Hormones are wonderful things…. Most of the time. They pretty much keep us ‘regular’. They regulate our menstrual cycle, control our thyroid function & regulate sleep. They dictate our sex drive, mood, what we look like, our digestion & our emotions. It would then make perfect sense that when we feel out of ‘sync’, hormones are the first thing we blame.
Can we really put our bad moods and breakouts down to the happiness of our hormones?
Unfortunately YES we can. I had a ‘hormone’ week this week. I was tired; apparently a little more irritable than usual which in hindsight is probably spot on; & I had what I call a’ best friend day’ where all I wanted was to do was call my girlfriend and cry.
When we are feeling at our best our hormone levels are pretty well balanced BUT beware the roller coaster of emotions when things are not quite right.
Everyone thinks it’s a girl thing…. when was the last time you heard a group of boys whinging about how they are feeling emotional because their hormones levels are out of whack?
How are hormones regulated? The production of hormones in the body is almost always regulated by a delicate set of feedback relationships. Most of them are negative feedback loops where the amount of a substance in a system regulates its own concentration. When concentration of a hormone rises to above desired levels, a series of steps is taken to lower the concentration. On the flip side if the concentration falls, steps will be taken to increase it.
1. OESTROGEN & PROGESTERONE
Ah the seesaw of female reproductive hormones, and what an intricate relationship it must be. Oestrogen builds up the lining of the uterus during the initial 14 days of your cycle, progesterone then kicks in from days 14-28, & when progesterone begins to drop we get a period. When the balance is disrupted we say hello to reduced libido, severe PMS (the rise of the Grinch), issues with weight control, fatigue & a variety of reproductive issues.
What can be done? Maintain a balanced diet & control your weight. Excess body fat will store oestrogen while if you are too thin you won’t produce enough; both scenarios signal the body to hold onto extra kilos particularly around the waist, thighs & arms.
We need testosterone it to pump up our sexual desires, muscle & metabolism. Females only produce 10% of the testosterone of males BUT this small amount is critical! Too little and you will be a little on the disinterested side…. Too much and you may become prone to facial hair & acne.
What can be done? Ensure you get enough shut eye and have a little fun in the sun. Both of these have been linked to helping regulate testosterone levels.
The ‘stress hormone’. It raises your heartbeat & unleashes energy stores. All good things when experienced at the right time like for the morning rush to help us wake up and give us energy throughout the day. Problems arise when this system stays ramped up ALL THE TIME, you become constantly wired & you can begin to suffer sleep disturbances & feel generally worn down. Ladies high levels of cortisol also stimulates storage of unwanted kilos on your love handles… which is not where we want it right?
What can be done? CHILLLLLLLL out a little more. Take things in your stride and go with the flow. Learn to recognise when you are more stressed that usual & take positive steps to change it such as mediation, deep breathing exercises or regular physical activity. Stimulants such as caffeine may not be the drink of choice if you are a bit of a stress head.
Healthy skin, hair & nails? Apparently all we need to do is keep our thyroids happy. Chronic stress, nutritional deficiencies and inflammation can leave this hormone out of whack. Too much and you may notice weight loss, absent periods & mood swings. Too little and you may notice your hair becomes brittle & you begin to feel sluggish, tired & gain weight.
What can be done? If you smoke… quit. Be wary of some nasty chemicals that lurk in things like re-usable plastic coffee cups & high levels of heavy metals found in some farmed fish as these can both disrupt thyroid function. Ensure a balanced diet with lots & lots of vegetables. They are packed full of vitamins & minerals that your thyroid craves. You may consider taking a multivitamin supplement to increase your vitamin C, E & B complex vitamins.
5. OXYTOCIN- The LOVE hormone
Ever wonder why ‘hugging it out’ actually makes you feel instantly better. Human ‘touch’ whether it be by a friend or a lover triggers the release of oxytocin. High levels of this amazing hormone will lower blood pressure, increase your sex drive & lower stress…. (Ummmm where can I get more of this…?!?!)
What can be done? MORE HUGS. Cuddle your partner every day! Hug it out with friends whenever you can. The best solution? Have regular sex… Oxytocin levels skyrocket after orgasm… well hey if it’s good for your health why not!
The scary part about all this is that I have only touched on the mere basics of just how much control hormones have over who we are & how we feel.
Hormones really are wonderful things when they work well…. But as we can see it’s a very delicate balance and with so many chemical reactions going on simultaneously it’s no wonder they occasionally slip up and we are left feeling down in the dumps, lethargic and reaching for an extra cream bun!
If you think your hormones all over the place, visit your medical practitioner whether it be your GP or naturopath. Have some tests done. Some people have no idea how good their bodies are designed to feel, but we all deserve to find out!
Want to know hormones control your hunger & your happiness? Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog next week!