The body’s chemical messengers affect everything from our sleep routine to our stress levels, here’s how to keep them in check. Words: Louise Pyne.
Hormones affect our bodies on a cellular level, and keeping levels balanced is essential to our overall wellbeing. Taking a holistic approach can help ease hormonal symptoms like poor sleep or low mood, and below we share our everyday tips for improved wellbeing.
1. Get active
Lacing up your trainers for a workout helps your body on so many levels. Combining strength and cardio exercise helps to increase insulin sensitivity and thus balance blood sugar levels. You should try to exercise at least three times a week at a moderate intensity. ‘Physical activity will also improve your mood by increasing serotonin levels. Even if the cold weather means that you are not in the mood to exercise, you will feel better for it after,’ explains Natures Plus nutritionist Olivia Hemingway (naturesplus.com).
2. Manage stress
Levels of the stress hormone cortisol are increased when you’re chronically stressed, and this can wreak havoc on our bodies. On the flip side, allocating time for relaxing activities will help to keep cortisol levels balanced and boost your mood. ‘Too much cortisol affects our sleep and can therefore be detrimental to our immune systems. Studies have shown activities such as meditating, yoga, listening to music and breathing exercises are all effective at managing stress,’ adds Olivia.
3. Load up on good fats
Good fats are such an important food group when it comes to balancing hormones. ‘Steroidal hormones, which include oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, are made from fat (cholesterol). Consuming fats such as MCTs from coconut oil, olive oil, oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocados are beneficial to the production of hormones,’ says Olivia.
4. Eat more protein
Powering up your plate with protein is essential to keep your hormones in check. ‘We break dietary protein down into amino acids, which are the “building blocks” of protein. The protein we eat provides essential amino acids, which our bodies cannot make on their own. Some of these proteins become hormones,’ shares Olivia. Research has shown that eating protein decreases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulates the production of the hormone leptin, which is responsible for signalling to the brain when we are full and should stop eating.
5. Reinvent your sleep routine
We all need around eight hours of restorative slumber time. When we sleep, our bodies are busy regulating and releasing hormones like growth hormone, insulin and cortisol along with the appetite-controlling hormones ghrelin and leptin. Lack of quality sleep can lead to carb cravings, over-eating, stress, irritability and a weakened immune system,’ believes Olivia. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and set up a good bedtime routine by switching off technology and prioritising time to relax one hour before heading to bed.