It’s All About the Hormone Balance

Thank you Wellness Mama for another wonderful article! With the hectic, stressful lives we lead it is hard to find a balance. All the anxiety, lack of sleep, poor diet and lack of exercise can cause severe hormonal imbalances. This can dramatically affect our weight and can impede any efforts of losing weight. Check this article out for some interesting insights. The following text and images are courtesy of Wellness Mama. Enjoy! 

It’s All About the Hormone Balance


Its All About the Hormone Balance Its All About the Hormone Balance

It seems that the more we know, the more we don’t know. New research is constantly emerging on a variety of health topics but there is a common underlying theme.

What factor contributes to weight gain during pregnancy? Hormone balance.

What causes weight fluctuations, bloating and other health symptoms throughout the course of a month? Hormones.

What causes men to naturally put on muscle more easily or lose weight more quickly? Hormones.

What is a huge contributing factor of growth in children? Hormones.

What controls ovulation, reproduction, pregnancy, etc? Hormones

Yes, when it comes to losing weight or improving health, what do we focus on? Calories… or micronutrients… or diets.

It’s all about the hormones:

I’ve heard so many cases lately of people who have improved diet, started exercising, etc but are still not losing weight or improving health markers. After talking to many of these people, it seems that the factor they all have in common is an underlying problem with hormone balance.

I’ve written about Leptin and thyroid hormones before, and these are just a small piece in the complicated hormone system in the body. In a given day or month, a woman’s body will have fluctuations in hormones like estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, lutenizing hormone, prolactin, oxytocin, leptin, ghrelin, thyroid hormones, melatonin, serotonin and others.

Certainly, diet affects hormones to some degree, but other factors can have a tremendous impact as well, especially:

  • Sleep
  • Stress
  • Exercise
  • Exposure to toxins
  • pregnancy or nursing

Though there is no single symptom that is a definitive sign of a hormone imbalance, factors that often indicate a hormone problem include:

  • sleep troubles
  • persistent weight gain or inability to lose weight
  • being hot or cold often
  • digestive problems
  • cravings
  • low libido
  • fatigue
  • depression or anxiety
  • mood swings
  • headaches
  • hair loss

What to Do About It?

For those with hormone problems, there are some important dietary and lifestyle factors that can help nourish the body so it can recover. For these people, things like dieting, extreme exercise or stress will only make the problem worse and it is more important to carefully support the body’s hormone system.

This is best accomplished by first improving factors like sleep and stress as well as nourishing (rather than depriving) the body.

As I said before: “Statistically, many people use hormonal contraceptives to help “balance hormones” or prevent acne, etc. The problem is that this is just treating the symptoms and not addressing the root cause. The body naturally moves toward balance so if hormones are out of whack, it is not from a contraceptive deficiency, but rather that the body is not producing the natural hormones optimally.”

Get Some Sleep!

While you are sleeping, your body is extremely active removing toxins, recharging the mind, and creating hormones. Skimping on sleep, even for one night, can have a tremendous impact on hormones and even one night of missed or shortened sleep can create the hormone levels of a pre-diabetic (source).

I shared some tips in a previous post for optimizing sleep:

A daily (and nightly) routine can make a big difference in how easily you fall and stay asleep. You’ll have to experiment to find out what works best for you but here are some helpful suggestions:

  • Wake up and go to bed at the same time, even on weekends to keep your hormone cycle regular.
  • Eat a high protein/high fat snack a few hours before bed (7pm or earlier) or consume a lot at dinner.
  • Avoid caffeine after 1 pm.
  • Install F.lux  (it is free) on all computers and devices to reduce blue light and help you sleep better (it is also easier on the eyes!)
  • Drink enough water during the day and stop drinking about 2 hours before bed so you don’t have to wake up to use the bathroom.
  • Take a soothing salt bath about an hour before bed with some relaxing music or a great book.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of sunlight each day (even if you aren’t trying to get your vitamin D). The exposure to the wide-spectrum light during the day boosts serotonin levels, which will help improve melatonin levels at night
  • Avoid artificial light as much as possible after the sun goes down.
  • Pray, meditate or find a way to reduce stress.
  • Give yourself a massage before bed to release stress and help relax (Personally, I love this for home-massage)
  • Stretch before bed to relax muscles.

