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Modern American women are facing obstacles tougher than ever before. From little sleep, nutrient-devoid foods and the pressure to multi-task, women’s bodies are bombarded on a daily basis. This chronic physical, mental and emotional stress is leading to new modern-day imbalances. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on their sex hormones which will then have disastrous effects on blood sugar and other key hormones.
Hormones play a huge role in our lives, especially when it comes to a woman’s weight. Frustration occurs when women follow their weight-loss plans and exercise regularly, yet the scale still does not move. The missing piece of the puzzle is hormone balance.
Our bodies function most efficiently within a delicate balance of sex and stress hormones. We live in the midst of many environmental factors which are known to throw this balance off, resulting in unpleasant symptoms we are all too familiar with.
To understand the delicate balance, it helps to have an understanding of the core hormones involved.
Core hormones in your body:
- Progesterone: A fat-burner and diuretic that soothes mood, nurtures sleep and calms PMS and menopausal symptoms.
- Estrogen: A key hormone in ovulation that supports many other functions in the body but when out of balance, it can also trigger weight gain, insomnia, mood swings and more.
- Cortisol: A stress hormone needed to buffer our bodies from the effects of stress. Cortisol itself is not a “bad” hormone, but is problematic when we cannot produce enough of this hormone to meet our needs.
Simply, when our bodies can’t make enough cortisol to meet the demand, progesterone is stolen and converted into cortisol, leaving women’s bodies with a condition Dr. John Lee coined as “estrogen dominance”. This condition lays the foundation for stubborn weight.
Research also shows that key imbalances contribute to a woman’s inability to lose stubborn weight along with mood, sleep, energy and female-related issues. Hormone imbalances can lead to many symptoms that affect their ability to make healthy lifestyle choices due to cravings, fatigue and poor mood.
The pesky symptoms of hormone imbalance can be minimized through small lifestyle changes including tweaks to your diet as well as adding meditation and certain exercises.
Some ways you can balance hormones naturally:
Eating certain food combinations can make a difference in your hormone balance. Start off your day with protein and some fat along with the fiber of a piece of fruit. These food components will keep insulin in check to keep cravings down. Try to keep caffeine to a minimum, as this can cause a blood sugar roller-coaster, exacerbating hormone symptoms. Aim to eat three meals and two snacks with some fat, protein and fiber to aid energy and fat burning all day. Any fiber eaten will help keep your estrogen in the proper balance. A small amount of grains, such as brown rice, can be added to some of your meals since the vitamin B leads to better hormone metabolism as well. A protein shake before bed containing some flax oil is much better than crackers or popcorn. It’ll work to stabilize blood sugar and allow you to sleep deeper, burn fat and avoid waking up in the middle of the night with a hot flash or night sweat.
When cortisol is increased to an unbalanced level, it increases the sugar in the bloodstream, making you feel restless and causing cravings. A quick way to compensate for your daily stress that cause the cortisol increase is meditation or another type of relaxation therapy for as little as 20 minutes.
Add meditation to your daily routine by sitting in a comfortable, seated position. Then sit tall and close your eyes with palms facing up. Take a few moments to allow your body to relax. Once comfortable, redirect thoughts to your breath and begin counting your exhales by breathing in for a four count and out slowly for an eight count. For an even simpler way to relax, try a link/CD of “sound-wave” therapy which will automatically relax brain waves and lower cortisol, even if you have a hard time relaxing.
The benefits of exercises are connected to balancing hormones, especially stress hormones, like cortisol. Your body was not meant to sit at a desk all day or be too sedentary. Aerobic workouts are often emphasized, but too much intensity can raise cortisol and imbalance hormones, making weight loss slower. It is better to do metabolism enhancing resistance training with hand weights or bands. All you need is an open space and 15 minutes. Exercises such as reverse lunges and squats can even be done with just your body as resistance. Other days, try calming yoga or Pilates as ways to keep muscles engaged, flexible and toned without raising cortisol levels.
Think you might have a hormone imbalance? Find out now but taking our a free hormone assessment!
Article from Natural Awakenings, South Jersey Edition.