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Hormones, at their simplest, are chemical messengers that regulate bodily functions and behaviour. Hormones are produced by the endocrine glands and play a role in regulating many of your body’s major processes from appetite and sleep, to mood and immune function. If you suffer from a hormonal imbalance, it can have a dramatic impact on your overall health and wellbeing.
Hormones are secreted by your endocrine system and pumped around the body, via the blood. They are most notably responsible for regulating metabolism and the reproductive system. When a woman enters menopause, her endocrine system stops producing the hormone estrogen which had until then been responsible for instructing the ovaries to release an egg each month.
Hormone imbalance can wreak havoc with your health. If your hormones are out of whack, you might be experiencing one or more of the following:
If you have too much or too little of a particular hormone, it can have an almighty effect on your health and on your quality of life. So how can you get back into balance and improve your hormone health? Read on for our top tips to balance your hormones:
Many of the most important hormones in the body are produced in the gut and are therefore greatly impacted by the health of your microbiome. So, logically, hormone balance should begin in the gut.
Start by upping your intake of whole foods, grains, green leafy vegetables, and fibre-packed fruits. By increasing the amount of fibre in your diet you are giving your good bacteria something to feed on, while simultaneously encouraging your body to expel the bad guys. The micronutrients, vitamins and minerals in fruits and veg are also vital for keeping your endocrine system happy and your hormones balanced.
Ramp up your protein intake to support the functioning of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and the hormone responsible for appetite regulation. If you’re not getting enough protein, you won’t feel satiated and you’ll continue eating past the point of nutrition. This can lead to weight gain over time.
You should also aim to avoid certain foods such as refined sugars and carbohydrates as these can aggravate your insulin levels (the hormone responsible for regulating your blood sugar). If insulin levels are unbalanced it can cause you to feel groggy, fatigued, and put you in a pretty bad mood. If left unchecked, an insulin imbalance can develop into insulin resistance and finally into full-blown type two diabetes. Try to include a healthy plant or fish fats on every plate to offset the blood sugar highs that can come from enjoying a carbohydrate-rich meal.
Seed cycling is the latest trend in balancing hormones, improving fertility and easing menopause symptoms. But what is seed cycling and - crucially - does it work?
Seed cycling is a naturopathic remedy that involves eating flax, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds on rotation according to where you are in your cycle to balance certain hormones.
For the first two weeks of your cycle you enjoy 1-2 tablespoons per day of flax seeds and pumpkin seeds each day. It’s suggested that the phytoestrogens present in flax seeds can help to regulate estrogen levels, that the zinc found in pumpkin seeds encourages the progesterone production which is required to advance to the next phase of the menstrual cycle.
Then, during the latter two weeks of your cycle, you consume the same amount of sesame and sunflower seeds. It is said that the special polyphenols present in sesame seeds - called lingnans - prevent estrogen levels from getting too high, whilst the vitamin E in sunflower seeds is thought to boost progesterone production.
If your periods are irregular or absent, or if you have gone through the menopause, then it is advised that you sync your seed cycling with the phases of the moon.
You can enjoy the seeds in whatever form you like; you can add them to smoothies, sprinkle them on salads, or stir them through your morning porridge or yoghurt.
Scientific evidence is scant at best, but anecdotal evidence does seem to be in seed cycling’s favour.
Exercise can strongly influence hormonal health, primarily because it plays a role in lowering insulin levels and increasing insulin sensitivity. Insulin plays an important role in instructing cells to absorb sugars from the foods you eat via the blood, which can then be used for energy metabolism. However, too-high insulin levels can be dangerous and is associated with inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
Most forms of exercise including endurance training, weight training and high intensity interval training can help to keep your insulin levels in check and reduce sensitivity.
There have been a number of studies conducted into the effect of exercise on hormone imbalance and working out regularly seems to be a sure-fire way to get your hormones back under control. In one 24-week study of overweight women, daily exercise was shown to both increase insulin sensitivity and to increase levels of the metabolism-regulating hormone, adiponectin.
Physical activity can also help to keep you stronger for longer by promoting the production of muscle-maintaining hormones such as testosterone that would ordinarily decline with age, thereby helping you to stay fit and lean as you get older.
There are a number of supplements you can take to help support your hormones and bring them back into balance. Here is an overview of the most important ones:
For more on hormone health, and to find out how LYMA can help you to get your hormones back on track if you’re going through menopause, see our testimonials and expert guides to alleviating symptoms .