This post has some additional tips for getting great sleep.

Eat Some Fat:

Fats, especially saturated fats, are vital for hormone health as the body uses fats as building blocks for hormones. As this article explains:

“When these important saturated fatty acids are not readily available, certain growth factors in the cells and organs will not be properly aligned. This is because the various receptors, such as G-protein receptors, need to be coupled with lipids in order to provide localization of function.

The messages that are sent from the outside of the cell to the inner part of the cell control many functions including those activated by, for example, adrenaline in the primitive mammalian fight/flight reactions. When the adrenal gland produces adrenaline and the adrenaline (beta-adrenergic) receptor communicates with the G-protein and its signal cascade, the parts of the body are alerted to the need for action; the heart beats faster, the blood flow to the gut decreases while the blood flow to the muscles increases and the production of glucose is stimulated.

The G-proteins come in different forms; the alpha subunit is covalently linked to myristic acid and the function of this subunit is important for turning on and off the binding to an enzyme called adenylate cyclase and thus the amplification of important hormone signals.

When researchers looked at the fatty acid composition of the phospholipids in the T-cells (white blood cells), from both young and old donors, they found that a loss of saturated fatty acids in the lymphocytes was responsible for age-related declines in white blood cell function. They found that they could correct cellular deficiencies in palmitic acid and myristic acid by adding these saturated fatty acids.”

Coconut Oil is amazing for hormone health. It provides the necessary building blocks for hormone production, can assist weight loss, reduce inflammation, and even has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.

If you really need hormone help, aim to consume 1/4 cup of added coconut oil a day. My favorite way is to blend into coffee or tea. This is the highest quality one I’ve found.

Helpful Supplements:

“In a perfect world, we would be rising and sleeping with the sun, getting Vitamin D from the sun and Magnesium from the ocean while relaxing and exercising in great balance each day in a stress-free world. Since I doubt that describes any of us currently, supplements can fill in the gaps. I’ve talked about the basic supplements that I take before, but there are some specific ones that are helpful for hormone support.

  • Maca– A tuber in the radish family that has a history of boosting hormone production and libido. Many women notice less PMS, increased fertility, and improved skin while men notice increased sperm production, libido and better sleep. Maca is also high in minerals and essential fatty acids, making it great for hormones.  It is available in powder form (least expensive option) or in capsules. Maca should be discontinued during pregnancy. The effects of Maca are somewhat cumulative, so the best results are seen after 3-5 weeks of taking Maca regularly.
  • Magnesium– Magnesium supports hundreds of reactions in the body and often contributes to better sleep (which is great for hormones!). There are several effective forms of Magnesium: In powder form with a product like Natural Calm so that you can vary your dose and work up slowly,  ionic liquid form  can be added to food and drinks and dose can be worked up slowly,or  transdermal form by using Magnesium oil applied to skin. This is often the most effective option for those with damaged digestive tract or severe deficiency. Magnesium often greatly helps both PMS symptoms and menstrual cramping.
  • Vitamin D– A pre-hormone is supportive of hormone function. Best obtained from the sun if possible, or from a D3 supplement or Fermented Cod Liver Oil (what I do in the winter). Make sure not to get too much, and optimally, get Serum Vitamin D levels checked to minitor levels.
  • Fermented Cod Liver Oil– Provides many of the necessary building blocks for hormone production including Vitamins A, D, and K. It also is a great source of Omega-3s and beneficial fats.
  • Gelatin is a great source of calcium, magnesium and phosphate. It supports hormone production and digestive health and helps sooth inflammation, especially in joints. We use Great Lakes Kosher as I was able to verify with the company that it is sourced from grass-fed, humanely raised cows, and as such is higher in nutrients.
  • Vitex/Chaste Tree Berry– Nourishes the pituitary gland and helps lengthen the luteal phase. It lowers prolactin and raises progesterone. For some women, this alone will improve symptoms.
  • Natural Progesterone Cream– PMS and menstrual troubles are often linked to specific hormone imbalances. Especially for those with short cycles or short second phase of their cycle (ovulation through start of menses), progesterone can be the issue. I’ve seen people add only natural progesterone cream and see symptoms greatly reduce. If you do use progesterone cream, do you own research, make sure you have a good brand that is soy-free and only use for the second half of your cycle (ovulation through menses).
  • Red Raspberry Leaf A well know fertility herb that is also helpful in reducing PMS and cramping. It has a high nutrient profile and is especially high in calcium and is a uterine tonic. It is available in capsule form, but makes an excellent hot or cold tea.

