turtle, all types of lentils, all types of peas including green and black-eyed
•Vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, mushrooms (Portobello, brown, white, cremini) artichokes, escarole, endive, okra
•Dairy Products: all types of cheese, yogurt, kefir whole milk, eggs (preferably organic)
•Meat: beef, chicken, lamb, pork, turkey, liver (from all of these meats)
•Vegetarian Protein Sources: tofu, tempeh (contains B12), eggs
•Other: spirulina, chlorella, nutrition yeast and brewer’s yeast, unpasteurized beer
Add nuts and seeds to your meals, they are not only high in the B vitamins but they are rich in good quality fat and protein which are also excellent for hormone health. You can add legumes to your favourite dishes such as soups and salads. They are a good source of fibre and complex carbohydrates to help balance your blood sugar. If you need that extra boost of the B vitamins you can add a multi B vitamin supplement to counteract the effects of stress on the body.
If you are experiencing the whacky effects of hormones it is key to reduce stress and eat foods that support your hormones. Attached is a hormone healthy recipe. Click here for my hormone healthy recipe.
Jennifer Barnes is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with a focus on hormones health and rebalancing your hormones with delicious whole foods and lifestyle changes.
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