You spend your days rushing around, trying to keep on top of your job and a to-do list that just keeps getting longer. You feel constantly tired, but blame it on the 24/7 lifestyle you lead. By rights when you finally collapse into bed you should fall straight asleep, but your mind won’t stop whirring. Even when you manage to nod off, you wake in the small hours and your brain clicks right back onto that to-do list again.
During the day, you sometimes feel like your head is filled with marshmallow pieces. Even small things – like accidentally leaving your railcard at home – can affect your mood for the whole day. On top of that, you feel sluggish and bloated. Plus you just can’t shift that extra layer of insulation around your tum, no matter how hard you hit the gym.
Sound familiar? The truth is it’s not you – it’s your hormones.
When your hormones are off balance they can make you feel foggy, anxious and tired – like a stranger in your own skin. Not to mention the effect they can have on your digestion, your complexion and your weight.
Hormones are complicated. Not so long ago, advice on hormone health was solely concerned with helping women through the menopause. But in my clinic I’m seeing more and more women in their 30s and 40s struggling with hormone imbalance. Lifestyle, environment and the daily stress of modern life all play a part in tipping the scales.
The good news is that there is so much you can do to build up your natural resilience and support your hormone balance. In fact, including the right nutrients in your diet and creating some positive lifestyle habits can have a huge impact on the health of your hormones – and by extension your overall wellbeing and happiness.
Here are a few tips to help keep your hormones happy:
Keep your blood sugar balanced
Stick to foods with a low glycaemic load (GL) to help balance your blood sugar. Eating too much sugar can set up a see-saw effect in your energy levels. This triggers your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol to help deal with the stress, leading to that “tired but wired” feeling. Prolonged raised cortisol levels can also have an impact on the health of your thyroid. This in turn triggers a cascade of reactions that can lead to low energy, impaired digestion and mood swings. It can also make it harder to shift that extra bit of insulation around the middle.
Include protein with every meal
This not only helps keep your energy balanced, but protein is a source of tyrosine, an essential building block for new thyroid hormones which are necessary for energy production. Tyrosine is also fundamental in supporting the health of your adrenal glands. Good sources include sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, fish and eggs.
Eat a mineral-rich diet
Make sure you are getting enough minerals in your daily diet. Key minerals for hormone health include:
The body requires more magnesium during times of stress, so it’s important to ensure your diet includes lots of magnesium-rich foods to support the health of your adrenals and thyroid. Dark green leafy veggies like spinach, kale and Swiss chard, plus broccoli, pumpkin seeds, squash and halibut are good sources. Raw cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale and cabbage can interfere with thyroid function, so make sure to lightly steam these before eating.
Iodine is a key component of thyroid hormones, necessary for maintaining balanced energy, mood and healthy digestion, among many other processes needed for overall health. Good sources include sea fish, shell fish, seaweed and to a lesser extent eggs and meat.
Iron is required for the creation of new thyroid hormones and keeping energy levels stable. The most bioavailable (easily used) sources of iron are found in red meat, game, poultry and eggs. Vegetarian iron is less easily absorbed by the body, but can be found in beans, pulses and dark green leafy vegetables. You can increase absorption by eating iron-containing foods with those rich in vitamin C such as brightly coloured fruit and vegetables (lightly steamed).
Together with magnesium and B6, the body requires zinc for healthy sex hormone and thyroid function. It is also vital for skin health and has been shown to reduce PMS symptoms, specifically cramps. Beef, lamb, venison, crab, poultry, seeds and sea vegetables are all rich in zinc.
This mineral plays an essential role in converting inactive thyroid hormones into the active form. These can then be used for the body for energy production, regulation of mood and sex hormones and digestion, among other functions. Selenium has also been shown to improve mood and diminish anxiety.  It can be found in Brazil nuts, meat, fish, eggs, sunflower seeds and mushrooms.
Increase B vitamin intake
Choose foods that are high in B vitamins to support healthy energy levels. In particular, vitamin B5 is required for the health of the adrenal glands, whose job it is to help control stress levels. Along with the foods above, nuts, seeds, wholegrains (millet, buckwheat, brown rice) and leafy greens are also excellent sources.
Include healthy fats
Ensure you are eating a good balance of essential fatty acids (EFAs), especially omega-3. These fats are important for supporting the health of the cell membranes which house your hormone receptors. Oily fish and eggs are rich in omega-3 fats, as are flaxseeds (also called linseeds), chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. Flaxseed or walnut oil (ideally cold-pressed and organic) are also great drizzled on salads or steamed veggies. Note these oils should not be used for cooking.
Get some sleep!
This one may sound obvious, but chronic lack of sleep is associated with high cortisol, which in turn can wreak havoc with your hormones. Even adding just one extra hour a night can have huge benefits. If you have trouble sleeping make sure your bedroom is completely dark (or invest in a silk sleep mask), well ventilated and switch off all electrics at the socket. A warm bath with magnesium salts (also known as Epsom salts) may help you unwind before bed. Magnesium is readily absorbed through the skin and into your system and has a wonderfully calming and relaxing effect.
Move your body (gently)
While exercise has untold benefits for the body, the wrong type can leave you feeling exhausted and put unnecessary stress on your system. If fatigue is a problem for you, try gentle, restorative forms of exercise like yoga, Pilates and tai chi, rather than pounding away for hours on a treadmill.
Take steps to reduce stress
Stressed bodies cling on to fat. This may seem doubly unfair, but it is a form of protection: your body stores toxins in fat. When cortisol levels are high your cells hold on to the fat to protect you from having the additional burden of trying to process those toxins on top of all that cortisol. This explains why even after hitting the gym religiously, you can’t shift that extra weight around the middle.
Have you ever noticed that when you go on holiday, you can indulge more than you normally would without gaining weight? Interestingly, your metabolism works much more efficiently when you’re relaxed. So a great excuse to book that holiday! If you can’t get away, building some stress-reducing techniques into your day can have similarly positive effects. Even ten minutes with a mindfulness app can reduce cortisol and help keep your hormones balanced.
If you need further support with the health of your hormones visit my website to find out how I can help.
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