We’re arguably often guilty of failing to pay as much attention to our hormone health as we should. After all, your body secretes around 50 hormones, which – together – profoundly impact on some of the body’s most crucial functions, ranging from mood and appetite to sexual activity and heart muscle contraction.
To maintain the very best physical, mental and emotional health, then, you have to do the right things for your hormones. But what are the steps you should take?
Introducing hormones – and why they’re important
A good way to think of hormones is as chemical messengers in the body. Your endocrine glands produce these molecules, which then travel to other parts of your body via the bloodstream.
Good hormone health is characterised by your body routinely producing the levels of each hormone that are necessary for functions like those mentioned above.
Sometimes, however, due to factors like ageing or unhealthy lifestyle habits, there may be too much or too little of certain hormones in your bloodstream. These are hormone imbalances, which – even when they are only small – can have a range of undesirable implications elsewhere in the body.
5 great ways to ensure better balanced hormones
Understandably, then, you may be keen to know more about how to keep your own hormones nicely balanced. While the below tips aren’t an exhaustive rundown of what you can and should do, they could go a long way to helping you to achieving optimal hormone levels.
- Minimise overeating and undereating. Unfortunately, this particular tip has probably become even more relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many of us have been prone to ‘comfort eating’ while stuck at home. The hormonal shifts that can be caused by eating too much or too little are linked to weight problems. It’s therefore crucial to always eat within your personal calorie range to help keep your hormones balanced – and your weight healthy – at this stressful time for so much of the population.
- Practise stress-reducing habits. Neatly following on from the above tip, chronic stress can unfortunately spell bad news for your hormonal balance. Stress has a major effect on two of your body’s key hormones – cortisol and adrenaline – and when these remain elevated over time, such adverse health consequences as greater belly fat, higher blood pressure, and anxiety can occur. The good news, though, is that research also indicates engaging in stress reduction techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga and listening to relaxing music, could aid you in bringing these hormone levels back into balance.
- Aim for healthier sleeping patterns. A failure to get enough good-quality sleep is unfortunately linked to imbalances in various hormones, including cortisol, insulin, ghrelin, leptin, and growth hormone. For instance, one study that examined the effects of healthy young men’s sleep being restricted for two days recorded an 18% fall in leptin and a 28% increase in ghrelin. So, be sure to follow the various well-documented tips for achieving better sleep, such as adhering to a consistent sleep schedule and exercising regularly.
- Lower your consumption of sugar and refined carbs. Nutrition will always play an imperative part in any effective effort to balance hormones – and these two are among the biggest ‘villains’. Sugar, for example, keeps the body’s insulin levels high, which can overwhelm your cells and heighten the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. There’s evidence, too, of diets with high levels of refined carbs – as found in foods like pretzels and white bread – making insulin resistance more likely.
- Add fatty fish to your diet. Achieving a diet that promotes hormonal balance isn’t necessarily just about taking some less-than-healthy foods away – it can also be about knowing what to add. Fatty fish – such as salmon, herring and mackerel – is easily the leading source of long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, which research has suggested could help to reduce cortisol and adrenaline levels in the body. To give one example, a study looking at how men fared on a mental stress test found that a diet rich in omega-3 fats may help to keep cortisol and epinephrine levels down at times of such stress.
You can’t afford to ignore the role your hormones play in your all-round health. Fortunately, measures like the above could greatly assist you in your drive to balance your hormones. In the process, you’re likely to be able to significantly minimise your risk of conditions like heart disease, obesity and diabetes, while enhancing your hormone function.