Cleaning Up Your Cabinet

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Some of the products you use everyday can greatly impact the way your endocrine system functions. Many everyday products contain endocrine disruptors which are chemicals that mimic hormones or bind to hormone receptors in our cells thus causing problems for the endocrine system. You may think that if you  don’t have any hormonal problem that you can go on using these products. But the reality is different, these chemicals can accumulate in your body over years and only show up as serious problems later on.

Making changes now can help you avoid hormonal problems in the future and if you do have hormonal problems these changes will help you start your healing process. These chemicals should not be taken lightly as research has shown a link between exposure to endocrine disruptors and female reproductive problems, male infertility,and some cancers.

Products that contain endocrine disruptors can be found throughout your household from plastics and food to cosmetics and cleaning agents. The good thing is that these things can be replaced easily by safer and more environmentally friendly products.

Here are some of the most common endocrine disruptors that you should try and avoid:

  • Pthalates including DBP, DEHP. These can be found in deodorants, nail polish, body lotion and food packaging .
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLES). These can be found in shampoos, shower gels and toothpastes.
  • Parabens. These include ingredients with ethyl, propyl, butyl and methyl. These can be found in skin creams, concealers, foundations and facial masks.
  • Anolamines such as DEA, TEA and MEA. Found in soap, eyeliner, hairspray and shaving cream.
  • Petrolatum. Found in skin and lip moisturizers.
  • BPA. Is found in plastic containers, bottles and cans.
  • Pesticides are also endocrine disruptors.

It may seem like a big list of things to avoid but good alternatives are readily available in supermarkets and online and switching to these products shouldn’t be too hard. Many safe self-care and cosmetic products are now available as well as natural cleaning agents that don’t cause allergies or health problems. In terms of pesticides the best way to avoid them is to try and eat organic fruit and vegetables as often as possible. Plastic containers and water bottles are okay to use provided they’re not left in the sun or heated. Alternatively try to use glass bottles and aluminum containers for food and drink storage.

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Starting at Stress

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So you’ve checked your symptoms, done your tests and you know you have a hormonal imbalance, “What now?” I hear you say. Before we dive into any solutions it is important you know that healing takes  time and that its a lifestyle change- you’ve got to be committed because there are no quick fix solutions. Instead I want to provide you with more sustainable changes that will help you manage your hormones without causing any major disruptions to your life.

With so much stress in our lives I think it is only appropriate to start at the very topic of stress.

We often think of stress as something that we’ve just got to accept as part of our daily lives but stress was designed to occasionally be a coping mechanism rather than a chronic condition. At the heart of your stress response is the hormone cortisol which actually regulates many physiological processes including cravings, sleeping, and blood pressure.

When your stressed your adrenal glands release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol to prepare you for fighting or fleeing. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, your breathing rate and the blood flow to your muscles while cortisol suppresses your digestion, immunity and reproductive drive. Your body does this because it simply thinks that when their is danger there is no time for you to digest, fight disease or make babies!

Unfortunately our stress response still lives in the stone age, literally, and perceives stress over an exam exactly the same way it perceives stress from a ferocious tiger that is about to attack every bone in your body. So what does that do? Well, being in stress mode 24/7 because of the lurking deadlines, bills that are due and your never ending ‘To do’ list will eventually cause adrenal fatigue. Your body simply cannot stay healthy if you are constantly alarmed. As a result your immunity, digestion and even creativity begin to suffer. But it can get more serious with hair loss, insomnia and diabetes being some of the long term consequences of accumulated stress hormones.

But don’t despair there are many ways  to manage stress and high cortisol from exercise to getting the right amount of sleep. Here are some small steps you can take,

Sleep:

  • Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
  • The best times to go to bed are 9-10 and waking up 6-7.
  • Try not to do any exercise or stimulating activity before you got to bed as this will increase cortisol and make it hard for you to fall asleep.
  • Read a book or listen to relaxing music before bed to help you sleep well.

Eating:

  • Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up and include protein in it so that you have long lasting energy.
  • Eat regularly. Have snacks in between meals so that you keep your blood sugar levels stable.
  • Avoid caffeine, sugary foods and processed foods as these will only make your symptoms worse. I know this may be a hard one but when you keep your sugar levels stable by doing these tips then you won’t crave sugar as much.

Exercise:

  • Exercise. You’ve heard it before but the key is to do something you enjoy even if its a walk.
  • Try different workout combinations such as weight and cardiovascular exercise.
  • Try to exercise in the morning especially between 6-7 if you can. This helps regulate cortisol.
  • Don’t do heavy workout if you can’t this will only make adrenal fatigue worse.

Relax!

  • Read a book.
  • Try yoga or meditation.
  • Get a massage.

What’s happening to my body?

Last week I posted about some of the symptoms of a hormonal imbalance. Today I want to talk, without complicating things, about why this may happen.

