Hormones are chemicals, released in small amounts, from a series of glands that comprise the endocrine system, which have an effect at other sites in the body.
There is and intricate and delicate interaction between all of the hormone systems and all of the hormone systems work together to create balance within the body.
If there is imbalance in one system it will have an affect on all the other systems, as the body tries to balance itself.
Hormones are responsible for controlling many functions of the body including: –
- Blood sugar balance, hunger, appetite and fat storage
- Stress responses
- Female menstrual cycle and menopause
- Growth and development
- Fertility, reproduction and sex drive
- Metabolic rate, energy, mood and sleep
Thyroid hormones control the metabolic rate, body temperature and the speed of biochemical reactions in the body.
Problems with the thyroid gland and hormones are very common and can occur for a variety of reasons.
To ensure the appropriate path is taken to solve any concerns, it is important to correctly identify the cause. Specific tests can be undertaken to determine this.
In general practice sometimes, borderline results are considered ‘normal’, but often it is the implementation of nutritional and lifestyle factors at this stage that can be crucial in preventing the progression into ‘full blown’ thyroid disease.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when there is too much thyroid hormone in the blood increasing the metabolic rate and leading to symptoms of anxiety/nervousness, fatigue, weight loss, increased appetite and palpitations.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the levels of thyroid hormones are low, or the body does not respond as well to the hormone produced. Fatigue, depression or low mood, lack of energy or drive, weight gain, reduced appetite, cold hands and feet, dry skin, constipation, poor digestion, hair loss, menstrual irregularities and infertility are common symptoms.
Adrenal Hormones and Stress
Our adrenal glands produce stress hormones; adrenalin, nor adrenalin, cortisol and DHEA.
Historically, our hunter/gatherer ancestors’ encountered stressful situations, which would have required a physical response, like running away from, or fighting wild animals. The body would have responded rapidly to prepare for a ‘fight’ or to ‘take flight’.
Thankfully, in today’s world the stresses we encounter don’t generally require us to run or fight. However, day-to- day stresses such as work pressures, family concerns, time constraints etc. all elicit the same bodily response, even though they don’t warrant the use of energy that is made available.
When stress is prolonged, or occurs regularly over a long period, the body can become tired, unresponsive and less able to produce or regulate the hormones required for managing the stress response.
Equally, when the body is in a constant state of stress, levels of certain nutrients are depleted rapidly, resulting in an enhanced requirement for many vital nutrients.
Symptoms can include: low mood, anxiety, irritability, poor sleep, difficulty waking in the morning, tiredness, chronic fatigue, feeling weak, run down or overwhelmed (symptoms which become worse after exercising), clenching or grinding teeth, headaches, reliance on caffeine and stimulants, cravings for salty food, afternoon low, loss of interest, no desire to have fun, and weight gain around the abdomen.
Additionally, symptoms of chronic fatigue, immune dysfunction and other inflammatory and degenerative conditions or disease can develop if the situation is not addressed.
Hormones controlling Blood Sugar
The body aims to control the levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood within a specific range. Eating carbohydrate-rich or sugary foods creates fluctuations in blood sugar, requiring our hormones (insulin, glucagon, cortisol) to work together to maintain optimum blood sugar levels.
Certain carbohydrates (white bread, white rice, potatoes, pasta, cakes, biscuits, sweets, sugary or energy drinks, sweet snacks, fruits, fruit juices, and sugar) cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels. The body releases insulin to remove the sugar from the blood and shunt it into the cells, returning blood levels back to the optimum. When these types of food are eaten frequently, the blood sugar is increased and decreased numerous times throughout the day, creating a blood sugar ‘roller coaster’ as the body fights hard to maintain balance.
Blood sugar imbalances can lead to symptoms of fatigue, brain fog, shakiness prior to meals, or if a meal is missed, heart palptations, tremors, anxiety, night time wakening, headaches, depression, irritability, afternoon cravings, bingeing or uncontrolled eating, poor word finding ability, dizziness, tinnitus, blurred vision and excessive sweating. Eventually the body can become less sensitive to insulin (insulin resistance) and the blood glucose levels remain high.
- High levels of glucose in the blood is known as diabetes
- 10% of the UK adult population now has diabetes and even our children are being diagnosed with it
- Diabetes can lead to compromised circulation, healing and an increased risk of amputation. It also leads to an increased risk of infection, cardiovascular, kidney and eye disease, with life expectancy being reduced by 10 years
- However, with modifications to diet and lifestyle diabetes (type 2) is preventable and reversible.
How can I help?
As your Nutritional Therapist I will evaluate the lifestyle factors that may be contributing to imbalances in your hormone systems.
I will work with you to address your issues and concerns and together, we will develop strategies to reduce stress, or make it more manageable.
Some of the symptoms listed above are not exclusive to hormonal imbalances, and I will look holistically at your signs and symptoms, lifestyle and dietary intake, with the aim of promoting overall health and wellbeing.
In partnership with you, I will create a nutritional protocol, specific to your individual requirements and based on your signs and symptoms (as well as test results). This will support your system in times of stress, or help replenish your body following a series of stressful life events that may have left you exhausted.
Working at a pace that suits you, I will introduce changes that are manageable for you. I will also share some great tips, delicious, easy to prepare recipes and lifestyle advice to support you in your quest.
‘Your health is in your hands’