Hormone issues seem to be center stage in today’s world, but most people shrug them off and think of imbalances as simply part of life. I've found that there are a lot of hormones that can disrupt our systems and cause health concerns. Alarmingly, these often go undiagnosed or, even worse, misdiagnosed and treated as something else.
Knowing your body and how it responds to the world around you will help you to recognize shifts in your well-being. Hormones usually play a role in how you feel on a daily basis—with the heaviest hitters being cortisol, adrenaline, insulin, and reproductive hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone.
Balance is a buzzword that leads us to believe there's a calm in the hormonal storm, but the truth is that we are always in a constant state of flux. Hormones adapt and adjust, but we can help them to stay at a healthy level with simple daily rituals to find a happy balance in body, mind, and soul. It doesn’t take much to throw something off, so aim to nurture yourself and truly know yourself in the process. Focus on your personal nutrition, exercise, and stress habits to establish your individualized baseline and work on resetting the balance.
1. Reduce your personal stress.
Stress is no joke. At normal levels, cortisol benefits our body and protects us from danger. In fact, it's essential to our survival. The problem is when elevated cortisol becomes chronic with the constant stress of modern life. Too much cortisol overloads our system and makes our bodies think that we're in survival mode all the time. This results in the shutdown of "unnecessary" systems that could impede our survival efforts. Our reproductive system—no babies in times of danger—is often the first to suffer, with the digestive system soon to follow.
Train yourself to assess each situation in your life and ask, "Is this beneficial for me?" or "Will this bring me joy?" If the answer is no, then try to make a change. Times have changed since the cave-man days when cortisol fueled us to escape a saber-toothed tiger; instead, we now see a commercial about retirement planning and add stress to our lives while sitting on the couch. Don’t fall victim to chronic stress!
2. Track your food.
The foundation of a healthy body is good nutrition. It's important to understand exactly what you are habitually putting in your body on a daily basis, so keep a food diary or download an app like Lose It! or My Fitness Pal to keep an easy log of what you put into your mouth and when. Then, you can set realistic goals.
3. Hack your eating habits.
Focus on an organic, plant-based diet with lots of healthy protein and fat. Other quick tips include eating the rainbow with your fruits and vegetables, focusing on whole foods, ditching sugar, and avoiding inflammatory foods. When it comes to your food journal, it's helpful to take time to analyze your eating habits at the end of each week to determine when those snack cravings hit or when you fall victim to overeating. You can then be proactive about hydrating and selecting healthy snacks to carry with you during those hours.
4. Drink your veggies for breakfast.
Green smoothies have revolutionized the way I begin my day. I used to opt for the usual American choices laden with sugar but have made the switch to savory breakfasts full of protein and superfoods that keep me going through the midmorning snack fix all the way to lunch. Hooked on caffeine? Swap your soda or coffee for a matcha latte. It can be easily added to your green smoothie and gives you a boost of caffeine and antioxidants that your body deserves, not to mention myriad health benefits of green tea that will aid your body in the long run!
It’s not my favorite thing to do, but I had to train myself to make this a part of my routine. I park in the back of the parking lot, walk to meetings, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and spend my TV or reading time on the treadmill instead of on the couch indulging in a mindless snack fix. Other tricks include standing up while you work, getting a balance ball chair, taking dance breaks, enjoying a walk at sunset or sunrise, or any form of "typical" exercise. Moving your body will help you to control stress levels, support your heart health, and allow proper delivery of key nutrients to your body. Before long, these tricks will become habit.
6. Be proactive with hydration.
Did you know that not drinking enough water can affect cognitive function and cause premature aging, inflammation, and gut issues? Even more alarming is that by the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Our bodies also sometimes confuse thirst for hunger, so we eat instead of drink. I recommend starting your day with a quart of water (16 ounces) either in a smoothie or plain with a spike of lemon juice. Drink up! Always carry a bottle along with you and infuse it with berries or lemon to add a healthy flavor boost.
7. Breathe deeply.
Are you breathing correctly? Many of us aren’t! We push ourselves through the day in a state of constant stress sustained by short, shallow breaths. What you need to know is that your body calms itself when you breathe deeply, sending the message that stress is low and you are in control—even if you aren’t! Slow your heart rate and allow yourself a moment or two of deep-breathing when you feel yourself start to unravel. Train yourself to breathe through your diaphragm so that your belly goes out when you inhale and in when you exhale. Set your alarm to go off every three hours and take 10 deep breaths; eventually it will become second nature.
8. Inhale essential oils for aromatherapy.
Look no further than high-quality essential oils for a quick and sustaining way to reduce your stress and increase your focus instantly. Lavender is my go-to for calming my adrenal issues, and rosemary amps up focus and concentration while eliminating brain fog and boosting memory. All you have to do is smell the oils straight from the bottle and they instantly begin to work their magic. You can also utilize a diffuser throughout the day for long-lasting support. Pair this with deep breathing, and you can breathe your way to a newfound balance that will do wonders for your hormones.
9. Be aware of your heart.
I’m currently obsessed with GPS for the Soul, an app that measures your HRV (heart rate variability) with the camera on your phone. This measures the time between each heartbeat as an indicator of resilience. This is Heart Math Technology, proven to help you to reset your cortisol levels and DHEA.
10. Find a spiritual practice that speaks to you.
A major differentiator between someone who feels empowered versus overwhelmed is spiritual practice. Even five minutes of prayer or Zen meditation can change the game. Download a guided meditation app or join a group for prayer, faith study, or meditation. Using a calming essential oil like lavender at the same time will tackle chronic stress from multiple directions.
The take-home message here is that we are the bosses of our own health care. It's important to understand what we need to function optimally and what "normal" is for our bodies. An individualized approach to your own health will enable you to find balance and keep your hormones at healthy levels.
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