Every day, you do things that either support hormonal balance, or lead to hormonal disruption.
If you know what those things are and learn to be really intentional about them, you can make a significant difference in your energy levels, mood, brain function and metabolism.
Join me as I take you through the 3 biggest needle movers on your hormonal health.
Welcome back to another episode!
I’m recording this episode well in advance, because by the time this episode releases, I’ll be at sports camp with Kayle.
I’m so excited to join her for a full week of sports where they get to try their hand at so many different sports against other schools. It’s gonna be so fun
I might be severely sleep deprived by the end of it, but I’m sure it’ll all be well worth it!
So, if you’ve been in my world for any amount of time, you’ll know that I spend most of my waking hours finding the latest research on hormonal health and educating women like you on everything to do with hormones and health.
I do this, because I’ve seen the incredible impact that it has on our health and the massive lack of education that women receive on this topic.
And i’ve been a victim of that myself. I struggled for many years with health issues that I had no idea was caused by a severe hormonal imbalance. And the moment I addressed those imbalances, I literally saw my health change in a matter of weeks.
Conditions that I thought I would be stuck with for life, healed in a matter of days.
So here I am, working my butt off every day to help you find those same answers and heal your body.
And so today I wanna share with you 3 things that you are doing every single day that are affecting your hormones.
Because if you don’t know by now, everything that you do affects your hormones in either a positive or negative way. And if you impact your hormones in a negative way, you’ll be experiencing some very negative symptoms.
For example, insulin is responsible for transporting glucose, which we use for energy, into the cell. The types of food you eat will regulate insulin levels and how often you eat will also have a major effect on your insulin.
If you constantly eat foods that are high in sugar, you will constantly experience insulin spikes, which can eventually lead to insulin resistance or pre-diabetes.
When insulin is constantly triggered in large amounts, it also affects the production of your cortisol, which in turn affects progesterone levels.
So you can see here that the food that you eat daily, has a major impact on how your hormones behave during that day.
In a nutshell, our daily activities affect the way our hormones work or don’t work. Your daily activities can either support or take you further away from hormonal balance.
If you learn to focus on the activities that affect your hormonal health and you manage to get a good hold on those things, you can improve your moods, energy levels, metabolism and brain function. And who does not want consistent moods, energy levels, an effective metabolism and optimal brain function all of the time?
So I wanna talk a little bit today about the 3 major things that you do every single day, that are the biggest needle movers on your hormonal health.
Are you ready?
Let’s get into it.
The first major contributor to hormonal health, you guessed it, is the food that you eat.
The foods that you eat at every meal either directly or indirectly affects a truckload of hormones, such as insulin, ghrelin, thyroid hormone, estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and cortisol.
For example, if you eat a meal that is highly processed and has a ton of sugar in it, your hormones will be negatively impacted. And if this happens regularly over time, your hormones will be deregulated.
I think it’s helpful to change the way we think about food.
It’s not just something that has to fill the hole in my stomach whenever I feel hungry.
The food that you eat will become your cells, your energy, your brain, your hormones, etc.
With that in mind, you want to make sure that you have good quality, lean proteins from hormone free and antibiotic free sources. Grass Fed beef and lamb and of course salmon and other fish.
Make sure you get plenty of plant based foods every day, which will support your gut health through the fibre and other nutrients it will provide and you want to also make sure you get some plant based fats every day, such as nuts, seeds, olives, avocado and olive oil.
So the closer the food is to its original form the better. That is whole, untampered foods and you wanna make sure you limit the intake of processed foods
Now I get it. It’s hard to go to the supermarket to do the grocery shopping, then come back home and do the preparation, and then actually have to cook the food. As a mom, I know what life can be like sometimes. Some nights we only get home after 7 from sports and then I need to start thinking about meals. But let me tell you, doing your food prep and actually doing planning so you can make it work, is so worth it. You will reap the benefits more than you will ever realise.
