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Hack Your Hormones And Find Internal Balance

4 MIN READ • 6th February 2023

Finding balance can help banish fatigue – here’s how

Looking forward to heading to bed, even though it’s only 3pm? You’re not alone. In fact, a survey run by PCP Market Research found that one in five GP visits is down to tiredness and fatigue. Lots of us dismiss drowsiness as just a fact of life, but it can have far-reaching consequences, and not just on our health – a quarter of all road accidents are caused by drivers who have fallen asleep at the wheel, according to the AA Charitable Trust. While there are many different causes of tiredness, one thing to look at is your hormones. So, we called in the experts to explain some of the main types of hormones we have, and the roles they play in our bodies to see if they could hold the secret to beating fatigue.

Firstly, what are hormones?

It’s all well and good us talking about hormones, but if you haven’t heard about them since your secondary school biology lessons, they can be confusing. “Hormones are natural substances produced in the body,” says Dr Shirin Lakhani of Elite Aesthetics (eliteaesthetics.co.uk). “They are effectively chemical messengers that carry information through the blood to organs and tissues in order to make them respond accordingly. There are many different types of hormones that affect various aspects of the body and its functions, including reproduction and metabolism.”

So what happens if they’re unbalanced?

“Hormones play a key role in controlling energy levels in your body, and while they can fluctuate during your life as a result of things like pregnancy and the menopause, in general, if they’re unbalanced it can cause feelings of tiredness and sleep issues,” Dr Shirin explains. “A hormone imbalance can have serious consequences throughout the body. There is a certain amount of fluctuation as a result of ageing but, if your hormones aren’t balanced, you can experience a range of symptoms, including weight gain, fatigue, heavy or irregular periods, painful sex, and night sweats. If you think your hormones might be to blame for low energy levels, your GP should be able to carry out a blood test and then you can address the issue in a number of ways including changing your diet, exercise programme and, depending on the reason for the fluctuation in hormones, the relevant treatment.”

Oestrogen

What does it do?

“Oestrogen is the major female hormone and most of it comes from the ovaries, with small amounts also being produced in the fat cells and adrenal glands,” says Dr Shirin. “It’s important for sexual development, reproduction and menopause, but it also affects a huge range of aspects of the body, from the brain and the cardiovascular system to hair and bones. It’s also thought to help maintain energy, so if your oestrogen levels are low, you’ll feel tired and exhausted.”

What happens if your levels change?

“During your monthly cycle, your oestrogen levels go up and down,” Dr Shirin explains. “In the first two weeks they increase, resulting in you having higher energy, and in the third week, they drop, leading to a dip in energy levels as a result. The most common causes of low oestrogen for women are too much exercise, a lack of food, early menopause and other medical conditions.”

Progesterone

What does it do?

“This is the other main female hormone, and is predominantly produced by the corpus lute in the ovary during the menstrual cycle,” explains BHRT (plant-based hormone replacement therapy) specialist, Dr Sophie Shotter. “Progesterone is responsible for preparing your body for pregnancy, and drops again if the released egg remains unfertilised.”

What happens if your levels change?

“Low progesterone levels cause heavy and irregular menstrual bleeding,” says Dr Sophie. “This in its own right can make women feel drained and, in extreme cases, can cause anaemia.”

Testosterone

What does it do?

“Although it’s known as the predominant male hormone, testosterone is also very important in women,” says Dr Sophie. “It’s produced by the ovaries, albeit in smaller amounts. Testosterone is crucial in maintaining a healthy libido, promoting production of new blood cells, and helping muscles and bones to stay strong.”

What happens if your levels change?

“Low testosterone in women is associated with decreased energy levels, decreased muscle mass, decreased libido, sleep difficulties and mood disturbances,” Dr Sophie tells us.

Melatonin

What is it?

“Melatonin is known as your sleep hormone, and is produced by the pineal gland in the brain,” says Dr Sophie. “It’s responsible for regulating your sleep/wake cycle, reaching its peak at night time, prompting us to sleep.”

What happens if your levels change?

“In autumn and winter, your levels of melatonin are higher, which is why many of us feel a little less energised during these seasons,” Dr Sophie explains. “Balancing melatonin is crucial, as we don’t want too much (it can interfere with reproductive function).”

A balancing act

So, now we know the different types of hormones and what they do in the body, how can we keep our levels in check? Luckily, the experts have lots of tips.

Stay active

“Regular, but not excessive, exercise is crucial – although it’s important to always consult your doctor before embarking on a new training programme, especially if you suffer from any pre-existing conditions,” advises Dr Shirin.

Get more sleep

“Sleep is crucial for endocrine function,” says medical herbalist, Pamela Spence (pamelaspence. co.uk). “If a good night’s rest is problematic for you, limit evening screen time and drink a cup of calming herbal tea before bed. Look for blends with passionflower which is traditionally used to help insomnia.”

Watch out for sugar

“I’d recommend every woman with a hormone imbalance pays very close attention to their sugar intake, as it can increase hormonal imbalance when blood-sugar levels are taking big peaks and troughs throughout the day,” suggests Natasha. Nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer (drsarahbrewer.com) agrees, adding that you should eat a little starchy food (such as crispbread, rice cakes and digestive biscuits) at least every three hours to stop your blood-sugar levels falling.

Change up your diet

“Obtain essential fatty acids and other building blocks for making hormones from nuts, seeds, pulses and fish,” Dr Sarah advises. “Also, increase your intake of soy and other foods containing plant hormones, including those fortified with soy extracts.”

Manage your stress

“Stress makes your adrenals work hard and can disturb endocrine function,” Pamela explains. “If you are perimenopausal, your adrenals will be working especially hard. Adaptogenic herbs, such as ashwagandha and ginseng, will help your body to cope better with stress, as well as supporting your hormone balance.”

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