Lifestyle Habits that Can Affect Your Hormones
Morgane Leten - Nutrition & Fertility Coach
We’ve all had that feeling like something is a little off with our bodies. Maybe your menstrual cycle is unpredictable, you're having trouble sleeping, or your mood is all over the place. It’s very possible that your hormones are to blame! These little chemical messengers greatly affect your overall well-being, regulating everything from your menstrual cycle and fertility to your mood and energy levels. But did you know that certain lifestyle habits can interfere with this delicate balance? Factors like diet, exercise, stress, and sleep can all affect your hormonal health, with potentially significant consequences for your health.
So, in this post, we'll explore a few lifestyle habits that can impact your hormone levels, and offer some practical tips for supporting your hormonal balance and overall wellness. Let's dive in!
Exercise is one of the best ways to support your hormonal health. Not only does movement benefit your body in countless ways, but it can also positively impact your hormone levels. By increasing hormone receptor sensitivity, exercise helps to improve the delivery of nutrients and signals throughout your body. It can also help stabilize blood sugars and insulin levels, critical for maintaining hormonal balance. Plus, being physically active may even boost levels of muscle-maintaining hormones that decline with age. The best part is that you don’t need to be an athlete or a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits – any and all kinds of movement count! Whether you enjoy yoga, dancing, or simply going for a walk, find a way to move your body that you love, and do it regularly. Your hormones (and your whole body) will thank you!
Guud To Know: Intense or excessive exercise might impact your menstrual cycle. Pushing yourself too hard too often, especially during the luteal phase of your cycle can potentially cause hormonal disruptions. When you go all-out, stress hormones like cortisol can skyrocket, potentially messing with the rhythm of your usual cycle. This can sometimes even lead to something called hypothalamic amenorrhea, a condition where your period stops due to physical stress. Dr Stacy Sims, a seasoned researcher on this topic has written about this condition in detail so feel free to look her up if you’re curious. It’s all about finding that sweet spot between workout gains and honoring what your body goes through during its natural ups and downs. You can check out this study for more insights too.
Do you want to know more about how to exercise according to your menstrual cycle? Check out our blog post called Period Power: How to Train According to Your Cycle.
Refined Sugar Intake
We all know that eating too much sugar is a bad idea. Delicious though it is, sugar can also cause chaos for our hormones. Studies have shown that eating added sugar can promote insulin resistance, even if you're not gaining weight or consuming excess calories. This can have serious consequences for your hormonal balance, as insulin is a key player in regulating many of your body's functions. And that's not all – long-term fructose intake (which is found in many added sugars) has also been linked to disruptions in your gut microbiome, which can lead to even more hormonal imbalances. Plus, sugar may fail to stimulate the production of the fullness hormone leptin, making it harder for you to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. So, if you want to optimize your hormone function and improve your overall health, it's a good idea to minimize your intake of refined sugars.
Stress can impact your hormones in lots of different ways. That's because the hormone cortisol, which helps your body cope with stress, can have some negative effects on your body if it remains elevated for too long. When you're stressed, your body produces cortisol to help you cope, but once the stress is over, your hormone levels should return to normal. However, chronic stress can disrupt this process and cause cortisol levels to remain high. This can lead to all sorts of problems, including insulin resistance and other hormonal imbalances. But don't worry – there are things you can do to help manage your stress and improve your hormonal health. Research shows that stress reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, and even listening to relaxing music can help lower your cortisol levels. So, try to set aside at least 10-15 minutes per day for these activities, even if you feel like you don't have time. It can make a huge difference.
Guud to know: How Stress Affects Your Period
Never underestimate the importance of sleep. Poor quality or quantity of sleep has been linked to many hormonal imbalances including insulin, cortisol, leptin, ghrelin and growth hormone. Studies consistently show that sleep deprivation results in increased ghrelin and decreased leptin levels. And even if you’re in bed for long periods of time, your sleep quality might not be very good. Your brain needs uninterrupted sleep in order to go through all five stages of your sleep cycle. This is especially important for the release of growth hormones which occur mainly at night during deep sleep.
In an ideal world, you should aim for at least seven hours of high-quality sleep per night. We realise this is not always possible (especially if you have a new baby or small children at home) but do the best that you can by following some tips for a good night’s sleep.
One important thing to keep in mind is the effect of alcohol on your sleep quality. While it might seem like a nightcap is a great way to unwind, alcohol can actually negatively impact your sleep quality. It might initially make you feel drowsy, but alcohol disrupts your sleep cycle and cause fragmented sleep, reduced REM cycles and waking up more often through the night. It’s not just sleep that’s affected either. Your menstrual health can take a hit too. Too much alcohol can cause hormonal imbalances, irregular cycles and even missed periods. If you want to know more about the impact of alcohol on your hormones, check out our blog post here.
If you want to know more about sleep, check out our blog post here. It also includes loads of tips for how to sleep better.
Coffee lover? We get it. A cup of coffee in the morning can feel like a critical part of your routine, so don’t worry. There’s no need to ditch it entirely. But too much caffeine can have an impact on your hormones.
When you consume too much caffeine, it increases the production of stress hormones by your adrenal glands. This can result in sleep loss, changes in appetite, digestive issues, and ultimately lower energy levels – which is the opposite of what you were hoping for when you reached for that cup of coffee! To avoid these problems, it's best to limit your caffeine intake to one to two servings per day. And, for those who are especially sensitive to caffeine, it may be best to avoid it altogether. Remember, balance is key when it comes to caffeine and hormonal health.
Many people like to unwind with a glass of wine or a cocktail. But if you’re drinking too much or too frequently, alcohol can cause hormonal imbalances, which can sometimes lead to estrogen dominance. This can increase your risk for a host of serious problems, including abnormal pancreatic function, insulin resistance, liver disease, anxiety, and malnutrition. And alcohol can lower testosterone levels and interfere with your sex drive, affecting your overall well-being.
It's recommended that women consume no more than one drink per day (or seven or fewer per week), and men should aim for no more than two drinks per day (or fourteen or fewer per week). However, it's worth keeping in mind that the less alcohol you consume, the better your internal balance will be. So, if you're looking to keep your hormones in check, it might be best to stick to just one drink or skip it altogether.
Do you want to know more about how alcohol impacts your hormones and your cycle? We have a whole blog post on it here: Alcohol and Your Hormones
Hormones And Health
If you’ve been following Guud for a while now, or if this is your first time here, there’s one thing we want you to take away from this blog post: hormones are crucial for our overall health, and we need to maintain a delicate balance in order to feel our best.
While some factors like aging are beyond our control, we can still take steps to manage our hormone levels by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. Regular exercise, managing stress, and good sleep can go a long way in keeping our hormones in check. We can also limit our consumption of refined sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, all of which can contribute to hormonal imbalances. By prioritizing these habits, we can help promote healthy hormone levels and improve our overall health and wellness.
Another way to be the best version of you? Add some supplements into your routine that can help support a health cycle and hormonal health.