BALANCING HORMONES to SUPPORT
STRESS and IMMUNE HEALTH
Dr. Gabrielle Francis
Can we all agree, that life is a little weird right now? We are all dealing with unprecedented challenge and levels of stress caused by these chaotic and uncertain times. Society is more than ever consumed with topics such as stress and immunity.
The Impact of Stress on Women’s Health is perhaps most profoundly seen in her Hormones. Hormone balance can often be a barometer that measures the effects of stress on her body and her mind. And it goes the other way too. Hormonal imbalances can affect stress levels and immunity as the Hormones have direct communication with the environment around her.
“Blame it on the Hormones” …
a woman’s modern-day rally cry for every condition physical or mental that she doesn’t understand.
WHAT EXACTLY IS a HORMONE?
Hormones are chemical messenger molecules that are produced by the Endocrine glands (Pituitary, Thyroid, Adrenal, Parathyroid, Pineal, Pancreas, Ovaries and testes). They send signals and information to all the cells and glands of the body and they regulate most processes that relate to growth, metabolism, reproduction, energy, mood, and much more.)
I see the Hormones much like I see the Gas and Battery juice in a car. The Body of the Car can be perfect, but if the Gas is low and there is no charge on the Battery, it won’t run well. We can be healthy but not be functioning well. This may be attributed to Hormonal Imbalances.
WHAT are SYMPTOMS of HORMONAL IMBALANCE?
The symptoms of hormonal imbalances are extremely prevalent in Modern Day women. What is considered “normal” is often based on the average population and the average population is becoming more and more out of balance. This is due to poor diet, chronic stress, toxins, infections and other lifestyle factors. Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance include: Fatigue, Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, Weight Gain, Frequent Illness, PMS, Irregular Menstrual Cycles, Fibroids, Ovarian Cysts, Infertility, Hot flashes, Memory issues, Headaches, Migraines and Immune Problems. Really, the hormones can affect almost everything. And since the hormones are messenger molecules, disruptions in our outer world can have an impact on the hormonal balance.
CAUSES of HORMONAL IMBALANCE
Modern Day life is not very conducive to healthy hormone balance since the chronic exposures to toxins and stressors has a great impact on the Hormonal Health. Let’s take a look at how the hormones can get out of balance from our lifestyles.
Stress is perhaps one of the most important factors that affects hormonal health. Chronic stress is stress that continues for long periods of time without relenting. This will cause the adrenal glands to secret high levels of the stress hormones Adrenaline and Cortisol. In order to make cortisol the body takes the raw material used for progesterone to create higher cortisol. This lowers the Progesterone levels. Lower progesterone can cause Headaches, Migraines, PMS, Insomnia, Depression, Anxiety and Infertility. Chronic Stress can also deplete our levels of Dopamine, Serotonin and Adrenaline leading to Fatigue, Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, Weight Gain, and Addiction.
Poor Sleep is another important factor in our hormone regulation. While we sleep our body goes into a deep state of repair and rejuvenation. Poor or insufficient sleep may cause weight gain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and reduced immune function. The engine of the car must turn off in order to fill the gas tank and charge the batteries. The endocrine system cannot regenerate and refuel if we are not getting enough sleep.
Toxins in our food, water and air are huge contributors to hormonal imbalance. First, all toxins must be eliminated through the liver and gut. This is the same way that are hormones are metabolized. So, it we are exposed to lots of toxins, the body has a harder time processing the hormones…leading to imbalance. There is a category of toxins that are called Endocrine Disruptors and they include: Pesticides, Plastics, and Petroleum. These endocrine disruptors can be found in non-organic foods, body care, beauty products, cleaning products, and more. They disrupt our hormones by producing a type of toxic estrogen-like substance. These hormone disruptors can lead to acne, cysts, fibroids, PMS, headaches, mood disorders, mood swings, Immune problems, and even cancer!
Infections can also disrupt our Endocrine system and Hormones. In order to fight acute or chronic infections, the body must send out the troops to go to war. The troops are our antibodies and our alarm system, the corticosteroids. The Thyroid, Thymus and Adrenal Gland are involved in the Immune response. Infections can cause our Cortisol to go up and our Progesterone to go down. High cortisol suppresses the Immune system. The lower progesterone may activate Autoimmune diseases in some people.
