Feeling irritable, anxious, moody, overweight or fatigued a lot?

Hormonal imbalances are often overlooked especially when it comes to weight gain, inflammation and chronic disease. The main hormone disruptors are insulin, thyroid, cortisol and sex hormones.

THYROID

The thyroid hormone plays a vital role in maintaining healthy body weight acting like our very own metabolic thermostat. When it is functioning properly we feel energetic, think clearly & have a good memory, manage body weight easily, cholesterol is usually normal, skin is moist, hair grows well and sex drive is strong. Quite a high proportion of thyroid sufferers fail to be diagnosed correctly. The appropriate thyroid tests are not always done to identify the condition.

Main causes of hypothyroidism (low thyroid)

  • Gluten intolerance
  • Heavy metals and pesticides
  • Nutritional deficiencies

How to improve thyroid function

  1. Have it diagnosed correctly in the first place. Ask your doctor for the right tests to detect dysfunction. Testing for TSH, free T3 & free T4 and thyroid antibodies is required. Reverse T3 may also need checking as high levels can be caused by heavy metals, pesticides, yeast infections or nutritional deficiencies.
  2. Eat the right foods. Limit your intake of cruciferous vegetables like soybeans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage & kale which can contain ‘goitrogens’. These are thyroid-blocking compounds. Cruciferous vegetables are fine to consume when cooked. Boost your iodine, selenium and zinc intake. Good quality nutritional supplements can also help the body in the short-term while adjusting to the more appropriate food choices.
  3. Avoid gluten. An elimination diet will allow time for the body to adjust & heal without this food.
  4. Test for heavy metals and pesticides if suspected. Embark on a detox program to help mop up the toxins and eliminate them while nourishing and healing the gut. Energy levels and sleep will improve, as well as digestion and absorption of nutrients.

CORTISOL

The adrenal glands produce this hormone in response to stress. It controls our hunger, digestion, blood pressure, sleep cycles, physical activity and ability to cope with stress. Initially high levels of cortisol are produced when the stress-response is activated often. With chronic or long-term stress, cortisol production can swing between very high and very low levels.

During the stress-response a release of cortisol helps us run faster, see further, hear better and it releases fuel into our blood for quick energy, so we can fight or fly away from the stressor. Unfortunately excessive stress can cause weight gain, insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, muscle loss and can also cause our digestion to shut down and metabolism to slow.

How to reset the stress response

  1. Practice active relaxation. This means set aside a particular time of day for about 15 minutes and try some deep breathing, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi or even a sauna or steam bath. Regular practice is what reaps the benefits.
  2. Don’t be fooled by negative thoughts. Many of us get very caught up in our own reactions, habits and ideas that keep us stressed. Learn to recognise when this is happening and choose not to believe them, let them go.
  3. Connect with friends and family. Choose to be around positive people who uplift your mood and make you feel happy.
  4. Create an endorphin rush with some daily exercise like walking, weights, swimming and cycling. Whatever you choose, make it something that you like to do. When you gain enjoyment from the activity you are more likely to do it regularly.

SEX HORMONES

Imbalances in estrogen hormones and testosterone can also result in weight gains in both men and women. It’s interesting to know that farmers implant estrogen pellets into the ears of beef cattle to fatten them up before market.

Symptoms of estrogen dominance (in men & women)

  • In women: fluid retention, PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome), fibroids, breast soreness and heavy menstrual bleeding.
  • In men: beer belly, loss of body hair (on chest, legs, arms) and ‘man boobs’.

Symptoms of low testosterone in men

  1. Accelerated ageing, muscle loss, fat gain, low sex drive and sexual dysfunction, fatigue, lack of mental clarity and bone loss.
  2. Lack of exercise, alcohol, stress, environmental toxins, diabetes and obesity.

What causes elevated estrogen levels?

  1. Too much refined, processed carbohydrates, sugars and alcohol.
  2. Too little fibre or too many antibiotics damage the gut lining.
  3. Exposure to environmental toxins like mercury and xenoestrogens (synthetic estrogens that mimic real estrogen). The latter can be found in plastics, toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, food preservatives and the lining of canned food. These are well-known to disrupt our hormones.

How to rebalance hormones

  1. Eat a diet low in sugar and refined processed carbs, high in good omega-3 fats and high in fibre.
  2. Add more fibre: Choose fibre-rich organic fruits and vegetables. Include ground flaxseeds.
  3. Eliminate daily: Constipation is not great for hormone health. Drink 8-10 glasses of filtered water a day and move. Include plant fibre.
  4. Reduce or avoid alcohol: Too much alcohol impacts on liver and kidney function, which slows detoxification, resulting in hormonal imbalances, fatty liver and high triglycerides.
  5. Exercise: Regular exercise helps rebalance hormones, by reducing estrogen and increasing testosterone, which helps shed body fat and build muscle.

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