Hormones have become a popular topic in the health and wellness world lately, and for good reason. Balanced hormones play a powerful role in a woman's entire body system, impacting mood, energy and weight.
I've just launched my latest nationwide tour 'Women's Wellness Essentials' to support you in finding hormonal harmony, energy and body confidence - This is information I feel every woman should know and I truly hope to see you all there!
Many of you may not fully understand what hormones are and the important roles they play in your body.
Hormones are chemical messengers in the body that tell our cells what to do. We have over 50 different hormones which flow around the body co-ordinating our mood, our digestion and our energy levels. Most of the functions that our body performs happen as a result of a hormone command!
"We have over 50 different hormones which flow around the body coordinating our mood, our digestion and our energy levels."
When our hormones are perfectly balanced they co-ordinate our body system like an intricately choreographed dance. For example, in a time of stress, our adrenal glands make cortisol to prepare our body to either fight or take flight. Cortisol is sent through the bloodstream to our heart stimulating it to beat faster and increase oxygen delivery to our organs.
Hormones are an incredible network of chemicals that are highly influential in how we experience life and how we feel. No hormones are good or bad, they are all essential for normal functioning. But when hormone levels are too high or too low, we start to run into problems - such as mood swings, weight that won't budge and feeling fatigued.
Let's take a closer look at the three key sets of hormones, how they might become unbalance and how you can nurture your body back to balance.
Female Sex Hormones
A woman’s main sex hormones are oestrogen and progesterone.
Oestrogen is the hormone responsible for our libido, energy levels, and mood while progesterone is responsible for the development of the womb lining and keeping us calm and centered.
We can see from the diagram above that these two hormones work together over our menstrual cycle. A woman's menstrual cycle lasts on average 28 days and begins with the first day of bleeding. The length of a cycle and the premenstrual symptoms will differ from person to person and are directly impacted by hormone levels.
Oestrogen stimulates the release of a mature egg and is the dominant hormone in the first half of the cycle when the egg is released by the ovaries.
Progesterone prepares the womb to receive a fertilised egg and should be the dominant hormone in the second phase of our cycle.
We run into problems when oestrogen and progesterone become out of balance. When women have low progesterone levels, the womb lining struggles to create a nourishing home for a fertilised egg. Also, oestrogen levels are often high in comparison, known as oestrogen dominance.
At the BePure Clinic, we see many women experiencing high oestrogen, low progesterone or a combination of both. One of the most evident symptoms we see of oestrogen dominance is weight gain, particularly around the hips and thighs.
Our modern day, toxic environment is the main reason for this hormonal imbalance and this includes all of our daily demands and stressors. Technology has many amazing benefits but it also means we are not switching off and relaxing like we used to. We have a great blog post on the three main stressors and what you can do to minimise them. One of these is filling your diet with cruciferous vegetables like in this delicious broccoli salad with pine nuts and halloumi recipe.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland which sits around our throat and produces hormones that regulate our metabolism and many other vital functions such as heart rate, body temperature and body weight.
When our body is not balanced, we produce too many thyroid hormones or too few. Nervousness, heat intolerance, fatigue, and increased bowel movements can indicate excess thyroid hormones, while too few can cause weight gain, sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin and brittle nails.
"I am yet to see a person with a thyroid disorder whose health has not been supported by a gluten-free diet."
This imbalance is commonly due to an autoimmunity. I am yet to see a person with a thyroid disorder whose health has not been supported by on a gluten-free diet. If any of the symptoms above apply to you - the best thing you can do to start with is trial taking gluten out of your diet.
When looking at nurturing our thyroid health we also need to look at our nutritional status. Iodine is essential for the creation of thyroid hormones so we need to make sure we are getting this from our diet or a high-quality nutritional supplement. We also need to look at our adrenal gland health. These two part of our body work closely together, so by nourishing your adrenals, will also nourish our thyroid. Take a look at these key dietary and lifestyle recommendations for adrenal health.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Blood sugar regulation is complicated process controlled by a few different key hormones. Keeping our blood sugar levels stable is the most important thing to support the balance our sex hormone levels. If we can’t stabilise our blood sugar on a daily basis, it’s very unlikely we’ll be unable to stabilise our hormones long term.
Cortisol is our stress hormone, but one of its effects is to mobilise sugar into the blood. When we are under stress our body will respond by releasing cortisol, leading to a spike in our blood sugar levels.
"Keeping our blood sugar levels stable is the most important thing to help balance our sex hormone levels."
We all probably know what it’s like to feel like we are on a blood sugar rollercoaster. You feel ravenous one, two or three hours after eating a substantial meal and need to get food quickly or you start to crave something. So you grab the nearest thing you can find – often sugar or refined carbohydrates. Immediately your energy picks up again and you’re fine for another one, two or three hours until the cycle repeats itself.
Unstable blood sugar levels are responsible for those 3pm sugar cravings and usually are the result of eating a lunch that is unsuitable for your needs.
If we can work to stabilise our blood sugars, the flow on effect will be stable hormones. The number one way to do this is to take this quiz and eat for your macronutrient type.