What are hormones and why do they play such a big part in our overall health? There is no second-guessing the influence hormones have on keeping us healthy and happy. But often they don’t feel the love that they should, so it’s time to dispel the myths and focus on the positives.
They are magical body messengers for every age, helping to regulate physical and mental functions. While many of us might relate hormones to the teenage or menopausal years, they have been working hard for us since before childbirth.
What are birth hormones?
According to childbirthconnection.org, birth hormones are chemical “messengers” that your body makes. They guide important changes to help labor and birth go smoothly and safely for both of you. They help in many ways, including:
- Getting your body ready to give birth
- Starting your labor contractions
- Preparing your baby for labor and life outside your body
- Telling your breasts to make milk and getting your body ready to breastfeed.
Why do we rely on them?
You might be surprised to learn that our body houses 50 different types of hormones with 35 or more unique hormones. Dr. Troy Dillard, an Endocrinologist in Bellingham, WA notes that hormones regulate everything from heart rate, metabolism, appetite, mood, reproduction, growth and development, sleep cycles and more. Our hormones are an integral part of us, and yes, we rely on them for so many things.
What to watch for?
Since hormones are messengers, they sometimes might go off-track and signal an imbalance. What does it mean for our bodies if our hormones aren’t aligned, and can we control them?
WebMD notes that it is normal for your levels to shift at different times in your life, such as before and after a period, during pregnancy and menopause. But some medications and health issues may cause them to go up or down. According to WebMD, there are warning signs, including:
- Irregular periods Sleep problems
- Chronic Acne Memory Flog
- Belly problems Ongoing Fatigue
- Headaches Mood swings and depression
- Vaginal dryness Appetite and weight gain
- Loss of sex drive Breast changes
How to support them?
“Technically, we can’t control hormones, but there are things we can do to influence them,” notes Dr. Dillard of PeaceHealth. Hormones do impact each other, so it’s important to try and keep them in balance through the following:
- Drink Water: This keeps everything moving smoothly flowing throughout your entire system—getting rid of the bad stuff and delivering vital nutrients.
- Breathe: Your cells love oxygen. Breathing draws in the oxygen. It also helps calm your nerves to promote a feeling of well-being. Mindfulness-based stress reduction can also teach you to harness breathing to reduce levels of those stress hormones!
- Get good quality sleep or rest: There’s no substitute for revitalizing all aspects of your mind and body, including your hormone system. Sleep deprivation and sleep apnea have been shown to adversely affect many hormones.
- Exercise: All kinds of exercise—strength, stretching or aerobic—help reduce stress hormone levels and provides needed cardio protection. *Remember to always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have problems with your heart or lungs.
- Eat lean protein, healthy fats, fiber and veggies: Not only do these make you feel fuller, but they also satisfy your cravings for nutrients that properly fuel your system.
- Avoid sugary and processed foods: Food and drinks high in sugar aren’t just “empty” calories, they’re negative because they create those spikes and crashes in your energy levels that may leave you hungrier than before.
- Eat when you’re hungry and try to avoid overeating: Try to stay in tune with what your body is asking for and give your system a break. Digestion-related hormones can lose their effectiveness if they’re constantly being overworked. Eat slowly and mindfully to aid in not over-eating.
Just remember that your hormones are here for you, to keep you safe and happy!
The information on this site is intended to raise awareness, and understanding of specific health issues. It should not be used for diagnosis, or a substitute for health care by your physician.