Ask the expert: Do I have a hormone imbalance?
Hormones have such an impact on our body and how it performs, yet many of us wouldn’t think to investigate them when something feels off.
Here, we chat with nutritionist Nicki Williams about hormone health and the role nutrition support can provide.
Can you explain the role hormones play in our health?
From conception to birth and beyond, hormones are the driving force behind every biological and physiological process in the body. There are over 100 identified hormones in the body. They are chemical messengers that tell your cells what to do.
Hormones have a role in your heartbeat, breathing and blood pressure. They allow you to sleep at night and wake in the morning. They control your hunger, metabolism and growth. They determine your masculine and feminine traits, and reproductive function. They help to build bone, repair skin and muscle. They regulate your weight, energy, mood and brain function.
All in all, you can’t live without them! And when they are all working optimally, you are going to be generally healthy. However, in modern life and as you age, there are several challenges that hormones face that can tip them out of balance and cause symptoms in many different areas of the body.
I haven’t been feeling myself lately and a friend thinks it could be hormone related – what are some symptoms of hormone imbalance I can look out for?
As hormones regulate so many functions in the body, symptoms can be wide-ranging, but the most common that are often related to hormones are; low energy, weight gain, stress, mood swings, anxiety, memory loss/brain fog, PMS and period problems, low sex drive, poor hair/skin/nails, hot flushes and digestive issues.
How can nutrition help to balance hormones?
To truly balance your hormones, you need to start seeing food as information. Food has the power to change how you look, feel, think and perform. It does this by sending messenger signals to your cells and hormones. It can literally tell your body to burn or store fat, to increase or decrease your energy levels, to alter your mood, to change how your brain functions or to switch on genes that cause disease.
These are foods that will help to nourish, transport and detoxify hormones (and keep them in balance):
- Low GL (Glycaemic Load) foods – e.g. fruit, veg, wholegrains, beans, pulses, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds.
- Vegetables – as many varieties and colours as possible! They will supply plenty of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fibre.
- Fibre – e.g. wholegrains, veg, fruit, oats, beans, seeds.
- Good fats – e.g. nuts, seeds, olives, avocado, oily fish, organic dairy, eggs, organic meat, olive oil, coconut oil.
- Protein – e.g. organic meat, fish, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, quinoa, spirulina, protein shakes.
- Hydration – water is very underrated! The average female is 55% water. Every cell needs water, and hormones need it to be transported around the body
Listen to Nicki talk all things hormone health on Happiful’s podcast, I am. I have.
What support can a nutrition professional offer?
A nutritionist can not only help you assess your diet, lifestyle and supplements to make sure you are supporting your hormones, but they can also test your hormones to identify any imbalances. This enables them to create a truly personalised plan to address your unique needs, which can help to achieve quick and effective results.
Nicki’s top tips for supporting hormone health:
1. Eat a nutrient-dense diet to support your hormones; hormones need a steady stream of nutrients to function properly.
2. Manage your stress – make sure you prioritise time in your day for self-care such as mindfulness, deep breathing, yoga, reading a book, walking in nature or any activity that you love to do. Switching off cortisol can hugely help to balance all your hormones.
3. Sit less and move more – incorporate more natural movement in your day to encourage blood flow and nutrient distribution. Be careful not to over-exercise as that can increase cortisol and upset your hormones.