Bad moods & breakouts. Are your hormones responsible?

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.

hormones

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.

2. TESTOSTERONE

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.

3. CORTISOL

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.

4.THYROID HORMONE

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!

 

Are you getting enough sleep?

The short answer here is probably no… I would estimate 80% of people reading this right now are under slept! As a working adult the recommended sleep requirement is around 8 hours. Can you actually remember the last time you got a solid 8 hours sleep? Because I certainly can’t! I average 6.5 – 7 hours of sleep a night and trust me I am feeling it by Friday afternoon!

The benefits of getting enough sleep stretch far beyond banishing the dark circles under your eyes… it is ESSENTIAL to your health; both mentally and physically. Pretty much 99.9% of us are grumpy individuals when we don’t have enough sleep, not to mention our attention span diminishes to that of a two year old; you become irritable, irrational and unproductive.

Why is sleep so important?

1. HELPS TO REDUCE STRESS: When you’re functioning on a lack of sleep your body can enter a chronic state of stress. Several of my previous blogs highlight how detrimental too much stress can be to our health and wellbeing. Too much stress releases cortisol (stress hormone) constantly which can contribute to chronic disease such as high blood pressure and coronary artery disease; curb weight loss results and leave you feeling generally run down and emotional. A good nights sleep allows your brain to switch off and lets your body recover and rejuvenate.
2.MAKES US MORE ACTIVE. There is nothing quite like waking from a good night’s sleep ready to seize the day ahead. A deep slumber will improve your energy levels and increase your mental awareness; you will be more productive at work and be better prepared to tackle tricky mental challenges that a tired un-rested mind would otherwise struggle with!
3. IMPROVES OUR MOOD: Two things tend to make me grumpy… being hungry and being tired! Lack of sleep can leave even the happiest of people feeling over emotional, irritable and unusually cranky. More and more research sleepis coming out about how lack of sleep can be linked to mood disorders including depression and anxiety.
4. IMPROVES MEMORY: Scientists are still not really sure why exactly we dream. Some people get their dreams analyzed but we all know deep down there is often no explanation for why we dream about certain things. What we do know is that sleep boosts what is referred to as memory consolidation. As we go about our days doing 100 and 1 things at once our brains are absorbing EVERYTHING that we do, see, think etc. When we sleep the brain continues to work away processing these emotions, thoughts and experiences. Ever heard the expression ‘sleep on it’ when you are facing a big decision in your life… this is where this comes from. Sleeping shapes our memories and thoughts allowing us to make better sense of it all in the morning.
5. AFFECTS OUR HEALTH: Lack of sleep has been linked to cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and also associated with build up of chronic inflammation in the body which can play a role in chronic disease. Keep your ticker in check by getting AT LEAST 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
6. AFFECTS OUR WEIGHT: Have you ever had a restless or sleepless night and the following day nothing you ate satisfied you.. (some late Saturday nights spring to mind here!) Getting adequate shut eye helps to regulate several hormones within the body including Ghrelin and Leptin which are our hungry hormones..  Lack of sleep drives our leptin levels down meaning you won’t feel as satisfied after you eat. It also causes ghrelin levels to rise stimulating your appetite and making you more hungry. Sleep more, weigh less… I could deal with that!
These are just a few of the reasons why we spend almost a quarter of our lives asleep! Hit the hay a little earlier for a healthier, happier life!

Why stress can be a real pain in the neck.

Sydney can, at times, be a very overwhelming place to live. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE this city and quite frankly I probably would choose it over any other place in the world especially to live my current lifestyle… I will eventually retire to Byron Bay, wear flowers in my hair every day and practise yoga on the beach BUT that’s a whole separate story!

I like the hustle and bustle, the chaos, the crowds; but there are a lot of people I know who just don’t cope with the fast paced society many of us thrive on. interestingly it’s these same people who seem to suffer ALOT with stress related problems.

You may be wondering why own earth a sports physiotherapist is writing about stress but you would be surprised at how many people we treat for injuries driven by stress. Stress at work – long hours, deadlines. Stress with kids and juggling this drop off and that pick up and that child’s sport practise. Stress with family pressures. Stress from overtraining – doing too much, not letting your body recover.

headacheStress has many forms and no matter which way you suffer from it it has a HUGE impact on your life. It can make you anxious and agitated, prevent or stall weight loss attempts, mess with your hormones, play havoc with your immune system and all in all make you a bit of a grumpy bitch.

The most common presentation that we get that’s driven by stress is neck / upper back pain quite often associated with headaches. So called ‘tension’ headaches are a combination of physical and emotional stress resulting in tight overactive muscles through the neck and shoulder region. This dull ache precipitates behind the eyes and feels like a tight band around the forehead can turn what you were hoping to be a productive days work into a nightmare where you literally can’t sit still and have concentration levels of a 5 year old.

In a nutshell stress triggers a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus then sends a message to the pituitary gland which sets your adrenal glands to work producing stress hormones, namely cortisol. Small amounts of cortisol is required to maintain homeostasis in the body however chronically high levels can disrupt this sensitive balance.

On the surface we see this manifest as you begin to stress about something and typically a lot of us hold your stress up in your shoulders. Suddenly your upper trapezius muscles (that muscle bulk between your neck and the point of your shoulder) are now working overtime to support the weight of your head as it creeps closer and closer to the computer screen. They become tight and full of little trigger points which can be tender to the touch. The upper trapezius has several attachment points along either side of the neck and up high at the base of the skull, as it tightens over time due to sustained stress it pulls on these attachments causing the facet joints to become stiff. Lack of adequate mobility combined with chronic muscle spasm creates discomfort in the neck and can refer pain around to the front of the head resulting in a headache.

 

What can be done?

Typically these headaches come on gradually over the course of the day. Patients often describe a ache in behind the eyes with tightness through their neck and upper back.

I have often had patients who have gotten a massage which offered short term relief only to have the headache return the next day. In most caseshead 1 treatment to the cervical joints themselves is required to restore full mobility in combination with myofascial releases of tight over active muscles. Long term management requires postural retraining and specific deep neck flexor strengthening.

That deals with the ‘physical’ side of the problem but in order to beat tension related headaches for good you have to fix the emotional side…. In order words CHILL out a little.

Sure there will always be little factors that its inhumane not to worry and stress a little over and good stress is healthy but too much of it isn’t doing your health and wellbeing any favours!

 

Happy Hump Day

** Not all headaches are stress related. Headaches come in many forms including migraines, vascular headaches, headaches as a result of trauma. If you are a regular sufferer I would recommend getting a professional opinion!