Did you ever stop to think that hormones play one of the most important roles in physical health outside of the initial diet? As kids, we are always told that throughout our pubescent teenage phase, we were going to have “hormones” which would give us acne, make us cry over stupid shit, cause us to do things that a “normal” adult person wouldn’t, and cause us to grow hair in places on our bodies that we aren’t used to. I think we kind of forget about hormones after that.
Hormones have a control over our bodies and attitudes, and we seriously don’t give them enough credit. Are you aware that the food you feed your body can positively or negatively impact your hormones? It’s incredible to me that hormones can be an important link to medical issues and are frequently bypassed by medical professionals. If we spent some time researching a little bit about nutrient difficiencies, we may be able to help correct or combat hormonal imbalances before they get out of hand and cause more issues. Sometimes, all our bodies need are a few more, or a few less, herbs and minerals.
Years ago, my family watched my mother begin to deteriorate. She lost significant amounts of weight in a matter of months, had little to no appetite, and was constantly sleeping. We had the doctor “run some tests” on her, once, twice, three times… there were no conclusive results. It wasn’t until she became hospitalized two years down the road, literally laying on what could have easily been her death-bed, that a doctor decided to run her hormone levels. What they discovered was that my mother had Addison’s disease. Here is Wikipedia’s definition of the disease: Addison’s disease, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency and hypocortisolism, is a long-term endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands do not produce enough steroid hormones. Symptoms generally come on slowly and may include abdominal pain, weakness, and weight loss. One thing we found out is that people with this deficiency benefit from a diet rich in SODIUM. All they needed to do was test her hormone levels.
I wish I could write about everything I have learned over the last week or two as I have spent time researching different hormones, and how they affect the human body, but for the sake of not boring you to tears, I want to touch on just a few topics that can be significant, but easy to work with if you know WHY and HOW to…
Cortisol Levels (Adrenal system)- If they are too high, it can cause you to have severe anxiety!!! Anxiety is a petty, selfish little bitch. If you have ever experienced anxiety or even a slight panic attack, you know what death (or close to death) feels like. Anxiety is related to high cortisol levels. With high cortisol levels, not only could you experience anxiety, but high levels can also contribute to an array problems such as WEIGHT GAIN, puffy face, mood swings, fatigue, increased urination, fertility problems, high blood pressure, acne, muscle aches, CHANGES IN LIBIDO, and excessive thirst. It also can leave you more susceptible to infection and bone fractures. WHAT IN THE ACTUAL HELL?!! Why was this never discussed in sex ed, or home ec? I feel like I could have been relieved of a LOT of “crazy” people in my life had I known that this could be a cause of these issues. So now, it sounds like all of life’s problems can be easily combatted by lowering our cortisol levels if they are too high, am I right? And how do we do that? Well, My first suggestion is to always have your levels tested first. You don’t want to tweak anything that is working just fine, so I recommend finding an at-home testing kit that you can mail in from home. If you are looking for my recommendation, you can click here. At checkout, use code FitFreak10 for a discount. Next, if you find that you do, in fact, have high cortisol levels, consider CHANGING YOUR DIET. Yes, my friends, DIET is key!!! Any doctor can easily write you a prescription and send you on your merry little way, but don’t you want to do right by your body first, if you can? Here are a few natural foods you could try to incorporate into your diet: 1) Ginsing- this is a potent and effective adaptogen. 2) Holy Basil- considered the “elixir” of anti-againg. 3) Walnuts and Flax seed have both shown to improve cortisol levels. However, if your estrogen levels are high as well, I would reconsider the flax as it has a tendency to raise estrogen levels… but I’ll touch on that another day. There are many others, and are easily referenced by a typical Google search. Some foods to avoid: Foods with trans fats, vegetable oils, fruit juices, CHOCOLATE CAKE (dammit!), factory farm beef, fat-free flavored yogurt, and… dun dun dunnnnn….. ALCOHOL. Fuck. But, you gotta do what you gotta do to get those levels back on the right track.
For example, I have lived with acne most of my life up until this last summer. For years, I caked on makeup, hid behind hair extensions, missed out on weddings, parties, and other social events because I felt like EVERYONE was staring at my skin and how ugly it looked. It wasn’t until I had my hormone levels tested that I found out that the foods I was eating (mostly peanuts and peanut butter) were causing my severe breakouts. It wasn’t the food itself, but the way my cortisol levels reacted to the food I was ingesting that was causing the acne well beyond my teenage years. Today, I couldn’t be more grateful for the results I got back, and for the changes I made in my diet to help balance everything out. Spinach has become a staple in my daily intake, along with ginsing, and basil. Here is a HUMILIATING photo to further drive the idea of the misery that was experienced due to lack of knowledge about the issue…
Also, in relation to cortisol, we should talk about LIBIDO. Some people have every excuse in the book as to why they might not be interested in sex with their partner. Imagine the kind of relationship drama this can cause! One person doesn’t want it, so the other feels less attractive, or feels there is a lack of connection, etc. The frustrations can definitely break a relationship. But, what if there were a few minor diet tweaks that could greatly increase your partner’s (or your own) sex drive? Would you consider changing your diet up? Again, go for the test. If results prove that your hormones are misfiring, consider a few options to raise your DHEA and testosterone levels. Relating this back to cortisol, as cortisol levels climb, this could mean it’s lowering those DHEA and testosterone levels. There are a million other significant hormones that could be off-balance, but a solution should be the main focus here. We have gone over a little about how to lower cortisol levels, but to balance out the sex drive there are some foods (diet again!!!) that you can filter into your diet. Some of these are: Spinach, dark Chocolate (be reasonable with this), peppers, green tea, oysters, pesto, ginger, pumpkin seeds, bananas and potatoes. Easy peasy, right? Again, I’m going to suggest checking out a few more diet tips and tricks for libido on Google search. I want to remind you that I am NOT a medical professional, or a dietitian, and that these are simply suggestions based on articles, books, and information I have read.
Weight loss is such a touchy issue. And the more I read about hormones, the more I believe that they are one of the biggest contributors to the outcome of the weight loss journey. Certain hormones not only cause your body to react by bloating, becoming tired, or breaking out, but sometimes hormones ARE the reason we have trouble resisting certain foods that are a clear hindrance to successful weight loss. THIS IS HUGE. How often do want to lose a few pounds, but find ourselves drawn, uncontrollably, to the candy or ice cream isle? Forget saying no to bread at dinner, that’s definitely a must if your hormones are out of whack. In my personal experience, as a woman who has spent years trying out a variety of birth controls, I find that when I am taking no form of hormonal birth control at all, it is SO much easier to resist foods I shouldn’t be eating. Each time I try a new method that involves adding hormones to my body, I gain about 10 pounds that will NOT go away. This is just something to consider if you are having issues losing extra weight.
Some other factors that you might consider a good reason to get a hormone level test for are these listed below:
I realize that hormones are not the “cause” behind every one of these symptoms. I am writing about this to create conversation in hopes that it will become a topic that is discussed more often, which, in turn will lead to the result of professionals hoping to correct a potential hormonal issue rather than cover it up with medications. We only get one body and one life. How you choose to treat it is up to you.