Rather listen than read?
Eat less, move more.
That’s what mainstream wellness advice is often telling you to do.
Sprinkle that plate of advice with eat more veggies, drink more water, get more sleep, and boost your diet with fibrous foods.
Sound advice? For some it is, especially if you are doing little to none of that. But for others? Perhaps not as in-depth as you may need.
If you are a women who is going through hormonal changes (at any life stage), in peri-menopause, or in menopause itself, you probably know that real struggle of body change and how mainstream wellness advice may not give you the results you are looking for.
Weight gain, weight shift, mood changes, digestive problems, fatigue, joint pain — you may know these all too well. But if you are doing all the right things, or at least most of them, and still not getting results, what do you do?
First stop? Make sure that your hormones are being supported.
Imbalanced hormones create a whirlwind in the body that can cause a spiraling effect of physical symptoms and problems. Your hormonal needs are going to be different than mine, but there are a few hormones that are key factors in the balance game for all of us. Let’s take a quick look at them…
Insulin is a fat-storage hormone. Insulin resistance or block means your cells can’t absorb the extra blood glucose your body generates from the food you eat—when that happens, your liver converts the glucose into fat. Insulin resistance usually causes weight gain and sugar addiction. This is one reason that it is imperative to keep blood sugar levels balanced when looking to balance out hormonal levels.
Leptin is nature’s appetite suppressant. When you’ve had enough to eat, leptin says to your brain, “Hey it is time to stop eating.” High leptin can cause weight gain and excessive hunger. When you are overweight, your fat cells produce excess leptin. When your brain gets bombarded with leptin signals from too many fat cells, it shuts down; leptin levels keep rising, receptors stop functioning, your body doesn’t get the leptin signal, and you don’t feel full. You keep eating the wrong foods in an addictive pattern, and you keep gaining weight. An imbalance in this hormone can really make it challenging to gather your willpower to push away food that you know is not going to help you achieve your goals.
For women, estrogen can greatly fluctuate through many stages of life — pregnancy, peri-menopause, menopause, etc. Estrogen dominance is when you have too much estrogen compared with its counter-hormone, progesterone. Having too much estrogen in the body causes a number of symptoms, including resistance to weight loss, moodiness, PMS, and heavy periods.
Your thyroid is directly tied to your metabolism. It is like the gas pedal, managing how fast or how slow you burn those calories. When the thyroid is sluggish, hypothyroidism, it can cause weight gain, fluid retention, hair loss or thinning, depression, and constipation, among other problems. When it is excessive, hyperthyroidism, it can cause appetite changes (decrease or increase), difficulty sleeping, fatigue, frequent bowel movements, heart palpitations, heat intolerance, increased sweating, irritability, just to name a few.
Getting Your Hormones Back On Track
Addressing your HPA axis is going to be the first step. If you missed my blog on the HPA axis and it’s involvement in hormonal balancing, make sure that you read that first. After addressing that, now we have to look at the other lifestyle changes essential to getting your hormones back on track. There are 4 main essential changes needed to correct the hormonal misfiring. These are changes in:
- How you eat (this makes up approximately 80% of your overall results)
- How you think
- How you move
- How you supplement
- Choose wisely what you eat and drink. Eating whole, unprocessed foods that are abundant in healthy fats, vegetables, protein, and some fruits are the best place to start. Each person’s needs will be different, but if you start incorporating more of these foods, you will start to notice differences. Greatly limit processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugars and sugar substitutes from your diet. These foods create an imbalance in your blood sugar levels and an imbalance in your overall hormonal disposition. Eliminate alcohol for 30 days. A single serving of this can reduce a woman’s metabolism by more than 70% and, even though, it is temporary, it can add up if you have a drink most nights.