NOTE: Make sure to check with your doctor or health care professional before taking any new supplements, especially if you are on medications or contraceptives.

Yoga for Better Sleep

Spending a few minutes stretching before bed helps to ease the body and mind making a sound sleep come swift and easy. I recently saw this article from Fitness on yoga moves for relaxation and sleep. Enjoy!

8-Minute Workout: Yoga for Better Sleep

Try this 5-move yoga routine to relax your body and mind before sleep. The best part? Each pose can be done in bed!

By Jennifer Matarazzo; Photos by Nick Cardillicchio

Upside-Down Relaxation

Upside-Down Relaxation

Forget counting sheep. Ease your way into dreamland with this five-move yoga routine from Edward Vilga, creator of the DVD Yoga in Bed: 20 Asanas to Do in Pajamas (yogainbeddvd.com, $19.95). The moves will relax your body and mind, but the best part is that you can do them all in bed!

Minutes:0:00-2:00

  • Sit facing a wall (or your headboard) with your butt about 6 inches away from it.
  • Lie back and extend your legs up the wall.
  • If this is too intense a stretch for your hamstrings, slide your butt farther away from the wall.
  • If it’s not enough, scoot closer.
  • Let your arms rest by your sides, palms facing up, and breathe gently, feeling the stretch in the backs of your legs.

Winding Down Twist

Winding Down Twist

Minutes: 2:00-3:00

  • Sit cross-legged on the bed and exhale as you place your right hand on your left knee and left hand on the bed behind your tailbone.
  • Gently twist your torso to the left.
  • Allow your gaze to follow, looking over your left shoulder. Breathe deeply, then return to center and repeat on opposite side.

Nighttime Goddess Stretch

Nighttime Goddess Stretch

Minutes: 3:00-5:00

  • Lie on your back with knees bent.
  • Place the soles of your feet together, then let your knees fall open, forming a diamond shape with your legs.
  • Rest your arms on the bed.
  • If you feel any strain, elevate your legs by placing a pillow underneath each knee.

Child’s Pose

Child's Pose

Minutes: 5:00-7:00

  • Sit up comfortably on your heels.
  • Roll your torso forward, bringing your forehead to rest on the bed in front of you.
  • Lower your chest as close to your knees as you comfortably can, extending your arms in front of you.
  • Hold the pose and breathe.

Rock-a-Bye Roll

Rock-a-Bye Roll

Minutes: 7:00-8:00

  • Lying on your back, hug knees in to chest.
  • Cross your ankles and wrap both arms around your shins with clasped hands.
  • Inhale and rock your body up to sit; exhale as you roll back.
  • Continue for 1 minute, then roll back, extend arms and legs, and drift off to sleep.

Work Your Abs Without Getting On The Floor

An article on abdominal exercises standing up recently posted by FitnessOverSitxy caught my attention. The article is below and you can find the complete text here.

By DualFit.com

If you think you need to get on the floor to work your abs, you’re wrong. The majority of the abdominal exercises in the fitness world require you to lie on the floor, mainly on your back. But this can be a problem for people who have back injuries or someone who has a problem getting up and down from the laying position.

You can work your abs standing up just as much as you can lying down. Standing ab exercises may actually be even more beneficial for you. They are a great way to start out if you are a beginner exerciser. Many people who are just starting out find getting down to the floor to perform crunches a bit difficult. If you begin by working your abs in the standing position, you can give your abdominal muscles a little time to warm up and get stronger before getting to the more advanced level. Now, this isn’t to say that standing ab exercises are just for beginners. They are great for everyone.

