7 Tips to Maximize Hormone Health

Hormones are often the basis for many of our woes, including weight gain. But outside of puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, many people don’t give hormones much thought or realize how they are affected by diets, exercise choices, and lifestyle.

Today, our hormones are more out of whack than ever due to stress and disruptors such as xenoestrogens in our food and environment. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to help keep your hormone health in order.

Here are 7 of them:

1) Maintain healthy weight. Excessive fat tissue (called adipose tissue) can act as an endocrine organ, producing more estrogen in your body. By maintaining a healthy weight, your body is not stimulated to overproduce certain hormones.

2) Eat thyroid supportive foods. Foods that are rich in iodine such as kelp, Himalayan salt, seafood, organic strawberries can help with this. Try to drink filtered water, as the fluoride in our tap water binds to iodine and prevents our body from using it effectively.

3) Eat healthy saturated fat (such as coconut oil). Cholesterol is needed for the formation of healthy cell membranes and is a precursor to steroid hormones (progesterone, estrogen, FSH, etc.). You cannot have proper hormonal balance without adequate amounts of saturated fats.

4) Avoid refined grains, sugar, and processed foods. These interfere with the hormone leptin, which helps regulate appetite and metabolism. When leptin resistance sets in, you suffer from cravings and your metabolism slows down.

5) Avoid Bispheonol-A and phthalates. Commonly found in plastics and can liners, these endocrine disruptors mimic actual hormones, replacing the benefits with a toxic phony that provides nothing of value to the body.

6) Support your adrenal glands. The adrenals regulate the “stress hormone,” cortisol. To keep them in top shape, limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine, and commit to getting to bed by 10 pm. Your body creates growth hormones while you sleep, so prioritizing bedtime is an important step in staying balanced.

7) Keep stress in check. Take time to breathe fully and relax for a few minutes each day.  This is a big one these days. You can try yoga, meditation, essential oils, fun, laughter, massage, time in nature, journaling, downtime. Whatever works for you!


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Walk Like an Egyptian and other stress cures

Do you know what today is? It is the Vernal (or Spring) Equinox. For those of you on the East Coast, I know you have been patiently waiting for this day for many months!

Today is a day when “day equals night”. There will be 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of nighttime all over the world. The Great Sphinx are believed to have been built specifically to face the East at the point where the sun rises today.

All this means is today is an important day…and it has been for a very long time! These days Spring Equinox signals a time to buy new clothes and spend more time outside… but it is important to remember that it is also a symbolic day of balance and renewal. Balance and vacation are important stress cures!

There is a reason we like to “Spring Clean”. It is a time of year we are naturally looking to shed old stuff, lose old habits, and find new ways of working.

stress cures

Time To Get Rid of Stuff

What does this have to with nutrition and health? Well, lots of things. Even in health, before we can make room for new habits, we have get rid of old ones. This is one of many underrated stress cures. Today is a great day to start.

Take a few minutes today to:  

• Mentally let go of one thing from your past that will make room for something new to come into your life.

• Commit to making a big decision you have been putting off.

• Challenge one limiting belief about yourself and about how things should be.

At 12:57pm EST the sun will shine directly over the earth’s equator, covering the earth’s northern and southern hemispheres in nearly an equal amount of sunlight. This will be a great time to do it (try to be outside and get some Vitamin D in the process!)

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Stress and Weight Gain: The Slow Down Diet Part 2

stress and weight gain In Part I of the Slow Down Diet – I talked about your stomach brain, stress and weight gain, and how being mindful when you eat can have a huge impact on your weight and your health. In short  – boost metabolism when you have less stress.

In Part 2 I get a little more specific, touching upon the cephalic phase digestive response (CPDR) and how our hormones come into play.

As many of you have experienced, when you are really hungry and smell something savory, your stomach starts rumbling, or your mouth starts salivating. Digestion actually starts to happen when you are just thinking about food.

This is what CPDR is – the part of digestion that happens in our head. In fact scientists are realizing that a whopping 30-40% of our total digestive response is related to head digestion.

