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September 1, 2020 • read
Five tips to balance your hormones
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through your bloodstream to your organs. They’re responsible for regulating a wide range of bodily functions, from metabolism to reproduction. They also influence your behaviour. Testosterone, for example, is a hormone that exists in both men and women. Testosterone is linked to behavioural changes like aggression if there’s too much in your body. This is just one example of the complex functions hormones serve in creating a balanced physical and mental state.
Having too much or too little of a hormone can result in adverse health effects. One contributing factor to hormone imbalance is lifestyle. We all face the challenges in finding time for resting and eating healthy. When those habits slip, it can create a hormonal imbalance that leads to physical and emotional dysfunction. While changes in hormones are a natural part of life, there are some steps you can take to help maintain optimal hormonal levels. Consider these five tips to help balance your hormones.
1. Get good sleep
Consistent, quality sleep has myriad health benefits, including balancing your hormones. While you’re resting, your body is hard at work preparing you for the next day. Several different hormones are released into the bloodstream overnight. Hormones released in your sleep include:
- Melatonin, a hormone made by the pineal gland that helps you get to sleep each night.
- Growth hormones, which regulate physical development in young people and assist with tissue repair in adults.
- Ghrelin and leptin, the hormones that regulate your appetite. Getting too little sleep throws their balance off. That contributes to feeling hungry all the time and possibly over eating.
Experts recommend you get 7-9 hours of sleep each night so your body can recover from the previous day’s stresses and rebalance its hormone levels.
2. Manage your stress
Stress is a normal feeling that everyone has at some point. But, consistent stress poorly impacts your health. When you feel stressed mentally, you may notice physical changes. Your body tenses, you start sweating, and your heart rate speeds up. All those functions are controlled by hormones. Cortisol is the hormone most often connected to stress. It’s what triggers your fight-or-flight response.
Long term, chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels lead to:
- Decreased sex drive
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems
- Bloating, diarrhea, or constipation
- Weight gain
Stress management techniques can help prevent surges in cortisol. The right solution depends on your lifestyle and sources of stress. Physical activity and mental health therapy are great options to give you the stress-busting support you need.
3. Exercise regularly
Lots of people treat exercise like an all or nothing endeavour. In fact, you don’t have to be in the gym every day to see physical and mental health improvements. The recommended weekly amount of exercise for adults is about 150 minutes per week, or just 21 minutes per day. Exercise reduces the level of stress hormones present in your body, such as cortisol and adrenaline. It also stimulates the release of endorphins, which are hormones that make you feel good.
Try building some more physical activity into your daily routine. Start with something small, like taking an after dinner stroll or taking your pet out to explore a trail.
4. Eat less sugar
When you eat too much sugar, it causes hormonal highs and lows in your body. Shortly after eating it you’ll feel a brief energy rush, but a crash in energy will follow. That’s because of fluctuation in a hormone called insulin. Insulin regulates sugar levels in the bloodstream, so it’s released in high amounts when you eat sweet things. Insulin’s primary role is to bring the amount of sugar in your bloodstream to a normal level. But insulin levels also affect the level of other hormones, especially testosterone and estrogen. Spikes in estrogen and testosterone lead to irritability, aggression, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.
Sugar is in a lot of foods that don’t taste sweet. Foods that are high in refined carbohydrates like white bread and pasta have similar glucose-spiking effects. Try for whole foods sources of carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, brown rice, and fruit.
5. Reduce your inflammation levels
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury or stress. In some cases it’s short term as your body heals from trauma like a broken bone. That’s called acute inflammation, and it serves the healthy purpose of protecting an area of your body while it heals. When inflammation is chronic, it has harmful long term effects like hormonal problems. Chronic inflammation is expressed in your body in lots of different ways, including:
- Weight gain
- Eye problems
- Joint pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Metabolic complications
Chronic inflammation has a wide range of causes, from stress to dietary choices. The effect of inflammation on your hormones is a vicious cycle. Inflammation causes hormone imbalance because an increase in the production of some hormones triggers a decrease in the production of others. For example, the cortisol and adrenaline released when you feel stressed alter your body’s production and use of glucose. Instead of allowing it to flow to your digestive system as usual, the presence of cortisol routes the glucose to your brain. This causes digestive disturbances and alters your body’s metabolism.
Luckily, there are plenty of options for reducing inflammation. Reducing stress levels and eating anti-inflammatory foods like fatty fish are strong choices.
Because everyone’s lifestyles and environments differ, finding a custom solution to hormonal imbalance is the path to feeling better. Our endocrinologists can help you understand your hormonal health, and prescribe medication and lifestyle adjustments to help you get the most out of life.