Hormones aren’t just responsible for mood swings. Serving as the chemical messengers throughout the body, hormones play a role in a wide range of bodily functions including metabolism, sleep patterns, skin health, and much more.
As you can imagine, when hormone imbalances occur, the body goes haywire. What are some common triggers? Stress, medications, eating disorders, chemotherapy, and trauma are just a few of the conditions that can upset our hormones. Even the smallest imbalance can have a tremendous impact on the body.
A hormone imbalance can show up in a variety of ways in the body. In women, hormone imbalances can sometimes result in:
In men, hormone imbalances can sometimes result in:
If you have one or more of the above conditions, it's important to see your doctor and follow his/her advice. Sometimes treatment or medication is required to correct the imbalance. But in less minor cases, there's often a lot you can do with diet and lifestyle to help get your hormones back in check. Here are five ways to give your hormones a health kick:
Sounds simple enough, right? So why do so many of us put our self-care on the back burner? Taking time for some deep breathing, a full-body massage, reading, and unwinding is a crucial piece of the hormone-balancing puzzle. When cortisol, a stress hormone, is chronically elevated, it robs your body of DHEA, progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone, and causes blood sugar to rise. As a result, you can put on weight, especially around the belly.
For women in particular, high sugar intake – which includes refined carbohydrates and processed foods – can lead to hormonal imbalance. Since diet is a top contributor to hormonal imbalance, making positive changes can greatly improve your health overall. This includes eating close to nature: add a variety of organic vegetables and fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean sources of protein, such as fish, to your daily diet. It is also important to limit caffeine and alcohol consumption, as these can spike cortisol hormones.
The bacteria in your gut may affect your risk of certain digestive problems, autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalance, and much more. One of the best ways to improve your gut health is by making smart food choices. Choose high-fiber foods like apples, avocados, beets, oats, and beans. Add at least three servings per day of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. These foods contain compounds that may reduce the body’s levels of estrogen. While you’re in the produce aisle, pick up a few sweet potatoes and add them to your meal rotation. They contain natural hormone-balancing nutrients, including vitamins A and C, potassium, and manganese.
Seven to nine hours of quality (uninterrupted) sleep a night is your goal. This time span will give your body time to release hormones, like the “youth hormone” HGH (human growth hormone), along with a variety of other helpful hormones necessary to refresh cells and keep your brain sharp.
Use natural or plant-based beauty products. In particular, you want to avoid parabens -- chemicals found in cosmetics, shampoos, and skin care products -- that are known to be hormone disrupters. Not sure where to start? The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database website reviews and ranks a wide variety of beauty products according to their risk.
Since hormones play a role in keeping so many bodily processes running smoothly, it's critical for hormone levels to remain in healthy ranges. Luckily, creating hormonal harmony can sometimes be as simple as focusing on the right diet, digestive health, and stress management.
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