It’s time for a review! This week, let’s discuss hormones, and how they can greatly effect our physical and emotional well-being. Just think about hormone regulation as as another tool for building your best life. In her book, The Hormone Cure, Sara Gottlieb discusses the body’s sophisticated way of using hormones to regulate various functions, and what can happen when these hormones become unbalanced: weight gain, depression, high blood pressure, and more. Fortunately, there are natural ways of balancing hormones effectively. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to take it step by step.
Our bodies produce many different hormones, but the three that most commonly effect women (and men) in regards to weight-gain are cortisol, estrogen, and thyroid levels. Cortisol is an especially important hormone to watch, because if it is out of balance, it can also effect your estrogen and thyroid.
The Cortisol-Stress Connection
You may have heard cortisol referred to as “the stress hormone.” Under typical conditions, the adrenal glands help us to deal with stressful situations by secreting cortisol, which raises blood pressure and blood sugar, and regulates our immune systems. These hormone modulations can help us to work harder, run faster, and get out of harm’s way. But when stress gets out of control, so do our hormones. Chronic stress is almost a way of life for many of us. When stress is present in our day-to-day lives, the adrenal gland works overtime, and produces more cortisol than we actually need.
Effects of High Cortisol Levels
The sugar rushes you feel during times of chronic stress are actually directly linked to your increased cortisol levels. The body, believing it’s about to face a huge disaster, prepares by storing fat and calories, and makes us hungry for more. Before we know it, the result is the notorious “spare tire”. In addition to weight gain, high cortisol levels can cause depression, high blood pressure and, if left untreated, additional health problems in the future.
On the flip side, chronic stress can also cause low levels of cortisol, which leads to other problems. When high levels of stress continue over a longer period of time, the adrenal gland can become fatigued and cortisol production can drop. Low levels of cortisol can cause brain fog, low blood sugar production, fatigue, and sleep disruption.
Steps to Regaining Control
With mindfulness and dedication, we can naturally bring balance to our lives, and, in turn, our hormone levels. It may take some time to find the stress-relief practices that work best for you. For some individuals, yoga helps them look inward and work on deep breathing. Taking a walk in nature can be a great way to relieve stress. Sara Gottlieb even suggests a dark chocolate “meditation.” The important thing is to be consistent in your stress-relief practice, and take the time to assess your progress. Like our theme for this week: stay the course! If your stress-relief practice needs a tweak here or there, go for it. Just stay true to your goal and pay attention to your body.