Balance October 2017 - 46

GET BACK ON TRACK

It's not you, it's your

hormones
Nutritionist and health writer
Cassandra Barns explains
the factors behind your sex
hormones - an imbalance
of which can affect men and
women in equal measure

H

ormones are chemical messages
transported in the bloodstream
from the glands to the target
organs, telling them how to act.
They include thyroid hormones that govern
your metabolism, and insulin, that tells your
cells to take up sugars from your blood. And,
of course, they include the sex hormones such
as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone,
which govern fertility, the development of
sexual characteristics and the menstrual cycle.
Hormones, in fact, affect every part of our lives,
including whether we feel tired, how hungry we
are, our libido, bone density, body temperature
and whether we feel relaxed or stressed. They all
interact with each other and many factors can
upset this delicate balance.

STRESS
Being stressed causes an increase in the hormone
cortisol, which directly affects body and mind
by, for example, stimulating cravings for sugary
foods. It also has a knock-on effect on other
hormones, by decreasing testosterone and
progesterone. So, stress can affect fertility, lead
to low testosterone in men, and disrupt the
menstrual cycle and contribute to PMS in women.

CHEMICALS
Hormone-disrupting chemicals are extremely
difficult to avoid, explains Dr Marilyn Glenville,
nutritionist and women's health expert.
'Xenoestrogens are oestrogen-like chemicals
from pesticides or plastics,' she says. 'Their rise
in our environment has coincided with an earlier
onset of puberty from age 15 at the turn of the
century to as early as age eight and they may
even be linked with causing breast cancer. To

WOMEN

In some women,
low levels of
oestrogen can
be a problem
and result in
periods stopping,
vaginal dryness
and lack of
libido. Of course,
menopause is
also a time when
oestrogen levels
drop significantly.

October 2017 BALANCE

keep your hormones healthy it's important to
reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens as much
as possible.' As well as in plastics and pesticides,
similar chemicals can be found in personal care
products, detergents and glues, among others.

OBESITY
Body fat is not an inactive substance. In fact, fatty
tissue produces an enzyme called aromatase,
which triggers the conversion of androgens
('male' hormones including testosterone) into
oestrogen. Both men and women need this
enzyme - and we all make it - but those who
have a high level of body fat may end up with
too much, resulting in excess oestrogen.
In men, this may contribute to muscle loss, low
sex drive, and gynaecomastia ('man boobs'). In
women, the most obvious consequences are
PMS, heavy periods and lumpy breasts.

49



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Balance October 2017

Balance October 2017 - 1
Balance October 2017 - 2
Balance October 2017 - 3
Balance October 2017 - 4
Balance October 2017 - 5
Balance October 2017 - 6
Balance October 2017 - 7
Balance October 2017 - 8
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