I’d like to welcome Karen Vogler, my guest blogger today! She has written a very practical and helpful post on hormones and wellness. Enjoy!
The world of science and research has provided literal volumes of books, studies and reports on various hormones and their importance to optimal wellness. With that understanding, it is impossible to give even an adequate summary in a short guest blog on all the hormones, their functions and their relationship to other processes in the body. I am not an Endocrinologist or a doctor at all but I am a woman who has been on a hormone journey which has necessitated learning more than any human would want to know about hormones on my personal path to wellness (early fertility issues, hypothyroid, menopausal, adrenal dysregulation….you get the picture).
In a nutshell, hormones are little chemical messengers that trigger certain processes in our bodies (visualize a domino effect where one domino topples over and hits another and causes a chain reaction). Hormones are vital to our existence and well being. You are probably familiar with the major sexual and reproductive hormones – estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and you have certainly experienced the hormone adrenaline (the fight or flight hormone) the last time you were frightened. But can you name other hormones? Surprisingly, there are 60+ hormones!
With all of them In perfect balance….
• we have uninterrupted sleep and wake feeling rested
• we have abundant energy
• we respond to stressors without debilitating anxiety and worry
• we have a stable, balanced mood
• we lose weight and/or maintain a healthy body weight easily
• we enjoy being active
• we have balanced blood sugar levels
• we have normal menstrual cycles and no fertility issues (females obviously!) • we have healthy sex drives (men and women)
• we have the metabolism of champions
• we have sharp memory
• we have glowing skin, hair and nails
• we maintain muscle mass
• we have few struggles with food cravings
There are some lifestyle choices that you can focus on to support healthy hormone function. They are (and you’ve likely heard this before):
1. Eat an organic diet of whole foods. Whole foods include: fresh veggies, greens and fruits (in moderation if weight loss is a goal because of natural sugar content), grass- fed meats, healthy fats (avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, mac nut oil, grass fed real butter), whole grains and grass fed dairy (if not intolerant). Processed foods, refined grains and food-like substances can wreak havoc on several hormones including insulin, cortisol and thyroid. The result is a sluggish metabolism, weight gain, lethargy and a potential host of other issues. Soy foods can also have a modest effect on estrogen levels.
2. Get regular exercise. Exercise impacts almost every hormone. Exercise reduces the stress hormones and their unfavorable side effects while increasing the “feel good” hormones and raising the metabolic rate. Growth hormone is excreted during physical activity which has an extensive list of biological actions with positive benefits. Choose what you enjoy doing for exercise and do it consistently.
3. Get adequate sleep. Sleeping less than eight hours per night can severely affect the hormones that control metabolism and may contribute to insulin resistance. Experts recommend getting to sleep by 10 pm to maximize the benefits of the natural circadian rhythms such as cell regeneration, melatonin production and other important biological processes. Sleep can be enhanced by getting up at the same time each morning, avoiding stimulants after 3 pm, eating three-four hours before bedtime and having a dark, cool bedroom.
4. Chill out! Stress activates the fight-or-flight response which causes the release of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol jacks up appetite especially for simple carbs and sweets. Eating those foods causes insulin to spike and then bottom out leaving you ravenously hungry in a short amount of time. You know what happens next…you gain weight and cortisol-induced weight gain goes straight to the belly! My favorite stress busters include walking and hiking (taking time to play), practicing yoga and getting monthly massages. Anything that increases endorphins will help with stress reduction….laughing, making love, etc.
5. Get an education about toxin exposure. Certain natural and chemical substances can cause hormone dysregulation. They are referred to as endocrine disrupters. Some are thought to mimic the estrogen hormone. These environmental and man- made toxins can be found in certain pesticides, plastics, cookware, soaps, detergents, beauty products/cosmetics, paints, lubricants and other items. Concerns also exist regarding some food additives (excito-toxins) like MSG and artificial sweeteners and their impact on hormone modulation.
A word about Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin….Vitamin D is more of a hormone than a vitamin and I keep reading reports that many of us (especially those of us living north of Atlanta) are deficient. Thirty minutes of sun exposure with 40% of our bodies exposed and without sunscreen is needed daily to prompt enough Vitamin D production. Food sources of Vitamin D include fish, egg yolk and fortified dairy products. I take a Vitamin D3 supplement daily. Optimizing my levels of Vitamin D has contributed to an increase of energy and has supported my weight loss efforts.
Hormones can become imbalanced (meaning we have too little or too much of one or more hormones) due to many causes including genetic predisposition and cell receptors becoming resistant, so a trip to a Functional Medicine Practitioner is recommended if you are experiencing anything less than that blissful list at the beginning of this article! (I see a Naturopathic Physician who practices functional medicine. Functional Medicine focuses on treating the cause of illness rather than a list of symptoms. Functional Medicine sees the body as a whole, connected being rather than fragmented systems and generally uses the least-invasive treatment products and practices to support the body in its healing and wellness. Think: integration of “alternative” and “Western” practices.)
My journey with balancing hormones has often felt like I have been a passenger on a fast-moving train trying to hit a moving target going in the opposite direction! It has not been easy. When I first began seeing my current health practitioner, I could only report one positive thing from the list above which was that I enjoyed being active but that was nullified by the fact that I didn’t have the energy! Two and a half years later, I can say that I am experiencing every single item on that list.