11 things you need to know about your hormones
Are you a slave to your hormones? Learn 11 things you need to know to free yourself from a physical and emotional hormonal roller coaster.
Did you know that there are over 100 identified hormones in your body? Or that hormones are responsible for so much more than your monthly cycle?
As qualified nutritional therapist, speaker and founder of Happy Hormones for Life Nicki Williams explains, every single one of our hormones has a job to do in keeping us looking and feeling our best all the time. So it’s important to understand how they work, and how to take proper care of them.
11 things women need to know about their hormones
Hormones are essential for good mental and physical health. They’re essentially little chemical messengers that go to all your cells with a specific message for each one – which means that they control how your look, feel, think and perform.
Hormones are also sensitive little things. And because they all work in synergy with each other in a delicate balance, if one or two of them are out of whack they can really mess up your metabolism, weight, energy, mood, brain function, monthly cycle and much more.
So it’s essential that we understand as much as we can about them. And to help you, here are 11 of the most important things you need to know about your hormones.
1) Deprivation diets don’t work
Deprivation diets won’t work if your hormones are out of balance. That’s because this type of diet puts your body into stress mode (it literally thinks you are starving).
Once in stress mode, cortisol kicks in and tells your fat cells to hang on for dear life, they don’t know when more food will be available! Your metabolism will also shut down, so when you start eating normally again, guess what? Yep, even more weight goes on and here we go again…
TIP: Ditch diets for good and start nourishing your hormones instead so that they increase your metabolism and get you burning fat, not storing it. Read why fad diets don’t work (and what does).
2) Your stress hormones have priority over everything
When your body is in survival mode too often, high levels of cortisol will not only store fat (usually around your belly), but will suppress your immune system, cause digestive issues and crash your energy levels and sex drive.
TIP: Recognise your stressors (it might not be just the obvious ones) and prioritise daily stress management (deep breathing, yoga, mindfulness, music etc). Read six things to avoid for a stress-free life.
3) Peri-menopause can start at 35 and last well into your 50’s
Some women sail through these years but the majority will suffer with symptoms including fatigue, weight gain, mood swings, PMS, brain fog, poor sleep, low libido and hot flushes.
TIP: You are much more likely to sail through these years if you have a hormone friendly diet and lifestyle. Start now! Read how to thrive through your menopause.
4) Sleep is critical for your hormones
Getting less than six hours of sleep a night can seriously impact your energy, mood and waistline, as well as increase your risk of more serious health conditions as you get older.
TIP: Make sure you are prioritising a good night’s sleep – get to bed by 10.30, switch off your gadgets, keep the room pitch black and avoid caffeine/alcohol. Read eight ways to get a better night’s sleep.
5) PMS is not normal
PMS may be very common, but it’s an indication that your hormones are out of whack, usually your oestrogen/progesterone balance.
TIP: Increase the amount of fibre and cruciferous vegetables in your diet. 1-2 tbsp of flaxseeds per day can help to regulate oestrogen levels. B vitamins, magnesium and Omega 3 supplements can also help.
6) Hormones need fat
Many of your hormones are made from fat, so stay away from the skinny lattes! Eating healthy fats also helps you feel full and balance blood sugar, reducing insulin (your fat-storing hormone).
TIP: Choose avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, organic full fat dairy, grassfed meat and oily fish.
7) Gut health is critical
If you are not digesting or absorbing the nutrients needed for hormones, they can’t work properly. This can happen if you have any inflammation from foods you may be sensitive to, or a potential imbalance in your gut flora (bacteria, yeast, parasite), especially if you have had a prior stomach upset or lots of antibiotics in the past.
TIP: Cut out any foods that you might be sensitive to (gluten, dairy, soy and corn are the big ones) and see if your symptoms improve. Get tested if you suspect any underlying infection. Eat more fermented foods (live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha) to restore your good bacteria.
8) You need to look after your liver
Many of your hormones are metabolised in your liver, and if your liver is clogged up, toxins and waste can hang around longer than necessary.
This includes oestrogen, which needs to be detoxed and eliminated. If your liver is busy with that bottle of wine you had last night, it won’t be able to deal with your oestrogen, recirculating it back into your system, potentially causing PMS, bloating, headaches, mood swings and breast tenderness.
TIP: Reduce your exposure to toxins around you. Switch to more natural organic household and personal care products, avoid plastic, reduce alcohol and choose organic foods.
9) Vitamin D is your secret hormone
If you live in the UK or Northern hemisphere, you are likely to be Vitamin D deficient, as you are not going to be getting enough year round sunshine.
Vitamin D is actually a hormone, and it supports all your other hormones, as well as being a huge friend to your immune system (and an important breast cancer protector).
TIP: Get your Vitamin D levels tested and take supplements throughout the winter months.
10) Your thyroid hormones run your metabolism
If your thyroid hormones are too high, you’ll get anxious, sweaty, palpitations and weight loss. Too low and you could have fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, low mood, cold hands/feet, PMS, hair loss and a lot more!
TIP: Get your thyroid properly tested if you suspect you may be affected (ask for TSH, T4, T3 and TPO antibodies). Eat coconut oil to help boost your metabolism.
11) Don’t over-exercise!
Many women think they have to do more to lose weight. But too much and the wrong kind of exercise can increase cortisol, stressing out your body and actually making you hang on to fat!
TIP: Exercise smarter. Listen to your body. Take regular breaks from sitting. Walk more. Short burst (or HIIT) training can increase fat burning hormones like testosterone and growth hormone. Do yoga. Vary your routine.
Look after your hormones and notice the difference
There is a lot more to know about hormones (I’ve been studying them for over seven years!) but if you get to grips with these 11 first, you’ll start to notice a difference.
Love to learn more about your hormones? You can now buy Nicki’s book It’s not you it’s your hormones – the essential guide for women over 40 to fight fat, fatigue and hormone havoc.