Body

Here's what's affecting your hormones

Turns out there are many factors.

By Bronte Chaperon

Sometimes pesky and sometimes wonderful, hormones are responsible for some incredible functions within our bodies.

While notorious for their impact on mood (be it an emotionally-charged fight or rush of feel-good emotions after a cuddle session with your partner), this isn't all they do.

According to the Hormone Health Network, hormones are the body's chemical messengers and are part of the endocrine system, which regulates everything from our heart rate and appetite to our sexual function and reproduction.

Fair to say, they're pretty important - and we rely on them for a lot of bodily functions.

However sometimes our hormones can become imbalanced (be it too high or low), which can cause problems.

Karin Spicer, a Naturopath from Lifestream, says that there are a lot of factors that will affect your hormones.

"We are all a little hormonal cocktail right from day one. Genetics, lifestyle, environment, nutrition, or medication can each play a part in the story each female lives in terms of their hormones."

Hormones through the years

The symptoms and degree to which hormones are experienced varies from woman to woman.

"Some experience early menstruation, have painful periods and headaches, experience infertility, or horrendous hot flushes, and some sail through life barely noticing the changes and wondering what all the fuss is about," says Spicer.

Most girls will begin noticing hormonal changes between the ages of 10-14, but the onset of menopause is less predictable.

Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD and Anatomic Pathologist says on Medicine Net that while the average age women begin menopause is 51, some begin menopause in their 30s and some as late as their 60s.

Of menopause Spicer says: "As we age our hormone levels decrease and eventually switch off the baby-making process. When these hormones reduce we can experience hot flushes, mood swings, anxiety, dry skin, vaginal dryness or hair loss."

Helpful lifestyle changes

While some hormone fluctuations occur naturally (puberty, anyone?), other times it's what we're consuming - and feeling - that make a difference.

Spicer says that stress is a big factor that can determine how our hormones behave.

"Elevated levels of stress hormones can suppress our sex hormones, leading to an imbalance," says Spicer.

"In my practice I found so many women who have problems with their adrenals, thyroid, weight management, trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep, digestive issues - and the root cause lay in the stress levels they were experiencing in their lives."

If you're having trouble managing your stress levels it may be worth trying mindfulness or seeing your local GP.

Another (overlooked) factor that affects hormones is your nutrition.

A diet full of takeaways, saturated fats and sugary treats doesn't support the body with the right nutrients, causing the body to act out and display what Spicer calls “not quite coping” symptoms.

She suggests eating a balanced diet with lots of veggies, one to two pieces of fruit, lean protein and lots of water.

Although Spicer notes in some circumstances our nutritional requirements are not met solely through our diet - this is where supplements come in.

Spicer recommends: "B vitamins and spirulina for energy, magnesium for the nervous system and sleep, vitamin C for immunity and adrenals, kelp for underactive thyroid, aloe vera and probiotics for digestion."