What Factors Negatively Influence your Hormones

There are many factors that can affect our menstrual cycle that we are totally unaware of. In this post I will explore some of those factors and what we can do to minimise the impact. 

How Stress can impact your hormones

Cortisol is our stress hormone. It is released by the adrenal glands in response to a perceived stressor. This could be work stress or grief, nutrient deficiencies or low blood sugar, food intolerances, medications, overtraining, dieting.  All these stressors accumulate over time and add to your overall ‘stress load’. So even though you may think you aren’t stressed you can see how your ‘stress load’ can increase without you even realising it. 

If your cortisol levels are regularly high this can lead to you feeling tired and wired which has an impact on your hormones. 

Cortisol is also released in response to fast releasing carbohydrates which spike your blood sugar. Your blood sugar then plummets and as a result cortisol is released to maintain energy levels by releasing stored sugars in the body. This can mean that cortisol levels may still be high in the evenings when you are trying to wind down and switch off for the night. Your sleep is then negatively impacted as you don’t get into your restful deep sleep which causes sleep deprivation which is another stressor on the body. 

How Digestion & Elimination can influence your hormones

Effective digestion and elimination are needed to eliminate excess hormones from the body.  The process of digestion takes approximately 20 -30 hours from a food being consumed to being excreted. If the food is being digested too fast you may have diarrhoea which means the body didn’t get enough time to absorb the nutrients from the food that you ate. Also our beneficial gut bacteria will not get a chance to use the fibre from your food as fuel. 

On the other hand if digestion takes too long and you are constipated, this means that waste is not being eliminated from the body quickly enough and this gives toxins and excess hormones a chance to recirculate in the body causing a myriad of problems. This also allows the pathogenic (bad) bacteria in our gut to consume the waste material leading to bloating and cramps. 

Any kind of digestion issues has an impact on your hormones due to the lack of nutrient building blocks needed to produce healthy hormones. Excess hormones being recirculated into the system also causes many problems. 

Why your Microbiome is so important for your hormones

The Microbiome is a collection of all the microbes such as bacteria, fungi and viruses that naturally live in and on our bodies. When our bodies are healthy, beneficial bacteria are thriving in our bodies keeping pathogenic organisms in check. However, when there is a loss of diversity in our microbiome or when the pathogenic organisms increase, this has an impact on our health and is sometimes referred to as gut dysbiosis. Gut dysbiosis can cause poor immunity, hormonal imbalances, skin conditions, etc. 

The digestive tract can communicate with the brain, signalling it to consume more sugar for example. Many studies have shown that the gut microbiome can even affect your mood, meaning a healthy microbiome is important for your mental health. 

How Environmental Toxins & Xenoestrogens can affect your hormones

Sources of environmental toxins

Food cans

Fluoride

Diesel

BPA

Lead in old paint

Mercury in fish & dental fillings

Exhaust pollution

Insect pesticides

Flame retardants on furniture

Aerosol cans

Smoking

Many of these toxins need to be detoxified by the liver and eliminated from the body via the urinary and digestive tracts. This process requires a lot of energy and therefore high levels of nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, amino acids and antioxidants.

Xenoestrogens are man made chemicals that disrupt the hormonal system. They bind to our estrogen receptors & send false signals which disrupt our hormones. Xenoestrogens can lead to estrogen dominance. 

Some examples of products containing xenoestrogens

Cleaning products

Laundry products

Beauty products

Air fresheners

Scented candles

Perfume

Plastics

Receipts

Tap water

Cookware 

How your Blood Sugar levels affect your hormones

What is insulin and what is its role in the body?

The role of insulin in the body is to move glucose, which is broken down carbs, into the cells of the body so that it can be used for energy production. If your cells are already filled with glucose then the excess is stored as fat. 

When you eat carbohydrates your insulin levels should increase so that it can move the glucose into your cells where it is needed and then it should decrease again quickly. Enough glucose is left in the blood in case it is needed in an emergency situation. 

So what is insulin resistance then?

Insulin resistance is when the body no longer responds to insulin signals to take glucose from the blood. Insulin resistance can be caused by a diet that is very high in refined carbohydrates, lack of exercise, smoking, stress, lack of sleep, and being overweight. 

Having both high and low estrogen can contribute to insulin resistance which is a precursor to Type II diabetes so it is very important that we keep our hormones balanced. 

Inflammation and how it can affect your hormones

Chronic inflammation contributes to all types of period problems. Inflammation can ‘impede ovulation and impair progesterone production’ (Briden, 2018, p111).

Due to this it is important that we try to reduce the inflammation in our bodies. Some sources of inflammation include

Food intolerances & inflammatory foods

Chronic Stress

Blood Sugar imbalances

Environmental toxins

Poor sleep

Digestion issues

Lack of exercise

Smoking

Unhealthy gut microbiome

5 main inflammatory foods that affect your hormones

Sugar

Alcohol

Wheat 

Dairy

Vegetable or Seed Oils

(Briden, 2018, p112)

Conclusion 

There are many factors that can affect our hormones, so it is very important that we are aware of them so that we can take steps to avoid or reduce them in our day to day lives. The main factors that we need to be aware of are stress, digestion and elimination, your microbiome, environmental toxins, blood sugar levels and inflammation. The first step is awareness of these factors and overtime we can take steps to reduce these and as a result enjoy more balanced hormones which will directly affect your menstrual cycle for the better. 

References

Briden, L. (2018) Period Repair Manual 2nd edition. Greenpeak Publishing