Supporting Healthy Hormone Balance

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Last week, we learned about the HPATG axis. (hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal, thyroid, gonad, oh my!) I tried to illustrate the significance that this hormonal axis plays in our overall health. Our mood, immunity, disease risk, energy production, body mass and bone health are all dependent on a healthy and balanced HPATG axis. In other words, hormones are foundational to your health.

The goal with hormones is balance.

Fun fact: hormones are made from cholesterol in the blood! Cholesterol molecules are transported into our cells and into the mitochondria (aka the cell’s powerhouse). Once in the mitochondria, the cholesterol molecule is transformed into a hormone by enzymes. It’s no surprise that this transformation is influenced by environmental factors like diet and lifestyle.

This week I highlight my top 3 lifestyle choices for supporting healthy hormone balance.

PICK UP A MINDFULNESS PRACTICE — When we are stressed out, our adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol.  When the body needs more cortisol, as in these times of stress, hormone production is shunted towards cortisol production. Consequently, women tend towards estrogen dominance and we increase our risks for breast cancer (1), fibroids (2), and endometriosis (3).  This excess cortisol can also lead to hot flashes and decreased libido because of its effect on androgen levels.   

Looking at 21 papers with 719 menopausal women, when interventions such as yoga, meditation, tai chi and other relaxation techniques were employed, specific menopausal symptoms were alleviated (4). In another study, 12 weeks of yoga significantly increased growth hormone and DHEAS for both males and females, suggesting that yoga can support healthy aging because these hormones decrease as we age (5).

CHOOSE ORGANIC — Some of the environmental contaminants that can be all too common in our everyday lives interact with hormones and have adverse effects because of their ‘endocrine disrupting’ properties. To support a balanced hormone system, Choose Green! Pesticides and herbicides negatively impact our hormones so choose organic produce. The following 12 produce items are listed as the ‘dirty dozen,’ and contain the most pesticides: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, and peppers. Choose organic produce when feeding your little ones, because exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals are more dangerous when it occurs during specific “critical periods” of like, such as during pregnancy, as an infant, child and during puberty (6).

EXERCISE — The effects of physical exercise both aerobic (like running and swimming) and anaerobic (weight lifting) cannot be overstated. Exercise’s effect on cortisol output is somewhat paradoxical because it raises cortisol in the short term but has an overall beneficial effect on memory, mood, brain function, etc. (7). Regular exercise also reduces blood insulin level. This is a good thing because insulin negatively impacts hormones and is associated with unwanted outcomes like PCOS and infertility (8).

Thanks for tuning in! I’m excited to be offering several educational seminars next week on supporting hormones during menopause. For those unable to physically make an event, I’ll be going LIVE in Instagram and keeping in theme through my weekly blog content.  

Resources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/art

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2906657/

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16906287

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3031101/

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4034508/

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3245362/

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27956050

  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018970/