Hormones play a major role in how well your body functions and how you feel from day to day. When your hormones are in balance, you likely have no trouble with sleep and have plenty of energy through your day, you have a strong sex drive, and a well-functioning immune and digestive system.
The truth is, our bodies are well equipped to produce all the hormones a woman needs throughout her life. So why do so many women experience hormonal imbalances? This is due to the fact that these hormones can be thrown off kilter from an abundance of stress, consuming an unhealthy diet or lack of physical activity. These lifestyle factors leave room for a wide variety of hormonal disorders to present their ugly head.What are hormones?
Hormones are proteins or steroids that are secreted naturally into your bloodstream. They are responsible for the body's metabolism of nutrients and minerals, regulation of fluids, reproductive health, sexual function, and regulate your stress response.The endocrine system produces hormones in women and includes glands such as the pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas, adrenal cortex and medull, and ovaries.
What are the most common hormonal disorders in women?
The most common of all the hormal disorders among women is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which has been found to affect approximately 7 percent of women. Many cases go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed as other hormonal imbalances, so it is estimated that as many as one in 10 women may be affected.
PCOS is a syndrome, meaning it has numerous componenets to it. Two-thirds of women with PCOS are overweight and most are insulin resistant. Symptom include:
- Unusually severe acne
- Rapid weight gain and/or trouble losing weight
- Unusual body hair growth (face, chest, back)
- Irregular or absent periods
- Darkened skin patches
Although the cause of PCOS remains unknown, researchers are finding there seems to be a connection with obesity, genetics and insulin production. It has been shown that lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, are "prescribed" for patients with PCOS. Those who follow through with these recommendations have seen profound improvements, and even remission, of many or all of their symptoms.
It is critical that any woman found to have PCOS be put on a nutrition support protocol that emphasizes improving insulin sensitivity and controlling insulin levels. This means eating small, frequent meals (eating within the 1/2 hr of waking and every 3 hrs or so), limiting or avoiding processed foods, and including lean protein with each meal and snack during the day. It is also recommended that patients include a high quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement to help normalize glucose, insulin, and leptin metabolism. It is common for doctors to prescribe birth control pills and fertility drugs to help with symptoms, but I encourage natural remedies such as diet, exercise and natural supplementation as the first step to improving symptoms. Learning how to eat a healthy diet and include exercise as part of your life is the only way to truly cure PCOS - taking the medications will only be a temporary solution and/or you'll have to take them for the rest or your life.
It has been found that over 20 percent of menopausal women in the U.S. are diagnosed with thyroid dysfunction, while other studies suggest that millions more may be suffering from subclinical problems, but remain undiagnosed.
Hypothyroidism, which is a sluggish or "underactive" thyroid, affects most women. Symptoms include:
- Weight gain
- High cholesterol
Hyperthyroidism, which is an overactive thyroid, also affects women in the opposite manner. A woman with hyperthyroidism may experience the following:
- Weight loss, often with an increased appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling overheated
Research shows that hormone imbalances, often caused by stress and nutritional deficiencies, are what trigger thyroid disease. Perimenopause, menopause and pregnancy are times during a woman's life when hypothyroidism may occur due to the body being more prone to hormonal imbalance. For individuals with hypo or hyperthyroidism, it is important to follow a nutrition protocol that focuses on supporting the endocrine system by balancing female hormones.
On the top of each of your kidneys are your adrenal glands, which act as control centers for a host of hormones. One of their most important functions is to prepare your body for the "fight or flight" stress response, where your body increases the amount of adrenaline and other hormones released into your bloodstream. This normal bodily response increases your heart rate and blood pressure, naturally slows your digestion and protects your body when you're faced with a potential threat or challenge.
This response, while needed and naturally occurring, can negatively impact us in other ways. The fact is, many of us are constantly faced with stressors such as worry, anxiety, work, environmental toxins, not getting enough sleep, over exercising, etc.), which means we are in this "fight or flight" mode for far too long!
