We easily feel if our hormones are out of balance as there are many physical and psychological changes that we can observe and become aware of. But what we often don’t realise, is how our lifestyle and everyday actions could have contributed to create these imbalances. Here are some of the examples of habits that can hinder hormonal health.
LACK OF SLEEP
Having enough hours of shut eye is not only important to feel well rested but also to help maintain balance within our hormones. Lack of sleep can negatively impact insulin sensitivity leading to impaired blood glucose levels and a possible increase in fat storage as well as influencing our hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates hunger while leptin signals satiety to the brain but lack of sleep increases ghrelin and decreases leptin levels, which stimulates hunger and food cravings.
Poor sleep also impacts stress other hormones, especially cortisol which is beneficial in short bouts as it can increase awareness but long-term highs lead to decreased immunity, impaired sex hormones function, fat storage and lowering of serotonin levels. Serotonin is the precursor of the hormone melatonin which regulates sleep cycles creating a vicious cycle of sleep impairment.
Plus, the body produces growth hormone during deep sleep. Human growth hormone is necessary to slow down ageing processes, build muscle, immune system and metabolic functions. While we naturally produce less as we age, lack of sleep can decrease its production even further.
The main stress hormone in the body is cortisol which is essential to wake up in the morning and maintain alertness during the day. Even though it’s important to have adequate levels, prolonged mental and physical stress can lead to constant raised amounts that negatively impact many other essential hormones in the body. High cortisol causes impaired thyroid hormones function and conversion.
Plus, it raises blood sugar and consequently insulin which is needed to take sugar into cells to be used as energy. When your body constantly produces too much insulin, it can lead to insulin resistance where cells struggle to get the needed energy from the blood stream. Blood sugar levels rise and the body is forced to store the excess glucose as fat.
Also, cortisol and progesterone are made from the same hormone called pregnenolone. When the body constantly produces cortisol, the production of progesterone gets sacrificed causing an imbalance with other sex hormones.
Now, we all know how exercise is absolutely beneficial for cardiovascular and immune health, to help us managing stress, giving us more energy and lifting our mood. But overexercising won’t just give us more of that.
Exercise is a form of stress which the body can usually adapt to. The muscle tissues can be repaired and built up, toxins are removed though sweat and lymphatic system pumping and stress hormones that get momentarily raised can then settle. But to obtain all of this, it’s essential to take time to recover.
Excessive cardio or weight lifting and too little recovery time doesn’t give the body a chance to repair, heal and build again. It creates a state of constant stress and raised cortisol levels. When we don’t give our muscles, bones, cells and hormones the time to adjust to exercise it can lead to negative physical and psychological changes. Always try to balance your strenuous exercise session with slower and more mindful practices and take time to just rest.
LOW FAT DIETS
Fats are the building blocks of cell membranes and hormones. Cholesterol, for example is
the precursor of vitamin D, oestrogen progesterone, testosterone and cortisol.
When we don’t include sources of fats into our diets such as avocado, nuts, seeds, oils, fish, the body can’t produce these essential substances which will inevitably have an impact on our hormonal health but also skin, bones, muscles, basically every cell.
And let’s not forget that fats are vital for brain cell membranes structure and communication, they help us absorb fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) from foods and they make us fell satisfied and energised after meals.
EXCESSIVE CAFFEINE CONSUMPTION
Most of us love a delicious smelling cup of coffee in the morning and if you are not sensitive to caffeine, it can be okay in moderation. Excessive caffeine consumption though, just like excessive exercise won’t give us more energy and alertness. Coffee can have a negative effect on oestrogen and testosterone as it increases the level of a protein called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) that regulates the body’s sex hormones.
It also raises cortisol secretion that leads to increased stress and since excessive consumption of caffeine can then lead to prolonged raised cortisol levels, it can affect the body’s response to insulin, leading to imbalances in blood glucose levels.
Plus, when coffee is consumed in the late afternoon and evening, it can delay the natural rise in melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates our sleep and wake cycle.
CHEMICALS HIDING IN MAKE-UP, SKINCARE + PLASTIC
Our skin is our biggest organ and everything that we apply on it, can actually enter into the bloodstream. So it’s extremely important that we try to choose products and ingredients that are as safe and non-toxic as possible. That are many substances in our environment, personal care product sand food that can interfere with the production, transport, breakdown and elimination of hormones called endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These include parabens, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulphate, phthalates, triclosan, formaldehyde and oxybenzone among others and may be found in hair products, body wash, make-up, nail polish and creams.
But there is also another category of chemicals called xenoestrogens, which can have oestrogen-like effects meaning that they have the ability to mimic our natural hormones, blocking or binding to hormone receptors. Many of these are found in skincare, cleaning products and plastic containers. So ditching your plastic water bottle or bag, can be very beneficial for the environment and for your own health and wellbeing too.