Hormones form the backdrop of our entire female lives and are the subject of countless jokes as well as misery.How do we learn to ride the hormonal waves and above all ensure that things do not completely go out of whack?Well the wisdom of hormones is so commonsensical that if we tune in to their frequency and do some serious listening,we will stay on their right side. 1.The Hormonal symphony: Our hormones are all interconnected and have reciprocal relationships with each other.Why?Because they are all controlled by a common endocrine Command Centre comprising the Hypothalamus and the Pitutary which together orchestrate the release and inhibition of the various metabolic,appetite related,stress and reproductive hormones.Adrenal (stress)hormones,thyroid and insulin all impact the levels of reproductive hormones.More often than not,Hormonal problems occur in clusters e.g. that of insulin-resistance,low thyroid,high cortisol and dysfunctional monthly cycles.
Hormonal message # Given the complicated linkages and cross-talk between various hormones,paying attention to your lifestyle is the beginning of hormone health.If you detect discordant notes in one hormonal area,you are likely to have imbalances in other aspects as well so just popping pills will not give a long-term solution.
2.Understand what Stress does to your hormones:
Our Stress response evolved over millions of years to help us cope with physical dangers involving fight or flight response.It was supposed to be an emergency response of short term nature. When cortisol kicks in,insulin stimulates release of stored glycogen to raise blood sugar.The production of reproductive hormones especially DHEA and Progestrone, is also down-regulated because the same steroids(which are the building blocks) are to be used for production of adrenal hormones. The thyroid gland is also adversely affected by chronic stress. This gland's roles include regulating calcium metabolism and glycolysis, the breakdown of glucose for body energy fuel. Under normal conditions, the fight-or-flight response causes the thyroid to increase glucose breakdown. In conditions of chronic stress, however, the thyroid is continually overstimulated and eventually becomes depleted. Thyroid function is also disrupted by excessive estrogen, but this can be prevented by adequate progesterone levels.The Sleep hormone (melatonin) also gets suppresed by cortisol. In the short term none of these matter.However,today our stressors are long term,chronic and mental/emotional in nature.We can neither physically run away from them nor bash them in the face like our ancestors.We just sit them out,letting cortisol bubble in our blood for hours on end.Mind-numbing meetings,demanding bosses,kid's exams,parent's illness,the (sedentary!) race to succeed by whatever crazy yardsticks others applaud,the need to be more,do more,have more-all these cortisol brewing cascades wreck our other hormones as well as deplete the adrenals themselves,causing adrenal fatigue. Your body,which is still in the Paleolithic mode in terms of its biological reponses,sees stress as a threat to survival.When survival is at stake,it does not very much care for the fertility hormones or your appetite,sleep and metabolism regulating hormones.Your mind which rationalizes all stressors and thinks you can still cope,will want you to pump in some caffeine/sugar/alcohol/nicotine to generate a nice cortisol cocktail and help you chug along.Understanding,that the root of your hormonal problems may lie in chronic,unabated stress may be the key to better hormonal health.
Hormonal message # Slowing down your over-scheduled,multi-tasking,on the go lifestyle may be a good idea,if the hormoans are getting you! And if you decide to plough ahead,anyways,they will be sure to give more ominous messages.Pay attention to the hormonal red-flags.
