Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers, travelling through your bloodstream to tissues and organs working slowly over time and affect many different processes including metabolism, sexual function, reproduction and moods.
If you have ever experienced periods in your life when you’ve felt your hormones were out of balance, you’ve probably felt moody, couldn’t concentrate, were stressed and felt a host of other physical and mental symptoms. If you’ve felt like this, read on….
Here are 5 hormones we should all be monitoring:
1. INSULIN: Is a hormone made by the pancreas that allows your body to use sugar (glucose) from carbohydrates in the food that you eat for energy or to store glucose for future use. Insulin helps keep your blood sugar level from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia). Insulin is usually associated with diabetes but it can also affect the whole body causing weight gain, lethargy, sleeplessness, irritability and brain fog.
2. CORTISOL: This fight or flight hormone “blooms” in the morning and then drops off during the day. When you have too much, you’ll be sleep-deprived, anxious and hungry. Cortisol raises your blood sugar, putting you at risk of diabetes. High glucose levels then increase your insulin levels, which then reduces your blood sugar and all of the sudden you’ve got wild sugar cravings.
3. GHRELIN: Are you always hungry, even after a big meal? It could be because of this “hunger hormone” that can get out of control when you are sleep deprived. Ghrelin can also lead to body fat storage, which isn’t something most of us are looking for.
4. LEPTIN: A master hormone: and if it is out of balance or if you are resistant to it, no other hormones will balance well. Often referred to as the “satiety hormone,” leptin regulates appetite and energy. But you won’t get it when you’re sleep deprived, so be sure to get plenty of deep, restful, uninterrupted sleep. Too much Leptin in the blood can also create a problem.
5. ADIPONECTIN: The more adiponectin you have, the more fat you’ll burn. But the more fat you have, the lower your levels of this hormone will be. Magnesium fires up adiponectin so eat dark, leafy greens, avocados, nuts and seeds, and fish.
Balancing hormones, naturally
There are some basic things you can do to boost your body’s ability to create and balance hormones:
The good fats: The 3% of the body made up of polyunsaturated fats contains both Omega-3 fats and Omega-6 fats in about a 50:50 balance. This ratio is vital for health, and it is often neglected. Seed based vegetable oils (like canola oil, soybean oil, etc.) are very high in Omega-6 fats and low in Omega-3 fats. Since the 1950s, these seed based oils have replaced many sources of saturated fats and Omega-3s in the diet. This is one of the reasons that most people are not getting enough vital Omega-3 fatty acids from their diet.
Not only are we eating far too many omega-6 fatty acids from polyunsaturated vegetable oils, but we are not consuming enough beneficial Omega-3s and saturated fats. These types of fats are critical for proper cell function and especially for hormone function, as these are literally the building blocks for hormone production. When we don’t consume adequate amounts of these fats, our body must use what is available, relying on lower quality polyunsaturated fats.
Coconut Oil is great for hormone health. It provides the necessary building blocks for hormone production, can assist weight loss, reduce inflammation and has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Other quality sources of fats include avocados, olive oil, grass fed meats, pastured eggs, and raw dairy. Quality seafood is also key, it is a naturally good source of Omega-3s.
Don’t eat fats like vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, soybean oil, margarine, shortening, or other chemically altered fats. Instead choose fats like coconut oil, real butter, olive oil (don’t heat it!) and avocado, salmon and sardines all high in Omega-3’s.
Limit Caffeine: So many of us love coffee but too much caffeine can wreak havoc on the endocrine system, especially if there are other hormone stressors involved, like pregnancy, presence of toxins, beneficial fat imbalance or stress.
Avoid Harmful Chemicals: Harmful chemicals found in pesticides, plastics, household cleaners, and even mattresses can contain hormone disrupting chemicals that mimic hormones in the body and keep the body from producing real hormones.
Get enough Sleep: This one is so important! Without enough sleep, hormones will not be in balance. Period.
While you’re sleeping, your body is extremely active removing toxins, recharging the mind, and creating hormones. Missing or lacking sleep, can have a tremendous impact on hormones and even one night of missed or shortened sleep can affect your hormone levels
Move The Right Way: Sleep is so important during the balancing phase, so focus on relaxing exercises like walking, swimming and yoga.
Love your gut: The digestive system has much more of an impact on hormones than many of us know. Not only is the gut the source of many vital neurotransmitters in the body but an imbalance here can translate to an imbalance in neurotransmitter and hormones. Serotonin, a necessary neurotransmitter for sleep/stress balance is more concentrated in the gut than even in the brain! 70% of the immune system is found in the gut and it is quite literally the control centre of many functions in the body.