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HORMONE Health

By Gabriela Peacock
Nutritionist

The adrenals, a pair of triangle shaped glands that sit atop your kidneys, are critically involved in your body’s reaction to stress.
They produce the hormones adrenaline, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA) and cortisol which are released in the famous ‘fight-or-flight’ response. When faced with danger, your adrenals produce adrenaline and other hormones to give you the burst of energy you need to survive.

The problem is, your body doesn’t differentiate among the various kinds of stress you experience. Whether it’s physical stress at the sight of a lion or mental stress caused by work, money worries, or relationships, your body reacts the same way – to release adrenal hormones. The danger is that we don’t metabolize these hormones properly and instead we are left in a state of constant stress with high levels of circulating cortisol.

When cortisol is chronically elevated, blood sugar and insulin levels also rise while serotonin, the calming brain chemical, drops; leading to anxiety, nervousness or depression. Food cravings increase, your sleep is disturbed and your health takes a hit.

When the adrenals are busy making stress hormones, they divert your stores of DHEA, which would have been converted to sex hormones – such as oestrogen and progesterone. The result is that the female sex hormones and thyroid function suffer.

The liver is the key organ for detoxifying excess hormones. Our liver becomes sluggish due to poor diet – excess fats, sugars and artificial sweeteners, fried foods, and not enough vegetables and good protein.

Regular alcohol consumption also negatively affects the liver’s ability to maintain hormone balance. The basis of a healthy hormone function is a diet full of cruciferous vegetables and lean protein from wild, free-range sources. There are also key herbs and nutrients that have been researched to support the adrenals, liver and thyroid.

The liver is the key organ for detoxifying excess hormones. Our liver becomes sluggish due to poor diet – excess fats, sugars and artificial sweeteners, fried foods, and not enough vegetables and good protein. Regular alcohol consumption also negatively affects the liver’s ability to maintain hormone balance. The basis of a healthy hormone function is a diet full of cruciferous vegetables and lean protein from wild, free-range sources. There are also key herbs and nutrients that been researched to support the adrenals, liver and thyroid.

What can I do to keep my hormones in check?

A diverse variety of whole foods will provide the foundations of a healthy diet that will support overall wellbeing.

  • Choose unprocessed, complex carbohydrates.
  • Colourful fruit and vegetables, particularly the deep colours (blue, red, purple, green) which are bursting with phytonutrients to support the immune and endocrine systems.
  • Dark coloured berries are rich in polyphenols which also help the growth of beneficial bacteria.
    Oily fish and foods with anti-inflammatory properties such as turmeric and ginger may help reduce inflammation.
  • Fibre rich foods such as beans and legumes and a wide variety of grains will encourage the growth of different gut bugs, which send signals to the brain to let them know it’s all good.
  • Plenty of protein – it is the building block for making hormones and for hair/skin regeneration.
  • Vary your fibre to include things like leeks, garlic and onions. They are rich in inulin, a type of fibre which acts as food for the gut bacteria to grow.
  • Include some fat – from plants, nuts and seeds. Hormones need some fat to be made, so ensure you have adequate amounts in the diet to enable the production of hormones.

Follow Gabriela’s website here www.gpnutrition.com @gp_nutrition @gabrielapeacock

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