by Dr. Aimee Warren
Whenever I talk about hormones and hormone imbalance, I use the analogy of a symphony. Imagine that all our body’s hormones are the instruments in an orchestra, each playing beautifully together to create a prolific musical piece which equates to our bodies functioning in perfect hormonal balance. However, if one or more of those instruments is playing out of tune, the entire orchestra sounds bad. This is what happens in our bodies. If one or more of our hormones are out of balance, our entire body can feel off. We generally think that hormonal imbalance is something especially reserved for menstruating or menopausal women (aren’t we lucky?). However, hormonal imbalance can be experienced by men and women alike and can occur as a result of too much stress, being overweight, being depressed, toxins and medications to name a few.
The job of bringing our bodies back into hormonal harmony is a multi-faceted. First, we need to figure out if there is an actual hormonal imbalance or is there something else going on? Performing blood/saliva/urine tests to check hormone levels is one of the first steps. However, looking only at these lab values can sometimes skew the picture or only give a glimpse toward the underlying problem. A comprehensive physical exam, complete lifestyle evaluation, and full nutritional analyses are also required to gain a holistic perspective of what is actually going on in the body. With this valuable information, we can tailor specific recommendations for each individual patient that will help bring the body back into balance and playing Mozart.
That said, several key elements in reaching and maintaining hormonal balance do not have to be gained in a doctor’s office or in a pharmacy line. There are things you can start doing right now that will help bring your body’s hormones back into equilibrium:
- It’s as simple as putting your shoes on and getting outside for a brisk walk. This one simple act, if done regularly, can bring about more positive change than could ever be gained by popping a pill. Exercise improves heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, immune function, blood sugar, body temperature, body fat, muscle mass, bone density, metabolic activity, body weight, AND hormone levels.
- Sleep baby, sleep. Chronic insomnia and inadequate sleep alter our hormone balance significantly. Not only does it increase cortisol (the stress hormone which leads to weight gain, anxiety, depression, etc.), it also increases ghrelin (which increases our hunger signal), decreases leptin (satiety trigger hormone – or our feelings of being full), and it alters melatonin (our natural sleep regulating hormone) compounding the problem. What’s more, according to a study in the scientific journal, Sleep, people who chronically get inadequate amounts of sleep are less likely to receive promotions at work and have more health-related consequences such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. If you have problems sleeping, talk to your doctor about it. We can help!
- Go all natural. Stop! Don’t go busting out your birthday suit. What I mean is, detoxify your life. Environmental toxins are everywhere — in our food, plastic bottles, cosmetics, just to name a few. Research has shown that in some plastics, toxic additives such as BPA can alter the hormonal function in our bodies. Purge your life of plastic and start using refillable glass, reusable grocery bags, etc. whenever you can; the landfills will thank you too. Another major source of hormone altering badness comes from conventionally processed meat and dairy products. These products are often full of additives such as growth hormones and steroids which can undeniably shift our own delicate hormone balance. We suggest a clean, whole food, plant based diet and buying local and organic whenever possible. This ensures that you are getting the highest nutritional content possible with the lowest amount of toxic pesticides. If you do eat meat and dairy products, buy organic, free range and grass fed. Similarly, using environmentally friendly soaps, plant based house cleaning products and natural cosmetics will also help keep your body free of unwanted chemicals that could be wreaking havoc on your hormonal symphony.
Although the idea of embarking on the hormonal balancing journey can seem daunting, it is a journey worth taking. In working with our patients, we have been witness to many exclaiming that they finally feel like themselves again. And what is this life for if not to feel vital and full of life? You deserve it!
We wish you a peaceful and happy holiday season. Dr. Aimee Warren