Benefits Of Working Abs While Standing
The biggest benefit of standing ab exercises is a lower risk of injury. Ab moves that are performed on the floor are not always done correctly. The basic crunch, for example, requires you to lift your neck and shoulders up off the ground. Unless they have a trainer, the majority of people do it wrong. They hold on to their neck and pull it up to get themselves off the ground. This isn’t going to work the abs and it will strain your neck. During standing moves, you don’t have this problem. It is much easier to control your neck and shoulders in a standing ab move then it is on the floor.

Another big benefit is the effectiveness of each exercise. When you are performing moves on the floor, you can only go so far. Exercises that are done on the floor sometimes involve the legs way more than they should. A lot of people tend to use their hip flexors rather than their abs. (Hip flexors are located in the front of your thigh.) Many people also tend to use their hands as well to perform some moves. During a sit-up, a lot of people swing their arms out in front of them to get their body off the floor. If you are doing that, you’re not really working the abs because you are using your arms to get up. While performing a reverse crunch, people tend to press their palms down on the floor. This also isn’t going to work the abs effectively.

So you can see that there are many downfalls to working your abs on the floor. Working your abs standing will make sure you do a safe and effective workout. If you aren’t convinced that you can get a successful ab workout standing up, perform these moves the next time you work your abs.

1) Knee Cross Crunch
This move is going to work every muscle in your stomach. To perform this move: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in one hand. Extend the arm with your dumbbell over head and put your other hand on your hip for balance. Now lower the arm that was in the air as you simultaneously bring the opposite knee up across the body so that your elbow and your knee meet. Hold this position for about a second and perform the desired number of reps. When done with one side, complete the same thing on the other side.

It’s important to make sure you are getting your knee above the hips during this move. This is what is going to target your lower abs. (The dumbbell is optional. If you are just starting out, you can perform this move only using your bodyweight.)

2) Standing Bicycle Crunch
Think you need to perform bicycle crunches on a mat? Think again. This move works the same muscles that the bicycle crunch does — all of them.

To perform this move: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands behind your head with your elbows out and back in line with your shoulders. Bend one knee up across the body making sure it comes at least to hip height. Keeping the knee in the air, bend the opposite side of your upper body toward the lifted knee so that you can feel the crunch. Return back to the starting position and perform the desired number of reps, alternating sides. After you do this move, you may never do bicycle crunches on the floor again.

3) The Repeater
This move, derived from a step aerobics class, awesome because not only is it a killer ab exercises but it also provides a bit of a cardio and leg workout. Since this move is used mostly in a step class, you can use a step if you’d like but it’s not necessary. It’s just as good a move on the flat floor.

To perform this move: Stand with your body on angle with one leg in the front with the knee slightly bent and the other leg in the back straight but not locking the knee. You are going to place both of your hands up above your head (your body should be on an angle, you shouldn’t be standing up straight.) Bring the knee in the front up as you pull your arms down to put the knee. Pretend that you are holding a coconut in your hands and you are trying to break it using your knee. Perform this move a pretty fast pace. When you are done doing the desired number of reps, repeat the same move on the other side.

Progress and Naming Conundrum

After a full two months of professional training at Mirabella under head trainer Vanessa Karlewicz, my horse is doing fantastic!

During the first few weeks of riding, our initial concerns were teaching him how to properly move out off the leg. He developed a liking for poking along and breaking to a walk whenever possible. Now that he is past that, the current strategy is to pursue more supple gaits and teach him to understand softening and trotting and cantering at various speeds and levels of collection.

As the title of this post notes, I am having some difficulties in the naming department. I purchased my gorgeous 4 year old Friesian Holsteiner Cross with the name Cornelius, barn name Junior. I am not a fan of either. I did not pursue changing it right away as I was waiting for his papers and the bill of sale from the owner. Now that I have all the paperwork required for a formal name change, I am lost as to the name.

Initially I was leaning towards Ozymandias, after Ramses the Great and the poem by Percy Shelley. I would call him Ozzy. As there is already an Oz at my barn, that presents a small problem. Other names that I have been considering are Movado, Leonidas and Oberon.

Please let me know what you think. I’ve a few friends leaning towards Leonidas with the nickname Leo. It seems to suit him well.