When we think of hormones we often think of estrogen and progesterone, hormones related to the female reproductive system, however those are only two of many hormones responsible for our bodily functions.
Hormones are secreted into the blood stream after they are produced in glands located throughout our body. There are 7 glands that make up our endocrine system and are responsible for all of the hormones in our body: pituitary, pineal, thymus, thyroid, adrenal, pancreas, ovaries (or testes for men).
So why are they so important?
Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through your blood stream and are are responsible for many different biological processes including growth, metabolism, mood, cognitive function, thirst/hunger, and sexual function.
When our hormones are off balance (over produced or under produced) they can cause disease, like hyper or hypothyroidism and other health issues including moodiness, loss of energy, fluctuations in weight, etc.
There are many different factors that can impact our hormone levels like what we’re eating, our stress levels, and other health behaviors such as exercise and sleep. Age, caffeine, hormonal birth control methods and Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals (EDCs) typically found in household products and makeup can also knock our hormones out of balance.
Our guest blogger this week, Kimball Wilson, a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN) Practitioner talks about how to support healthy hormone levels and what to do when it’s not making a difference!
When the Struggle with Weight and Energy goes Beyond Food
Proper diet, a positive mindset, and truly listening to your body can transform your life… and your physique. But what happens when you have made these amazing changes, you’re on the path to improvement, but there’s still a piece of the puzzle missing?
Perhaps you’re still struggling with weight loss. Maybe you’re not sleeping well, or at times, your energy is so drained that you feel like you’re running on empty. Hello 2:30-afternoon crash!
There are many reasons why you may not be achieving your ultimate health goals, for many women it’s hormones! Not just female hormones like estrogen and progesterone, but hormones related to stress such as cortisol from our adrenal glands.
In our modern world, your body is constantly bombarded with stress from our go-go-go lifestyles, to environmental toxins and pollution. Whether a real or perceived “threat”, your body’s evolutionary reaction to stress can cause your digestion to slow down, blood vessels to constrict, and an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Imagine how this type of response would wear you out overtime!
Beyond Diet – there are ways to support your Hormones:
Sleep: Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night can have a huge impact on your body’s hormones! During sleep, growth hormone is produced and your body is able to restore organs, bones, tissues, and replenish immune cells. Poor sleep can be an indication of deeper issues (such as blood sugar imbalances or parasitic infections) and can lead to hormone imbalances that can actually cause cravings for sweets and carbs!
Exercise: Movement is vital part of a healthy lifestyle; after all, the human body was designed to move! Exercise brings oxygen to organs, allows us to build muscle, boosts hormone production, strengthens the lungs and heart, and helps to remove toxins.
Reducing Mental/Emotional Stress: Setting aside some time during your day to de-stress can make a huge improvement in your mood and energy. Deep breathing can bring your body back into a calmer state and decrease your stress response. Check-in with yourself when you’re feeling tense and simply take a few deep, slow breaths. Developing a regular practice of meditation, prayer, yoga, stretching, or gratitude journaling can help you feel more relaxed and reduce your blood pressure and stress hormones in your body.
But sometimes it’s not enough
If you’ve already targeted these strategies beginning with a comprehensive hormone panel can identify your body’s ability to adapt to stressors, as well as the status of your sex hormones. These results give clues as to why your hormone imbalances may be the reason you don’t feel fully energized, why you may be holding onto weight in certain areas, and also insight into secondary complaints such as brain fog, thyroid issues, inflammation, and undesirable menstrual-related conditions.
A portion of this test measures adrenal function. Your adrenals are walnut-sized glands that sit on top of your kidneys and produce hormones that respond and help you manage stress.
One of those “stress hormones” is called cortisol. Measuring the body's cortisol, metabolized cortisol, and daily rhythm guides us in digging deeper as to the reasons why your body isn’t functioning properly and what hidden stressors may be the root of your problems.
Unlike the common mental/emotional stressors (such as being late to work or having a tight project deadline), a hidden stressor is harder to pinpoint. Additional testing can help to establish healing opportunities in areas of blood sugar dips/spikes, immune response, detox issues, digestive problems, food sensitivities, parasites, environmental triggers, neurotransmitter imbalances, and more.
By using functional lab testing, you can uncover the underlying factors that keep you from feeling your best. In combination with a proper diet for your unique body and the lifestyle recommendations above, getting to the root cause of your depleted energy and stubborn weight can guide you in developing a customized protocol that will help you achieve your goals.
Understanding hormone function is a critical step on the path to improving overall health. Continuing to ask “why” and digging deeper to find the root cause of the stress that is depleting your energy levels and stalling your weight loss will open the door to the next steps on your health journey!
Kimball Willson is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner and Health Coach. She supports women who are stressed with weight and hormones get to the root of their health complaints so they are empowered to live vibrant lives. By using Functional Lab Testing and implementing the Self Care 90 Protocol, clients learn the practical lifestyle and dietary changes that restore health and support long term goals. Learn more about Kimball and her services at www.kwhealthcoaching.com