Most likely you’ve heard about hormones, those chemicals in our bodies that seem to control so many functions, from appetite to fat storage to stress reactions and more. But when words like “cortisol” and “estrogen” and “leptin” are bantered about, do you find your eyes glazing over? If so, this is the post for you! I wanted to share with you some quick, easy tips from this great article I found in Women’s Health.
Below is a quick summary of some of our most popular hormones, what they do, and how you can help better balance them out. If you want to read more, check out Brigid Sweeney’s article-listed in the sources below.
Cortisol-the Stress Hormone
Whenever your body perceives danger, whether you’re about to be eaten by a lion or walk into an interview, it releases the stress hormone cortisol. Your heart beats faster, you may feel sweaty palms, and your body harbors energy, ready to spring. Hundreds of years ago this reaction would help us escape danger, after which we would calm down and our body function would return to normal. Today, however, scientists say we’re under stress too often, and filling ourselves too full of cortisol.
To balance it out: Exercise! It reduces cortisol levels in the blood, especially if you do a half hour or so of interval training. Yoga, meditation, baths and deep breathing exercises will also start the relaxation response to help lower cortisol.
Melatonin-the Sleep Hormone
Having trouble sleeping? You may be experiencing an imbalance in your melatonin levels. The body releases it when you’re in the dark. If you’re using the computer before bedtime, however, you’re likely to reduce the production of melatonin and have trouble sleeping. Unfortunately, low melatonin levels have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
To balance it out: Banish all light-emitting devices like televisions, phones, and laptops from your bedroom and sleep in the dark. Make sure not to wear restrictive clothing as that can also affect levels of melatonin.
Oxytocin-the Attachment Hormone
This is the hormone released when you feel close to that someone special, which helps heighten trust and lower blood pressure. If you’re fighting with your mate, your levels may be too low.
To balance it out: Reconnect with your loved one. Hug, snuggle, and get close, as oxytocin levels skyrocket after orgasm. Single? You can still get your oxytocin hit from hugging family members and good friends-anyone you care deeply about. Touch therapies like massage also help increase oxytocin.
Thyroxine (T4) and Trilodothyronine (T3)-the Metabolism Hormones
Feeling overly tired lately? Constantly cold? Your thyroid may not be functioning correctly. It produces these two hormones, which help regulate the body’s metabolism and energy.
To balance it out: Stay away from plastics that contain BPA-it can disrupt thyroid function. If you still feel tired or extra cold, check with your doctor or check out this great website (one of my favorites for health related info) from Marcelle Pick, called “Women to Women.”
Leptin and Ghrelin-the Appetite Hormones
Have you gained weight lately? Most likely you can blame it on an imbalance in these hormones. Ghrelin tells you when your hungry, and leptin tells you when you’re full. Unfortunately, if you’re not getting enough sleep, or if you eat too much sugar, you can throw off levels of these hormones.
To balance it out: Get at least 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night, and cut back on refined high-sugar foods and sugary drinks.
Serotonin-the Mood Hormone
Feeling depressed lately? A low level of serotonin may be to blame. In addition to helping you to feel good, it also helps control the ability to multitask.
To balance it out: You need carbs to make serotonin, so if you’ve been on a low-carb diet lately, that may be part of the problem. Get more foods like yogurt, bananas, and healthy carbs like whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits, and beans.
Have you experienced an imbalance in your hormone levels? How did you balance it out? Please share your story.
Brigid Sweeney, “Hormonal Much?” Women’s Health, http://health.msn.com/womens-health/hormonal-much.
Photo courtesy sean dreilinger via Flickr.com.