Before I start its important to define hormones. Simply put, hormones are chemicals produced by glands in our bodies to regulate various bodily functions and behavior. If they’re not balanced then your whole body will lose its balance. Of course not all your hormones will go into total breakdown at once but usually a hormonal imbalance will involve more than one hormone because of their interlinked nature where if one hormone is not right then another will also be imbalanced.

Our bodies are very intelligent and whenever a hormone is out of balance the symptoms will manifest in the areas that the hormone naturally regulates. For example, one of the things that the hormone testosterone regulates is body hair growth. If there is an abnormal increase  of testosterone in the female body than it will manifest as excessive facial and body hair.

You can find a good overview of the different glands and the hormones they excrete here.

But why does this happen?

Apart from genetics many lifestyle factors can affect your hormonal balance. Here are some of the most significant lifestyle factors that can lead to hormonal imbalances:

Poor diet:

Food is one of the most important ways our bodies get there nutrients which among other things help the production and stabilization of hormones. If you are constantly eating a diet that lacks macro and micro nutrients and is high in bad fats and sugar your body will one, not get the things it needs to keep your hormones stable and two, find it very difficult to eliminate excessive hormones that can build up in your body.

Stress:

I know this is an inevitable part of life but the chronic stress we often experience in our modern lives was not something that our hormones were designed to handle. Naturally, the stress hormone cortisol is designed to be high in the morning so that we can wake up and work and low at the end of the day indicating that it’s time to sleep. But if your body is constantly stressed your adrenal glands, the glands responsible for excreting  cortisol, will get tired and lose their natural rhythm leading to adrenal fatigue. This could affect ovulation, libido and energy levels.

Endocrine Disruptors

Many chemicals in our environment mimic our natural hormones which means if they do enter our bodies they can interfere with the functioning of our endocrine systems. The bad news is that we use these chemicals everyday, the good news, that we can actually avoid them. Beauty products, cleaning agents, plastics and hormone fed meat are just some of the sources of endocrine disruptors. Try to avoid hormone fed meat and use natural alternatives for beauty and cleaning products. Another thing is to try to avoid consuming food or drinks that have been in heated plastic containers or in containers that have been left in the sun as this triggers the release of endocrine disrupting chemicals from the plastics.

For more on hormones and hormonal imbalance Natural Fertility Info provides a fantastic overview.

What are the Symptoms of a Hormonal Imbalance?

So many of us today are living extremely busy lives that we don’t even have the time to realize we’re tired. But in many cases fatigue can be a strong indicator of a greater underlying problem. In women it is one of the biggest signs of a hormonal imbalance and usually signals to a particular imbalance in the thyroid hormones and or  adrenal hormones.

But there are dozens more hormones in the human body each of which signals an imbalance to your body in a different way. In females the following signs are common indicators of an imbalance:

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS):

Yes! PMS can mean you have a hormonal imbalance. While the syndrome has a whole list of symptoms on its own like anxiety, sweating, cravings and abdominal pain, they are often intertwined and are caused by the same root problem. If a woman’s body was not able to flush out excessive estrogen or produce enough progesterone then the menstrual phase will be very distressing for the woman.

Hair Loss:

It is natural for all humans to shed between 100-150 hairs a day but any more than that can mean you have a hormonal imbalance. Usually hair loss caused by an imbalance of hormones has a particular balding pattern. In women the hair starts thinning from the middle and gradually the ‘balding’ spreads outwards. Always check with a doctor to confirm your hair loss is due to a hormonal cause. This can be checked by taking blood tests . Elevated testosterone levels or low dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels can cause hair loss.

Ovarian Cysts:

Ovarian cysts are also an indication that there could be an estrogen dominance (when estrogen is higher than other hormones). They can be diagnosed by having an ultrasound.

Mood Swings:

If you feel you are irritable and depressed one moment and happily buzzing the next your not alone. Many women suffer from mood swings but they often don’t know that balancing their hormones can help them enjoy a stabilized mood throughout the month.

There are many more symptoms of hormonal imbalances. MindBodyGreen has a great post on some additional symptoms that you can read here.

Have a good weekend and take care of your hormones!

Why the fuss over hormones?

So why should we care about hormones?

Well, simply put because they affect everything. Seriously.

In all human beings the endocrine system is responsible for regulating various bodily functions including sexual and reproductive growth, cell metabolism, sugar levels and much more. That’s why it is especially important to maintain hormonal imbalance to avoid potential health problems- and they can be quite serious.

While many of us may think that hormones are something that only menopausal women deal with the reality is that million of women, of all ages, are diagnosed with hormone related issues such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, and Endometriosis. But hormonal imbalances are much more than disorders. They can affect a woman’s sleep, cravings, skin, moods and even weight.

The important thing to know is that no matter what the hormonal disorder a women is going through some simple and easy changes to their diet and lifestyle can help them feel so much better. And the great part about it is that it can be all natural!