This week Meagan tells us about her fall marathon, and some new changes in her life, plus we talk more about hormones and how they affect us.
Listen now: Episode 7: The Little Things
How hormones affect us and what we can do to optimize them
Effect of sleep on hormones
Animals faced with food shortage or starvation sleep less; conversely, animals subjected to total sleep deprivation for prolonged periods of time increase their food intake markedly.[ Sleep restriction was associated with reductions in leptin (the appetite suppressant) and elevations in ghrelin (the appetite stimulant) and increased hunger and appetite, especially an appetite for foods with high-carbohydrate contents.
Sleep loss can affect your libido: chronic sleep deprivation, which can occur even if you get a solid six hours a night (the majority of adults need at least seven), can lower levels of testosterone—the sex drive hormone—in both men and women.
Effect of physical activity on hormones
Studies indicate a strong link between exercise and hormone levels. Physical activity has a positive impact on several hormones that influence your mood, metabolism and body composition. These include: Testosterone, Estrogen, Human growth hormone (HGH), Ghrelin, Leptin, Thyroid hormones, Insulin, and many others. Weight training specifically has been shown to increase testosterone and growth hormone levels. Exercise also improves insulin sensity, especially high-intensity training, but any form of exercise has a positive impact on insulin levels.
Effect of sun exposure on hormones
Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused. Without enough sun exposure, your serotonin levels can dip. Low levels of serotonin are associated with a higher risk of major depression with seasonal pattern (formerly known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD).
Exposure to the ultraviolet-B radiation in the sun’s rays causes a person’s skin to create vitamin D. According to WHO, getting anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your arms, hands, and face 2-3 times a week is enough to enjoy the vitamin D-boosting benefits of the sun. Note that the sun must penetrate the skin. Wearing sunscreen or clothing over your skin won’t result in vitamin D production.
Effect of stress on hormones
The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including: Anxiety, Depression, Digestive problems, Headaches, Heart disease, Sleep problems, Weight gain, Memory and concentration impairment
Effect of cholesterol on hormones
Cholesterol occurs in every cell of the body, and since in all human bodies it is stored in the adrenal glands, it has a vital role in synthetizing those steroid hormones, which are produced by the adrenals. Cholesterol is synthesized in the liver and hence, drugs which inhibit liver’s production of cholesterol have a very damaging effect upon the proper production of hormones.
Cholesterol deficiency can cause lower level of growth hormone, which may trigger some symptoms of disturbed health status, such as: Limited movements, Lack of growth, Muscle cramps, and Kidney problems and failures. Androgenic hormones, such as testosterone (which plays a role in sexual function and athletic performance), are also influenced by cholesterol synthetized in the body. Progesterone has a role of regulating women’s menstrual cycles and as a gestation hormone. Deficiency of cholesterol causing limited amount of progesterone increases the risk of having irregular menstrual cycles and miscarriage.
Effect of alcohol on hormones
Alcohol interferes with the hormones that regulate glucose levels. It inhibits glucose production while alcohol is being metabolized, augments insulin secretion, causing temporary hypoglycemia, and impairs the hormonal response to hypoglycemia with heavy consumption. Chronic heavy drinking can increase the body’s glucose levels. Alcohol can reduce the body’s responsiveness to insulin, cause glucose intolerance, and increase secretion of glucagon and other hormones that raise glucose levels. Studies have found that chronic heavy drinking can cause glucose intolerance in both healthy individuals and alcoholics with cirrhosis of the liver. Alcohol also impairs the function of sex hormones. Alcohol can impair the adequate functioning of the testes and ovaries and result in hormonal deficiencies, sexual dysfunction, and infertility. In premenopausal women, chronic heavy drinking contributes to many reproductive disorders, including:cessation of menstruation, irregular menstrual cycles, menstrual cycles without ovulation, early menopause, and risk of spontaneous abortions. Although most of the above reproductive problems were found in women who were alcoholics, some were also found in women considered social drinkers.
Keeping hormonal balance
As you can see, not only do hormones have a profound effect on virtually every aspect of our health and wellbeing, our lifestyle has a profound effect on the proper functioning of our hormones. This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg for how important hormone function is in our bodies and our lives. Our sleep, our nutrition, and our lifestyle are so critical to keeping our hormones in balance and keeping us healthy inside and out.