By Avni Kaul,
Nutritionist and Wellness Coach, Founder of Nutri Activania
Hormones affect your mental, physical and emotional health by controlling your appetite, weight and mood. Normally, if you are healthy, your endocrine glands produce hormones which are needed by the body for various functions. However, the current fast paced lifestyle has made hormonal imbalance occur very often in people. Production of some hormones decreases as one gets older but some people face this often more than usual. The good news is that it is possible to improve your hormonal health by changing your lifestyle towards healthier options and by eating nutritious foods.
- Manage Stress – Major hormones which are most affected by stress. Cortisol or the “stress hormone” helps your body in coping with long-term stress. Adrenaline or the “fight or flight hormone” provides your body with a surge of energy which helps you to respond to immediate dangerous situation. Our busy lifestyles keep these hormones triggered on a regular basis. The cortisol levels remain elevated due to constant stress which results in excessive calorie intake and obesity. The rise in adrenaline levels cause high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and anxiety but these symptoms are usually short-lived. Medication, yoga massage and listening to soothing music have been found to reduce stress. Massage, in particular, has been found to increase the level of mood-boosting hormone serotonin and dopamine.
- Sleep Well – Good restorative sleep regularly is important for your good health and to prevent hormonal imbalances. Inadequate or poor quality sleep decreases fullness hormones as a result of which hunger and stress hormones increase. Also the growth hormones gets reduced whereas the insulin resistance increases.
- Take adequate fibre in the Diet – Consumption of healthy nutritious food containing lots of fibre increases insulin sensitivity and hormones that control hunger and fullness are produced. For example whole wheat , ragi , jowar , oats , brown rice , quinoa , chanaatta etc.
- Try to Eliminate Sugar and Refined Carbohydrates – It is important to avoid sugar and refined carbs whenever you can to prevent obesity, diabetes and lots of other related diseases. Fructose, which is the main ingredient of sugar, natural or otherwise, increase insulin levels promoting insulin resistance specially in people who are prone to putting on weight or have diabetes. Foods which are high in refined carbs like white bread and maida / refined flour also lead to similar health problems following insulin resistance. Avoiding these foods and consuming a low or moderate carb diet with emphasis on whole foods lead to reduction in insulin levels in overweight and obese people who have pre-diabetes and other health problems like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) due to being insulin resistant. Insulin sensitivity also gets a boost with those foods.
- EXERCISE – Regular exercise enhances your immune system by reducing inflammation. It helps you maintain a healthy weight by using glucose which in turn lowers insulin levels. It lowers stress thereby protecting you from depression. It also regulates your appetite and helps you sleep better and soundly. Exercise improves your metabolism and cardio-vascular health too.
- Restrict the intake of Caffeine and Alcohol – Caffeine can affect your central nervous system by raising your heart rate, making you more alert and meddling with your hormone production. It can also sense nervousness, anxiety and insomnia, if taken in excess. So limit your caffeine intake and switch to green tea or tulsi tea if you need to be more alert.
- Regular consumption of alcohol fuels oestrogen dominance which interferes with the functioning of pancreas, increases risk of liver disease, lowers testosterone and also brings about anxiety and malnutrition. Smoking too disbalances normal immunological and reproductive processes. So, it is best to have a drink or smoke as little as possible. DRINK Green tea has metabolism boosting caffeine and an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) both of which are good for overall health. Consumption of green tea increase insulin sensitivity and lowers insulin levels even in obese and diabetic people and is good for healthy people too.
- Vitamin D Supplementation is a Must – Vitamin D3 acts like a hormone for it affects the adaptive and the innate immune system by ensuring insulin secretion by the pancreas, regulating multi-factorial functioning of the heart and keeping blood pressure in check. It also assists in brain and foetal development. Vitamin D is easily available for your bare skin makes it when exposed to sunlight. However, if you live in dark areas specially during winter, you need to take supplements to have healthy hormonal balance.
- Consume Healthy Fats like Omega 3 – Salmon, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and grass-fed animal products are good natural sources of Omega-3 fats and they should be balanced with Omega-6 fats found in hemp seeds, primrose and borage oil.
- Control Portion Sizes – Hormonal imbalances can be triggered if you eat too many or too few calories. Increase in insulin levels and reduction in insulin sensitivity is found in people who overeat specially if they are overweight or obese. However, eating too little increases levels of the stress hormone, cortisol which leads to weight gain. Though the requirement of calories vary from one individual to another, at least 1200 calories per day are recommended to maintain hormonal balance and healthy weight.
- Avoid Taking Birth Control Pills – Birth control pills interfere with the hormonal balance by raising oestrogen levels dangerously leading to many health problems. You may suffer from breakthrough bleeding between cycles due to the pills. Also, they increase the risk of breast cancer, uterine bleeding , blood clotting, heart attack and stroke. Those on regular pill may experience migraines, increase in blood pressure, weight gain, back pain, mood swings, nausea, tumours in the liver and tenderness in breasts.
Hormonal imbalances are treatable by opting for a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes, synthetic hormonal treatments like insulin or thyroid medications are necessary but they should be taken only under a doctor’s supervision.
Hormonal imbalance may result in diabetes, thyroid disorders, irregular menstruation, infertility, low testosterone and oestrogen dominance, the symptoms of which may be anxiety, exhaustion, irritability, unexplained weight gain or loss, insomnia, change in your sex drive, focus and appetite. These may be caused due to poor gut health, inflammation, stress, genetic susceptibility and toxicity. Regular intake of anti-inflammatory diet and sufficient Omega-3 fats, enough sleep and regular exercise help you deal with complications that may arise. In case, these precautions are not sufficient , then you may be prescribed synthetic hormone replacement therapies like insulin injections, thyroid medications etc. They have lots of adverse side-effects for they are addictive. Patients become dependent on those medications forever. Also, they are not actual treatments for they only mask the symptoms. The imbalances may be propagating abnormalities in other organs. Those medications also sometimes lead to the patient having a stroke, osteoporosis, reproductive problems, anxiety and cancer. So, instead of being dependent on any synthetic medicine, it is also advisable to make a lifestyle change towards a healthy regimen.
ABOUT AVNI KAUL:
Avni, Founder of Nutri Activania (www.nutriactivania.com) believes in a holistic approach to optimal living and considers other wellness factors such as sleep, exercise, environmental exposures, and stress levels to create an individualized nutrition plan. She does not believe in gimmicks or starvation plans. Which is why she insists on being called a ‘wellness coach’ and not just a ‘dietitian’). To consult with Avni, or follow her, you can click on any one of these links: