By Ruth Clark
Hormones affect many processes in the body, including growth and development, metabolism, sexual function/reproduction and mood. If your hormones are off it can make you feel exhausted, moody, grouchy and completely out of sorts.
Five tips for better hormonal balance
1. Control blood sugar. Keep your energy constant all day by making sure your blood sugar is well balanced. When blood sugar is low it can make you feel tired, light headed and “hangry.”
Eat regularly, including healthy balanced snacks to avoid becoming ravenous. Include foods that contain a good mix of complex unrefined carbs, good protein and some healthy fat like a fresh fruit with some nuts, or hummus and veggies. Controlling blood sugar is key to helping keep insulin levels low. Too much circulating insulin can result in calories converting to fat instead of energy.
2. Get enough sleep. From 7.5 to 9 hours is considered adequate. More and more data shows the effect of lack of sleep on obesity and diabetes. This is mostly due to the effect on several hormones. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is elevated after by inadequate sleep. Sleep is important for regulating the two hormones responsible for regulating hunger/appetite. Sleep affects how well your cells use insulin. Most people overeat after a poor night of rest because they feel they need the energy and are coping with a hormonal stew which sets them craving more food.
3. Watch the caffeine. Drinking too much caffeine is almost as bad as insufficient sleep. It elevates your cortisol levels, lowers your thyroid hormone levels and basically creates havoc throughout your body.
A good substitute is green tea, which has about 10 mg caffeine per cup versus 240 mg in a cup of coffee.
4. Eat healthy fats. Essential fats are foundational building blocks for hormone production. I’m often surprised in my practice to hear women say they are afraid to eat foods like olives, avocado and nuts because they are high in calories. This outdated weight control practice ignores modern science. Let it go. Avocado with a little balsamic vinegar or fresh tomatoes and basil is a delicious snack that will help your hormones.
Balance your ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fats. The body creates hormones from both of these fatty acids. Those from Omega-6 fatty acids tend to increase inflammation while those from Omega-3 fatty acids decrease it. With the advent of processed and convenience foods the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats in our diet has gone from a healthy 1:1 to a very risky 20:1. Avoid oils high in Omega-6 fats: safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, canola, soybean and peanut. Favor foods that are naturally high in Omega-3 fats such as fatty fish, walnuts, flax and chia seeds, and grass-fed animal products. Consider an Omega-3 supplement if you don’t eat fatty fish at least twice per week.
5. Take good care of your adrenal glands. Our world of nonstop stimulation and stress easily creates adrenal fatigue, leading to an outpouring of the hormone cortisol. The more demand on your adrenal glands, the harder it is for the adrenals to deliver. Because the fight or flight response is innate and tied to our very survival, the adrenal glands get priority for hormone production, leaving the sex and thyroid hormones in deficit.
High levels of cortisol are also major contributors to belly fat. Cortisol increases the release of blood sugar which makes sense if you need to run away from a saber tooth tiger but isn’t very helpful when you are stuck at a desk under deadline for a work project.
Take care of your hormones and they will take care of you!