Why is this a problem? Because your adrenal glands become overworked and fatigued - just like your muscles do when you exercise for extended periods of time. This leads to adrenal dysfunction with the following symptoms:
- A suppressed immune system (getting sick frequently)
- Muscle and bone loss (at risk for osteoporosis and other bone disorders)
- Overall fatigue and weakness
- Skin problems
- Autoimmune disorders
How Do you Combat Adrenal Fatigue?
There are numerous hormonal disorders among women, including menstrual and fertility problems. We continue to learn more about why some women appear to be more suseptable to hormone problems than others as well. If you suspect you may have a hormone disorder, you should seek help from a health care practitioner. Holistic practitioners, in particular, may be able to help you relieve your symptoms using natural remedies such as herbal supplements and lifestyle modifications, rather than prescription medications.
- Reduce stress in your life or practice stress management/relaxation techniques
- Eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet including fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains
- Get adequate sleep and/or improve sleeping habits - go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, avoid watching t.v. in bed or right before you go to bed, create a dark sleeping environment, keep a note pad by your bed to write down anything that comes to mind when you wake up, avoid caffeinated beverages late in the day, avoid eating meals/snacks close to bed time, etc.
Questions? Feel free to contact me: (802) 999-5684
The following is a post from the nutraMetrix Blog about how to choose a high quality and beneficial multi-vitamin:How to Choose a Multivitamin
While it’s generally agreed that a balanced diet is the best foundation for health, some studies suggest that to receive the required amounts of all vitamins and minerals we would need to consume approximately 3,000 calories worth of very specific fruit and vegetable combinations on a daily basis. For anyone who is not free to cook—and eat—for the majority of the day, this is not a viable option.
For these reasons among others, it’s no surprise that a study
conducted by The Council for Responsible Nutrition shows that a daily multivitamin is the first choice among dietary supplements. Adding to healthy eating with the missing vitamins and minerals not only helps prevent deficiencies related to disease; it also promotes optimal performance in everyday life. As a result, multivitamin supplementation continues to increase, as do the available choices. When it comes to making the right choice, the following points will provide solid guidance.
- Most multivitamins will contain approximately 100 percent of the RDA recommendations for 20-25 individual nutrients—in general, the most important of these are the B-complex vitamins, Vitamin D and Vitamin E, and these can certainly be present in higher amounts.
- Biotin is critical for B-complex absorption, but is often included in minimal amounts for reasons of cost—a quality multivitamin will contain 100 percent of the RDA.
- Zinc is regarded as increasingly important in recent studies, and obtaining the entire RDA from food can be challenging; a quality multivitamin should contain approximately 50 percent of the RDA to make up the difference.
- Iodine helps to ensure proper thyroid function, which is foundational to proper metabolism—a sound multivitamin formula will contain 100 percent of the RDA.
- Despite debate about iron supplementation, it is almost certainly advisable for pre-menopausal women; their RDA is set at 18mg, while men require 8mg.
- Selenium has demonstrated particular potential for men’s health, specifically prostate function, but intake must be moderate, regardless of gender—a balanced formulation will contain 75 to 100 percent of the RDA.
As the last two points suggest, varied vitamin and mineral needs have been shown in certain populations, such as higher amounts of B-complex for athletes, Vitamin D for adults over 65, and other categories based on individual genetics and lifestyle habits. Assessing those needs
and taking the next step towards custom nutrition may prove useful for those individuals.
All of the above, however, will definitely prove useful in selecting a good general-purpose multivitamin
. In times when many of us find ourselves struggling to reach the top of the food pyramid, this simple measure can deliver a much-needed nutritional boost.
Posted by Scientific Affairs
on 7/19/2012 at 11:45 AM
I don't want to mention any names, but one of the country's leading sports drinks claims the product is a "unique blend of fluid, electrolytes and carbohydrates that has been shown time and again to be an optimal hydrator, keeping athletes at the top of their game."
