In my last blog, I wrote about hormones – what they are, how food affects them, and ways that they can get out of balance. Today, I want to focus more on what we can do to help bring them back INTO balance. Spoiler alert: this involves changes our habits, thought processes, and actions! It’s not easy but isn’t that how most things are that are good or worthwhile? Sometimes we need to get a little uncomfortable to grow and improve.
Whether or not certain hormones are produced or released is controlled by your brain through various stimulating or inhibitory hormones. Your body needs the nutritional building blocks and your brain needs to send the appropriate message to your pituitary gland which then sends a message to the various hormone-producing and releasing glands.
As I mentioned in the last blog, I believe there are two overarching reasons for hormones to get out of balance:
A lack of PROPER NUTRIENTS to provide the foundation of those hormones and STRESS.
Today we’re going to go over how to reduce the burden of stress on your body. It is a very large topic and there is really so much that stresses us. And we all know stress is bad but it’s so hard to put your finger on it and we are all so attached to our lifestyles and habits that making any changes seems too hard.
You may even think that you don’t feel that stressed. And that’s great if you don’t feel it, but it doesn’t mean that your body and brain aren’t experiencing chronic stress.
Biologically we are very much the same as early humans. Not much has changed with our genetics. But what has drastically changed, and all relatively recently, is our modern lifestyle.
We are busy with work, kids, and social lives. We’re staring at screens all day (like I am now!) and sitting for most of the day (like I am today!). We sit in traffic, we get angry at other drivers, we spend a lot of time on social media which can cause anger, jealousy, a lack of contentment, and a short attention span. We’re always looking for the next thing, always scrolling away on our phones and computers. We breathe in air that is polluted, we eat manufactured food products that lack nutritional value and are full of pesticides and genetically modified ingredients. We don’t sleep enough, and we don’t get out in nature enough. We either don’t exercise enough or we do too much high intensity exercise that just further depletes our bodies. Phew, that’s all pretty depressing!
The point is, even if you don’t “feel stressed” in the frazzled crazy person sense, your body is likely still experiencing stress on a daily basis. And if you are struggling with any of those issues I mentioned in the last post then you can almost guarantee you are stressed in some way.
So, here are my suggestions for how to manage the burden of stress on your body that is affecting your ability to balance your hormones, feel good, lose weight, and have the energy you feel like you’re missing:
Eat real food. The processed grains and flours, as well as sugar and refined vegetable and seed oils are a stress on your body. They feed bad bacteria and yeasts and strip vital nutrients out of your body. We’ve been doing this to ourselves for years and it is so normal and accepted to eat junk, but it messes with you in all sorts of ways. One of the best ways to stop stressing your body is to drastically decrease the amount of sugar and processed foods!
Sleep. So underrated but so important. I know some of you have babies and little ones who make sleeping through the night at this phase of life impossible, so just do the best you can. But for those of us who just stay up later than necessary on our phones, computers, or watching TV, it’s time to step away from the screen and sleep! Screens mess with your body’s melatonin production and therefore interfere with your normal circadian rhythm. This doesn’t address the root issue of our attachment to technology but there are blue-light blocking glasses you can buy that can be helpful. If you don’t have extenuating circumstances you should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Ditch the super early intense workout for the extra sleep. Really, it’s okay.
Move your body – not too much and not too little! In my time working in gyms I’ve seen a lot of women who are undernourished, stressed by all the normal life stuff, frustrated that they can’t lose weight, but are working out hard many times throughout the week. To an already stressed body and brain, high intensity exercise is – Just. More. Stress. Your brain already thinks it’s running from a tiger and then when we add HI training on top of it, it thinks that tiger is closing in. The body goes into energy conserving mode so that it has the energy needed to run from said tiger. So while she may be doing all these things to try to lose weight, her brain is getting the signal to hold onto whatever energy is coming in because the body is going to need it to get through all this stress.
If you sit through most of your day, you can’t really just “make up for it” with high intensity training. Try to find ways to move more throughout the day. Set an alarm on your phone to get up and stretch. Go on some quick walks, do some body-weight squats. Get a walk in at lunch time. Be active doing things you like to do in your free time that involve movement, even if it isn’t a specific “work out.” I’m not saying exercise is a bad thing! It’s the type and what’s right for your body. If you are really stressed by things in your life, you may need to spend more time doing more calming movements like walking, yoga, stretching, and maybe some light jogging or biking. Save the high intensity for when your brain isn’t living in fight or flight mode.
Supplement appropriately. It would be great if we could get everything we need from food but frankly it’s quite hard to do these days. When we are experiencing this disruption in our bodies from a dysregulated HPA axis, we are burning through stores of nutrients, particularly the B vitamins and magnesium.
Some of my favorite nutrients to help fuel your body’s ability to withstand the stress of everyday life include:
- Magnesium glycinate
- Vitamin D + K2
- Omega -3 fatty acids
- B complex
- Vitamin C
I’ve put together an Anti-Stress Kit with quality, professional-grade brands of these nutrients that are vital to not only your general everyday health but also your body’s ability to respond to the increased stresses in life. These can help give your body the boost it needs while you ALSO work on consuming nutrient dense foods and pay attention to those other lifestyle factors! To access the kit, just sign up for an account on Fullscript (it’s free to sign up!), click on “catalog” and scroll down to my “Practitioner Categories” and you’ll see my Anti-Stress Kit there!