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.

New Year’s Resolutions

I am not usually one for New Year resolutions; however, my recent lifestyle transformations have led me to consider setting goals that I have progressively worked to achieve over the past few months into a concrete idea for the new year. Merely as a means to fully visualize where I see myself now and in the future.

2012 Resolutions

Health:

  • 100% Vegan – No excuses, no cutting corners (even for holidays), I can do this
  • Try some new recipes and start making tonics
  • Workout at least every other day at the gym including cardio, yoga, and weight training
  • Do P90X daily (contingent my boyfriend ever getting around to sending me it)
Lifestyle
  • Get outside!! Bundle up and enjoy the fresh air and sunlight.
  • Go horseback riding at least once a week
  • Spend more time playing with my dog and taking her on little adventures
  • Read more – I have an enormous stack of books that lay untouched, desperate to please me
  • Sleep – try and get a full 7 hours every night
Professional:
  • Pass all parts of the CPA exam
  • Complete all class requirements for admission to vet school
  • Write a baller personal statement for admission to vet school

 

Cellulite: A Natural Remedy

A raw food, vegan diet simply melts away cellulite. I have had cellulite on my upper thighs my entire life, even in high school when running track and jumping hurdles 6 days a week for 2-4 hours a day as well as lifting weights and eating a healthy lean meat and high vegetable diet.

It was not until my freshman year of college when I decided to originally go vegan (eating mainly salads and vegetables with little to no grain) that I lost the extra 5lbs I fought my entire high school career to lose and the little bit of cellulite on my thighs completely disappeared. These results plus a really high energy level convinced me that vegan was the way to go for my body. However, veganism did not last once I came home for the semester. The weight lost came right back as did the appearance of cellulite.

I am currently making the shift back into the vegan diet focusing intensely on high raw content as well as incorporating various superfoods.

For those of you unwilling to make such a significant dietary change, use essential grapefruit oil. The citrus oils increase circulation and tighten skin dramatically reducing the appearance of cellulite. I tried it myself in preparation for my Hawaiian vacation and noticed a dramatic difference in just a week. Cellulite completely disappeared!

Look for 100% pure and therapeutic grade essential oil. Apply a small amount to the problem areas and allow to fully absorb before getting dressed. You’ll notice the difference!

Remember that this is not necessarily a cure, but it will help with the appearance of cellulite. The best things you can do are change your diet and maintain an active lifestyle.

Food Journal Day 7-8

Things have been a bit wild between work, Christmas shopping and trying to study for my last two finals this week. After taking my organic chemistry final I have lost all ambition to hit the books for hours on end. I find my mind wandering off to some beautiful field of wildflowers with a hot summer sun warming my back and a good book between my knees. The cold and the dark of winter transform me from a warm, delightful cup of tea to a indisposed bear in mid hibernation, constantly dismal and randomly snappy at minuscule things.

Saturday went quite well… for the first half of the day. I began early with a delicious banana and coconut milk smoothie flavored with some cinnamon, vanilla extract and nutmeg. A holiday treat.

This filled me up and provided a nice energy boost for that mornings shopping. I purchased a gift from my mother in Hawaii, a beautiful locally done hand blown glass sculpture of a fish, and ordered my father an new Swiss Army watch online (no worries, they don’t read this). I had also ordered a bunch of things for Kyle online. I’d like to vent my frustrations on shopping for him in another post. Basically all that was left were my two brothers and a handful of things I wanted to pick up for Kyle.

I began to make the rounds, searching mainly for clothes for my brothers. Which is incredibly trying as one is 6’1” and the other 6’3” and both are fairly slim. A tedious combination as normal clothes are too short and big and tall clothes are too wide. Very frustrating. Ultimately I left empty handed from most stores. I think I might go with accessories this year.

After the bit of shopping I headed home to take care of my dogs. Plans for the rest of the day involved going out for lunch with my hot lesbian friend, Ariele, and doing some more shopping with her. I decided to eat lunch at home to save the money and not to complicate things by worrying about the vegan thing in a restaurant (don’t be intimidated, it is not hard, I’m just poor and easily tempted).

We ended up skipping lunch, going straight to Home Goods for 2 hours designing beautiful gift baskets for her family. I started to build one for Kyle’s parents before changing my mind last minute. We’re not terribly close, shipping would have cost a fortune, and I do not know enough about them to build one that would be useful and enjoyed. I decided it is a thing for next year.

Back to the main purpose of this entry, FOOD, dinner was at Bonefish, a delicious and expensive restaurant near the shopping mall. I kind of cheated… Pretty badly too. I am very ashamed and in all honesty it was not even worth the cheat. I had fish tacos. Not the worst cheat in the world, but for these 21 days I was really steadfast on keeping it to an intense detox routine. I also had an espresso martini. Not really part of a detox either but it was delicious.

Today, I woke up with a mango smoothie and lots of water. Went to Whole Foods to pick up groceries for the week and buy a bunch of hippy food to send to Kyle. Kyle, the one who laughed at me and made fun of me for the whole merging into a vegan diet, calling me a hippy and all sorts of silly names, asked me for a care package for Christmas loaded with hippy food and supplements. I just laughed and am happy to get him a bit more into the concept and supportive. He’ll never cut out meat, but if he is more understanding of me trying to do it, I’m cool.

For lunch I had a piece of vegan pizza from Whole Foods made with gluten-free dough, peppers, onions, and some delicious garlic/tomato/seasoned paste thing instead of a tomato sauce. Absolutely delicious.

For dinner, I made a salad of shredded golden beets, shredded parsnip, shredded onion, chopped mint leaves and a vinaigrette with pineapple juice, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup (optional), garlic and salt.

Today is also weigh-in Sunday. I weighed in at 138lbs. A loss of two pound for the week. This is about what I expected. From stress, it being “that time of the month,” lack of sleep, lack of normal exercise, I have not been living the desired lifestyle. My last two finals are Wednesday and I will start picking up a normal routine from there.