- Support your digestion. Hippocrates stated that “All disease begins in the gut.” It is not only where approximately 80% of your immune cells reside, but it is also the gateway to nutrient absorption. If your digestive health is out of whack (think excessive gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pains after eating, etc), then the way your body uses your food and your hormonal balance will be following suit. Foods such as processed foods, sugar, gluten-containing foods, refined carbohydrates, unhealthy fats (i.e., vegetable oils, canola oil, trans fats), and foods you are allergic/sensitive to can all decrease the health of your digestion (aka your gut health). Eating supporting foods (refer back to #1), fermented foods (i.e., sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, etc), decreasing your stress levels, and taking supportive supplements can all help to get your gut health solid.
- Watch your thoughts. Stress and our reactions to life start with the thoughts we think. Finding ways to alter your inner dialogue and understand why you think and believe what you do can make a significant difference on your stress levels. It really is about discovering yourself, what stresses you out, and how you can change your approach so that it is not so taxing on your energy (and your hormones). Negative thoughts and increased stress also raise your cortisol levels, putting you in a fight or flight mindset. And, the more you go to that place of being, the more your cortisol levels chronically stay elevated. Long-term exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can wreck havoc on almost all of your body’s processes, increasing your risk of many health issues, from heart disease and obesity to anxiety and depression.
- Add targeted body movement into your day. It is important to move the way that you and your body love — that will help to keep you committed to moving. But when balancing hormones, there is a hierarchy in what will get you the best results. Chronic cardio and long distance training are not as likely to stabilize your cortisol, which can actually be raised dramatically after these sorts of activities. Burst training, HIIT training, and adaptive exercise (i.e. Pilates and yoga) are more likely to stabilize cortisol. Burst training is incredibly efficient because it involves short periods of high intensity exercise with moderate-level exercise as recovery. This allows your body to raise cortisol, but only for a bit, allowing you to get the benefits of exercise, but not create a huge imbalance. Not only that, but it is extremely effective at raising growth hormone, the growth-and-repair hormone that maintains your lean body mass, a crucial indicator of how your body is aging biologically.
- Consider genetic testing. It can guide the best ways for you to eat, move, think, and supplement for hormonal harmony and weight loss. This way, there is no guessing game and you can truly discover what might be the factors holding you back.
- Use supplements as needed to improve your hormone levels. In a perfect world, you can get all you need from the food you eat and the healthy lifestyle choices you make. Unfortunately in our modern society, that becomes a challenge. Our food system has been so greatly depleted nutritionally and replaced with much processed, chemically-laden foods. We are inundated with environmental hazards such as toxins, pesticides, EMF’s, and poor air quality that our body is under daily attack — more for some people than others. Adding appropriate supplementation into your nutrition plan can greatly enhance how your body manages all of these modern day obstacles, but can also help offload some of the stress so that your hormones can get better balance. Outside of the adaptogens that are often associated with hormonal balances (ashwagandha, rhodiola, maca) and the common vitamins and minerals that can offset other health woes (Vitamin D, B complex, magnesium, etc), there are a few others that are highly researched:
- Cortisol Manager: You need 7 to 8.5 hours of sleep to break through weight loss resistance. An excellent supplement for improved sleep and less stress is called Cortisol Manager, by Integrative Therapeutics. It is a combination of phosphatidyl serine and ashwagandha. It dials down the HPA so that you don’t feel stressed and can wind down for a good night of sleep. Too much cortisol raises blood sugar and deposits fat at night.
- Berberine. Berberine, (a great brand is Integrative Therapeutics) is the most proven supplement to reset insulin and support weight loss in women. It activates an important enzyme called adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase, or AMP, nicknamed the “metabolic master switch.” It has been shown to work better when combined with milk thistle.
- ION Biome Gut Health. Want a supplement that not only supplements, rather it supports your health? This is it. The active ingredient, Terrahydrite, has been shown to support the integrity of the gut lining, even in the face of damage from toxins such as glyphosate. I use this when I know that I will be consuming foods or drinks that may not be the healthiest or when I suspect potential issues may be present.
If you suspect that you are struggling with imbalanced hormones and they are causing you to not get the results you want, it doesn’t have to be that way. There is hope. I encourage you to investigate all areas of your life and get really real with yourself to see what might be the main culprit in holding you back to going exactly where you want to go!
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