August 31, 2018
Hormone Balancing Act
Did you know hormones play a powerful role in how we feel and how our bodies function? Acclaimed nutritional biochemist and best-selling author, Dr Libby Weaver is on a mission to help women identify the signs of hormonal imbalance and speaks with Profile ahead of her visit to the Sunshine Coast this month.
How powerful are hormones?
There are over 50 different hormones, all working in harmony (or not!) to influence how we experience each day. What many people don’t realise is that our hormones aren’t supposed to make us suffer. When someone says, “Oh, it’s my hormones,” usually they’re not referring to something positive, but our hormones are actually wonderful substances that allow us to feel and look our best – when they’re in balance. The problem is, hormonal imbalances have become so common that their associated symptoms are being accepted as ‘normal’. I like to say that they’re common, but they’re not normal.
How CAN WE identify a hormonal imbalance?
It really depends on which hormones and the stage of life you’re in. There are hormones that influence our appetite and so if those are out of balance we may experience insatiable hunger, food cravings or inefficient body fat utilisation. Our thyroid hormones can massively affect our energy as well as our body fat levels. A sex hormone imbalance might show up as regular symptoms in the lead up to or during menstruation, or a challenging transition into menopause. Elevated stress hormones might increase anxious feelings or impact on our ability to sleep. They truly have an impact on so many aspects of our health and our experience of everyday life.
How can we rectify IT naturally?
Many health challenges can be addressed through dietary and lifestyle changes and hormonal imbalances are no exception. The most important thing to identify is the road your body took to create the hormonal imbalance, for this is the road you will need to take to correct the issue. For example, if you have an excess of estrogen, due to a liver that is struggling to keep up with the load of harmful substances you are asking it to process on a daily basis, supporting your liver by increasing liver supporters and decreasing liver loaders can help to reduce your estrogen levels. However, if your estrogen is dominant when it isn’t supposed to be because you have low progesterone resulting from poor ovarian and/or adrenal gland production of this hormone, you’re probably not going to find the liver support as helpful as you would adrenal support or ensuring your body is getting the nutrients it needs to build progesterone.
WE ARE always chasing great hair, skin and nails. What nutrients do our hormones need?
For healthy hair, skin and nails, we require ALL of the essential vitamins and minerals, as well as adequate protein and essential fatty acids. In saying that, there are a few that are particularly important. Our hormones are made from fats and proteins. Most people get enough protein each day, however there are a variety of dietary fats and often we don’t get enough of the omega-3 fatty acids – these are found in oily fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts. Zinc is another nutrient that is particularly important for sex hormone production and balance, as well as for healing skin challenges such as acne, which can arise from a sex hormone imbalance. We also require iodine and selenium to maintain optimal thyroid hormone production, without which skin can become dry and hair can start to thin.
What impact does stress have on our hormones?
Our hormones can be extremely sensitive to the way we live our lives. Our body isn’t designed to be experiencing stress on a daily basis and long-term, persistent stress on the body can significantly change our hormone profile. When we perceive stress, it signals to our body to produce stress hormones and this can interfere with the balance of other hormonal systems. So, stress is often an underlying cause of the hormone imbalances
What can be done to reduce this?
Diaphragmatic breathing (long, slow breaths that move your belly, rather than your chest) is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress hormone production, so daily breath-focused practices are often essential. I also encourage people to explore what stress really means to them and to identify what is leading them to feel stressed in everyday life. It might be that in some cases, reducing the load we are putting on our body each week (i.e. making more time for regular rest) would be beneficial, but it’s always helpful to consider our perception of pressure and urgency as this usually sits at the heart of how we respond to what arises in our daily lives.
HOW CAN WE support hormonal imbalances that contribute to painful periods, PMS, irregular periods, food cravings, acne and PCOS?
In order to support sex hormone balance, we need to take great care of ourselves – not only physically in terms of nutrition, moving our body regularly and prioritising sleep, but also emotionally. This includes considering our perception of pressure and urgency, and incorporating daily restorative practices to help reduce stress hormone production, which tends to be a big factor in sex hormone imbalances – particularly for women with PCOS, PMS, cravings and irregular periods. Supporting the liver by focusing on whole, real foods, especially plenty of green leafy vegetables from the Brassica family, as well as minimising or avoiding caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars and trans fats, can also be extremely beneficial, especially for those with acne or heavy, painful periods.
Dr Libby will be speaking about ageing and hormones when she comes to the Sunshine Coast on 10 September as part of her book tour. For tickets and more information, visit drlibby.com