Hormones are chemicals produced by the body which send messages from one part to another to help regulate our growth and development, metabolism, body temperature, stress levels and mood.
They have a huge impact on our overall health and wellbeing and play a crucial role in our energy, vitality and how we feel on a daily basis, so it’s important to keep them balanced and in harmony rather like a well played orchestra.
Our hormones are affected not only by our genetic inheritance but also by our epigenetics (our environment) and our lifestyle (how we live).
There are a number of lifestyle factors that can upset the balance including poor diet, high levels of stress and too much as well as too little exercise. This can lead to hormone imbalances which are linked to a number of health issues including:
• Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) with a host of physiological & behavioural symptoms.
If any of these conditions sound familiar you could be suffering from a hormonal imbalance. I have worked with a number of clients empowering them with knowledge and information to identify their individual hormone issues and how they can restore balance.
I can work with you to create a realistic dietary and lifestyle plan, tailored to you that will restore balance and enable you to get on with living your life the way you want to.
Are you experiencing mood swings and behavioural changes such as irritability, tension headaches, unexplained low mood, bloating, sugar cravings, breast tenderness, heavy painful periods, skin breakouts, low energy or weight gain?
As females our hormones affect us daily and at all stages of our lives, ie during our fertile and pre menopausal years, as well as our menopause and post menopausal years contributing to unwanted and seemingly unexplained symptoms.
You may have tried a number of things to improve your symptoms including supplements you have been recommended by a friend or relative that worked miracles for them, medications prescribed by your GP which have not had the panacea result and come with unwanted side effects.
You may just be at a loss as to what to do, knowing perhaps a little or too much information from researching on the internet and that is where a Functional Medicine Practitioner like myself can help show you how to balance your hormones.
Functional Medicine practitioners are trained to identify the functional imbalances that explain your current symptoms of hormone imbalances based on the latest research and then to develop a personalised nutrition and lifestyle programmes with hormone balancing foods and lifestyle tips recommendation to restore hormone balance.
Hormone imbalances in males may not be as widely discussed, but if you are male and suffering from symptoms such as low libido, loss of interest in daily life, weight gain including “man boobs”, mood swings or depression, the chances are you have a hormone imbalance.
This could be caused by poor nutrition, stress, or other lifestyle factors (including over-exercising to get that six pack) and with help from an experienced health practitioner these symptoms could be improved.
A Functional Medicine Practitioner like myself is trained to evaluate what lies behind your symptoms and I have helped numerous male clients to understand their symptoms and shown them how to improve their quality of life and health by crossing that first barrier – discussing with and then showing them how through making simple dietary and lifestyle changes they can restore balance and regain their lives.
Before an initial client consultation, clients are asked to complete a 5 page food health questionnaire which includes a 3 day food and lifestyle diary.
I will spend time looking at the clients goal and analysing and interpreting all the information, including their genetic family history and the environment the client lives and works in.
From this analysis very often there is a hormonal imbalance / element to the clients current health status which if corrected would improve their symptoms.
Hormones have a significant impact on our daily lives, in ways that are not obvious and which I can help explain in order for clients to feel motivated and empowered to make changes.
The food we eat on a daily basis has a significant impact and our hormone production – for example a diet too high in stimulants such as sugar, caffeine and alcohol will increase insulin hormone production and insulin is our blood sugar regulating hormone which if out of balance causes symptoms such as sugar cravings, weight around the middle and mood swings.
So l typically help clients to work with some basic principles of a well balanced nutrition plan which include:
• Eating whole single ingredient natural foods.
• Consuming quality protein (animal or plant sources).
• Ensuring healthy fats are consumed at every meal (so important for hormone production).
• Eating as many fibrous foods as possible to support detoxification of unwanted/excess hormones.
• Reducing stimulants (caffeine, sugar, alcohol are the main culprits!).
How we live our lives will impact our hormone production, excess production and whether we are detoxifying unwanted hormones or allowing them to recirculate resulting in hormone imbalances of excess and insufficiency which will have an impact on our health.
For example over- exercising can lead to hormonal imbalance or changes, including testosterone and cortisol (our stress hormone), it can drive overeating and the body can also begin to burn muscle instead of fat and cause your body to hold onto or gain fat, particularly abdominal fat.
So I typically help clients by making lifestyle recommendations to balance their hormones which includes:
Drinking only filtered or bottled water (due to unwanted toxins including hormones such as oestrogen residues present in unfiltered water).
Encouraging them to reduce their exposure to xenoestrogens from plastics, chemical pesticide/fertilizers and chemical loaded lotions and potions (now so ubiquitous for females and increasingly for men!) which cause havoc with hormone balance as the body does not recognise, and causes hormone imbalances.
