I make sure to eat legumes whenever I'm stressed.
It's the only way for me to achieve inner peas.
In our world today, it’s common to always be on the go and for your nervous system to be in a constant state of “fight or flight”. This tells your reproductive system to take a nap, it isn’t a safe time to get pregnant!
Stress just isn’t bad for your fertility, but it also diminishes male sperm count and motility too.
But, before we can learn how to better deal with stress, we’re going to learn a little bit more about hormones.
Understanding how they may affect your body helps you take action. When your feed your body with the foods it loves and live a more relaxing happy life, hormones behave themselves. You will be amazed how much better you will feel and the new energy and vitality you will discover. You’re really going to start to see how everything you have been doing already ties into your entire body and how it works!
Understanding Hormones: What You Need to Know
When the word “hormones” is used, most think of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. The truth is that we have many hormones that regulate the functions in our bodies and interact with each other, making them more complicated than the average person would assume.
Healthy hormones are not just reproductive hormones, but also adrenal, thyroid, liver, digestive and intestinal. They all have to function properly.
Let's unravel the complexity of it all so you’ll understand what helps hormones.
The benefit is that it does not matter if you are seeing a naturopath, a medical doctor or a nutrition professional; learning about foods and lifestyle habit that will improve hormone health works in conjunction with any protocol you may be following.
The goal is to reboot your body’s functions by supplying it with foods that it can use to support the systems that are involved in regulating your hormones. This information helps women, menopausal women and men.
Let’s start by discussing what it means to have balanced hormones:
· You spend your day feeling calm and energized. You don’t feel stressed or overwhelmed.
· For females, periods are not necessarily 28 days apart, but they are regular.
· You go to sleep at a reasonable hour and sleep through the night, getting 7-8 hours of sleep (it is fine to have an afternoon nap when needed, as that is part of our natural sleep cycle).
· You have good brain function - the fog has lifted and your memory and focus are regular.
· Your hair grows where it is supposed to grow and not elsewhere.
· Your muscles and joints are not sore and you feel limber.
· Your skin is clear and smooth and not dry.
· For menopausal women, typical symptoms of hot flashes and weight gain are not an issue
· For men, testosterone levels are balanced and you feel strong and vital
· You maintain a good sex drive and you function as you should.
What does it take for this to occur?
Stable blood sugar; this means it does not fluctuate from high to low throughout the day.
The adrenal glands should be balanced and not secreting too much cortisol throughout the day. When you are stressed, excess cortisol makes you burn carbohydrates, causing your blood sugar to swing up and down. This does not happen when your hormones are balanced. Also, your adrenals leave your progesterone production alone, allowing for the proper amount rather than blocking the process so the adrenals can produce more cortisol instead.
The ovaries produce normal amounts of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
The liver works optimally, aiding in the detoxification of any toxins or excess hormones that you produce or any toxins that you ingest. It helps convert your T4 thyroid hormone to the active T3 that you need. It produces sufficient cholesterol to help you make sex hormones and also makes bile that helps breakdown fat and excrete toxins. The liver also helps maintain stable blood sugar.
The thyroid regulates your metabolism so you feel great.
The digestive system works to make you feel comfortable after eating and ensures that the nutrients from your food are available to help nourish your body.
Your intestines are full of the right amount of good gut bacteria which plays a regulatory role for everything including the adrenals, the liver, the thyroid and blood sugar. They also aid the elimination of toxins, play a protective role against many health conditions, and help regulate all of your hormones.
What You Need To Know
There are several systems in the body that produce hormones and must function well for your body to work properly.
The Adrenals: You may think your brain is in charge, but the truth is that the adrenals rule the roost. They decide if you are going to function as designed or if any of your normal functions need to be rearranged so you can deal with stress. As far as the adrenals are concerned, stress for any reason is a danger and you must be protected.
Think of them as having a powerful brain of their own. They can increase your appetite or shut it down. They can signal to the liver to drive up your blood sugar. They can stimulate your metabolism and thyroid function or slow it down. They can convert testosterone to estrogen and blunt progesterone production to allow for the production of more cortisol, the number one hormone the adrenals like to use to help you feel energized enough to deal with stress (at least for a while, since they are not designed to do this all the time).
You can see how this could be an issue when you’re trying to conceive! When you don’t have the proper hormones, at the proper times, how are you going to ovulate?
A surplus of cortisol is linked to many symptoms including fatigue, blood sugar problems, weight gain, depression, mood swings, anxiety, and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and low sex drive. It is also linked to the development of degenerative illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Excess cortisol can suppress thyroid function, put extra pressure on the liver, hinder sex hormones and inhibit digestive and intestinal function.
There are many stress-reducing strategies that you can employ, but what you eat and when can make a big difference, allowing the body and the adrenals to have all of the nutrients they need to function appropriately.
Key Adrenal Foods: Maca (which is also an insulin balancing food) is also an adrenal adaptogen, which means that it can help balance your adrenal function. Licorice root and ginseng teas are also great for the adrenals and helpful for hormones, but not when you’re actively trying to get pregnant or are pregnant.