If we are not paying attention when we eat, the CPDR won’t kick in. As a result there will be decreased blood flow and oxygen to the digestive organs, and this translates to a slower metabolism. If we want to boost metabolism, we need to be paying attention.

The brain needs time to know you are full. It actually needs 20 minutes after you have eaten to fully process the intake.

And here is the final goodie.

When you stomach brain feel tension, it raises your cortisol levels. Stress and weight gain! As we mentioned before, cortisol levels can be good in small amounts, but they are bad for your waistline. When you body think it’s in stress response it holds on to calories thinking you will need the energy. It will also crave quick sugars and starchy carbs.

Even worse – your body holds on to the weight mostly in your stomach (stomach fat cells are more sensitive to cortisol). Think about how much belly weight you are holding onto by just eating fast!

So just to recap:
When you eat too fast or without mindfulness
• Your stomach brain registers stress and shuts down digestion and nutrient assimilation (causing you to feel hungry and crave food later)
• Your CPDR does not fully kick in, metabolism is slowed, and you eat more food than you actually need
• Your stress hormone is increased – telling your body to store whatever you are eating as fat

So how do you use this information in real life? Here are 3 quick ways.

1) Be More Mindful when you eat. Taste, smell, savor as much as you can. Notice the textures, aromas, and colors. Really take the meal in with all of your senses.

2) Try not to invite distractions when you eat. I know this can often be hard in real life…when we are working and often have to eat food at our desks or in a meeting. As much as you can – try to make this the exception and not a daily occurrence. Maybe even 1 day a week try to eat a non-distracted lunch. Put down your iPhone and just eat. See if you can notice a difference in how you feel.

3) Take 5 deep belly breaths before you eat. Get into your body. Allow oxygen to flow to your stomach and prepare for digestion. This will improve your metabolism and force you to slow down at the same time. This will prevent stress and weight gain.

Give it a try. Post in the comments below or on Facebook and tell me how it goes. You might be surprised what a difference it makes!

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Stress and Weight Loss: The Slow Down Diet Part 1

stress and weight lossYou may not realize it but how you eat is just as important as what you eat. Stress and weight loss go together.

Your state of mind, and distraction while eating all play a much greater a role a greater in weight and digestion and metabolism than was once known.

If you eat while you are stressed out or distracted you are:

  • Not assimilating the nutrients you are taking in
  • Slowing down your metabolism
  • Eating more than you normally would
  • Telling your body to store everything as fat

Did you know that your digestive system has a “brain” in it?

Its is called the enteric nervous system and it’s a system of over 100 million neurons that are embedded in the lining of your GI system.This “stomach brain” communicates with the central nervous system (i.e. your normal brain) via a series of connections and nerves.

When you are stressed out (bear attacking you, thinking about how pizza will make you fat as you are eating it) you release stress hormones into your body via your HPA (hypo-pituitary adrenal)axis . It doesn’t matter if you are really in danger or not…the body perceives it the same. Stress and weight loss do not go together.

If your body thinks you are in danger it will go into survival mode. That means it will shut down all processes that are unnecessary, including digestion.

When you are shoveling food in at your desk on a conference call you signal stress to your body without even realizing it. As a result, the vitamins and nutrients in your meal are not being broken down or assimilated in the manner in which they should.

This may cause you to feel “not as full” or give you digestive upset – regardless of the number of calories you actually took in.

When you are stressed out, your brain will not fully register what you are eating and you may snack, drink, or binge on something later because you are not actually satisfied. So stress and weight loss (or lack of) are definitely connected.

Yes – I know this seems silly. You are eating it…of course you know it is there. But really being aware of it takes more effort. Smelling it, really tasting it, savoring it. After all – that is what makes a meal nourishing vs. just caloric fuel.

I know this is harder to do than ever in our busy lives but if you are trying to be conscious of what goes in your body – being mindful when you eat is just as important.

In The Slow Down Diet: Part 2, I will get more into facts and specifics about the cephalic digestive response (CPR) and how stressed eating makes us overeat and crave sugary foods

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