Fixes for your hormone issues

Apr 3, 2015, 10:11 IST


Do you often find yourself in a bad mood, feeling low or snapping at someone for no reason? It could be that your hormones are all over the place, playing havoc on your mind and body. Joyoti Mahanta speaks to experts about common triggers that cause hormonal imbalances and finds out how you can keep these vital chemical messengers from spiralling out of control.


If you have a sweet tooth, you already know the consequences of eating a whole bar of chocolate. “It’s not the cocoa in the chocolate that causes the hormonal breakouts, but the added sugars and milk solids that are the culprits,” explains Dr Sadhna Singhal, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Sri Balaji Action Medical Institute, Delhi. “Excess sugar contributes to weight gain, which can cause the body to become resistant to insulin— the hormone that moves sugar into the bloodstream and thus energises cells.”

Stick to a balanced diet that contains natural sources of high-quality multivitamins and mineral complex (soya, eggs, leafy vegetables) and omega-3 fatty acids (fl axseeds, salmon). When you crave a sugary treat, help yourself but make sure you also get some protein along with it. “Since protein is the most satiating of all nutrients, including a source of protein will lead you to eat fewer carbohydrates,” says Hyderabad-based gynaecologist Dr Mona Mehra. This will control your blood sugar levels, can greatly reduce your insulin resistance and make it easier for you
to keep your hormones in check.”

Starvation and crash diets end up lowering oestrogen levels. “During a crash diet, our body starts using the reserved energy stored inside the body, resulting in a reduced metabolic rate and hormonal imbalance,” warns Dr Singhal.

A balanced diet is the key. Keep your weight-loss goals realistic, say at the rate of one kilo a week. Follow a proper diet and exercise regularly. “Our eating habits and weight have an important relationship with our hormones. In turn, hormones influence our overall growth and development, bone growth, puberty, fertility, level of alertness, sugar regulation and appetite,” explains Dr Mehra.

Those instant soups, cereals, tinned veggies, sausages and salamis may sound convenient and even healthy to you, but sometimes processed foods contain excitotoxins, or neurotoxicants, which are chemicals that damage the nerve cells. “These chemicals may be in the form of MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein and aspartate, among others,” warns Dr Mehra. “They can cause the body to produce and store excess amounts of fat, which reducesthe production of testosterone in women,” adds Dr Singhal. Testosterone helps maintain muscle and bone mass and contributes to your sex drive. When testosterone levels in the blood increase, bone density improves.

FIX IT: Walk to your neighbourhood market and buy fresh meat and vegetables. The fresh air will do you good, too!

It’s no secret that coffee gives us a quick energy boost, but the dependence on the bottomless mug isn’t good news for your hormones. “Coffee alters oestrogen levels, increasing the risk of certain hormone-related diseases,” says Dr Mehra. “Caffeine signals to your body to enhance the production of cortisol that has the power to make you feel anxious.”

FIX IT: Limit your fix to two cups of coffee or tea a day and make sure the second cup is no later than 5 pm.

A major mistake many make is self-medication. “Multivitamins and diet supplements, and medication for diabetes, hypertension and depression can influence a woman’s hormonal health, because of certain endocrine-disrupting chemicals they contain,” says Dr Singhal.

It is best to replenish your nutrition deficiencies naturally by focussing on a diet consisting of fibres and phytonutrients. Regular
exercise helps in managing stress. If that doesn’t help either, consult a doctor who will be able to prescribe the right dosage and medication.

Occasional insomnia is common among women. But when the stress levels shoot up, the problem gets acute. “With insomnia, hormones get no chance to do their job of repairing and rejuvenating, and eventually this could cause irregular menstruation and early menopause. To avoid any such situations, you must develop a bedtime routine to help the body form good sleep tendencies,” says Dr Singhal.

FIX IT: If you find yourself tossing and turning in the middle of the night, get up and walk around for a moment, or meditate. “Ovaries produce oestrogen and progesterone, a sleep-promoting hormone. The changing of ratios between hormones during menstruation can be unsettling and rob you of sleep. Also, waning levels of oestrogen may make you more susceptible to environmental and other stressors,” says Dr Mehra. Exercising, meditation, yoga and deep breathing, and desk exercises at work can go a long way in keeping hormones in check.

“Though most oral contraceptives have been ruled safe, some pills carry synthetic hormones that carry the risk of increasing thyroid- and sex hormone-binding globulin and effectively decreasing the available testosterone and thyroid hormone in circulation,” says Dr Singhal.
“Most birth control pills are a combination of the derivatives of the hormones oestrogen and progestin,” adds Dr Mehra. “They work by mimicking the hormones in your body, essentially fooling your intricate hormonal reproductive system into preventing the ovaries from releasing eggs, thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the lining of your uterus. Excess intake of contraceptives also promotes stress by depleting the levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in your body.”

Different contraceptive pills contain varying levels of oestrogen and progestin. Consult your gynaecologist for the right pill for your body’s
medical needs.

If you love your cosmetics, read the ingredient label. Don’t buy anything with phthalates and parabens. “When these chemicals come in contact with your skin, they decrease certain thyroid hormones. The cosmetics you are using should be free of chemicals like methylparabens, propyl parabens, propylene glycol, paraffi n, phthalates, isopropyl alcohol and sodium lauryl sulphate,” advises Dr Singhal. “Phthalates don’t act exactly like oestrogen, but they can disrupt the balance of other hormones that interact with oestrogen, including testosterone, while parabens can penetrate the skin and act like a very weak oestrogen in the body—potentially turning on the growth of hormone receptor-positive breast cancers,” says Dr Mehra.

FIX IT: Be very selective of the makeup you use. Most makeup, skin-care and hair-care brands have ditched such ingredients. Better yet, go organic.

The alkaline/acid content of your diet not only affects the pH level of your body, but can also upset your hormones. “When the body becomes too acidic, it leaches minerals such as potassium, sodium, magnesium andcalcium from vital organs and the bones and uses it to combat the acid. If the loss continues, you face an increased risk of hormonal imbalance,” says Dr Singhal.

FIX IT: Increase the body’s alkaline levels— drinking water with fresh lemon twice daily, eating soya and lima beans, and staying away from pickled vegetables and bread are a few ways of doing that.

“Those who smoke are at a significantly higher risk of infertility, irregular menstrual cycles and early menopause. Smoking alters hormones such as cortisol, androgens, oestrogen and progesterone, hence sabotaging hormonal balance and impacting endocrine glands such as the thyroid, pituitary, adrenals and ovaries,” says Dr Mehra.

FIX IT: Kick the butt now.