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Most of us take our hormones for granted. We give them little thought until we become menopausal. Or perhaps, you are one of those unlucky ladies whose hormones play havoc with them each month? Our hormones are critically important to the overall function of our bodies and an imbalance in our hormones will create a chain reaction of unwellness. You may feel tired all the time, irritable, you may struggle with getting to sleep whilst some of you, struggle to stay awake! Hormone imbalances affect our metabolism and can create a whole range of more serious problems including endometriosis, PCOS, and infertility.
Hormones are made by our endocrine glands. These glands include the thyroid, pineal, pituitary, thymus, adrenal glands, pancreas, testes and ovaries. I did a workshop recently explaining the importance of being proactive in avoiding hormone-disruptive toxins such as deodorants and plastics. These products “mimic” oestrogen and cause hormone imbalances in our bodies. I won’t even begin to tell you the link between them and other critical health issues such as cancer (particularly breast) and Alzheimer’s’ Disease. That’s a whole other blog by itself!
Hormone balance is central to a fully-functioning healthy body. Many of us mistakenly think that hormones are only important for our reproductive system. Believe me, they do so much more! They also regulate our cardiovascular system, nervous, muscular, immune urinary, skeletal, respiratory and digestive systems. Our endocrine glands control both how we feel as well as the physical reactions that take place in our bodies. Our hormones control the physical reactions and transport everything through the body’s membranes so when a hormone imbalance takes place, this has a chain-reaction effect elsewhere. Our hormones regulate important bodily functions such as water balance, electrolyte balance and blood pressure. Whilst our endocrine glands makes the hormones, it is the hormones which pass into the bloodstream and other bodily fluids and does all the work! They interact with every other organ in our body and ensure that everything is running smoothly.
But what happens when our hormones are out of balance? Simply put, the interaction between the hormones and various organs gets hay-wired and the wrong signal is transported and we start to get sick! It is important to understand the role that good nutrition plays in maintaining a healthy hormone balance. Our endocrine system makes hormones by using HEALTHY fats and cholesterol. Right there you should realise that if you are one of the many people who have fallen into the trap of eating a low-fat diet, that you are going to create a hormone imbalance. Again, that is another blog all by itself, on why we shouldn’t follow a low-fat diet.
So let’s talk about some of the hormone disruptors that play havoc with good hormone function?
- Caffeine – sorry everyone, but it really does cause a crazy dance for your hormones and the poor little guys and gals get so confused and end up exhausted trying to work out where they are meant to go. Caffeine plays havoc with the endocrine system and this is aggravated if your diet is high in bad fats or you are stressed. Switch to herbal and green teas.
- Cut out man-made synthetic fats! Don’t believe the hype that oils such as canola oil are a healthy alternative because they really wreck havoc with your hormones. You need to completely cut out synthetic Omega 6 fats found in vegetable oils and margarines. The body needs the RIGHT FAT to rebuild our hormones and cells but believe me, man-made Omega 6 fats are not the right fats. Vegetable oils and margarines contain high levels of polyunsaturated fats but our body is made up of 97% saturated and monounsaturated fats! The other 3% comes from polyunsaturated fats but it needs to be a careful balance between Omega-3 fats and GOOD Omega-6 fats. When we eat too many polyunsaturated fats (which is very common in the Western diet), it creates confusion in our endocrine system and hormone imbalance is created. I won’t even begin to discuss the other problems that polyunsaturated fats creates in our body which ranges from chronic inflammation to skin cancer – that’s right, skin cancer! When our endocrine system gets confused signals, it mutates the fats into our skin cells and causes skin cancer
- Lack of sleep – it really is important to get quality sleep. Our body needs it for repair. Good quality sleep will help with creating the right hormone balance.
- Get the right balance of exercise. So many of us, think that we need to go hard in exercise but if you have a hormone imbalance, this will actually make it worse. Develop a love for regular exercise. Sure get the heart rate up, but it is better to do regular light exercise than to do one or two sessions of intense exercise each week. If you don’t have a hormone imbalance, then increase your exercise intensity.
- Incorporate coconut oil into your diet daily. If you have attended any of my workshops, you would know that My Kitchen Heals thinks highly of this wonder oil. One of the many benefits found in coconut oil, is its ability to reduce inflammation in the body. This will help to repair any imbalances and get your hormones back on track. If you have severe hormone imbalances, I would suggest that you aim for 1/3 to ½ cup of coconut oil daily. Incorporate into your smoothies, add it as a dressing, add it to your teas, cook with it, etc. If your hormones are not an issue, I would still use coconut oil but you will not need to have such a high amount.
- Lastly, you need to work on adjusting your leptin levels as this is fundamental to good hormone function. Our leptins are one of the most important hormones and it is the one that is constantly out of whack with our modern busy lifestyles plus our heavy reliance on processed foods. It is impossible to tell you here how to do that, and it is one of the things I specialise in. Each person is different and how we go about adjusting your leptin levels is determined by so many factors, including diet, gut health, lifestyle, stress and exercise levels.
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