For example, on Tuesdays, we get home around 7pm. So I make sure every Monday, while cooking our dinner, I double up on the veg preparation and chuck half of it into the slow cooker with some meat bones and turn the slow cooker on low during the night to cook a soup for the next day. So when we get home from diving after 7, we literally heat up the soup and have dinner.
I want you to think about the plans that you can make around those crazy days and nights? Is it that you can create meals in advance that you can freeze, maybe cook 2 meals in one night? Maybe you can have cooked chicken ready for everyone to make their own wraps when you get home. The key here is just to think about those days in advance and plan for them!
Another thing I’m very religious about, is doing my grocery shopping online. I never do a full grocery shopping trip in person anymore. I take 30 minutes to order all my groceries online and then collect it on days that I’m in that part of the city. So again, Tuesday nights, after diving, I collect my groceries from the supermarket on the way home. This does not only save me the time that it would have taken to do the shopping, but because I plan the week ahead, there is no more than 1 trip to the supermarket each week.
So think about how you can make this work for you because this can be an absolute game changer!
If you are looking for some healthy, family friendly recipes that are pretty easy to cook, I recommend you look at my book for hormonal healing. It’s called Feast and you can find it on my website at vandghie.com/feast or find the link in the show notes.
Ok, the second thing that is one of the biggest needle movers on your hormonal health, is stress. It’s a bit harder to identify the sources of stress but let me tell you, if you make the effort to dig into this, you will reap incredible benefits.
You can refer to episode 9, where I talk about how organisation will affect your hormones. Being more organised in daily life can significantly decrease your perceived stress.
The trouble is, quite often we are totally unaware of the signs that our body gives us to let us know that we are under stress. And because we are not aware of the stress response that is happening internally, we don’t regulate it and it creates havoc in our hormones.
But let me ask you. How often do you feel anxious or rushed?
This has a huge impact on your hormones, because your hormones need to prepare your body for whatever is coming
Research shows that stress leads to insulin resistance and blood glucose spikes without us even realising it. And having a high stress response can be the equivalent of having an entire block of chocolate in one go. That’s how huge the impact of stress is on the body and it’s a silent killer.
And most of us are entirely unaware that we are even experiencing stress at all.
We’re just trying to get through our day to day and so we don’t focus on what is going on in our body at all.
I’ll try to explain what actually happens in your body when you experience stress.
So for me, being rushed and worried that I’ll be late is a very good example, cause in those scenarios, I can feel the effect of that stress response so clearly.
But maybe for you it’s being in a fight with your husband, or you have deadlines at work.
Your brain will send a signal to your adrenal glands for cortisol and adrenaline to be released.
These are the hormones that will prepare you to either fight or flee.
This means that you blood pressure will increase,
Breathing rate will increase and your breathing will get shallower
Your blood sugar will spike as your cells release energy so you can act fast
Your thoughts will speed up
And you’ll have a strong urge to do something right now. When I’m late, I have a strong urge to drive really fast if I’m on my way somewhere. This is part of that stress response and it takes real intentional effort and energy to deregulate that response.
You might feel really reactive due to the cortisol flooding your system and your brain is telling you that you are in danger and therefore you need to be on high alert.
Therefore you’ll feel the energy of your body getting ready to either fight or flee.
This is also what used to happen to me in the mornings when I had a full time job and really needed to get the kids out the door so I could get to work. If they just dragged their feet a little, this stress response will activate, cause I’m getting nervous that I’ll be late. And then the whole day turns to porridge.
And this process has a profound impact on every single cell in your body.
Unfortunately, our modern life is setting this stage for these episodes to occur regularly, sometimes multiple times during one day.
This is because of social media, constant negative news in the media, social isolation, arguments amongst friends and family, long to-do lists, sport and social calendars that are full to the brim, environmental pollutants, work stress, trying to figure out where to fit in a family vacation, finances, You name it. There are a million things on our plates!
And what we know from recent research, is that chronic stress leads to overeating, it leads to elevation of cortisol and insulin, it suppresses white blood cells, leading to a compromised immune system and when we are in this chronic state of stress, it leads to chronic inflammation, an increase in abdominal fat, and it also creates oxidative stress in the body, which leads to cell damage and increased risk for cardiovascular disease, auto-immune disorders, cancers, you name it.
