Do you realize how much your body communicates? There are reasons for your sleep/wake circadian cycles, feeling hot or cold, craving chocolate or french fries, anxiety, digestive issues, and your moods. They are all controlled by hormones. Despite having a generally healthy lifestyle, I was curious about how much my fatigue and occasional acne could be related to hormone imbalance. Or instead, could it be life in 2020 with three littles?!
I am an avid wellness consumer.
I take vitamins and supplements, weight train regularly with a great crew at Bonafide Fitness (join us, they have awesome coaches!) and will run for hours for endorphins. Feeling rested and grounded with clear, steady energy? Yes, please! I live for those days when anything that goes wrong is alright. Your kid spills maple syrup all over their shirt just before school and it’s alright. Grab a clean one! You open a work email with a directive tone, and it’s alright – respond and move on. You flow through those days like the teacher of a power yoga class, feeling strong and light at the same time.
Do you ever have days when you wake up feeling foggy for no apparent reason?
Making breakfast takes effffffort. As long as your kids eat something, it’s good enough. The extra cup of coffee is not enough. That work email with the directive tone sends you into a tailspin. What gives? The same scenario a day or week before was alright, I got this. But today…you crave the zen of a yoga class. These days (and most challenging days, let’s be honest) I’m not headed for a massage or taking a power nap when I could use one!
So instead of taking a spa day and calling it self care, I decided to learn more about hormone balance. One of my goals was to figure out the cause of a seven-year battle with perioral dermatitis and hormonal acne.
A lofty goal, given my primary, dermatologist, and ob-gyn could never figure out a root cause or a solution. I had recently read about hormone imbalances, and wondered if that was the issue. I started working with Katie Bressack, a women’s nutrition coach who ended up feeling like a close girlfriend. After some detective work, Katie figured out my morning smoothie was a daily dose of a food sensitivity for me. It was wreaking havoc on my face! Greens, some fruit, and a variety of nutritional boosts – including organic whey protein, which is dairy based. I switched to a goat milk whey and my skin has never been so clear.
And that fatigue….
Lab tests revealed a very common condition – low blood levels of vitamin D. When you have fair skin at the age of 40, your skin should have daily protection from the sun, a good source of the vitamin. I was grateful for the easy fix and amazed by how much better I felt after a few days on a supplement. (Note: too much vitamin D can be harmful, do not take it without the recommendation of your doctor.)
During the five-week bootcamp with my new women’s nutrition coach, we learned about hormone functions within body systems and how to support them.
Some topics included:
- the hormone cortisol and its connection to blood sugar and progesterone
- supporting cortisol levels through lifestyle changes
- how and why supporting your liver is critical to balanced, healthy hormones
- immunity support
- healthy hormone levels naturally change throughout your menstrual cycle, which in turn affect your energy and mood – there are ways to optimally support those fluctuations
- the nuances of a healthy, whole foods diet and how one size does not fit all (I had no idea that most diets are created by men, with research done primarily on men! No wonder even healthy diets don’t always support women!)
Each individual and group session with Katie concluded with a personal focus for a healthy change, almost like homework. The ones I tried and stuck to have made a difference in my sustained energy and that grounded feeling of everything is alright.
Three tips that support healthy hormones:
- Start your morning with a large glass of water and some protein. After sleeping for hours, your body needs hydration! A small amount of protein (a spoonful of nut butter) helps support your blood sugar for the rest of the day. This simple routine supports healthy hormones – and the protein can help ground your digestion if you typically drink coffee. It is also really helpful for your adrenal glands.
- Eat heathy fats every day (aim for about 6 tablespoons throughout the day). Healthy fat helps with vitamin absorption, and releases a hormone that makes you feel full. Hormones are actually made from fats and protein – to maintain healthy hormone levels, you need the food sources for your body to make them!
- Figure out your food sensitivities. I set up a new Instagram account, and shared it with Katie, then took photos of everything I ate for several weeks. The goal was not judgement of diet, but instead to notice trends in energy, hunger, and digestion. A few years ago I took a food sensitivity test, but still discovered foods to swap and tweak with Katie’s help. (Note: Talk to your primary before ordering a food sensitivity test as he or she may have recommendations for certain ones.)
- Hydrate all day long. This tip is far from novel but so critical! I use sugar free electrolytes during and after intense workouts and found they help me with recovery. Also, adding fresh lemon in your water supports liver detox, and therefore, healthy hormones – plus it tastes great! As it gets cold outside, try fresh lemon in warm water.
I feel empowered by knowing more about healthy hormone balance and functional nutrition.
I highly recommend taking a deep dive into your own diet, hormone balance, and general well being! Learning more about my own hormones and the ways I could feed myself better has made me feel empowered.