By Valerie Robitaille
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.
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 which can create many serious problems and 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.
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.
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, and never white. Flour products include pasta, cereal, cookies, cake, crackers, which may sound like everything you eat, and which may be your problem. Your health food store 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 with 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.
Remember: hormones work together and work with other biochemicals, tissues and organs, so the balance is delicate but worth the effort because you will feel better!