3.Eat to support Hormonal Health:
Providing a sound nutritional foundation for your hormones is not easy in today's world where women are encouraged to eat low fat,cholestrol free cereals and simple,refind carbs laden (non)foods .When your diet falls short of your body's needs,your hormonal messages will become strident. Eating well is at the heart of not just physical fitness but a key to enabling your body to function optimally.The basic rules: (i) eating good fats Reproductive as well as adrenal hormones are steroids and their production is enabled by cholestrol.based pre-cursors.High Omega -6(refined oil) based diet,produces bad eicosanoids(hormone-like substances)which are inflammatory(implicated in PCOS and endometriosis).Trans-fats disrupt enzyme systems needed for conversion of progestrone into various types of estrogens(causing deficiency of fertility hormones). So eat your desi ghee,love your flax,supplement with fish oil and avoid trans -fats like plague.Be sure to get at least 30% of your calories from good fats. (ii) get the micro-nutrients Several fat-soluble vitamins like E and K;the B-vitamins and micronutrients like zinc,magnesium,selenium,iodine are essential for activation of hormonal actions.Vitamin D and Vitamin A are essential for bio-synthesis of reproductive hormones. Good news is that good fats are naturally high in fat-soluble vitamins.Vitamins A and D and E are plentiful in saturated fats,eggs and fish.Vitamin E is also abundant in cold-pressed unrefined oils.Vitamin K is abundant in dark leafy greens(eat that Sarson Ka Saag). Trace minerals play key role in optimal hormonal function. Zinc: There is growing evidence that a deficiency of progesterone underlies PMS. Trace amounts of zinc regulate the secretion of many hormones, including progesterone.Zinc also regulates enzymatic reactions of melatonin-the sleep hormone.So stock up on nuts,seeds and seafood! Selenium:The most important thing to remember is that selenium is essential for thyroid functioning.It enables the conversion of T4(thyroxine) into the bio-availableT3(tri-iodothyronine).Brazil Nuts are the richest in selenium-most of us (especially vegetarians)may need to supplement because crops grown in selenium deficient soils are likely to be lacking in the nutrient. Magnesium Dr Guy Abraham,a gynecologist and endocrinologist was the first to point out links between magnesium defeciency and a cluster of symptoms relating to insomnia,PMS and osteoporosis.Nuts,whole-grains,legumes are good sources of magnesium.So is chocolate!Now you know why you crave it at certain times of the month. Magnesium alongwith zinc maybe yourbest bet to enhance hormone linked sleep problems.
Thus consuming a whole foods based diet rich in unrefined grains,legumes and nuts,leafy greens,good protein sources like eggs and fish and sufficient amounts of quality fats is the cornerstone of hormonal health.Sensible supplementation of trace minerals can work wonders.Also remember that excessof sugar,salt,caffeine is linked with decreased absorption of magnesium,B-vitamins and zinc.So merely taking supplements on top of a poor diet will only create expensive urine.
Hormonal message# You can cut out a lot of physical and emotional distress from your life simply by eating sensibly.
4.Be aware of endocrine disrupters. Pesticides,plastics,food additives,heavy metals all insidiously find their way in the modern diet.They mimic the effects of estrogen in our body and bind on to the estrogen receptors in the cells.Hence these are called Xenoestrogens.They gum up our natural endocrine function,cause estrogen-dominance (causing decrease in progestrone function),apart from causing immune deficiencies.They are a major source of dietary stress.Eating organic,non-processed foods and being aware of effects of exposure to plastics,chemicals in detergents and cosmetics on your hormones can be a good starting point for all of us.Do you know that one reason for rising thyroid troubles,despite adequate iodine in diet is the abundance of highly reactive halides in our water and food-the chloride,flouride,bromide combine which usurps iodine in the cellular reactions?
Hormonal message # What you eat talks to your hormones.Ingesting toxic stuff is likely to result in insidious hormonal effects.
5.Exercise Ha! ha!,now I come to the real heart of things,though from a hormonal perspective!! Exercise reduces stress,moderates the damaging effects of cortisol,and releases endorphins-the feel good neurotransmitters.Women are low in endorphins during the luteal phase of their cycle,when the progestrone levels drop.Progestrone is an important mediator of neurotransmitter action,and is also called the calmness inducing hormone.Exercise makes up for the low progestrone,by releasing endorphins to elevate and soothe your mood. Besides this,working a good sweat is a natural detox mechanism,you can rid yourself of harmful endocrine disrupting toxins by regularly working out.Sleep disorders are also abated by regular exercise.Exercise will help you keep tabs on weight gain.Excess body fat serves as a secondary site for estrogen production,often componding the problem of "estrogen dominance" and depriving us of protective effects of progestrone.Exercise especially weight-bearing exercise has immense metabolism boosting effects which are protective in case of thyroid imbalances as well as defective insulin metabolism.So whichever gland you look at exercise and activity is beneficial.