Oh the joys of hormones...
Well we all have them and I'm sure the majority of us know a little bit about them from our 6th grade health class. However, I am willing to bet that most of us don't realize their importance and the role they play in our overall health.
Mood swings, weight gain, acne, fatigue, digestive issues.. Any of these sound familiar? I am no expert, and certainly no doctor, but coming from someone who has experienced hormonal imbalances for several years, I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject.
I have done endless research on hormones and what causes them to run out of control. There are a few things that have stuck with me from hours of looking at the computer screen. But first off, let me start by sharing a little bit about how hormonal imbalance has impacted my life.
When I began working out and eating healthy consistently, I fell in love with the "fitness lifestyle". It became my primary focus, main priority, and biggest passion (and is still a very strong passion of mine). I don't think it's bad to prioritize fitness or your health, but taking it to an extreme is another story. I wouldn't say that I ever had an eating disorder, but my diet became very restrictive and structured. I would never touch a cookie, or anything with added sugar (remember, everything in moderation). I had to eat every 3 hours, no later, no sooner. After a year or two of exercising intensely and eating very restrictively, I started to notice some changes with my body. No period (sorry, gentlemen), increased acne, extreme tiredness, and acid reflux, just to list a few. I knew something was off, and I was determined to find an answer. Hence, when all the research began...
There are multiple causes for hormonal imbalances. However, being so involved in the health and fitness industry, I think there a couple that are more prevalent to this post..
1. Undernourishment- Day after day, girls strive for the "perfect body". Well, I'll be the first to say that there is NO such thing as a perfect body, and that is a great thing. And it is very disheartening to see social media and Hollywood create an image of the "perfect body" that is so unattainable, and most definitely not healthy. In order to reach this goal, many of us don't eat according to our body's needs. In extreme cases, this may come in the form of an eating disorder. If you're an active individual, you need to eat to fuel your body properly! My biggest piece of advice here.. Balance, balance, and more balance. If you follow my social media accounts, you probably aren't surprised to hear this, yet again. Do NOT deprive yourself of your favorite foods. But with that being said, don't neglect those micro nutrients that your body needs, either. Oreos, doughnuts, and french fries are great (just to name a few), but so are sweet potatoes, berries, and avocados. Be sure to eat according to your activity level. And if you need help in this area, please email me!
2. Overtraining- For some, rest is not a very favored concept. But, it is just as essential to your training routine as your workouts are. Exercising excessively is a prime suspect in hormonal imbalances. Just as you need to exercise your muscles in order to gain strength, they need rest in order to rebuild and repair. Treat your body with kindness, it's the only one you have (and it's a pretty awesome one, too)!
So now that we've covered some common causes of hormone imbalance, let's get to the good stuff- some solutions! Like I mentioned before, these are what I found to be beneficial to me. Obviously, everyone is different and while I wish I had the cure-all answer for everyone, I do not. I encourage you to take away what you wish and hope that this information helps you figure out what works best for you!
1. Healthy Fats- Avocado, coconut oil, almond butter, salmon, and grass-fed beef are all great sources of healthy fats, and pretty tasty, too. A good balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are essential for healthy hormone production. Unfortunately, there's no doubt that fat has gotten a bad rap over the years. But, it's important to note that healthy fats can really do your body some good. Don't be scared to eat the healthy fats, like the ones listed above. Yes, they are higher in calories, but they are also packed with lots of benefits. Regulated hormone levels, a boosted metabolism (potentially aiding in fat loss), and healthier hair, skin, and nails are just some of these health benefits. Here is a more in depth article explaining the importance of including healthy fats in your diet!
2. Whey & Dairy Free- As of recently, I omitted all whey protein and dairy from my diet (with the exception of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt). And what do ya know, I have seen a drastic improvement in acne- Thank you, Jesus! If you're struggling with acne (or other hormone-related problems), this is worth giving a shot. Luckily, I never consumed too much dairy to begin with and I'm not a huge fan of cheese (crazy, I know). So, this transition has been fairly easy for me. Fortunately, there are a lot of dairy alternatives nowadays, such as almond milk, almond cheese, dairy free ice creams, and plant-based protein powder. Some of my favorites are So Delicious No Sugar Added ice cream, Nada Moo ice cream, Silk almond milk, and these plant protein powders.
3. Probiotics- AKA the "little magic pill." A healthy gut can make a world of a difference for your overall health and probiotics help make sure your gut is up to par! Your digestive tract can have a large impact on other bodily functions, like the endocrine system (acne), nervous system (depression/anxiety/stress/memory), muscular system (muscle recovery), and cardiovascular system (heart health). So, simply put: probiotics help promote a healthy gut -> a healthy gut assists in creating healthy body systems -> healthy body systems help balance your hormones. Sounds like a recipe for success to me. Read more here!
4. Avoid Plastic- Water bottles, tupperware, and other plastic household items may be affecting you more than you realize. Avoid heating food in plastic containers or letting plastic water bottles sit in a hot car. Toxins from the plastic are released into your food/water causing a variety of unwanted symptoms starting with a disruption of your hormones. Sticking to glass or metal storage containers are your best bet. Find more plastic-free suggestions here!
5. Fuel Your Body Properly- As previously mentioned, I cannot stress enough the importance of fueling your body appropriately. If you train hard and consistently, then you should eat to fuel your muscles accordingly. If you work a sedentary job and work out every once in awhile, then you should eat to fuel your muscles accordingly, too. Consuming too little calories can wreak havoc on your body, including throwing your hormones way out of whack (I know this all too well from experience). If you need help in this area, please contact me!
There are many other factors that contribute to healthy, balanced hormones, too. So, please do your own research and find the most effective solutions for you! I recommend the "trial and error" method- start trying different solutions to figure out what your body responds to best.
I hope these tips help and provide you with a little more insight into the complicated and complex world of hormones! Please feel free to contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment below with any questions, comments, or concerns! :)