What every woman needs to know about their hormones- Part 2
In Part 2, Nicki explains the 4 main hormones that dictate how you look, feel, think and behave. She calls them the Feisty 4!
Did you know that there are over 100 different hormones in your body right now? They are little chemical messengers travelling to every cell with instructions on what to do. From controlling your heartbeat and breathing to regulating your fat stores and energy levels, they have control over how you feel, think, eat, move, metabolise, digest, sleep and function on a daily basis!
So it's not surprising that keeping them all balanced can get tricky, especially as you get older.
Out of those 100 hormones, there are 4 major ones that we particularly need to be aware of. I call them the ‘Feisty 4’ as they really can be tricky to control, especially after the age of 40. Unless you are looking after them, they can sabotage your weight loss efforts, keep your metabolism on hold, crash your energy levels and cause hormone mayhem!
Let me introduce you to your Feisty 4;
1. Cortisol - your stress hormone
Cortisol gets a bad press, but it's an absolutely vital hormone. It wakes you up in the morning, keeps you alert and most importantly keeps you alive. It's your survival hormone. The problem is that in our modern lives, we can be in survival mode 24/7. And when cortisol is being pumped out day and night, it can cause problems.
That's because cortisol takes priority over everything – when the body is in survival mode, nothing else matters (it won’t care that you have a spare tyre around your middle – in fact it’s actively making you crave sugar and carbs to put belly fat on so you have a spare energy source). Cortisol doesn’t care that you need to solve a major problem at work (it will shut down your brain cells), or that you’re trying to fight off a cold (it suppresses your immune system) or have a baby (it's not going to bring a baby into a hostile world!) – it’s busy trying to protect you from a lion attack! And unfortunately we only have one 'fight or flight' stress response - whether it's a lion attack or a demanding boss......
Common symptoms of cortisol imbalance; Energy slumps, belly fat, brain fog, overwhelm, cravings, anxiety, mood swings, low sex drive, infertility, PMS, insomnia, frequent infections, digestive issues.
2. Insulin - your fat storing hormone
You absolutely need insulin – it has a life saving job of regulating your blood sugar levels, which need to be kept in a very narrow range. But your diet and lifestyle can contribute to overly high levels of insulin, which can be problematic.
When you eat too many carbs (or are under too much stress), your blood sugar surges, stimulating large amounts of insulin to mop up the excess sugar. Insulin's job is to take the sugar to your cells to use as energy. But if you're not exercising soon after your meal, you don't need that energy and all that excess sugar gets stored away as fat. And soon after, your blood sugar dips, leading to an energy slump and an uncontrollable craving for a biscuit, pastry or bar of chocolate, and you're back on the blood sugar rollercoaster.
Common symptoms of insulin imbalance; High waist:hip ratio, sugar cravings, mood swings, early hours insomnia, sleepy in afternoon, heavy periods
3. Thyroid - your metabolism regulator
Thyroid hormones are needed for every cell to function properly. They are like the thermostat for your metabolism, turning it up or down depending on what is needed. Low thyroid hormones are more common as you get older, and this can slow down your metabolism, crash your energy levels and make it very difficult to lose weight.
Common symptoms of thyroid imbalance; Fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, memory loss, depression, hair loss, cold hands/feet, dry skin, brittle nails, PMS, anxiety, mood swings, puffy face, aching joints, low sex drive, infertility, constipation.
4. Oestrogen – your sex hormone
During your reproductive years, oestrogen levels can be too high due, causing PMS, breast tenderness, mood swings, headaches and fluid retention. Once you enter the perimenopausal years (35-55), oestrogen fluctuations and progesterone decline can result in all kinds of symptoms including hot flushes, insomnia, brain fog, joint pain and memory loss. Over 70% of women experience changes and fluctuations in their hormones and menstrual cycles during these years.
Common symptoms of oestrogen imbalance; PMS, breast tenderness, mood swings, headaches, bloating, hot flushes, memory loss, brain fog, insomnia, dry skin, vaginal dryness, depression, joint pain.
These hormones are hugely affected by your diet and lifestyle, the daily decisions you make in your life. Once you know what these influences are, you can make some simple changes, regain control of your hormones and get them working for you, not against you.
In Part 3, I'll be talking about the big 4 hormone disruptors that can derail your Feisty 4 and sabotage your best efforts to look and feel good.