There are 3 major types of hormones in your body. All of them need are intricately connected and need to be balanced ... and if they're not? It's PMS or hot flash city for you, ladies! Not only are all hormones connected, but there's a priority in how the body can produce and use them. This is a complicated subject, so if you want to see me explain this in a video, then click here to sign up for the free Mama Mojo video training series.
Are you still with me here instead of watching the video? Then here we go!
Here's the chain of command in terms of priority of how your body deals with its' hormones:
- Metabolic hormones (covered in the Healthy Hormones Series Article #2 - click here): The most important hormones that keep you alive. These are the chemical messengers that, among other things, tell your heart how fast to beat, your lungs how fast to breathe, and your pancreas how to regulate your blood sugar.
- Stress hormones (covered in the Healthy Hormones Series Article #1 - click here): The next group of hormones down the chain of priority, this group includes adrenaline and cortisol, which are the ones that cause the fight-or-flight response. Back in the day of the caveman, these were the hormones that kept you alive because they gave you an adrenaline rush so you could run like the wind when a saber-toothed tiger was chasing you. The unfortunate part is that our brains haven’t evolved as quickly as our lifestyles have, so our body can’t tell that an endless to-do list isn’t a life or death situation.
- Sex hormones: Last on the chain but most likely to cause annoying symptoms; this family includes estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA. When these are in balance, life is good, and when they’re not? Well, your husband and kids could probably tell me that you turn into a PMS-fuelled mood swing monster for the entire week before your period, along with bloating, cramps, fatigue, and headaches.
In your daily life, you only have a finite amount of energy, and have to prioritize by putting it towards what needs it the most (aka. cutting the crusts off your childs' sandwich. Heaven forbid they eat the crust!). You're not superwoman. Actually, no one is. She doesn't exist
The same is true for your hormones. Your body doesn’t have a choice but to keep your metabolism and stress hormones balanced so that you can survive, but it can’t keep your sex hormones balanced if it doesn’t have any energy leftover because you’re using it all on stress.
Stress comes from what you eat, what you drink, what you breathe, and what you put on your body, but also how you perceive what's going on around you.
All of this crap going in or on your body has to be processed by the liver, but the liver also makes testosterone and estrogen, regulates all hormones, and eliminates excess hormones. If your liver is overloaded with trying to process fake foods, produce sprayed with god knows what chemicals, chlorinated water, and detoxing the ingredients from your skin lotion, how can it possibly have extra energy left over to balance your sex hormones?
This is why you still have PMS and menopause: because you haven't addressed digestion, the liver, and how it’s connected to stress!
Digestion comes into play here because stress can turn on or turn off two modes in your body: the rest-and-digest mode, or the fight-or-flight mode.
When you’re stressed and in fight-or-flight, your body moves blood away from your internal organs that are used for digestion, and into your muscles so that you can run or fight. Any food in your stomach or small intestine is long forgotten, and so it just sits there.
What happens when food sits out at room temperature? It rots or ferments, which creates gas, bloating, and other toxic by-products. Where do these toxins have to be processed? By the liver.
Everything in the body is truly connected, so to get rid of your PMS and menopause symptoms, you have to address stress, digestion and your liver.
In women, the majority of the sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) are made in the ovaries, with a base amount being made in the adrenals. The pre-cursor to progesterone, called pregnenolone, is used to produce either cortisol OR estrogen, depending on what need is greater.
We’ve already talked about how stress trumps balanced sex hormones in the first and second article of this series (click here to read #1, and click here to read #2), because your body doesn’t want to make a baby when it’s already stressed out.
Then, as you approach menopause and your ovaries stop producing progesterone and estrogen, the adrenals take over the job of making sure there’s a base level of progesterone in the body. If the adrenals are fatigued, they can’t take over this job properly, leading to horrible menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, weight gain, depression, and sleep disturbances. It could very well be that your adrenals have been fatigued all along, but your ovaries were strong enough to pick up the slack. When they stop, shit hits the fan, and that’s when the hormones issues start coming to the forefront.
The sooner you can start taking care of your adrenals, the less likely you’ll have menopausal issues down the road. Is it a coincidence that you never heard your grandma or great-grandma complaining about menopause, but as our world has gotten more and more stressful, that you or your mom have menopause issues?
So what can you start doing on a daily basis to support ALL of the systems that I just talked about? Start by incorporating these three daily habits into your life:
1. Go to bed by 10 pm: Your adrenal glands recharge the best when you’re already asleep before 10 pm (or between 7 and 9 am, but who’s kids let them sleep in between those hours?!). I KNOW that this is easier said than done.
For me, I have to turn off all electronics, like my laptop or phone, because it takes me about an hour after using them to start feeling tired. I read a book for at least 20 minutes before I get tired enough to turn off the lights and go to sleep. I also can’t read a new book, because I get too into it and want to keep reading for hours.
2. Drink lemon water first thing in the morning: Fresh lemon juice contains high levels of vitamin C and hesperidin. Vitamin C is needed to make stress hormones, so when you’re chronically stressed and your body requires higher levels of these, you can easily become deficient in vitamin C. It’s also used to make glutathione, which is THE ultimate antioxidant found in every cell in the body, as well as a superhero detoxifier in the liver.
Hesperidin is a type of citrus bioflavonoid, which are a group of chemicals similar to vitamins. It’s been shown to protect liver cells from damage, so that they can detox more efficiently and have energy left over to balance your hormones.
Just squeeze the juice from a half a fresh lemon into a glass of room temperature or slightly warm water, and drink it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. This is also a great way to increase your stomach acid naturally, and get your digestion rocking (see note above re: digestion literally being the core of the body and your health!).
FYI: drink this with a straw if you have sensitive teeth or are concerned about acid erosion.
3. Eat stinky veggies: Your liver has two phases of detox, which work together to break down harmful toxins. Certain foods can support either phase, but cruciferous veggies support both.
Cruciferous veggies are the ones that are kinda stinky (they can smell like farts when they’re cooked) and also the ones that you probably hated growing up. This superfood family includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale, to name a few.
When you eat these veggies, you increase the levels of glutathione in your liver, plus they have lots of fiber, which gets extra waste out of your body. They also have high levels of vitamin C. It's a freaking win-win!
The tastiest and easiest way to get picky eaters to actually eat any of these veggies is to either roast them a la the recipe below, or turn dark leafy greens like kale or collard greens into a quick pesto, and use it on pasta, as a pizza sauce, or a layer in lasagna. I make huge batches and freeze the extra in ice cube trays, which are perfect single servings for my sons’ lunch. This is the only way he’ll eat kale right now, and I’m perfectly OK with that!
I wanna know: do you have PMS or menopause? What have you tried? What's worked and what hasn't?
ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS
BY ASHLEY SROKOSZ, RHN
I promise even the most pickiest of eaters will eat these!
Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
1 bag of Brussels sprouts (about 3-4 cups)
2 tbsp olive or melted coconut oil
1/4 tsp healthy salt (pink himalayan sea salt, grey Celtic sea salt, Redmond's Real Salt)
A healthy grind of black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Wash the Brussels sprouts, trim the ends off. Pick off any skeezy (yes, that's a word ...) leaves on the outside.
3. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half.
4. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
5. Toss the Brussels sprouts onto the baking sheet, and cover with the oil, salt and pepper. Toss with your hands until they're all equally covered in the oil.
6. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
7. Take out and move the sprouts around.
8. Put back in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your desired tenderness.