No matter how much you sweat it out at the gym or deprive yourself of cake, if your hormones are not in balance, you are fighting an uphill battle. If you get your hormones in order, the story will be quite the opposite.
According to leading hormone health expert and Naturopathic Endocrinologist, Dr. Alan Christianson; “Your overall hormone balance is the connection between lifestyle and health. If hormones are not well regulated in some way, then lifestyle efforts become less effective. And vice versa – when your hormones are well controlled, your lifestyle efforts are amplified.”
Dr. Alan Christianson, known affectionately as Dr. C, was drawn to science from a young age. His childhood was fraught with medical
concerns, having been born with cerebral palsy-like symptoms including seizures and poor coordination. By adolescence, he had put on a significant amount of weight and decided it was time to use his inquisitive mind, uncanny ability to take in and synthesise large amounts of information and his high intelligence to do something about it. He studied every nutrition, fitness and weight loss book he could find, setting him on a career course that would help thousands of people suffering the same frustrating, overwhelming journey.
Early on in his studies, Dr. C recognised the role hormones play in our overall health. He found that without optimal hormone balance, any lifestyle efforts we make to improve our health are largely ineffective.
“My journey was such, where lifestyle really improved a lot of things for me. In medical school, I came to realise that hormones were almost like the regulators of the effects of lifestyle. Many people who had problems with their hormones, weren’t able to achieve the benefits of lifestyle that I was, until they were able to get past the hormone imbalances,” he said.
“So that’s been the whole point behind my work, to help people really potentiate the effects of their lifestyle and get more benefits from that by correcting the underlying problems that thyroid, adrenal, ovarian hormone levels so that those things can work better.”
Medically, the term ‘hormones’ relates to the chemicals made by all glands in the body. Together, they have profound effects on everything from energy and metabolic rate, to sleep, immune response and chronic pain. Ovarian hormones add another dimension for women, controlling functions such as the menstrual cycle and (when it comes time), peri-menopause and menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings and weight changes.
In addition to simply making you feel worn out, hormonal imbalances have been tied to risk factors related to significant illnesses.
“A lot of these complications, especially those around metabolism and energy, have strong ties to risks related to diabetes, heart disease, premature brain ageing,” said Dr. C.
So, what can you do to improve your hormonal health? Ironically, while hormones appear to have a significant impact on lifestyle
benefits, bringing back balance starts with improving your diet and exercise habits.
In terms of diet, three major factors in that have significant impact on how the body responds to hormones relate to liver function, blood sugar regulation and cortisol metabolism. Dr. C explains; “The ovaries make the hormones and they circulate, then the liver plays a role in activating and eliminating them. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, affect whether those hormones enter into the bloodstream and get used, or whether they stay outside of the cells and remain in an inactive state.”
“Diet has strong impacts on blood sugar, which in turn affects the cortisol cycles. Over time, the build-up of that within the liver can completely change how the liver regulates hormones.”
Exercise is important in maintaining a good stress response and healthy cortisol balance. The key here, is regular movement, breaking up long sedentary activities into manageable blocks. Dr. C recommends 50 minutes at a time sitting still, such as working or researching, then 10 minutes of movement and plenty of water in between.
The other important way to help naturally manage your hormone balance is with a healthy adrenal rhythm through maintaining good
circadian hygiene. This is especially important as we age, when our ovaries begin reducing their output and the adrenal glands step in to compensate. Practically speaking, this means a nice release of cortisol in the morning and a good shutdown of cortisol at night.
To help regulate your cortisol levels, aim to get some sunlight (or similar intensity of light) first thing in the morning and a eat solid protein packed breakfast within an hour of waking. Having a consistent wake-up time helps too.
“Also, consuming healthy amounts of resistant starch from a good variety of dietary sources is useful in mitigating menopausal symptoms. You can get this from white beans, plantains or less-ripe bananas, or potatoes when they are boiled. The benefits of these is that they improve the gut flora in a way that helps the transition through perimenopause and menopause and lower overall symptoms.” Dr. C said.
Lastly, remember that hormonal shifts are a normal part of the ageing process and largely genetically driven.
“It is intentional and it is timed…but taking steps to identify and mitigate controllable factors within that are huge things to maintain overall health.”
For more information on
Dr. Alan Christianson and his work, visit
Read more about his routine here;