You can imagine it takes a lot of energy to constantly be in this activated state, so needless to say, there will be little to no energy left for the things that you really wanna do and be.
So what can you do to disarm this process?
Well, I think the most important thing that you can do is to develop awareness.
Start to notice your body’s reactions to certain triggers, what are the things that actually trigger you, how does your body feel when that happens, what is your brain is thinking, what are the neurological signs that you’re experiencing, such as feeling hot and sweaty, increased breathing rate, shallow breathing, your heart may start racing, maybe you start shivering, you may be stuck in a fearful way of thinking and struggle to get out of it or you might even feel panicky and wanna act impulsively - all these are signs of the stress response state.
The more you practise awareness, the easier it will get for your brain to build those new pathways. And it’s important to do this without any self-judgement. It’s part of the process of getting to know yourself and I wanna encourage you to put in the time and effort to master self-awareness.
So what can you do when you have a stress response?
First of all, focus on your senses and your breathing. Stop what you’re doing, take a moment to focus on your breathing and take charge of your physiology.
When I’m in an intense state of stress, my body starts to shiver. So what I do is focus on calming down that movement, and breathing deep into my tummy and exhaling for as long as I can. And keep focusing on exercising control over those shivers.
If you feel like you freeze, a good idea might be to start moving around slowly and breathing into your tummy. Focus on your diaphragm moving - this will help activate your parasympathetic nervous system and down-regulate the stress response
It’s important to do all of this without self-judgement. Allow yourself to feel the effect of those emotions and feelings, breathe through them and work through it
A good pro-active option is to constantly send safety signals to your brain, which will help your brain to know that it’s safe and there is no need to ramp up the stress response.
You can do this by regular walking, practising your favourite act of self care, dancing, laughing, catching up with a friend, taking a long warm bath or breathing in some citrus or lavender essential oils.
These are some of my favourite ways of helping my brain and body to know that I’m safe.
I wanna encourage you. If you know that you are in a high stress state at the moment, commit to at least 20 minutes of walking outside in nature every single day. This will have a huge impact on your neural pathways, letting your body know that it’s safe.
Self-awareness has been a massive growth spot for me over the last few years and it has made a major impact on my health and life. Before I had self-awareness, things would stress me out and I wouldn’t acknowledge it, which meant I had no way of interpreting my physical response and knowing what was going on.
It also meant that I was always in the defence and therefore came across as quite aggressive and domineering. I never realised it, but because I had a lot of tension under the surface, that is what naturally portrayed onto others. So self-awareness was something that was really hard initially, but has helped me tremendously over the years to deregulate my stress response.
So I highly recommend that you start to pay attention to what is happening in your body during different moments of the day. It’s a practice that is so worth it and it will have a profound impact on your hormones. It will eventually allow you to enjoy the moments with the people around you and enjoy the flow and adventures of life, without the constant anxious energy that sits underneath the surface.
And then finally the third big needle mover on your hormones, is sleep or the lack thereof!
Your quality of sleep affects all areas of your health and body, especially your hormones, such as melatonin, cortisol, estrogen, progesterone and insulin.
You may often hear it’s recommended that you sleep at least 8 hours a night, but a good way of determining if you are actually sleeping enough, is by checking in with your energy levels.
Do you wake up in the morning feeling totally rested? Or do you wake up feeling like you never slept at all?
When you think about your sleeping patterns, how do you feel deep down about your sleep habits?
Do you always choose another episode of your favourite series rather than making sure you get to bed at a good time?
Do you spend hours on your phone in bed and before you know it, you’ve scrolled through social media for 2 hours and end up turning the lights out close to midnight?
Let me tell you, if you know how important sleep is not only for your hormonal health, but for your overall health, you’ll choose sleep over everything else every day of the week!
As I mentioned before, several hormones are impacted by your sleep and let’s talk specifically about melatonin.
It’s a neurotransmitter-like hormone that is responsible for your body's circadian rhythms.