The Liver: No organ is as hardworking as the liver. With over 400 functions to accomplish, it is busy and requires plenty of nutrients. The liver produces cholesterol which is a building block for estrogen, testosterone, progesterone and cortisol. It also aids the thyroid and helps regulate metabolism. Cholesterol is needed to produce bile which is essential for digesting fats and helps remove toxins from the body. The liver is the main detoxification organ. Not only does it remove toxins, both the kind we ingest and the kind that our bodies make, but it detoxes out excess hormones as well. There are many foods that support liver health and the detoxification process.
Key Liver Foods: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Calcium d’glurcurate foods such as apples and grapefruit, bitter foods like dandelion or collard greens, and sulfur-rich foods such as garlic and onions. Milk thistle tea is also very beneficial.
The Digestive System: The digestive system is where everything starts, good and bad. If you eat foods that your body needs and you digest and absorb them properly, you will benefit from the nutrients. If you do not have proper digestion and absorption, the foods will not be as effective. This can be improved by practicing proper eating habits, reducing stress, improving good bacteria levels and eating enzyme-rich foods.
Key Digestive System Foods: Fermented foods, herbs and spices, and raw foods (if tolerable) for enzymes can all be helpful.
The Thyroid: The role of the thyroid is to control your metabolism. It helps regulate breathing, heart rate, the central and peripheral nervous systems, body weight, muscle strength, menstrual cycles, body temperature and cholesterol levels. Since cholesterol is correlated with healthy hormones, a healthy thyroid is necessary.
Thyroid Foods: Sea vegetables like nori or arame, seafood, Himalayan sea salt, and coconut oil.
The Intestinal System and the Microflora: The good bacteria in your gut helps regulate everything, supporting liver function, thyroid function, adrenal function, digestive and intestinal function as well as reproductive function. A hormone balancing food plan must include probiotic and prebiotic foods that help stabilize the gut bacteria. We are all unique, so the quality and quantity of our good bacteria varies. This means that gut bacteria can play a small role or be a huge factor in any health issue. Gut health is complicated and may require extra guidance from a nutrition professional. However, supplying the gut with the right foods will work well with any protocol.
Key Intestinal System Foods: Fermented foods, prebiotic foods, fibre-rich foods and water (preferably non-chlorinated – do not drink distilled) are all good for the intestines.
All of these systems directly affect the health of your hormones as well as each other. Because of that, it is improper practice to work on only one of them. You have to work on all of them. You can do this by working on your stress levels, managing your lifestyle, and taking any necessary supplements to compensate for what you are not getting through your food.
The goal of a strategy for healthy hormones is to support these systems. This is best accomplished by:
· Eating specific foods that will support their functions.
· Improving lifestyle habits, including stress management and exercise.
· Continue taking your prenatal!
Other Things To Help Hormone Health:
- Get enough sleep.
7-8 hours is ideal. Go to bed and get up at the same time each night and morning to develop a habit.
- Drink plenty of water.
It helps flush out toxins and keeps the body hydrated. Just do not drink with meals as this will dilute stomach acid and interfere with digestion. Spring water or carbon-filtered water is best. Water needs to have minerals, so avoid reverse osmosis or distilled.
- Practice deep breathing.
It helps lower cortisol and relaxes the nervous system. As a technique, it can be used throughout the day to combat feelings of stress and anxiety
- Take time to enjoy your meals.
Chew thoroughly and don’t drink large amounts of liquids with meals. This allows you to digested and absorb nutrients from your foods more effectively to support health hormones.
- Learn to do traditional meditation or mindful meditation.
Both work to lower cortisol and activate repair mechanisms in the body. This will be helpful for hormone health.
Even if you simply go on a short walk every day. Movement – any movement – is the goal. If playing golf or going dancing is fun for you, then that is what you should do to stay active.
- Be happy.
Easier said than done but studies show that purposely focusing on what goes right in your life instead of what goes wrong lowers anxiety and improves well-being. It takes practice but it’s a simple process. Take some time every to write down what went well that day – small things count. Doing this before bedtime will lower cortisol and anxiety and help you achieve better quality sleep.
What's the number one factor leading to messing up your hormone balance? Stress
The adrenals glands are engaged in the fight or flight response when you are experiencing stress. This affects all the other hormone systems. Meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, reframing, as well as getting plenty of sleep and removing stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol all take pressure off the adrenals. Keeping blood sugar stable allows the body to have sustained energy and to be able to handle stress more effectively.
Don't forget when the body is stressed (and we're not just talking emotional, but physically through inflammation), it won't be concentrating on reproduction, it will be concentrating on survival!)
Once you know more about how all your hormones react, and how you can support them - you can start to see how you need to holistically take care of yourself - it's more than just about what you eat!
If you need some help figuring out where you need to start, book a free consult call and let's figure out what steps you can take today to reach your goals tomorrow! Why not Give Peas A Chance?
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