Feeling a bit out of sorts but can’t quite put your finger on it? It could be your hormones.
Hormones are delicate elements that require constant balance to keep us feeling tip top, but when disrupted, can cause a whole host of problems that can leave you feeling less than your best self. A complex topic, we thought we’d reach out to Angelique Panagos, a London-based nutritionist specialising in hormonal health to help answer some of our burning questions about hormones. From signs of hormonal imbalance to her golden rules for keeping them in check, hopefully, these will help you on your bid to find balance within.
What are some of the most common hormonal imbalances you see in clinic?
Since our hormones are responsible for so many different things – from hunger and satiety to ovulation, stress and relaxation, (there’s literally a hormone for everything!) hormonal imbalances can present in all kinds of ways. However, for many of my clients, this will be through irregular periods, fertility issues, conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, hypoactive thyroid, weight gain (or even weight loss), thinning hair, PMS, breast pain and tenderness, mood swings, insomnia, low libido, anxiety, low mood, depression or skin issues, such as acne or drying skin to name a few.
What sort of symptoms can you look out for if you suspect your hormones might be out of whack?
Again, this can differ with each person – there’s no one size fits all when it comes to our hormones or even our health! However, if you’re experiencing any of the issues I mentioned above, or you feel deep down that there’s something not right, then trust your instinct and get support and advice.
Are there any specific lifestyle factors that contribute to imbalanced hormones or is it just genetic?
There can be a genetic predisposition to certain conditions, however, our lifestyle choices can have a massive impact on our hormonal health. Things such as chronic stress, lack of sleep, a diet high in processed foods and sugars and too many toxins can all throw our hormones out of sync and make them go haywire!
Do you think it’s helpful to get a blood test done to get an accurate reading of your hormone health?
It can be very helpful, yes! Blood tests can often be an indication of what’s going on in the body, but it doesn’t provide an answer for everything. However, it is the most common way to test when there’s an issue with the thyroid, for example. I also use urine and saliva tests in my clinic.
How does nutrition play a role in regulating hormones?
Nutrition plays a huge role in hormonal health! Healthy hormones need a steady stream of nutrients from the food we eat . On the flip side, a diet high in processed foods, junk and sugars can have a detrimental effect on our hormones, sending insulin levels spinning and putting our bodies under stress.
How can we use food to positively impact our hormonal health?
I think what we put on our plates has a huge impact on hormonal health. In particular, our hormones need plenty of healthy fats (think avocados, olive oil, oily fish and nuts), as well as proteins – these are the building blocks for happy hormones, and that’s why I aim to eat a portion of each during every meal!
On top of this, we need to enjoy rainbows of fruit and veg – the more colour we get in our diets, the more vitamins and minerals we’ll enjoy – as well as whole grains and complex carbs, which are full of fibre and can help to mop up toxins and flush out any nasties. One food I always suggest everyone eats more of is leafy greens! These foods can work wonders for the body, helping to detoxify, and supplying us with all kinds of goodness, including iron, fibre and more.
I also suggest making a conscious effort to avoid foods wrapped in plastic (and avoiding clingfilm on your own foods – beeswax wraps are great for this!) and filtering your drinking water.
What are your golden rules for keeping your health and hormones in check?
In my book, The Balance Plan, I talk about my six pillars to hormonal health. Each one of these pillars is crucial to overall health and, yes, balanced hormones! I go into more detail within my book, but these pillars are:
Functioning hormones need a steady stream of nutrients to work efficiently. As I mentioned before, we should be embracing whole foods, not processed junk food that are devoid of nutrients – and definitely avoid anything white and fluffy! We should also eat anti-inflammatory “good” fats every single day to build our hormones, as well as a variety of fruit, veg, whole grains and complex carbs.
The foundations of balanced hormones are balanced blood-sugars. This stabilises insulin, cortisol, androgens and sex hormones, leading to better moods, easier sleep, reduced PMS and less tummy fat. To do this, we should eat regularly, skip any processed sugars and eating protein with each meal can also help to keep blood sugars nice and stable.
This is important in caring for the adrenals and thyroid – our stress and master metabolism glands. To help nurture and restore the body, I suggest trying out deep belly breathing, or simple meditation at home. I’m also a huge fan of doing Yoga and keeping a gratitude journal!
It’s crucial that we allow our bodies to detoxify daily, flushing out any waste and toxins, as well as pollutants. To give our bodies a helping hand enjoy plenty of detoxifying leafy greens like broccoli.
Exercise is great for the body! It can relieve stress, aid elimination and detoxification, and send energy levels soaring! Whether you go for a brisk walk with your friends, lace up your trainers and go for a run, or try swimming, Yoga or even mountain climbing or boxing, try to get moving every single day!
Perhaps most importantly of all, we need to allow ourselves time to relax and restore – a necessity, not a luxury, and something which needs to happen daily! This can be through prioritising sleep, meditating or treating yourself – it could be as simple as reading your favourite book or running a hot bath.
For more information on Angelique and her nutritional guidance, visit her website here.
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