Poor Diets that are low in high quality omega 3 fats, protein and phytochemicals will make it difficult for the body to produce hormones. Also diets high in sugar/carbs and low in protein and fats may disrupt the blood sugar. This strains the Cortisol and can affect the blood sugar leading to chronic inflammation and immune deficiency. It can also disrupt our menstrual cycles and hormone balance.
HOW HORMONES AFFECT STRESS and IMMUNITY
Proper Hormone balance ensures that we can deal with modern day stress. But doesn’t everything cause stress? Well, yes, kind of!
Sources of Modern-Day Stress:
- Constant go, go, go and never relaxing
- Poor Work Life balance
- Family and Social Tensions
- Grief and Loss
- Moving or relocating
- Fear and Loss of Control
- Toxins in Environment
- Poor Diet
- Interrupted or Insufficient sleep
- Negative People and Negative News
Having balanced hormones helps us to combat these stressors and be able to deal with them. When the Thyroid hormones are low it affects our metabolism and energy. When the adrenal hormones are out of balance, we feel anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue, blood sugar disruption and immune deficiency. Estrogen and Progesterone imbalance can lead to inflammation, pain, poor sleep and menstrual cycle imbalances. Insulin imbalances lead to chronic inflammation and blood sugar problems. All of these areas must be in harmony for the exquisite machinery of our body to be communicating and running smoothly. The proper balance and harmony of our Hormones helps us deal with Stress and promotes a healthy immune function.
SIMPLE STEPS to BALANCE HORMONES in order to REDUCE STRESS and ENHANCE IMMUNITY:
- Eat organic whole foods when possible
- Drink 8-10 glasses of filtered water or herbal tea
- Eat 3-4 meals per day with clean protein in each meal
- Eat Good fats from: Nuts, Seeds, Avocado, Fish, Eggs, Flax oil
- Eat a fruits and vegetables of many colors every day.
- Reduce: Sugar, White Flour, Alcohol, Caffeine, Processed foods
- Sleep and Wake at the same time every day.
- Sleep in a dark cool room (block out lights and noise)
- Get 20 minutes of Sunlight daily to increase Melatonin at night
- Unplug from all technology and screens 1 hour before bed
- Meditate before bed
- Walk or do Gentle Yoga/Stretching for 30 minutes per day
- Do some form of fitness exercise that you truly enjoy 2-4 times per week such as swimming, Hiking, dancing, biking
- Enjoy time in NATURE 2-3 times week to dissolve stress
- Get 20-30 minutes of sunlight daily
- Reduce Screen time and instead read, be in nature, walk, visit with friends
- Swap Beauty and Personal Care Item that have Petroleum and Parabens for Organic and Healthy options
- Swap the Cleaning products for Organic and Chemical Free products
- Connect with family, friends and loved ones at least 1 time per week
- Have a friend or confidant that you can express your feeling too.
- Women’s Multivitamin
- Omega 3 Oils
- Vitamin D3
HORMONE CHECK UP:
Have your Doctor do a Hormone Evaluation to determine your general health and balance yearly. If there are imbalances, consult with an Integrative Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor to get a specific protocol for you.
TESTS to REQUEST:
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
HEALTHY is not ENOUGH!
It is not uncommon for Women to be generally healthy but not feeling balanced or well. This may be seen in changes in mood, energy, weight, and general health. Often, the Medical doctor does a scan and looks at the BODY of the CAR. Everything looks good and they tell you that you are fine. You can be healthy and yet not operating 100%. If the body of the car is perfect, then you look good, can sit in the driveway and run the local errands. But if there is no gas in the tank and charge on the batteries…you can forget about the cross-country trip. The hormones are the gas and battery juice. We need the hormones to be filling our tanks so we can operate at 100% and have enough to go beyond our normal daily things. In other words….
It is not enough to just be HEALTHY!
You must also be BALANCED and RECHARGED.
That way you don’t just look good on the outside but your run well too!
These are special times we are in. The external stressors and the impact on our lives and the lives of our loved ones is immense. Balancing the hormones in order to reduce stress and support immunity will give you the peace of mind, energy and balance to not only be able to take the Cross-Country trip…
but to Enjoy it!
Dr. Gabrielle Francis is a NYC based Naturopathic Doctor, Acupuncturist, and Chiropractor.
YOU GOT THIS!