The sports drink's website also says that it is a special blend of sodium, potassium and chloride that replenishes minerals lost through sweat, along with electrolytes to help regulate a number of bodily functions. But what they don't disclose is the other ingredients that are arguably not healthy for any of at all! These ingredients include: high-fructose corn syrup (listed #2 after water), sucrose syrup (another sugar solution) and yellow 5 (an artificial food coloring.
What's Wrong with These Ingredients?
After all the media adds showing well known athletes drinking these sports drinks it's hard to not think that they are a healthy way to hydrate after a sorts game or workout. But the truth is, guzzling most sports drinks is like downing a few cans of soda. This is because high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a sweetener that may actually be worse for you than sugar. In fact, many experts suggest that HFCS, particularly those in sweetened drinks, are at least partly responsible for the obesity epidemic in America.
When glucose (a form of sugar) is consumed, various reactions occur in your body allowing the sugar to be used as energy, as well as the increased production of leptin, a hormone that helps control appetite and fat storage. Ghrelin, a stomach hormone, is reduced, which is though to help hunger go away.
When fructose is consumed, however, it "appears to behave more like fat with respect to the hormones involved in body weight regulation," explains Peter Havel, associate professor of nutrition at the University of California. He explains that fructose doesn't actually stimulate insulin secretion, the increase of leptin production or the reduction of ghrelin. This suggests that consuming a lot of fructose, like consuming too much fat, could contribute to weight gain.
Furthermore, most sports drinks contain various forms of added sugars. This may be good for a quick boost of energy for the short-term, but this is inevitably followed by a major energy crash.
The ingredient, Yellow 5, is what gives sports drinks their characteristic bright yellow glow and is also often even hidden in the other colored drinks. This ingredient has been found to cause allergic reactions, primarily in people who are sensitive to aspirin.
Research has also shown that sports drinks can also erode tooth enamel, even more than carbonated cola products due to the concentrated sugars. This is especially true if you sip them for long periods of time.
How Do Sports Drinks Effect Your Workouts?
If you're running a marathon or engagin in some other type of extremely intense exercise for a long period of time, the extra calories, sugar and electrolytes may be justifiable. But for the average gym-goer or child in sports after school, water is a much better choice to rehydrate your body.
A typical 20-ounce sports drink contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar and 130 calories, which is more calories than you might burn off during your workout. For the sports drinks I refered to above, the label lists 14g of sugar for one-quarter of the bottle. If you consume the whole bottle - as most people do after their workout - you're downing 56g of sugar! If you drink one sports drink per day for one year, this translates to a gain of 13 lbs!!!
Stick to water for the best and most natural form of hydration. Drinking water is one of the best ways to quench your thirst before, during and after your workouts. Experts recommend drinking an additional 2-3 cups of water within two hours of finishing your workout. For more intense workouts, try about a 1/4 cup of 100% fruit juice mixed with water for a more natural and hydrating boost. You should then keep drinking water regularly throughout the day, as even when you don't feel thirsty it is still quite possible to be dehydrated.
Read the Back Label - Not the Front!
Never trust the claims on the front of a food package. Claims like: heart healthy, whole grains, or fiber-filled are never reason enough to purchase the item.
The Real Truth: Look at the ingredient list to find out what is truly in your foods. Often times, ingredients that aren't so great for us are hidden in this list, not in the bold claims on the front.
Scan that ingredient list for high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners (ex. splenda, sucralose, aspartame, equal, sweet & low, etc.), hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils – if the food contains these items then rest assured that it's not healthy and should not be eaten.
If sugar (or other terms for sugar, such as molasses, brown sugar, sugar cane, cane syrup, barley malt syrup, dextrose, dextrin, honey, lactose, maltose, dedhydrated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, maple syrup, raw sugar, rice syrup, sucrose, turbinado sugar, or xylose) is found within the first 5 ingredients, you may want to reconsider your food choice. If it's an item you truly enjoy, just be mindful of portions and make sure to consume the item with a food that contains a lean source of protein. This will prevent blood sugar highs and lows