How Much Do You Know?
Television personalities Ross Mathews and Nikki Boyer hit the streets as The Doctors special correspondents to find out just how much the average person knows about hormones.
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. They are produced by endocrine glands and then secreted into the bloodstream, where they are carried to tissues and organs throughout the body. There are more than 100 hormones coursing through our bodies at any given time.
Endocrine glands are in the pituitary, pineal, thymus, thyroid, adrenal glands; pancreas, stomach, intestines, kidneys, fat, and in the testes in men and ovaries in women. The glands are collectively known as the endocrine system, which influences a person’s metabolism, mood, growth, development and immune system and sexual function.
When hormones are balanced, the body is considered to be in a homeostatic state. When hormones are imbalanced, often due to stress, lack of exercise or poor diet, a person can experience symptoms such as depression, mood swings, low libido and fatigue.
Learn more about balancing hormones.
Three of the most important hormones are cortisol, estrogen and thyroid.
Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands and helps regulate blood pressure, insulin release, glucose metabolism, immune function and inflammatory response. Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone, due to the fact that its production increases sharply when a person is stressed, be it briefly, fight or flight mode, or chronically.
Elevated Levels of Cortisol Will:
• Increase blood pressure
• Increase cravings for high-fat, high-carb foods
• Increase visceral fat around the midsection
How to Balance Cortisol Levels:
• Get enough sleep
• Limit caffeine intake to less than 400mg per day
• Refrain from alcohol consumption
• Increase vitamin C intake
• Practice relaxation techniques
Estrogen is a class of steroid hormones that includes estrodial, estriol and estrone. Estrogen is produced in a woman’s ovaries, and functions as the primary female sex hormone. It affects many aspects of the female body, including skin, bone, mood, menstruation and fertility.
“A lot of the chemicals in your immediate environment, whether it’s skincare, hair care [products] or even plastics that you’re drinking out of or eating out of can create something called xenoestrogens in the body,” Jillian says. “It’s essentially a chemical that mimics hormones, and this is where your estrogen levels get out of balance in dangerous ways.”
How to Balance Estrogen Levels:
• Use BPA-free plastic
• Don’t store food in plastic
• Don’t microwave food in plastic containers
• Avoid processed soy
• Try to use all-natural cleaning products and beauty products
• Eat foods high in flavonoids, such as black olives, apples and onions
• Eat foods high in soluble and insoluble fibers, such as apples, beans, oats and leafy greens
The thyroid gland produces and stores hormones that help regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and metabolism. Thyroid hormones are essential for proper cellular function throughout the body.
“The thyroid is the master gland of metabolism, or energy, and if it’s not in balance, it literally can affect every part of your body,” plastic surgeon Dr. Drew Ordon says.
When the thyroid is over-secreting hormones, it can cause weight loss, anxiety, depression, mood changes, high blood pressure and bulging eyes. If the thyroid gland is underperforming, a person can experience weight gain, fatigue, lethargy, depression, skin changes and thinning hair.
“When it comes to thyroid, again, avoid soy,” Jillian says. “Soy has something in it called phytic acid, which can block mineral absorption, and minerals are critical to the function of your thyroid. Minerals [such as] selenium, iodine and zinc.”
How to Balance Thyroid Levels:
• Eat foods high in minerals, such as mixed nuts, cashews, sunflower seeds and yogurt
• Eat foods high in zinc such as beef, lamb, pork and salmon
Jillian’s Top Ten Power Foods
Master your metabolism with Jillian’s 10 power foods.
1. Blueberries: high in antioxidants, and help fight fat and reduce blood pressure.
2. Oats: high in antioxidants, and help fight fat and reduce blood pressure.
3. Yogurt: high in calcium, helps boost the immune system and maintains healthy bacteria and yeast levels in the body.
4. Black beans: high in protein and fiber and helps with weight loss.
5. Salmon: high in zinc, Omega-3 fatty acids and helps maintain heart health.
6. Spinach: high in vitamins B6 and B12 and helps maintain heart health.
7. Garlic: boosts the immune system and helps lower cholesterol levels.
8. Tomatoes: high in fiber, vitamin C and lycopene.
9. Broccoli: high in fiber and vitamins A and C.
10. Walnuts: high in protein, B vitamins, magnesium and fiber, and help lower cholesterol.
Everyday Health: C = Cravings
Sugar and salt are two of the most commonly craved foods. When a person eats foods that contain large amounts of sugar such as candy, cookies or cake, the body releases a surge of insulin to absorb it. Insulin stimulates the brain to release the neurotransmitter serotonin, which calms the mind and gives a person a feeling of well-being. However, excess serotonin causes the body to crave more sugar, thus creating a craving cycle.
The next time you want to reach for the cookie jar, try eating a strawberry dipped in dark chocolate instead. Other sugar fixes include apples dipped in almond butter and bananas rolled in honey and crushed almonds.
Most Americans consume more than twice the amount of the recommended daily intake of salt. Excess salt in your diet can lead to numerous health problems, such as hypertension, heart disease and stroke.
Instead of diving into a bag of potato chips, try baked tortilla chips with guacamole, or “ants on a log,” a combination of celery, peanut butter and raisins.
Learn more about your health at everydayhealth.com.