Balanced hormones are vital for our menstrual health, but they affect many other areas of our lives. From our skin to our mood and even our blood sugar levels, we must have a good understanding of how they all work together.
The Hormones We Don’t Tend to Think About
We tend to only think about hormones when we’re considering sex hormones—like estrogen and testosterone—but hormones are critical to how our bodies work and affect everything from mood, to energy to even our skin. The rise and fall of our sex hormones during our menstrual cycle, grab most of our attention in health class, but just as important are the hormones that control how we process food and create energy–insulin. And because how we eat has changed so much in the past hundred years, we’re much more likely to have imbalanced insulin.
Our Hormones and the Fuel that is Sugar
Hormones help our body work properly, and one of the most critical aspects is making sure that all of our cells have enough energy to keep operating. Whether it is cells in our heart that we need to keep it pumping, or neurons we need to fire in our brain, we have to have the right amount of energy. Too little and our cellular batteries begin to turn off, but too much and they can overheat and start to damage themselves. The most important hormone that helps regulate the amount of energy available is called insulin.
Insulin helps control the amount of sugar floating around in our blood, and how our cells manage it. If we regularly have excess sugar floating around in our blood, we keep making insulin to try to tell our cells to use the sugar. This is a bit like turning up the radio louder and louder. It works for a bit, but over time the cells go deaf, and this is called insulin resistance. Eventually this can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer, but in the short term this can even affect our skin, mood, and other hormones.
How Sex Hormones Affect Insulin
Estrogen’s main purpose is to regulate the reproductive system, but it also helps optimize insulin activity. Most who are pre-menopausal will produce enough estrogen to control insulin resistance, but as you age your levels of estrogen will decrease. With this decrease, we are opened up to higher risks for type-2 diabetes, so making sure we’re aware of this can be vital to preventing this during our menopausal years. Replacing the lost estrogen through hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be a conversation to have with your doctor.
How Our Hormones Affect Our Skin
We think about skincare when it comes to lotions or creams we put on the surface, but if you struggle with dry and flaky or oily, acne-prone skin, this may be a good indicator of a deeper hormonal issue. We might think of eating junk food and blame a breakout on the burger and milkshake we just ate, but the effects of junk food aren’t just from the grease itself, but also how it affects hormones that sense energy–namely insulin. For example, if you suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you’re much more likely to have hormonal acne or cystic acne. You’re also much more likely to have insulin resistance. Amazingly, if you have PCOS and you fix the insulin resistance, you also eliminate the breakouts and acne. And this is one big reason that eating “cleaner” often helps with acne or breakouts.
Hormones Role in Our Mood
We think of our sex hormones as being our primary mood regulators, but imbalances in our metabolic hormones (think insulin) can also be critical. If you are insulin resistant, you are more likely to be depressed. And helping reduce the level of insulin resistance can help improve mood and produce antidepressant effects.
Of course, sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are some of the most powerful mood regulators. Estrogen helps to increase serotonin and modifies the production and the effects of endorphins—the “feel-good” chemicals in our brain. When this drops off during menopause to roughly 10% of what it was pre-menopause, it can lead to depression. Progesterone is another key player in our mood regulation helping us feel more calm and relaxed. Low levels manifest in symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, and the feeling of being frazzled. On the other hand, extremely high levels could lead to depression. Progesterone has a similar effect on our brain as alcohol and sleeping pills.
Making sure these two hormones are balanced will give us the best chance of having a steadier mood.
Lifestyle Changes We Can Make
What we eat has a big impact on how our body produces insulin and regulates blood sugar. Simple carbohydrates, like bread, pasta, cakes, and cookies can cause spikes in insulin production and if our bodies aren’t able to respond to it correctly, we can develop insulin resistance. This can throw our hormones out of balance and contribute to high blood sugar. Since insulin and sex hormones work in harmony together, it’s essential to keep them all in check.
Exercise is a great regulator of blood sugar as well. It increases insulin sensitivity and allows your muscles to use the glucose for energy during or after activity. When you are active regularly, it can lower something called A1C which tells you how much sugar has been in you blood over the past 3 months. Try to get in some blood pumping workouts 3 times per week for best results.
We Can Help!
We've struggled with decades of sugar crashes, random breakouts and the mood swings. That's why we want you to help you balance out your hormones and help you keep healthy blood sugar levels. While hormonal imbalances may be common, they shouldn’t be normalized, and they don’t have to be swept under the rug. Instead of enduring mood swings and break-outs, you can take back control!