Supplements may be required for individual clients to support hormone balance and provide relief from challenging symptoms which are making it difficult for them to function at work or home.
Sometimes clients are looking for a more natural alternative to drug therapies which they may have tried and found unsuccessful or with unwanted side effects such as possible weight gain with HRT (and also with anti-depressants which are now reportedly being prescribed for menopausal symptoms due to a shortage of supply of HRT).
The supplements that I most typically recommend for hormone balance (subject to an individual assessment and wherever possible functional testing to assess levels) include:
Omega 3 fish oil to help improve hormone balance and improve mood.
Magnesium is a critical mineral responsible for over 300 enzyme reactions and can be very helpful to reduce painful PMS, at menopause to help reduce unwanted symptoms and in males to help boost levels of testosterone when these are low.
Inositol / Chromium for blood sugar balancing by improving insulin sensitivity, for females with PCOS to improve menstrual regulation and may help improve low mood and anxiety through neurotransmitter production including serotonin, our good mood hormone.
Adatogenic Herbs including Siberian ginseng, ashwagandha and rhodiola as this group of herbs may help the body regulate hormones by stabilising blood sugar and insulin, improving mood and supporting adrenal gland and thyroid function and the body’s reaction to stressful situations and agnus castus for PMS and perimenopause symptoms.
Oestrogen is the hormone that gives women breasts & hips, keeps joints lubricated and is important for bone health especially as we age.
Oestrogen in males is important for their reproductive health, cardiovascular health as well as bone health but when we have too much of it – known as oestrogen dominance this can cause women a number of symptoms including weight gain, insomnia, fatigue, anxiety and irregular / heavy periods.
When oestrogen becomes dominant at the expense of testosterone in men common signs and symptoms I look out for in clinic are man boobs, excess belly fat, low libido and problems with urination.
One easy thing I recommend in clinic to reduce oestrogen levels is to aim to eat between 8-10 vegetables daily. The fibre in the vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and bok choi, help to excrete oestrogen from our bodies via liver detoxification.
Another recommendation would be to include a daily probiotic in your diet (for example a good quality kefir drink which can be plant based) which will support gut health by promoting beneficial bacteria. Bacterial imbalances in our gut lowers the elimination of oestrogen via the digestive tract so optimal gut health is significant for oestrogen balance.
Insulin is the hormone that controls our blood sugar and when it becomes imbalanced through eating a diet high in refined and starchy carbohydrates or through periods of prolonged stress, our body releases insulin in response until eventually our cells stop responding to triggers eventually leading to insulin resistance and risk of diabetes.
When insulin levels are too high and out of control this can cause symptoms of weight gain around the middle, sugar cravings, mood swings, headaches, and what my clients often describe a being “tired all the time” known as TATT as well as difficulty waking up in the morning.
If I suspect that clients are experiencing blood sugar imbalance ( too high insulin) I get them to focus on non- starchy vegetables, small portions of wholegrain carbohydrates, and to eat less regularly during day filling up at meal times with protein, vegetables and healthy fats and therefore reducing snacking, all of which will lower our insulin response.
Cortisol is the hormone we make in response to stress and essential for survival but most of us run around stressed all the time in what is known as the sympathetic nervous state (fight/flight) causing excess levels of cortisol to be released which our bodies cannot sustain.
Common symptoms of cortisol imbalance/excess cortisol that I look out for with clients are anxiety, low energy, weight gain in the face and abdomen, muscle weakness and a lowering in the body’s ability to heal as well as poor sleep.
Dietary recommendations I make to lower cortisol and stabilise output are focused around ensuring quality protein foods and healthy fats are eaten at every meal, removing sugar and refined carbohydrates, and ensuring diets include key nutrients of vitamin C, B vitamins especially B5 and magnesium as these are essential in achieving healthy balanced cortisol levels.
Lifestyle recommendations are equally important for rebalancing cortisol levels focussing on stress management and relaxation which clients often need help with incorporating into their lives but it is necessary to put themselves into the parasympathetic nervous state of rest and digest.
Activities such as breathing, yoga, meditation, walking outdoors (preferably with your phone on silent) or making time for friends and laughter all help lower cortisol levels. Another easy action is to drink a calming tea such as valerian root & hops or camomile 30 minutes before bed – make it a ritual ideally with fresh leaves and leave the day’s events behind.
In addition there are a number of functional hormone tests which can be used to assess hormone levels and whether these are imbalanced.
For example an Adrenal Stress Profile, Female Hormone Panel (pre and post- menopausal) and a Complete Male Hormone panel which allows informed decisions and actions to be taken through diet, lifestyle and supplementation to restore balance and allow clients to get on with living their lives the way they want to.
If you would like to know more about hormone balance or functional hormone testing please book a free discovery call using the form below.