Our hormones are chemical messengers that are part of the Endocrine System. They are crucial in our body’s chemistry, carrying messages between cells and organs. They affect our body functions on a daily basis and when they are in balance, it can help the body thrive, but when they’re out of sorts, it can cause havoc on your system and contribute to major health problems. Here’s a rundown of some of the major hormones swimming around within us.
Oestrogen/Estrogen is one of the main players in the female body. This sex hormone is responsible for triggering puberty in women, and is produced primarily in the ovaries. Oestrogen helps to regulate your menstrual cycle, but can also cause it to go crazy (I'm sure we've all been there!), maintains pregnancy and keeps bones strong for both men and women!
It's key to make sure your oestrogen is kept in check. If not, oestrogen dominance can cause huge problems for women, contributing to:
o Irregular menses and heavy bleeding
o Weight gain, especially in your hips, thighs and mid-section
o Fibrocystic Breasts and Gynecomastia in men
o Low Libido
o Breast Cancer
Ways to help with oestrogen dominance:
o Check your hormonal birth control - this can cause havoc with your natural hormones!
o Reduce your exposure to harmful toxins - such as plastic water bottles, beauty products and heating food in plastic containers
o Avoid oestrogen in food and water by filtering your water and choosing grass fed organic meat
o Limit exposure to stress, or learn methods in handling it better
o Support your liver and gut health
Progesterone is another major player in the female hormone minefield, it's a key component within your menstrual cycle. After ovulation, your progesterone levels rise to prepare your uterus for implantation of the embryo. If pregnancy doesn't happen, then your levels drop again which leads to your period.
High levels of progesterone are associated with the condition congenital adrenal hyperplasia, it can also mean a heightened risk of developing breast cancer.
If progesterone levels get too low, it can lead to irregular and heavy menstrual bleeding. A drop in progesterone during pregnancy can cause miscarriage and early labour too, so it is important to monitor your levels.
A lack of progesterone in the bloodstream can mean the ovary has failed to release an egg at ovulation, as can occur in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
Ways to keep your progesterone balanced:
o Maintain a healthy weight
o Reduce stress (this is the answer to a lot of hormonal imbalances!)
o Take in Vitamin B & C rich foods daily
Next up we have Testosterone. Although this is a male sex hormone, this one actually plays a huge part in women's health too. It can help with your sex drive, bone density, producing new blood cells and muscle strength! #gains
Again, it's important to keep this hormone in check, as too much may mean you experience some negative side effects such as: balding/hair thinning, acne, deepening of the voice. High levels of testosterone can also lead to infertility and PCOS, so managing this is key.
Too little testosterone can affect your sexual appetite, satisfaction and can leave you feeling depressed and lethargic.
Ways to improve your testosterone levels:
o Minimise stress
o Eat a balanced diet
o Catch them rays or take a Vitamin D supplement
o GET YOUR SLEEP!
Thyroid hormones. Your thyroid is responsible for releasing T3 and T4 hormones. These hormones dictate your weight, determine your energy levels, internal temperature, skin, hair and nail growth and many more!
The thyroid glands are small but are crucial in the functioning of your body.
Symptoms of an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) are:
o Anxiety and irritability
o Mood swings
o Difficulty sleeping
o Persistent tiredness and weakness
o Unintentional weight loss
o Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid (hypothroidism) are:
o Being sensitive to cold
o Weight gain
o Muscle cramps
o Loss of libido
o Irregular periods
Diet and lifestyle changes, such as reducing stress and getting enough sleep can help keep your thyroid in check.
Insulin is another very important hormone. After you eat, it helps your cells in your pancreas release insulin that turns into glucose from your bloodstream into your body's tissues to use as an energy source later.
Type 1 Diabetes sufferers can't make insulin. Type 2 sufferers can't make enough, or they make too much, this means the body doesn't react to it correctly.
A diet full of colourful fruits and veg, whilst adding more fibre, along with exercising more can improve your insulin sensitivity.
Glucagon. This hormone is the king of energy! It's produced by cells within your pancreas and it's role is to keep your blood sugar levels stable whilst working with other hormones. It helps break down stored glucose so the body can use this for energy. If your blood sugar levels drop too low then you may become disorientated, dizzy or pass out. Eating plenty of protein and anti-inflammatory can help to keep it in check.
Serotonin can wreak havoc on your moods! It can boost and stabilize it, but low levels can make you feel really down. Certain foods, normally the treats, such as dark chocolate converts a compound called L-tryptophan to serotonin - this is why when we eat these treats we feel a lot happier!
Eating foods rich in L-tryptophan such as chicken, eggs, salmon, beans, lentils and other dark green leafy veggies can help.
Leptin is actually our very own personal trainer inside our brain :)
It controls appetite by signalling your brain to stop eating and also helps your brain regulate how much energy your body burns throughout the day. A healthy lifestyle helps boost this hormone and will keep it cheering you on!
Melatonin - this hormone runs the show for our sleep and wake cycles. As we get older our melatonin levels decrease, which can lead to insomnia and people struggling to sleep.
Getting enough rest is so crucial to many of our body functions, 7-8 hours is the advised nightly zzz's you should be getting. Reducing stress and switching off before bedtime can really help with your melatonin levels and will signal to the brain that it's time to sleep.
I actually have a spray that really helps me sleep like a baby, here’s a link: https://tropicskincare.com/products/so-sleepy-pillow-mist
Feeling the lurrrrrrve? Well that's because you're getting a flood of Oxytocin in your system! These levels rise in our body when we make physical contact with another human. It is also the maternal hormone, due to the large release during childbirth.
Fight or flight? Well that's your Adrenaline hormone telling you to face the danger or escape to safety. High levels of adrenaline, which can happen due to chronic stress, can increase your anxiety, depression, heart disease and weight gain. Living with a bit more mindfulness can keep this pesky hormone under control.
To round off our hormone week, we have the little devil known as Cortisol. This is the hormone that is released when you're stressed. It reacts to stress by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, blood glucose, respiration and muscle tension. It also assesses what systems aren't necessarily in a state of stress and shuts them down, key systems such as reproduction and digestion. The body still thinks you're running from tigers, so if that's the case, you're not going to want to have a baby at the same time! Unfortunately for us women, our brain hasn't caught up with the 21st Century and we are very sensitive to stresses in our daily life, hence it's very easy for us to have raised cortisol levels.
Too much cortisol in your system can contribute to weight gain, high blood pressure, mood swings and muscle weakness to name a few symptoms.
It’s clear to see that looking at your lifestyle, diet, relaxation techniques and having fun can help manage your hormones to ensure you’re thriving. If you have hormone imbalances, it’s best to get a test, consult with your doctor and come up with a plan on how to get them back in balance and get your health issues back in check.