by Dawn Cutillo
Modern American women are facing obstacles tougher than ever before. From little sleep, nutrient devoid foods and the pressure to multitask, women’s bodies are bombarded on a daily basis. This chronic physical, mental and emotional stress is leading to new modern day imbalances.
To understand the delicate balance, it helps to know the core hormones involved:
Progesterone: A fat-burner and diuretic that soothes mood, nurtures sleep and calms PMS and menopausal symptoms.
Estrogen: A key hormone in ovulation that supports many other functions in the body but when out of balance, it can also trigger weight gain, insomnia, mood swings, etc.
Cortisol: A hormone needed to buffer our bodies from the effects of stress. Cortisol itself is not a “bad” hormone but is problematic when we cannot produce enough of this hormone to meet our needs.
Research also shows that key imbalances not only contribute to a woman’s ability to lose stubborn weight but also affect mood, sleep, hair and female-related issues.
The pesky symptoms of hormone imbalance can be minimized through small changes in your life, including tweaks to your diet as well as adding meditation and exercise.
- Diet: Eating certain food combinations in your diet can make a difference in your hormone balance. Start off your day with protein and some fat along with fiber. These food components will keep insulin in check to keep cravings down. Try to keep caffeine to a minimum as this can cause a blood sugar roller coaster, exacerbating hormonal symptoms. Aim to eat three meals and two snacks with some fat, protein and fiber to aid energy and fat burning all day. Any fiber eaten will help keep your estrogen in the proper balance. A small amount of grains, such as brown rice, can be added to some of your meals since vitamin B leads to better hormone metabolism as well. A protein shake before bed with some flax oil will work to stabilize blood sugar and allow you to sleep deeper, burn fat and avoid waking up in the middle of the night with a hot flash or night sweats.
- Meditation: When cortisol is increased to an unbalanced level, it increases the sugar in the bloodstream, making you feel restless and causing cravings. A quick way to compensate for your daily stressors that cause the cortisol increase is meditation or relaxation therapy for as little as 20 minutes. Add meditation to your daily routine by sitting in a comfortable, seated position. Then sit tall and close your eyes with palms facing up. Take a few moments to allow your body to relax. Once comfortable, redirect thoughts to your breath and begin counting your exhales by breathing in for a four count and out slowly for an eight count. For an even simpler way to relax, try a link/CD of “sound-wave” therapy which will automatically relax brain waves and lower cortisol, even if you have a hard time relaxing.
- Exercise: The benefits of exercises are connected to balancing hormones, especially stress hormones, like cortisol. Our bodies were not meant to sit at a desk all day or be too sedentary. Aerobic workouts are often emphasized, but too much intensity can raise cortisol and imbalance hormones, making weight loss slower. It is better to do metabolism enhancing resistance training with hand weights or bands. All you need is an open space and 15 minutes. Exercises such as reverse lunges and squats can even be done with just your body as resistance. Or consider trying yoga or Pilates as ways to keep muscles engaged, flexible and toned without raising cortisol levels.
Cutillo is founder of the BeBalanced Hormone Weight Loss Center and author of “The Hormone Shift.” She can be reached at 984-229-7588, or by visiting www.bebalancedcenters.com