How to keep our hor­mones happy

Dr Libby has just re­leased her 12th book, and is bring­ing her new live event, The Hor­mone Fac­tor, to Have­lock North on Septem­ber 19. In the two-hour event, Dr Libby will ex­plore age­ing, hor­mones, emo­tions, beauty and bio­chem­istry. The Hor­mone Fac­tor will

Havelock North Village Press - - News -

How of­ten do you feel like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed?

It’s nor­mal to ex­pe­ri­ence a full range of emo­tions and to re­spond to cer­tain sit­u­a­tions or in­ci­dents with sad­ness or anger, for ex­am­ple, but when we reg­u­larly feel flat, moody or down for no ap­par­ent rea­son, it can be quite per­plex­ing — not only for us but for those clos­est to us too.

Fluc­tu­at­ing moods can com­pletely change our ex­pe­ri­ence of life. They can in­flu­ence the foods we choose, whether we get up and do some­thing ac­tive or not, how pro­duc­tive we are at work, and the way we speak to the peo­ple we love most in the world. And for many peo­ple, it can feel as though they have no con­trol over this.

But the truth is, more of­ten than not, we can have a pos­i­tive im­pact on our mood by ad­dress­ing the bal­ance of hor­mones associated with our hap­pi­ness. So let’s take a look at some of the happy hor­mones in the body, and how we can support their bal­ance. Please al­ways seek support when­ever you need it.

Sero­tonin: Sero­tonin is one of the most well-known happy hor­mones; it func­tions as a neu­ro­trans­mit­ter (chem­i­cal mes­sen­ger in the brain) that helps us to feel happy, calm and con­tent.

How­ever, about 80 per cent of, or per­haps even more, sero­tonin in the body is ac­tu­ally made in the gut. There is a di­rect link be­tween the brain and the gut, known as the gut-brain axis, and with in­for­ma­tion flow­ing in both di­rec­tions of this link, there really is some­thing to the phrase “gut feel­ing”!

Sero­tonin is also linked to our sleep hor­mone, mela­tonin. There is a see-saw be­tween the two, so when mela­tonin goes up, sero­tonin goes down. For some peo­ple though, this pat­tern can end up the wrong way around. If this hap­pens, you might feel down and sleepy for most of the day but great in the evening, which can make it chal­leng­ing to get through the day! Mela­tonin is de­stroyed by light, so it can be help­ful to min­imise light ex­po­sure at night and in­crease your ex­po­sure to bright light in the morn­ing — try to go out­side in the day­light early in the morn­ing and ex­er­cise, if pos­si­ble.

Pro­ges­terone: Pro­ges­terone has a va­ri­ety of bi­o­log­i­cal func­tions, aside from its role in fer­til­ity. It is a pow­er­ful an­tianx­i­ety agent, an anti-de­pres­sant, and a di­uretic, which means it helps us to elim­i­nate ex­cess fluid. If we don’t make enough pro­ges­terone or if there is an im­bal­ance be­tween oe­stro­gen and pro­ges­terone, it can drive mood fluc­tu­a­tions. You may no­tice this more in the lead up to men­stru­a­tion where in­ad­e­quate amounts of pro­ges­terone can re­sult in us feel­ing any­thing from in­tense ir­ri­tabil­ity to ex­treme sad­ness, some­times within the same hour!

Dur­ing our child­bear­ing years, pro­ges­terone is made pre­dom­i­nantly in the ovaries dur­ing the sec­ond half of the men­strual cy­cle, once ovu­la­tion has oc­curred. If you ex­pe­ri­ence ir­reg­u­lar ovu­la­tion or your ovaries don’t surge pro­ges­terone pro­duc­tion, which can hap­pen with chronic or sig­nif­i­cant stress, this can mean that you’re not con­sis­tently mak­ing enough pro­ges­terone each month.

Af­ter menopause, ovar­ian pro­duc­tion of pro­ges­terone ceases but we can still make some from our adrenal glands. How­ever, be­cause our adrenals are also re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing our stress hor­mones which, from a sur­vival per­spec­tive, is a higher pri­or­ity than mak­ing pro­ges­terone, chronic stress can com­pro­mise this.

En­dor­phins: Th­ese hor­mones help to re­duce pain as well as boost our mood. Many peo­ple will recog­nise that al­most eu­phoric feel­ing af­ter a burst of vig­or­ous ex­er­cise — this lovely feel­ing is cour­tesy of en­dor­phins, which are stim­u­lated by phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity. Re­mem­ber, how­ever, that over-ex­er­cis­ing can lead to stress hor­mone pro­duc­tion. If you feel weary af­ter ex­er­cis­ing, you might have over­done it. Aim to feel en­er­gised af­ter ex­er­cise.

So now that we know a lit­tle bit about some of the hor­mones re­spon­si­ble for our mood, what ac­tions can we take to support op­ti­mal lev­els of th­ese?

Move more through­out your day: The mood-lift­ing ef­fects of ex­er­cise are well-es­tab­lished, but many peo­ple still be­lieve that they have to slog it out at the gym or run long dis­tances to get any ben­e­fit. Mov­ing your body reg­u­larly in a way that you en­joy is go­ing to be much more sus­tain­able than try­ing to stick to a regime that you truly dis­like. In­ci­den­tal movement is also highly ben­e­fi­cial so don’t avoid movement — look for more ways to in­cor­po­rate it into your day.

In­cor­po­rate breath-fo­cused prac­tices: Stress can have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the pro­duc­tion of hor­mones that help us to feel calm and happy.

One of the most ef­fec­tive ways we can re­duce stress hor­mone pro­duc­tion is by slow­ing down our rate of breath­ing, par­tic­u­larly the ex­ha­la­tion. Di­aphrag­matic breath­ing (long, slow breaths that move the belly in and out) com­mu­ni­cates calm to our body, as we would never be able to breathe this way if we were truly ex­posed to life-en­dan­ger­ing stress. Try do­ing 20 long, slow breaths, or em­brace an­other breath-fo­cused prac­tice, such as med­i­ta­tion, tai chi or restora­tive yoga.

Support great di­ges­tion: Di­ges­tion is the process through which we ex­tract and ab­sorb all of the nu­tri­ents from our food , many of which act as build­ing blocks for our hor­mones. To help im­prove your di­ges­tion, chew your food well, avoid or min­imise highly re­fined, pro­cessed foods that con­tain ar­ti­fi­cial sub­stances, and do your best to eat in a calm, re­laxed state.

Choose mostly whole, real foods: The way we nour­ish our­selves has an enor­mous im­pact on how we look and feel on a daily ba­sis. Fo­cus on choos­ing mostly nu­tri­ent-rich whole foods. This will pro­vide the nu­tri­ents that are needed for great en­ergy, as well as for the cre­ation of happy hor­mones.

■ Tick­ets $39.99 from www.dr­ events

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