Simple lifestyle shifts for better supporting your hormones and wellbeing
In my last post I wrote about why hormones are important at any age & how living by a 24-hour clock — like men — can have an adverse affect on our hormones, and in turn how we feel, live, perform & contribute.
Yet there are many ways we can more mindfully support our hormones — so that we don’t become overwhelmed by them, lose resilience or let them wreak havoc on our health or how we feel.
Personalizing your nutrition
We can eat foods that support our cycle each week, since different times of the month call for different nutrients. Therefore we can support estrogen and progesterone levels, which are key female hormones, at different times of the month by eating different foods.
Some foods that support you during your follicular and ovulatory phase are:
- Fresh and light foods
- Flax seeds
Some foods that support you during your luteal and menstruation phase are:
- Warm and nourishing foods
- Root veggies
- Whole grains
- Sesame and sunflower seeds
- Bone broths, soups and stews
Furthermore we should shift our nutrition as our hormones shift. In fact different periods of our life call for different nutrient needs. That means that our 20s look different from our 30s, 40s and 50s, so we should think about personalizing our nutrition to the times of our lives.
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Since our energy levels shift with our hormones and how well we are supporting them in our everyday lives, low energy days are a call to support and reset our hormones. Therefore it is helpful to align our activities with our energy.
Moreover we can choose exercise that supports our cycles. This is helpful, because testerone, progesterone and estrogen fluctuate from week to week and certain exercise supports this flow.
This also means that high intensity or long duration exercise at a low hormone time of the month, that includes before or during your period, can offset your cycle. Mid-cycle when your hormones are high, our bodies are more primed for going for it.
What’s more, hormones like melatonin, insulin, HGH (human growth hormone) and others can affect things like sleep, immunity, metabolism and energy. When insulin goes high at night and after we have eaten, HGH goes low, which we need for growth and repair.
Especially late nights can reduce melatonin and in turn affect our insulin, which controls blood sugar. This simply means that we should consider the timing of our exercise, sleep and food intake.
“By prioritising sleep you are supporting all your hormones.”
Honor your need for sleep and rest
I find that it is most important to honor our need for rest & slowing down, for repair & restoration. This can be done myriad ways, but the two key disruptors to look out for are an irregular, inadequate and interrupted lack of quality sleep as well as chronic mental, physical, emotional, physiological stress.
Firstly getting good quality sleep is easier said than done, especially if you’re suffering from symptoms that affect your sleep. Nevertheless there are ways to improve that.
Some ways we can help are sleep are:
- Using your bed solely for sleep and sex
- Make your bed comfy and clean
- Creating a sleep time routine
- Avoid stimulants before bed (such as chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, cigarettes…)
- Not drinking coffee or tea with caffeine six hours before bedtime
- Don’t eat within two to three hours before bedtime
- Try meditation to relax, sex can work too
- Read a print book and skip out on checking your phone two hours before bed
- Take a hot bath or shower around an hour before sleeping
By prioritising sleep you are supporting all your hormones.
That especially includes the reduction of cortisol and therefore stress as well as insulin, which is responsible for blood sugar control and energy. Melatonin helps with anti-aging and immunity, in addition to the human growth hormone, that regulates weight management and the repair and growth of the body.
When these key hormones are in balance, due to your sleep, they support the balance of other hormones in your body.
Reduce your stressors inside and out
Secondly the tricky thing about stress is that it comes in many packages and we don’t always recognize it. We could be living with chronic stressors but emotionally or mentally feel fine, until the total stress overloads us
Here are a few lesser known stressors that impact hormones:⠀
- Rapid and shallow breathing⠀
- Environmental toxins in our food, home, beauty or household products⠀
- Food sensitivities, although we don’t always have obvious symptoms
- Inflammatory foods, even if we don’t notice their effects
- Nutrient insufficiencies⠀
- Moderately high or rollercoaster type blood sugar levels, which can happen despite being active and eating well
- High blood pressure⠀
- Too much of certain types of exercise, or exercise without enough rest built in
- Over the counter & prescription meds, these add to our stress load even if we may feel better
All these factors can add up. That’s why it can be beneficial to dedicate one week per month to slowing down and resting, because it is only in the times of rest that we can grow, improve, repair, renew and recharge.
Endless business or activity doesn’t give our bodies the time it needs, and in turn, it affects our hormones. During and just before our period is a prime tie for slowing down as hormones are at their lowest. If you push through during this time you likely feel it.
Lastly it’s important to balance stress with stress-reducing/ balancing activities, that can help keep cortisol in check.
All in all you can help yourself and especially your hormones by paying attention to sleep and reducing your stress, but it may help you to personalise your sports and nutrition plan according to the point in your cycle.
W. Chris Winter, The Sleep Solution: Why your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It, Berkely, 2017
Kloss JD, Perlis ML, Zamzow JA, Culnan EJ, Gracia CR. Sleep, sleep disturbance, and fertility in women. Sleep Med Rev. 2015 Aug;22:78-87. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.005. Epub 2014 Oct 18. PMID: 25458772; PMCID: PMC4402098.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, manage, or treat disease or serious conditions. Always check with your doctor before making any changes. It’s important to consult a well-informed health practitioner for personal advice about your situation before relying on general information — we’re all wonderfully unique.
Laurie Villarreal, FNLP, CHWC, FNS, LMC, CPT, RYT
Hi, I'm Laurie, a functional nutritionist and board certified health coach, athlete, dog-mom, and biohacking adventure-lover. After having struggled for years to find lasting solutions for my own debilitating hormone-related symptoms, I created my online practice to begin helping other active, driven women get the support they need. I now help women around the world elevate their health, energy, business and life by optimizing their hormones with personalized nutrition and lifestyle tweaks. Together, we discover new tools and strategies that keep you showing up at your best so you can play even bigger in your life and work.
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