Hormones are a key component of women’s health and a crucial factor in weight loss. When our hormones are out of balance strange things can happen, hair can start growing on our face, our menstrual cycle can be off, we can experience PMS, we can become overly moody and emotional. The women’s body has a delicate balance of many hormones, when we experience stress, when we eat an unbalanced diet and when we don’t attend to our emotional needs this delicate balance is disrupted and our entire bodies can suffer.
No matter where you are in your life cycle as a woman, whether you are in your reproductive years, trying to conceive, in perimenopause or post menopause, keeping the below three hormones in check will help you to regain hormonal balance and better help you attain your healthy weight.
Insulin is a very important hormone that regulates blood sugar level. When out of alignment it can affect many other hormones including sex hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
Insulin resistance is very common and is the first step to metabolic symptom and type 2 diabetes. In the US it is estimated that only 1 in 8 people are in metabolic health. Research shows that it is one of the driving forces behind chronic disease. The good news is that blood sugar problems relating to insulin such as metabolic syndrome and type two diabetes are preventable through lifestyle and diet.
After long term consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugar, often the cells can no longer soak up the extra glucose, the liver therefore converts this extra glucose to fat, especially in the belly area. During menopause many common symptoms take root in insulin resistance such as hot flashes, fatigue, weight gain, trouble focusing and concentrating. In women in their fertile years, insulin resistance can be seen as PCOS, which is one of the most common fertility issues today. High insulin can also raise blood pressure and cholesterol, weaken immune system, as well as put you at risk for Alzheimer’s disease (also known as type 3 diabetes), breast cancer and endometrial cancer.
Avoid Insulin Resistance by:
- Eating meals that include a lot of fibrous vegetables
- Eating meals that contain healthy fat
- Avoiding sugar (in all of its forms)
- Avoiding refined grains (white pasta, white rice…)
- Includes herbs and spices that stabilize your blood sugar such as cinnamon
- Physical exercise
- Manage stress
- Good quality of sufficient sleep
- Talk to a naturopath about supplements to help you wean off of sugar
Cortisol is the predominant stress hormone secreted by your adrenal glands in periods of stress. It is a huge part of our body’s “fight or flight” response, when stress becomes chronic, less essential bodily functions such as reproduction (hormonal balance, fertility, …), digestion and rest get compromised.
Symptoms of high blood cortisol include weakened immune system, feeling anxious and/or depressed, sleep problems, headache/backache, weight gain, low libido, feeling tired even when you slept well. Chronic high cortisol can also lead to accelerated aging, adrenal fatigue, feelings of loneliness and burnout.
Cortisol also increases your insulin level and makes you hungry, especially for high fat and refined carbohydrate foods. This high stress states throws off your body’s pH and causing more acidity and inflammation as well as disrupting your gut flora.
What you can do to lower your cortisol:
- Identify the source of stress and address it
- Stress management techniques: diaphragmatic breathing…
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Physical Exercise (especially in the morning)
- Heal your gut
This is better known as the love hormone. It is actually a neuromodulator that is secreted when we have feelings of love. Love stimulates brain health and the release of oxytocin stimulates the growth of neurons in the brain and may offset the effects of stress.
Oxytocin & Insulin
Oxytocin helps regulate appetite and body weight. A 2013 study on mice and humans showed that if they are given extra oxytocin, the hormone prevents weight gain and insulin resistance. Oxytocin also plays a role in satiety, when you have eaten enough, the hypothalamus in your brain releases oxytocin which gives you the satisfaction of being full and no longer hungry. On the other hand chronic sugar consumption suppresses oxytocin release.
Oxytocin & Cortisol
Cortisol and oxytocin actually oppose each other; when one goes up, the other is forced down. A great way to lower cortisol is not only through stress management techniques but also through actions that promote the hormone release, such as:
Actions Promoting Oxytocin Release:
- Hugging, Kissing, Holding hands
- Looking at pictures of babies or of our children
- Nurture friendships
- Cuddling or playing with a baby or child
- Caressing, caring and playing with pets
By regulating insulin, cortisol and oxytocin your body will get back to its natural balance, making it much easier to attain your optimal weight, stabilize your moods and feel energized. For tips and help on how to change your lifestyle habits check out the following article.