Last week I did a talk for a gym in Omagh about hormones and I thought I would share some of the key points from it.
When someone comes to me about their hormones they are often only talking about their reproductive hormones being out of balance. Our hormones work like an orchestra, all in balance, if one is out of balance then they all generally are out of balance and I’m not just talking about oestrogen and progesterone but all of them, and there are a lot more than just a couple…in fact 50! Here is a full list of them in case you have some time on your hands.
So quite a few, and they are like chemical messengers telling the organ system what to do. They regulate everything from bone growth to libido and it’s now more difficult than ever to keep them in balance. This is because more than we’ve ever been before we are surrounded by xenoestrogens, which are in our plastics, foods, pesticides, air, etc. Our bodies have to work to detoxify this onslaught which it wasn’t designed to do in the way our modern society presents them. Throughout history, our toxins would have primarily come from plants, but that isn’t the case now and we are being presented with increasing amounts that the body is having to try and deal with as best it can.
These are creating a problem with oestrogen dominance leaving a lot of women with PMS symptoms and worse. Another aspect of modern life that is leaving us oestrogen dominant is stress, we often dismiss the stress we are experiencing, yes I’ve got a level of stress but I’m dealing with it. Stress is a massive impactor on the hormones, and if you imagine the hormones are like an orchestra that plays together if one instrument is out of time or played in the wrong key, then we all recognise it. The hormone cascade is no different, and stress can leave the hormones up or down-regulated and imbalanced with each other. How we respond to the stress in our environment is down to our perception of what is happening to us, this is why some people can cope with high levels and others it seems like the smallest of things can tip the balance. It’s what makes us unique but it’s also what gives us our unique responses to what is happening and no one person is alike.
Let’s just consider the impact that oestrogen has on the body to gain a greater understanding of its wide-reaching ability. Firstly did you know it has 400 functions in a woman’s body, and one them is to trigger an enzyme that helps prevent Alzheimers Disease, so it should now come as no surprise that if this is out of balance that memory and concentration start to become increasingly an issue. It also helps to improve insulin sensitivity, clearly incredibly important and should now give you an understanding as to why all those sweet buns and cakes that we eat can become a problem in weight gain when we become oestrogen dominant. I know some of you struggle with hot flushes and regulation of your body temperature, yes that’s also linked with your oestrogen levels. It also helps with REM sleep and will impact on sleep if it’s out of balance because it helps to manage cortisol in the body and this change obviously will leave you potentially with a disrupted sleep pattern. For those of you buying products to help stop the aging of the skin, you might want to know that oestrogen helps to maintain the amount of collagen and the elasticity of the skin. And finally although by no means is this the end of the massive list of things it can do, it also helps to maintain bone density something we really only start to consider after menopause when the scan shows bone density is reducing. But these changes didn’t only happen because of menopause, they happened years before, so diet throughout life is important not just when we get a test telling us to change something.
Hormones are complex with their interactions, modulating one has an impact on so many of the others, nothing works in isolation. It’s important to understand the root cause of why your hormones may be out of balance, stress, diet, nutritional deficiencies, oral hormones, sleep disruption, and external environmental factors all can be the issue. Refined carbohydrates can imbalance not only nutrients that matter to the hormones such as zinc and magnesium but also from too much sugar being in the diet. We are often snacking on foods that contain sugar, and this is a drip-feed across the day that slowly moves us out of balance. Coffee is another factor which is shown to increase PMS symptoms, we often turn to coffee and sugar when stress is higher, and we are looking for more energy to keep us going. Stress creates a change in the release of glucose, progesterone is lowered by cortisol levels, and this then goes on to move our oestrogen into being more dominant. To counter the level of blood glucose levels we produce increased insulin, this then leaves us higher in testosterone and of course, we then see an increase in acne and aggressive behavioural changes. The epidemic we have in obesity really isn’t helpful either because body fat makes hormones, and if you are not able to get organic foods glyphosate, unfortunately, is more oestrogenic than estradiol. So it can become a bit of a minefield in regards to trying to balance your hormones, with so many factors to consider.
I feel it’s important that you understand never to just treat your thyroid or your sex hormones in isolation because they are interlinked. Working to clean up the diet and lifestyle is absolutely key to balancing them.