Holistic Health Coach
Holistic Health Coach
Happy Hormones and how to hack them
There's a lot of talk about menopause and hormones these days, every SM story , celebrity and supplement company seems to have jumped on the midlife bandwagon.
It's easy to see why ..Hormones are a big deal when it comes to our health
They are essentially the chemical messengers of our body. Think about them as satellites transmitting messages throughout the body, they travel around affecting different organs and tissues, working slowly and over time affecting various physiological processes including:
- Growth and development
- Metabolism: how our body get's nutrients and oxygen
- Sexual function and reproduction.
Hormones are produced by endocrine organs, which are groups of specialised cells, situated in different locations across the body. The endocrine glands include the pituitary, pineal, thymus, thyroid, adrenal, pancreas and sexual organs such as testes in men and ovaries in women.
Hormones are powerful substances! Even a small quantity of hormones can trigger a big reaction in cells across the body. For example, Insulin, produced by the pancreas is a response to food ingestion. It facilitates the digestive processes and controls the transfer of glucose from the bloodstream, into each human cell that needs it to function.
So, is it really possible to control or alter our hormones?
“While technically hormones can’t be controlled, certain lifestyle choices can influence them strongly,” says Dr Margarita GP (PCN IOW )
“For example, intermittent fasting has been scientifically proven to be an effective way to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, by reducing the release of insulin. A raw diet, higher in protein content and lower in processed carbohydrates, is also beneficial for lowering Insulin, as well as the stress hormone, cortisol.
“When cortisol and adrenaline are high due to stress, their levels can be brought down effectively by deep breathing, cold water immersion, laughter and meditation. These interventions activate the rest and digest mode via the parasympathetic nervous system.
“While attempting to influence individual hormones with specific foods or activities, we must remember that hormones typically rely upon and play off each other. Rarely can you influence one hormone in isolation, without having an impact on others, since they work in an orchestrated way. Imagine the domino effect!”
Whilst all hormones are necessary and helpful in our human experience, some undoubtedly feel nicer than others…
“Survival hormones adrenaline and cortisol are released when we are scared or in an intense situation, putting us in a “fight and flight mode”. Sweaty arms, butterflies in the stomach, high blood pressure and pulse and shallow breathing are all good signs that our body is getting a jolt of stress hormones. We are meant to experience these symptoms of “mobilisation” for short periods. In today’s 24/7 society, most of us function in a permanent fight and flight mode, leading to a multitude of biochemical changes, leading to diseases,” says Dr Margarita.
“Doing things to support the production of your happy hormones and trying to avoid stress or, being realistic, learning coping techniques, is the healthy way to approach life.”
So what can you do to positively support your body’s hormone production?
Exercise – aerobic exercise that gently increases your heart rate is a great mood enhancer, especially if it involves getting out into the fresh air and letting Mother Nature lift your mood. Swimming, dancing, group exercise classes and yoga are all great ways to contribute to a feeling of well-being.
Eating – pack plenty of healthy protein into your diet including oily fish like salmon and mackerel, nuts and white meat. Fresh fruit and vegetables are also good but especially dark leafy greens. Fermented foods are another good way of boosting your body including kombucha, homemade ginger beer and kimchi.
Laughing – laughter is one of the best ways there is to produce happy hormones. It lowers your blood pressure, strengthens your abs, boosts special immune cells called T-cells and reduces stress hormones. Swap out gruesome true crime shows for something funny and make time for laughter at work with your colleagues.
Sex – as well as being great aerobic exercise, it will give your body a boost of oxytocin.
Sleep – when we’re asleep our body produces less cortisol, the stress hormone. However, our bodies also work in sync with the amount of light we’re exposed to which is known as our circadian rhythm and functions over a 24-hour period. Our bodies like consistency so unless we get a regular night’s sleep at roughly the same time every night, it can knock our endocrine system out of balance.
Pets – once the stressful part of pet ownership is over (particularly the demands of puppies or kittens), they can support our mental well-being simply by their presence. When we stroke an animal or engage with them, we produce oxytocin.
Massage – whilst massage is a great way to relieve aches and pains as well as get our lymphatic system moving, the very fact of being touched by another human is one of its greatest benefits. It releases oxytocin and endorphins which is the reason we feel relaxed after a massage.
Get creative – whether it’s listening to music and having a dance or trying your hand at something new, letting go or challenging yourself in a different way will see your happy hormones dancing along with you.
Dealing with the downers
Focused breathing – when we’re feeling stressed, a great way to get those feelings under control is through focusing on our breathing. This will help reduce cortisol levels. Box breathing is one such approach where you breathe in for a count of four, hold for four, breathe out for four and then hold for a further four before beginning the exercise again. Make sure you breathe deeply into your diaphragm but don’t overdo it otherwise you risk hyperventilating. Breathing like this helps to turn your focus away from the stressor and create space to let go of the flight or fight instinct and look at a problem in a more considered way.
Natural light – getting out into the natural light, but especially sunlight, makes us feel good as it helps in the production of dopamine. Obviously it is important to adhere to the guidelines when we’re in direct sunlight. Come autumn and winter, many of us are noticeably aware that our mood alters when there is less sunlight. Getting outside whatever the weather will help but it’s also worth considering a specific light to help tackle SAD.
Interview from Zoella.co.uk