Hormones, those elusive little health wonders, need to be balanced in the body; they are part
of our biochemical make-up and will help us function at optimal levels if they are at optimal
levels. Other biochemicals that keep us going are neurotransmitters, enzymes, cell-mediators
and anti-bodies. All of these substances work in synergy (coordination) and have many jobs
to do – from physically pumping our hearts to mentally helping us feel calm and happy. When our
hormones are out of balance we feel out of balance, physically and mentally.
The study of hormones has gained a lot of attention recently and most of what we’ve heard
is related to the “menopause” hormones estrogen and progesterone. In my weight-loss program
I teach about the “fat” hormones and interactions of insulin and cortisol. Parathyroid and calcitonin
imbalances can lead to osteoporosis, chronic high levels of adrenaline can cause diverse problems.
The roles for hormones are many.
Hormones are a major player in our metabolism (the daily building up and breaking down of
structures and substances; chemical reactions). In adolescence, sexual development is governed
by androgens and estrogens, and we have more or less of these depending on our gender. In
males, the androgens dominate and help to promote the accumulation of more muscle, more
blood and a heavier skeleton than females. The dominant estrogens in females promote the
deposition of more fat than muscle (I know what you’re thinking gals!) and still other
hormones stimulate growth of the ovaries, enlargement of the uterus and breast development. As
a result of hormone activity we can see the great differences between males and females in body
fat to muscle ratios by the completion of puberty. For those of us that are (or raised) teenagers,
we know how hormones can affect our psychological well-being. Past puberty, the hormones
normally start to settle down and get stabilized – until mid-life. Then they get a little wacky as they
rearrange themselves once again.
Hormone deficiencies or excesses may be due to glandular-based disorders, but there are also
lifestyle disorders that cause hormone imbalances responsible for many serious problems that can
make life difficult. For example, Type I Diabetes is a glandular-based disorder directly due to the
inability of the pancreas gland to produce insulin. Type II Diabetes is a lifestyle-based disorder
caused by high insulin levels as a result of eating too many refined carbohydrates, sugars,
saturated fats, too much stress (enter hormone cortisol) and not enough exercise. Glandular-
based disorders are rare, but lifestyle-based disorders are on the rise due to poor nutrition, stress,
lack of exercise and lack of sunshine, fresh air and good, clean fun.
As a Nutritionist I have studied the results of specific hormone tests before and after a lifestyle
change, and have witnessed people feeling better, looking better, GETTING BETTER from simple
In describing hormones I frequently use the term elusive because they are not easily defined or
quantified. However, the research is getting better and better and there is so much more
information about hormones than ever before. While the study of hormones proper is the domain
of the endocrinologist, as a nutritionist I see the effects of balancing hormones through lifestyle
changes every day in my practice. If you have been told or suspect you have a hormonal imbalance,
here are some basic changes you can make that I have found provide some very quick results:
* Eliminate flour products, especially white flour. If you must have bread make certain it is whole
grain (not just whole wheat) or sprouted, and never white (the whiter the bread, the sooner you’re dead!). Flour products include pasta, cereal, cookies, cake, crackers, which may sound like everything you eat, and which may be your problem. Freshlife Whole Foods Market in Williamsport has some nice alternatives to these types of foods.
* Educate yourself on the difference between good fats and bad fats. Flax seed oil is an important
omega 3 fat that will not only help your hormones but has additional important health benefits.
* Eat balanced meals – One of the causes of bone loss in later years can be due to not eating
enough protein and too many carbohydrates, or too much protein which triggers the release of
adrenaline, a hormone that contributes to bone loss when levels remain high over many years
* Get adequate sleep – to aid in the restoration of normal levels of metabolic biochemicals
* Don’t over exercise, especially if you are overly stressed-out as the hormones that regulate stress
will be overworked. Moderate exercise, like walking and reasonable weight-bearing exercise, is
what’s called for if you’re looking for hormone balance.
* Make certain you are covering your bases with a good multi-vitamin/mineral supplement.