Lets talk about hormones. For some the word alone fills us with dread as symptoms from conditions like PCOS, PMS, fibriods and endometriosis govern our lives. Many of us ladies are aware that our hormones can make us ride a topsy-turvy, all-too terrifying roller-coaster and yet we don’t know that much about the hormones which are at work in our bodies, what they do and what happens when they go wrong. I certainly didn’t!
Our hormones are clever little chemical messengers and control all sorts in the body and affect many aspects of your overall health. Hormones are secreted by various glands of the endocrine system which includes pituitary, thyroid, pancreas, adrenals, testicles and ovaries.
We mainly hear about our sex hormones; oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. And when it comes to us being innately, beautifully female (and those dreaded PMS symptoms!) our sex hormones are some of our body’s biggest hitters. These hormones work extra hard at certain times of the month and also at certain stages of our life, controlling puberty, pregnancy, regulating cycles and menopause. There’s pretty much a hormone for everything – sleep (melatonin), metabolism (thyroid), appetite (leptin and ghrelin), stress (cortisol), to list just a few!
For true health we need to find hormonal harmony and enjoy balance between our hormones.
For me, hormones play one of the biggest roles in keeping us healthy, happy and in tip-top shape. When our hormones are in harmony, it’s like a beautiful waltz – when they are haywire, it’s like a clumsy cha cha cha or even an upside-down tango!
Unfortunately imbalances in hormones also cause some of the problems we find ourselves dealing with at some stage or another – mood swings, exhaustion, spots, dry skin, thinning hair, depression, weight gain, water retention, sub-fertility and low libido. For true health we need to find hormonal harmony and enjoy balance between our hormones.
Here are three of the key hormones for us to get to know in the female body – although it’s important to note that men have these same hormones, too!
Oestrogen is one of our sex hormones and fluctuates at different stages in the cycle, as well as at different stages in our lives, dropping during menopausal years. It regulates the reproductive system and fertility levels and also gives us those gorgeous female traits, our wondrous curves!
I call this one the zen master. Another important sex hormone, progesterone plays a role in the production of other sex hormones, helps us to regulates our monthly cycles and also works overtime in pregnancy too to keep us pregnant. It can even improve sleep!
Widely known as the ‘male’ hormone, it’s important to remember that us ladies have testosterone too! It can stimulate muscle growth and libido, but too much can lead to irregular periods, weight gain, acne and even excess body or facial hair.
What can we do to balance hormones?
There is plenty we can do to keep our female hormones in balance and my six pillars to hormonal health have helped many ladies. I talk about them in more detail in my book, The Balance Plan, but we must remember to:
Our hormones need a steady stream of nutrients to function. Ditch inflammatory diets full of processed sugars and ingredients and embrace whole grains, eat a rainbow of fruit and veg, lean proteins and good fats (the building blocks of hormones) such as oily fish, avocado and olive oil.
Keep blood sugars balanced by ditching sugars, enjoying quality sleep and eating breakfasting like a king!
Take care of our bodies to reduce our stress response. I find meditation and yoga can work wonders!
Rid our bodies of toxins by drinking lots of filtered water and enjoying plenty of leafy greens, AKA my Detox Warriors
Exercise daily! Even if it’s just taking the stairs or going for a power walk with a friend at lunch time.
Relax, unwind and enjoy some ‘me’ time – every single day. This is a necessity, not a luxury.
Fats and hormones
I think one of the biggest hormonal disasters was the whole fat-free craze! For me, one of the most important things we can do for our hormones is to enjoy plenty of healthy, ‘good’ fats. You see, eating a balanced diet rich in a variety of fatty acids is vital to keeping your hormones balanced. Your body needs several types of fats to create hormones including saturated fat and cholesterol!
There have been all sorts of studies to show that good fats can support hormonal health. These can be found in foods such as avocado, flax seed, oily fish (think mackerel and salmon) or coconut oil, which all help our bodies to create healthy hormones. These essential fats also ease inflammation, essential for hormonal balance.
Omega 3 fats have always interested me. They are part of the membranes of all cells in the body and can help to maintain normal brain function. They can help to support the healthy development of a growing baby inside it's mother and you can read more about that in this great Omega 3 guide to pregnancy.
Omega 3 fatty acids can support women during the menopausal years. Hormonal changes in menopause – there’s usually a big drop in progesterone and oestrogen in particular – can lead to or exacerbate osteoporosis, heart disease, vaginal dryness, joint pain, or thinning hair. When our bodies are inflamed, these symptoms can become even worse.
The takeaway part? Omega 3 can work wonders for us women! From our brains to our reproductive organs, they help to support all sorts of bodily functions and keep us healthy. Don’t fear good fats!
There you have it. Easy tips to start implementing today. I go into each of these in more detail in my book, The Balance Plan. For more individual support or if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the conflicting information out there please get in touch or pop in to see me in my clinic. I’d love to hear from you and welcome you to my tribe!
If you'd like to read more, check out our Omega 3 fish oil guide to hormones.