Tired, moody or irritable? These simple lifestyle changes could help balance your hormones.
By Anna Bonet
Feeling overtired, bloated or just not your best? It could be down to hormone imbalance. We tend not to think about our hormones on a daily basis, but they play a vital role in our everyday life, affecting everything from our appetite to our libido. That means if any of our hormones are imbalanced, our body can suffer in a variety of ways.
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that are produced in our endocrine glands and are sent around our blood stream. ‘Hormones help to control many body functions, such as growth, repair and reproduction, says Dr Aarti Narayan-Denning, NHS GP and hormone replacement specialist. ‘We reach various life stages when our hormones rise, and we age as our hormones decline.’
There are over 50 types of hormones in the body, and they each have a different role to play. Some of the major hormones are:
- Cortisol: the stress hormone
- Thyroid: this controls our metabolism
- Oestrogen: the female sex hormone
- Testosterone: the male sex hormone
- Leptin: this regulates body weight
- Insulin: this one looks after blood sugar levels
- Melatonin: the sleep hormone
What is hormone imbalance?
Hormone imbalance means having too little or too much of a hormone. ‘It’s normal for hormone levels to fluctuate at different times in your life, or even at different times of the month,’ says Abbas Kanani, pharmacist at Chemist Click.
‘But a hormone imbalance is usually associated with levels that are unusually high or low, which can have a negative impact on certain aspects of your health. A hormone imbalance can affect your weight, sleep and mood.’
What are the signs of hormone imbalance?
Because hormones affect your overall health, the symptoms of hormonal imbalance can be broad, as it depends which type of hormone isn’t working properly. However, there are a few key symptoms to look out for, says Kanani:
? Change in weight – weight gain is more common with a hormone imbalance, but weight loss is also possible.
? Changes in mood – including depression, anxiety, loss of libido.
? Muscle weakness.
? Changes in skin, including outbreaks of acne, excessive stretch marks, dry skin.
? Changes in menstrual pattern, such as heavy periods, missed periods, irregular periods.
? Thinning of your hair.
? Chronic fatigue or changes to your regular sleep pattern.
How do you treat hormone imbalance?
‘Your GP can refer you for blood tests, which will provide an indication into how best to treat the imbalance in hormones,’ says Kanani. ‘There are certain medications that can have a direct impact on hormone levels, such as thyroid medication, contraceptive pills and oestrogen or progesterone therapy. These drugs can help to restore hormone levels, bringing them back into balance.’
However, there are plenty of natural remedies and easy lifestyle changes you can make to help redress hormone imbalance too. These include:
✔️ Maintain a healthy body weight
✔️ Exercise regularly
✔️ Minimise stress
✔️ Get enough sleep
✔️ Cut back on alcohol intake
Best foods to treat hormone imbalance
How to balance hormones with nutrition
Nutrition plays a vital role, too. Ali Neilan, nutritionist at Health is Wealth, advises on the best foods to eat for different types of hormone imbalance:
Oestrogen dominance: consume lots of cruciferous vegetables; cabbage, kale, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi. These vegetables contain two beneficial substances called sulphur and indole-3-carbinol which detoxify the liver and support the body in removing unnecessary hormones.
Low oestrogen: Consume foods that are high in phytoestrogens such as: legumes, chickpeas and flax seeds. Soy also contains phytoestrogens however if you do consume soy make sure that it is in a fermented form such as miso, tempeh and natto.
Polycystic ovaries syndrome: Replace the majority of your carbohydrates with healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut yogurt, olives, olive oil and oily fish (salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring).
Pre-menstrual syndrome: Check your vitamin D levels and consider supplementation if your levels are low. Include lots of foods in your diet that contain high amounts of magnesium such as green leafy vegetables, dark chocolate, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Low testosterone: Include lots of foods in the diet that contain zinc such as organic grass fed beef and lamb, and shell fish such as oysters and mussels. If you are a vegan try to eat lots of pumpkin seeds and lentils, and consider supplementation.
Over active thyroid: Iodine is a key nutrient for thyroid health and can be found in high amounts in seaweed. Selenium is important for converting our thyroid hormones to an active form that the body can use, selenium can be found brazil nuts. The level of selenium in one nut varies depending on where its grown, sometimes just 2-3 nuts can complete your daily allowance.
Under active thyroid: It’s important to eat a balanced diet that contains equal amounts of (non-refined) carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. It is also very important not to skip meals or fast in anyway.