Hormone Health – the Importance of Balance
What is a hormone? (Thinking back to high school!)
It is a chemical messenger in the body and its purpose is to relay messages and instructions to our bodies cells and organs.
Over a 24 hour period our bodies hormones (there are at least 50 of them), help our body to wake up, go to sleep, remind you to eat and keep you happy – these are just a few of the functions.
Let’s look at a few hormones that regulate our bodies in different ways:
- When you go to sleep the hormone melatonin is at its peak and cortisol (our wake up hormone) is at its lowest. Cortisol helps to increase our heart rate and increase our blood pressure ready for the daily activities. Therefore, first thing in the morning is always a good time for a 35-minute or longer walk to help your cortisol wake you up. Cortisol also helps us manage stress – and an imbalance in cortisol can contribute to adrenal fatigue.
- Our hunger pangs are produced by the hormones insulin and grehlin. When your blood sugar levels drop your low insulin is responsible and if these levels drop too low then we have a desire to eat everything in sight! Grehlin signals the brain to eat. It’s best to not let yourself get to the ‘starving’ point, as that’s when we can overeat and forget to stop eating. We don’t give our bodies enough time to feel that we have had sufficient food and it is time to stop eating. (This feeling generally comes through about 20 minutes after eating). In 20 minutes we can consume quite a lot of food – food that we don’t really require! Once you have eaten, insulin helps to convert the food you have eaten into energy, which is essential for our bodies to function. If we eat an excess of food (that our bodies don’t burn up as fuel) then this energy is often converted to fat to be stored and used at a later stage, i.e. when we have no food or are low on food. This is a key issue today, particularly in a country such as Australia – we have a plentiful food supply. We never have to fall back on those fat stores! As a result, the fat stores grow (we never use the) and our weigh rises.
- Serotin is our happy hormone! When life is good, we are happy and satisfied – serotin is doing its job. If our bodies are not producing enough serotin then this could contribute to depression, anxiety, insomnia etc. Another feel good hormone is oxytocin and as little as a 20 second hug can increase this hormone and help to reduce our blood pressure – isn’t that a wonderful thought!
So even just briefly looking at the role a few hormones play in the functioning of our bodies can make you think about how an imbalance in our hormonal system can impact us. Hormone health is vital to good health.
Meditation and Hormone Health
Lately I’ve been doing some reading – I’ve been reading about hormones. DHEA (Dihydroepiandrdrosterone) is a hormone that helps boost our immune function. Studies have confirmed it’s usefulness in combating bacterial, parasitic and viral infections including HIV. DHEA also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can be apparent in heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer.
DHEA also helps to prevent depression, protects our brains and helps to keep our thymus gland active which is important to healthy ageing (as the function of this gland declines as we age).
A variety of studies have been done and it has been found that DHEA levels increase within weeks of learning to meditate. So the next time you say ‘I don’t have time to meditate’ I encourage you to think about that. Meditation changes how our body function, not just mentally but also physically. The positive health effects that meditating has on your body are real and instead you of saying ‘I don’t have time,’ we should be saying ‘I need to make time’ to meditate.
I’m a big fan of Nat Kringoudis’ blog. She often talks about hormones and their role in our health – head here to read some of Nat’s blog posts on hormones.
Love & light,
Is meditation a regular practice for you? Do you find that you feel ‘healthier’ and get sick less when you regularly meditate?