How To Harness Your Hunger Hormones
Hormones play a huge role in our overall health, but they often get a bad rap. Us ladies have a tendency to blame everything on our hormones…from PMS symptoms to pregnancy hormones, to menopause and everything in between. Hormones can totally make us feel out of whack, so why would it be any different for appetite control and food cravings?
I’m spilling the deets on hunger hormones and how they may be playing a bigger role in your eating habits than you may think. Let’s look at the different hunger hormones and some steps you can take to let them know who’s boss, and get them in check.
Cortisol AKA “The Stress Hormone”
What it does: It’s easy to hate on cortisol, I mean it’s the hormone that’s notoriously known for putting weight on exactly where we don’t want it (our midsection.) Yup, totally not cool, but here’s the thing. Cortisol actually plays an important role in the body’s stress response, it’s only when things get a little out of hand, and too much cortisol is released that we run into some pretty major issues.
When imbalance occurs: When you find yourself stuck in a period of chronic stress, your adrenals may start putting out far more cortisol than your body can handle, and this can lead to some pretty unwanted symptoms such as overeating, and yes, even weight gain.
How to get it in check: Kicking stress curbside is going to be your absolute best bet when it comes to balancing cortisol levels, and meditation and your yoga mat are going to be your new BFF’s. You will also want to hit the hay a little earlier than usual, as not getting enough sleep can also cause cortisol levels to spiral out of control.
What it does: Chances are, you’ve heard about insulin, and may know about it in relation to blood sugar. This hunger hormone is responsible for helping body cells take in glucose to use as energy or storage.
When imbalance occurs: One big issue with insulin is when the body constantly has too much. Having super high insulin levels all the time (which can happen from eating sugary and processed foods) can lead to insulin resistance, food cravings for all the wrong foods and yup, you guessed it-weight gain.
How to get it in check: To help balance your insulin levels, it’s important to balance your diet. Ditch the sugar and processed foods and cut back on refined carbs (say goodbye to white bread, cereal, pasta, and all the pastries.) Watch your fructose consumption as well which can do a number on your insulin levels. You’ll want to run away from any food with high fructose corn syrup in it, like seriously, don’t even give high fructose corn syrup a second thought-it’s toxic and can seriously disrupt insulin balance. Instead, enjoy plenty of fiber (think dark leafy greens, rolled oats, quinoa, raspberries, and pears) plenty of clean protein sources, ground cinnamon, and green tea.
Can we just say how much we love a morning green tea latte made with coconut milk and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon? Not only does it taste delish, but it will help keep those blood sugar levels in check.
Intermittent fasting is also having a moment in the health and wellness scene, and it actually may be very beneficial for controlling insulin levels. You can basically practice intermittent fasting by extending the “fasting” period from the time you eat dinner to the time you have breakfast. Skip breakfast, and enjoy your first meal at lunchtime. Intermittent fasting AKA IF may help lower insulin levels and even help boost fat burning (win, win!)
You can also add some exercise to your daily routine. And, don’t worry, if exercising isn’t your jam, just getting out for a brisk walk can do wonders for helping the body burn some of the stored glucose you may have.
What it does: Estrogen is a female sex hormone responsible for giving women their female features and supports reproduction.
When imbalance occurs: Estrogen dominance can rear its ugly head when you have very little or no progesterone to helps balance out the estrogen in the body. This can lead to weight gain, bloating, and can even cause some serious PMS symptoms which can be a recipe for eating a few too many brownies and lying in bed binge-watching your fav Netflix show all day.
How to get it in check: If you have estrogen dominance, now is the time more than ever to take gut health for serious! An imbalanced gut can make it difficult to eliminate built-up estrogen in the body, so try adding a probiotic supplement to your supplement routine. Oh, and sleep-don’t slack on the z’s You need to get enough sleep to support optimal hormone balance.
Ghrelin AKA The Hunger Hormone
What it does: You can think of ghrelin like that friend of yours who’s constantly nagging you to order takeout or sit on the couch binge watching The Bachelor eating chips and dip. It’s like the friend that seems to always be down to eat. Basically, ghrelin is that hunger hormone that is going to tell you you’re hungry and that it’s time to eat.
When imbalance occurs: Ok, so the problem with the friend who’s always (like always hungry) is that this hunger hormone can get a little out of whack, and may still be released even after you fuel up on food. This means that the brain is most likely not sending the message to stop eating even if you should really already be full.
How to get it in check: To make sure you don’t have too much ghrelin floating around, be sure to fuel up on satiating foods. We’re talking protein and fiber. And I’ll just throw it out there one last time because it is that important…get enough sleep each night.
What it does: Leptin is that let’s pump the breaks hunger hormone. It’s the hormone that kicks in and tells you to stop eating.
When imbalance occurs: A leptin resistance can occur if your insulin levels are constantly high, you have chronic inflammation going on in the body, which can stop that signaling that you should stop eating. The end result is obviously overeating and weight gain.
How to get it in check: Enjoy lots of inflammation-busting foods like omega-3’s from wild-caught fatty fish, flax, chia, or hemp seeds, try intermittent fasting, and try to add more Zen to your life. Yoga, Pilates, and meditation are all welcome additions to a calmer lifestyle for better hormone balance.
What it does: The thyroid plays a huge role in regulating metabolism not to mention the fact that it plays a role in almost every other organ in the body-it’s pretty much a big deal and something we need to take seriously when it comes to supporting our health and hormone balance.
When imbalance occurs: If you have a sluggish thyroid (hypothyroidism) then chances are, your metabolism may be much slower than you would like. Not having enough thyroid hormone in the case of hypothyroidism can also lead to weight gain and fatigue, two things no one has time for.
How to get it in check: To help balance thyroid hormones, try adding a couple of Brazil nuts to your diet each day, they are rich in selenium which is super important for optimal thyroid function. Focus on getting enough sleep, reduce stress, and support gut health with probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha as gut health is often very closely linked to thyroid health imbalances.
So the bottom line here is to balance those hormones, girl. Don’t let your hormones take the rein and disrupt your healthy eating plan. Show them who’s boss by practicing daily self-care, reducing stress, sleeping as much as you can manage to, and try to get your body moving regularly. A little work goes a long way in promoting better hormone balance.