Hormones are one of the most overlooked factors in our health – but also one of the most significant.
Few people realise what a powerful force hormones can be – from bringing on feelings of depression, anxiety and mental health issues – to gaining weight, difficulty sleeping, hair loss and huge range of other physical issues.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to establish some balance in your hormones – and in doing so, bring some balance to your health. We’ll explain 8 practices you can start today – and the impact they’ll have on your hormonal health.
You may have heard of mindfulness already – it’s an increasingly popular health trend that’s been advocated by some celebrities and high-profile figures.
It’s also referred to as meditation – but to think of mindfulness and meditation as a spiritual or religious practice is inaccurate, in fact, it’s becoming increasingly recommended by medical professionals around the world.
Mindfulness in it’s simplest form simply involves clearing your mind. Now, for people who are used to busy lives full of work and connectivity, this can be tricky – which is why mindfulness is referred to as a ‘practice’ – as opposed to something you’re ever likely to master.
There are great apps and books that will get you started – and doing so has been shown to reduce the levels of the stress hormone ‘Cortisol’ in your system, resulting in better sleep, improved focus, better memory recall and even reductions in appetite.
Reducing Sugar and Simple Carbohydrates
Although it’s one of the most common ingredients in food around the world, sugar has a huge impact on our health – and not just the commonly associated weight issues we’ve come to understand.
When we consume sugar we contribute to insulin resistance in our bodies. Insulin is a key hormone that helps us to turn sugars in energy and is a vital part of our metabolic system. When insulin levels are out of balance, blood sugars can build up – causing severe and lasting damage in parts of our body – not least kidney disease, blindness and nerve damage.
Unfortunately, the ready availability and sweet taste of sugar makes it extremely easy to consume too much – leading to weight issues and long term health problems.
Fortunately – you are in control of your sugar intake, so becoming more aware of how much you take it – then adjusting it to healthy levels – is a perfect way to keep your insulin levels where they should be.
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Smoking is another habit that is shown to boost the levels of stress hormones in your system – contrary to the idea that a cigarette helps to calm people down.
Although quitting outright might be difficult, cutting down or swapping to nicotine patches or gum can make a big difference – especially as trials have shown that it’s actually the body’s reaction to the burning chemicals in cigarettes that seems to impact damaging hormone levels, not the nicotine itself.
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Get in Control of Your Eating
It’s not just sugar intake that has a big impact on hormone levels – there are lots of other eating related issues that can send your hormone balance into disarray.
A hormone called ‘Leptin’ is thought to signal to the brain that appetite should be suppressed – based on the level of energy currently stored as sugars and fats. Continuing to eat when the body is producing Leptin creates a resistance, making it increasingly difficult to feel satisfied and full.
Controlling your portions, eating more slowly and drinking water with every meal can help you feel full – without the need for the excess calories that can cause on-going hormone imbalances.
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Reduce Caffeine Intake to Help Regulate Hormone Levels
Caffeine is increasingly available to us – coffee is cheap and readily available – and the increasing number of caffeine based energy drinks on sale can help when we’re feeling bleary eyed but have a day of work to do.
It’s important to acknowledge how powerful caffeine is – doctors are still yet to totally rule out its links to cancer, diabetes and heart disease – and links to cortisol and adrenaline are widely accepted.
Again, too much of these stress hormones can lead to on-going issues with sleep, mood and focus – so cutting down on your caffeine intake can really help to balance your hormone and keep your health in check.
Generally, this list has warned of increased levels of harmful hormones – but exercise gives you an opportunity to boost the numbers of your ‘feel good’ hormones – and the sky’s the limit!
Serotonin, dopamine and endorphins are all produced when you exercise – and these hormones go a long way to regulating your mood – as well as aiding restful sleep, improving focus, increasing your libido and supporting cardiovascular function.
In short, exercise is a one-stop shop to hormone balance and feeling good. If you don’t fancy press-ups and sprints just yet, start with gentle walking – and even if you never increase exercise levels beyond that, brisk daily walks are virtually guaranteed to make you feel more healthy.
Prioritize Your Sleep
Hormones and sleep are another area where vicious cycles can occur. If your hormone balance isn’t right, your sleep suffers – when your sleep suffers, your hormones become increasingly out of balance.
Tough one right?
Unfortunately, it seems women have a harder time with sleep as they approach menopause – with hot flushes and sleeplessness often going hand in hand for a number of years. This is often due to the role the hormone ‘Estrogen’ has in maintaining a comfortable core body temperature.
As Estrogen levels decline the body thinks it’s due to overheating – and opens the blood vessels around the head and neck to release some heat. Unfortunately, this in turn leads to rushes of blood, causing ‘hot flushes’.
They key here is making yourself as comfortable as possible in bed. Many light layers make it easier to regulate your body temperature in the night – and cool water and a fan can be quick fixes to get your temperature down if you’re suddenly hot.
It’s not just menopausal women for whom comfort in bed is important either. Sleep is one of the biggest factors in ‘resetting’ our body’s natural hormone levels – so ensuring you sleep soundly is important no matter your age or sex.
Understand Your Natural Cycle
Although this final tip is likely to apply to women more so than men, both sexes have natural hormone cycles that can cause the waxing and waning of mood and feelings of health through the days, weeks, months and years.
The message is:
Don’t worry about some changes slight changes in your hormone levels that lead to slight mood changes – they do move up and down – and worrying that you’re abnormal is only going to boost stress levels.
You’re not abnormal – everyone has issues with their hormones at some stage in their life. Following these 8 tips will simply reduce the severity – hopefully meaning your hormones and health keep you feeling good.