How often do you think about your hormones, if at all? We get up to speed on how this wise network of chemicals can supercharge our lives.
How often do you think about your hormones, if at all? For many women, describing herself as “hormonal” is about as close as she comes to understanding them. When we connect our brains and bodies, we start to really supercharge our wellbeing. Knowledge is power when it comes to every woman’s individual health; listening to your bodies and hormones will help you to harness your energy better, stay motivated and feel great. How do we know what our bodies want? By listening and paying attention. What do we do in response? By making simple nutrition and exercise adjustments. Our friends at Frame, like us believe that that the best kind of exercise is the one you enjoy the most. As is the case with our symptoms, moods are messengers and the Frame Mood Filter helps you better plan your exercise regime according to what your body is telling you that you need.
Listen to your body
Loving your period might sound like a stretch to you, but when we begin to track this and our cycles we can understand how our bodies change to better support our moods and energy. Ever wondered why you can go from jumping into a 7am hiit class one week to ditching your favourite dance class twice the next week, too drained to face it? Frustrated at why you still feel tired no matter how 'healthy' your lifestyle is or 'anxious' no matter how much yoga you are fitting in?
Our internal voices are often dressed up as symptoms or signals from our hormones. If something is out of balance hormonally, we could experience lots of symptoms ranging from heavy or missed periods to cravings, fatigue and depression. Symptoms are dependent on what part of the endocrine system the hormone is working from. Hormone problems often originate in the adrenal glands as this is where most of our stress triggers such as work, poor diet, lack of sleep and over-exercising, hit first. Cortisol (produced in the adrenals), gets us going in the mornings but if we’re pushing too hard in life, too much cortisol is released into the body, puting our adrenals under stress and this in turn impacts the function of the thyroid. Our thyroid hormones communicate with our ovaries so if these are imbalanced, the reduced production of sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, can lead to estrogen dominance and therefore the period symptoms we so often experience, but brush over as being ‘part of the deal’. This doesn’t have to be the case if we learn how to keep our hormones in harmony, so let’s do that.
Finding hormone harmony
Starting at the source with the adrenals, in order to keep our cortisol production supported we need to manage stress better by planning according to our bodies needs and energy levels. Get to know yourself and your patterns - if you’re tired, learn to respect that signal by resting or doing a restorative yoga class instead of pushing yourself to go for a run. Get enough good sleep, try to be consistent with your bedtime, especially during the week if you know you have to be up at a certain time.
When we’re stressed, we tend to be less conscious of what we’re eating and try to replenish energy by drinking more coffee or eating more sugar, but this makes stress worse and can cause serious long-term health problems. Pay attention to your stress triggers, give yourself the support you need when you know you’re under more strain than usual - an essential oil bath, a walk in the park, or a long chat with a friend - all of these can do wonders for our nervous system. When we manage our stress load, the adrenals are used to support our vitality and protect us during short-term stress, not to carry the weight of consistent stress. And when the adrenals are in balance, their healthy functioning feeds through to the thyroid and the ovaries. This cycle is known as the Ovarian-Adrenal-Thyroid axis, the hormone triangle.
Food is a great source of support for keeping our hormones happy; protein provides the amino acids we need to build hormone cells. Fatty acids in foods such as oily fish, nuts and flax contain omega 3’s which optimise cell membranes that build hormone cells and support communication between other hormones. And fermented foods such as kefir waters and milk provide beneficial microorganisms that support our microbiome and the hormone detoxification processes of the liver. Supplements to support:
You may have noticed a few things:
- Iron for thyroid support, useful amounts found in meat, fish and dried figs. (Always check iron levels with your GP before taking any iron supplements)
- Iodine for thyroid hormones, found in sea vegetables such as kelp, seaweed, milk and fish.
- B vitamins for adrenal function, found in whole grains and dark green vegetables such as spinach.
- Tyrosine, an amino acid that supports the thyroid, found in foods like avocados, bananas and cashews.
- Vitamin A for hormone cell receptor health, found in fruit and vegetables, such as peaches and carrots.
Small changes and awareness can make a big difference. Start with understanding the basics of your endocrine system be curious about what the role of each hormone is and perhaps you will identify some patterns or symptoms you’ve been brushing off or avoiding. You are worth the effort - from awareness to action, you have the knowledge and power to make the necessary changes your body is asking for.
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Words by Amy Mabin