Hormones rule the body and its long-term development and change. Some hormones, such as testosterone or estrogen, are incredibly well-known due to their obvious effects on the body and the clinical and therapeutic uses they have been put to. For most people, the hormones are not within their control and they are victim to the changes within their body – this article will provide you with a variety of possible strategies to improve hormone balance, function and sensitivity.
There are no sure-fire ways to establish total control over your hormones, but the 15 things we have listed here will stabilize them and return them to natural, or baseline, levels and improve health. There are some independent benefits to each method, but the more that you are able to implement into your own life, the greater the health effects will be.
Sleep is the most intense rest that the body can undergo – whilst we sleep, the body repairs the damage we have done to it during the day. During this process, the body secretes hormones that are essential to recovery, growth and development. The highest levels of hormones are secreted during sleep, primarily those associated with improved mood, performance and libido . Even short-term disruption of effective sleeping quantity has been demonstrated to have serious negative effects – reductions were noted in the amount of testosterone produced and elevated levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone” . A minimum of 8 hours continues to be recommended as a way of reducing stress and balancing the hormones.
Sleep quality is a less-researched but increasingly important area of concern regarding the way that hormones are balanced in the body. Sleep quality is affected by arousal before sleep, dietary concerns, the amount of light touching the skin and the warmth of the room. Improving sleep quality is another way we can improve the restfulness of our sleep and the effects it has on the hormones.
3. Dietary Fat Intake
Some hormones are steroids: cholesterol groups that are secreted into the bloodstream. These are constructed out of fats within the body – this means that they are made from the dietary fats that we consume through foods. If we don’t consume enough dietary fats, the production and regulation of these hormones is inhibited . The consumption of high-quality fat sources of all kinds will provide the raw materials necessary for proper hormonal function: saturated fats may not be good for heart health in excessive quantities but prolonged exclusion from the diet will result in long-term hormonal concerns.
4. Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are necessary for a variety of the body’s maintenance processes. Certain vitamins are necessary for hormonal health – for example, vitamins B3 and B5 are essential in the metabolism of fats and the regulation of cholesterols (including cholesterol-based hormones) in the bloodstream.
5. Dietary Fiber Intake
Fiber is an important nutrient for the body in general and is an essential part of digestive health. Beyond regulating blood sugar and making bowel movements more regular, however, it also interacts with the production and secretion of some hormones . A proper intake of dietary fiber from high-quality fruits, vegetables and legumes is an essential to improving health and moderating essential hormones like insulin and their role in the body.
Drinking enough water will also maximise the positive effects we can have on the hormonal system. Water is involved in the maintenance of homoeostasis throughout the body and this is no different when it comes to hormones. Dehydration has been shown to affect the way that certain hormones are produced and the concentrations in the blood . Increasing our hydration levels will give us the best chance of maintaining a healthy hormone profile.
7. Body Fat
Excessive body fat, both visceral and subcutaneous, are correlated with the excessive production of hormones such as estrogen . The increase in serum estrogen levels has also been correlated with a variety of negative health effects – especially in women, where unbound estrogen has been correlated with the development of breast cancer. Keeping lean will reduce the chances of excessive secretions.
Exercise and Training
8. Cardio training
Cardiovascular exercise is an amazing regulator of hormones – improved cardiovascular function will balance both resting and serum levels of various hormones. Aerobic exercise balances the hormones involved with metabolic function and improves the balance of these hormones – increasing some and reducing others . A regular routine of cardiovascular exercise will improve heart health as well as improving the circulation of these hormones through the body.
Resistance training – or simply weight training – is associated with the hormones that develop increased strength and muscular size. These are, primarily: testosterone, insulin (primarily the sensitivity to insulin immediately after exercise), human growth hormone and IGF-1. Resting levels of these hormones will increase in response to long-term training and can positively affect bones, muscles, connective tissues and the body’s ability to respond to intense exercise.
When exercising, it is important to factor in the amount of work done against the amount of work that the endocrine (hormone-producing) system can support. When we train, we damage tissues and place stress on the body (both oxidative and cortisol-based) – an excessive loading of physical activity can suppress the immune system and the body’s hormonal balance. Training too much without rest can over-tax the hormones associated with recovery whilst promoting an excessive production of cortisol.
11. Intentional relaxation
The reduction of stress is an easy and enjoyable way to improve hormonal health and regulate the body’s health in ways that are entirely contrary to the way that exercise and other stressors effect the body. Focusing on intentional relaxation processes such as meditation, yoga, music, art or other relaxing pastimes can actively reduce stress and the hormones that it is associated with .
12. Tea (GABA)
Green tea can assist in this process: the reduction of stress can be assisted by a variety of compounds that are naturally-occurring and found in green tea. One of the active ingredients in tea (primarily green and “white” teas) is GABA – y-aminobutyric acid – which reduces stress and can drastically reduce cortisol .
Things to Avoid
Consumption of alcohol has been shown to suppress the production and circulation of testosterone for several days following consumption. Excessive alcohol intake has a profound negative effect on the peripheral source of testosterone production: the testes or ovum, depending on the sex of the individual . If you are aware of an existing tendency to drink excessively, be aware that this will suppress essential hormones and have huge negative impacts on sports performance and metabolism.
Smoking impacts the hormones negatively: the role of nicotine and other tobacco-based toxins on the endocrine system is well-documented. Primarily, it has been tied to hyperthyroidism (associated with hormonal dysfunction and weight gain), osteoporosis and reduced fertility (primarily in men) . The effects on hormones are among the many reason that pregnant women should not smoke – the chances of hypothyroidism in a child carried by a smoker is increased drastically and other uterus-health concerns arise.
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