Hormones play a fundamental role in energy, mental clarity, nutrition, and sleep. Conversely, hormonal imbalance causes woe and suffering, even in the fittest of us. However, there are a few key (and easy) tips for balancing your hormones.
Hormones–What's the Big Deal?
Hormones affect core bodily processes. Your metabolism, mood, and sleep-wake cycle are all regulated by hormonal input. Regarding sex and reproductive health, hormones also play an imperative role. Hormones ultimately create homeostasis in your body. So when something in one of the above categories is off, look to recalibrate your hormones.
Am I Imbalanced?
Sometimes, you may be unable to tell if you're imbalanced hormonally. For women, be aware of regular hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Stress and medications like steroids are two mega-hormone imbalances that can wreak havoc on your body.
Signs and symptoms of imbalance include fatigue, stomach problems, mood dysregulation (depression and anxiety), skin and hair changes (i.e., skin tags), and temperature intolerance. Other symptoms, such as extreme thirst and frequent peeing, are symptoms of diabetes, a disorder linked to hormonal imbalance. Irregular periods, infertility, acne, and thyroid disease are also hormone-related disorders. When it comes to obesity, excess cortisol (the "stress hormone") can contribute.
Quick Tips for Hormone Balancing
Incorporate some of the below tips in your lifestyle if you are experiencing hormone disturbances. You can try them even if you're seeking a boost of extra energy from improved hormone regulation.
1. Eat enough protein.
One food group that impacts hormones dramatically is protein. A diet high in protein can affect longevity, healthspan, and reproductive health. That's because protein plays a supporting role in cellular function and metabolism. Certain amino acids, which are the makeup of proteins, are crucial for gut health, neurotransmitter response, and immunity.
Peptide hormones communicate protein intake to the rest of the body. These peptide hormones also play a role in pathogen defense. The bottom line is that more protein is fantastic for your cellular health and immunity. Adequate protein intake regulates your hormones!
2. Eat foods with less sugar.
Sugar impacts your risk for metabolic disease. Dyslipidemia, or lipid (fat) imbalance, includes dysregulated cholesterol levels and reduces insulin sensitivity. Fructose, a type of sugar, was also shown to stimulate inflammatory responses that impacted insulin signaling in the liver. Keep your hormones healthy by choosing whole foods, especially vegetables and low-processed foods.
3. Stress less.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Remember that what we say to ourselves matters. Putting less pressure on yourself is possible. And it benefits your memory. One study showed how stress causes memory disorders. Your body is like a computer–it works best when only one program runs at a time. If too many programs cycle simultaneously, systems shut down.
The stress response is in part because of cortisol. Another study demonstrated how cortisol activates stress on your brain and organs, causing effects lasting hours, days, months, years, and even permanently--all from stress.
One easy way to decrease stress without even thinking? Listen to music. Ambient music without lyrics or listening to favorite artists can reduce stress hormone release. There are also relaxing frequencies and brain-wave music available on YouTube, which is helpful for background noise for your work or meditation.
4. Sleep soundly.
Make sure to get quality sleep! Waking up in the middle of the night indicates poor sleep. To better understand your rest habits, try a sleep tracker, or wear a smartwatch to bed. Quality sleep affects your circadian rhythm, which regulates hormones critical for your sleep-wake cycle. For example, growth hormone, ghrelin, leptin, and cortisol are hormones directly linked to your circadian rhythm.
Disturbances to this hormone balance can lead to metabolic issues. Be aware that imbalanced hormones can cause melatonin and cortisol dysregulation. A reversal in your circadian rhythm, such as from shift work, is a known cause.
5. Exercise and rest in between.
Exercise enhances hormone receptor sensitivity because there is more blood flow to these receptors. In turn, this helps your hormone receptors get enough nutrients. Plus, exercise is proven to increase insulin sensitivity in muscles. In addition, metabolism improves from exercising, making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Weight management is another regulator of hormone synchronicity.
Make sure to avoid overexercising, however, as this could lead to elevated cortisol and stress. Taking rest days is vital to get optimal hormonal benefits from your workouts.