Not only do those pesky hormones affect our moods, but they can tamper with our food and exercise plans too. The good news? You can get the balance just right.
Hormones have a huge impact on our health, wellbeing, energy and mood.
When our hormones are perfectly balanced it is called homeostasis, which means we have appropriate energy levels, we sleep well, and our body guides us as to when it’s right for us to eat and exercise. Unfortunately many factors can throw our hormones out of whack and these days very few of us are in a state of homeostasis; leading to fatigue, irregular appetite, issues with weight and decreased mood.
If you think your hormones are un-balanced and could be causing issues, your first point of call should always be your doctor.You can request tests be done to determine if hormones are the problem.
Here, I reveal the tell-tale signs that your hormones are messing with your wellness mojo…
1. YOU ARE ALWAYS TOO TIRED TO EXERCISE – DESPITE HAVING THE BEST INTENTIONS
This could be due to an imbalance of cortisol levels. Cortisol is involved in our fight and flight response and is the hormone responsible for giving us the energy we need in stressful situations, such as running away from danger (think caveman running from the sabre tooth tiger). These days we don’t have to run from much danger, however reading a stressful email or being given a short deadline triggers the same stress response. The problem is that when we are sitting at our desks experiencing these stressful situations, the hormone isn’t used to run from that big tiger so it can remain high in the body, which ultimately leads to exhaustion.
Rebalance: Stress management is essential for anyone with high cortisol levels. Start with less intense forms of exercise such as yoga, Pilates, walking etc. The body is going to view any super high intensity exercise as another form of stress, which will only increase your cortisol levels.
Work on reducing your stress by trying a few easy tricks.
- Find your zen: Many people find meditation useful and there are a plethora of mindfulness apps and guides out there these days to get you started.
- Remove the unnecessary: You can also actively try to remove yourself from unnecessary situations that might lead to heightened stress levels.
- Cut your caffeine: It is also a good idea to limit caffeine. I love coffee as much as the next person but unfortunately this stimulant causes an increase in cortisol. If you are going to drink coffee, try to stick to one per day.
- SLEEP! Sleep is essential in balancing all hormones, cortisol included. Seven to nine hours a night is recommended. If you have trouble sleeping, try taking a magnesium supplement before bed, switch off all electronic devises at least an hour before bed and make sure your bedroom is pitch black and a conducive environment for sleep. A little lavender oil on the pillow also works wonders.
2. YOU CAN’T SHIFT THAT MUFFIN TOP
It could be your testosterone. Testosterone is a male and female sex hormone and it helps the body to build muscle. Declined testosterone levels can lead to us being unable to shift weight from our mid-section. The research suggests that eating too much meat, living a sedentary lifestyle, binge drinking and smoking can all lead to declined testosterone levels.
Rebalance: Exercising regularly is essential to help achieve optimal testosterone levels. Even walking for 20 minutes a day will help. Try to find a form of exercise you enjoy, this will ensure that you are consistent with doing it – consistency is key.
Eating a varied nutrient dense, whole food diet will help keep testosterone levels where they need to be. And will help you get rid of that muffin top once and for all.
As with all hormones, reducing stress and ensuring optimal sleep patterns is also going to assist in re-balancing testosterone in your system.
3. YOU FEEL LOW
It could be serotonin. Serotonin is our feel-good hormone. It regulates mood, sleep patterns, appetite, memory, and some of our muscular functions. Unlike other hormones our serotonin levels are not linked to lifestyle factors such as stress. It can be that the brain simply does not produce enough serotonin. Your doctor can confirm this.
Rebalance: In severe cases of decreased serotonin, your doctor may prescribe antidepressants. It is also essential to make sure you are getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Eating foods high in tryptophan (the precursor to serotonin) such as turkey, avocado and yoghurt can be beneficial. And regular exercise will also help to release endorphins and improve mood.
4. YOU ARE HUNGRY ALL THE TIME
It could be ghrelin (your hunger hormone). If your ‘I feel full’ hormones aren’t kicking in it might be that your diet contains too much fructose. Ghrelin is not affected by fructose – the brain does not recognise it as food. Therefore you could eat fructose until you pop, without ever feeling full!
Rebalance: Gently reduce your fructose intake. Fructose is hidden in lots of the food we assume are good for us, especially ‘diet’ and ‘low-fat’ foods. If you are struggling to lose weight yet you are living on low-fat/low- calorie foods, try going full-fat for a while. You will feel more satisfied and full, meaning you won’t be craving more food after your meals.
5. YOU CRAVE AN ARVO’ SUGAR FIX
Eating sugary foods dramatically raises insulin levels. Insulin is the main hormone responsible for depositing fat in fat cells, meaning that increased insulin equals increased fat storage. If you are continuously eating sugar you will maintain consistently high levels of insulin and as a result will continue to store more fat. The problem is, when you are in that cycle the body craves more sugar when insulin levels dip. This can make it seem impossible to focus until you have satisfied the craving.
Rebalance: Introduce protein at every meal. Protein will satiate you and sustain energy levels by balancing insulin release, which means you will avoid that brain fog feeling and the need to reach for a sugary pick me up. Combine that protein with a little good fat and carbohydrate to be sure you win out over the mid afternoon slump – goodbye cravings!