As the day comes to an end and the sun starts to set, melatonin levels start to rise and cortisol levels are supposed to drop
This allows your body to slow down and fall asleep.
And then as the sun starts to rise in the morning, melatonin levels will start to drop and cortisol will start to peak in order to wake you up.
If you resist these natural hormonal fluctuations by staying up late at night inside a bright light environment, you start to influence these rhythms and before you know it, you struggle to fall asleep at night. Therefore it’s really important to respect these natural processes and support them by practising good sleep habits.
So how do you do that?
Well, for starters, go to bed at more or less the same time every night, as this will support those natural rhythms.
I prefer being in bed way before 10, because the deep restorative sleep that we get before midnight is so important. So I make sure I’m in bed with lights out between 9:30 and 9:45 every night, so I can be asleep by 10.
Secondly, make sure your bedroom is reserved for sleep and intimacy, nothing else. Create a space where your body feels relaxed and safe. Create order, keep things tidy and clean. And don’t have a tv or devices that you watch in bed. Beds are for sleeping.
I love having my bed lamp on, pull the blinds down and love having my diffuser on from around 8pm. It’s signalling to my body that it’s time to go to bed.
Thirdly, make sure you eliminate any light that might get into your room by using blockout blinds or curtains and covering any clocks or radios that may have a green, blue or white light. Make sure your room is pitch black, as this will support that healthy production of melatonin.
Just take a moment right now and think about what it is that you can do to prioritise your sleep over the next few weeks.
Based on the current research, if you improve your sleep habits, you should be experiencing an increase in energy levels.
We know that we need healthy levels of melatonin to initiate the creation of more mitochondria, which are the energy powerhouses inside of your cells, and they generate the energy that we need every single day to support everything that we do on a daily basis. So more melatonin means more energy producing mitochondria, and higher energy levels for you every day. I’d say that’s definitely worth the discipline, don’t you think?
So ways that I help my body to start winding down, is by having the same routine every night.
I have a long warm bath, then I use my essential oils that support hormonal support, then I snuggle up on the couch with Michiel with a warm cup of tea and we watch one episode together of whatever it is that we’re watching. At 9:30, I head to bed and that’s sleep time for me. So I won’t be in bed scrolling through my phone.
Also, because I use my phone as an alarm clock, I make sure that I place it upside down on my bedside table so that it doesn’t light up the room if any notifications come through during the night. This is really important. It would be best if there could be no devices in my room at all, but we try to make it work as best we can.
So what can you include in your bedtime routine that will help you wind down?
Something you really want to be avoiding before bed time, at least an hour or 2 before you go to bed, is sugar and alcohol. Especially the combination of the 2.
Sugar and alcohol massively disrupts sleep and sleep quality. So be mindful of that.
But what can you start doing tonight to improve your sleep quality?
Maybe you can do some reading, I sometimes spend a few minutes here to reflect on the day and pray. If you don’t pray, maybe there’s something else that you can do to reflect, maybe journal or write down your gratitudes? You can do some focused breathing exercises for literally 2 minutes to activate your rest and digest nervous system, maybe diffuse some calming essential oils such as lavender or you can have a warm cup of herbal tea.
Just remember that the quality of your essential oils are absolutely critical!
And there you have it friends.
The 3 things that you do everyday that are impacting your hormonal health, either in a positive or negative way.
And I’m sure there are at least 1 thing in each of those categories that you can improve on today to improve your hormonal health.
And remember, the last thing you need to do is implement major changes.
Start with small changes, one at a time, that you’ll be able to consistently do until they become a habit.
That way you’ll set yourself up for success.
Figure out what's right for you and what are the non-negotiables for you?
Maybe it’s movement to help you manage your stress
The more you can tweak and optimise your nutrition, stress management and sleep, the better you’ll feel.
If there is someone in your life that needs to hear this today, please share this episode with them.
Copy the link and send it to them in a text or however you share your podcasts.
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Thanks again for being here today.
And remember, you are worth every minute you put into understanding your body and educating yourself on what you need!
Until next time my friend
Bye for now