Learning how to balance your hormones starts with supporting your adrenals and identifying what is stressing out your adrenal glands. Adrenal health is key to having hormonal balance in the body as the adrenals take priority over reproduction and thus steal the precursors and nutrients that are needed to make the sex hormones in times of stress.
To have balanced hormones you must take care of your adrenals and address the myriad of stressors that affect the excessive or chronic output of cortisol by the adrenal glands which causes adrenal fatigue and hormonal imbalances.
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The pregnenolone steal and how stress affects the endocrine system
The precursors cholesterol and pregnenolone are needed by both the endocrine system to make the sex hormones and the adrenals to make cortisol. Only so much pregnenolone can be produced by the body and if it is used up in producing cortisol by the adrenals there will be insufficient precursors available to the endocrine system to make the sex hormones resulting hormone imbalances.
One of the primary roles of the adrenals is to produce cortisol in times of stress such as an emergency when you would need extra glucose in the blood stream to run from the tiger. This fight or flight stress response is considered a major priority by the body and is prioritized over reproduction and other endocrine function thus the adrenals are prioritized and allowed to use up the precursors that are needed by the endocrine system.
The adrenals steal the pregnenolone (also known as the pregnenolone steal) to make cortisol which increases the level of glucose in the bloodstream so that you can deal with the emergency. Un-fortunately in today's world EVERYTHING seems to be an emergency thus our adrenals are constantly being stimulated to produce cortisol and are stealing the precursors needed by the endocrine system to make the sex hormones thus contributing to hormonal imbalance.
Foods that cause hormonal imbalance
Another major priority of the body over reproduction is to maintain blood sugar balance within a specific range. In healthy blood sugar regulation glucose is slowly absorbed into the bloodstream with the help of the hormone insulin as a transporter and in-between meals the hormone glucagon signals for the release of stored sugar back into the bloodstream. BUT when a meal high in refined carbohydrates or sugar (think bread, pasta, chips, pop, donuts, sweets etc) is eaten blood sugar levels rise too high, too quick causing a spike in blood sugar which is then often followed by the crash where blood sugar drops to low.
When blood sugar levels drop too low, too quick cortisol is used once again as a back up hormone to help raise blood glucose levels to within the normal ranges. If you are on the blood sugar roller coaster, addicted to sugar or eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates and experiencing hormonal imbalances with fluctuating energy levels, balancing your blood sugar is key to preventing cortisol from being needed to raise your blood sugar.
The best hormone balancing diet includes eating foods in their whole unprocessed forms, eating healthy fats with every meal to slow down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. Eliminating the sugar and refined carbohydrates are key to hormone balance and blood sugar balance as these foods easily cause blood sugar spikes followed by blood sugar dips in which cortisol is drawn upon.
Inflammation and hormones
Cortisol is also a powerful anti-inflammatory that helps to counter the effects of inflammation created by the immune system. When the immune system is actively fighting infections or is being stimulated by food sensitivities a lot of inflammation is created and cortisol acts like a firetruck that rushes to the scene to anti inflame the tissue damage caused by the immune system.
If a person has chronic low grade infections or is consistently eating foods in which they have developed a sensitivity to the immune system will be activated along with cortisol. This vicious cycle eventually wears out your adrenals and disrupts hormone balance as the adrenals will be using up the precursors needed to make the sex hormones for cortisol production instead.
How to balance your hormones
In order to fix hormone imbalance start by optimizing your diet to balance your blood sugar, implement stress reduction techniques such as daily meditation or walks in nature, avoid foods in the diet that are causing an immune reaction, eliminate gut infections and heal a leaky gut. By implemeting this tips you can help to balance your hormones.
Supporting your adrenals with seeking health's optimal adrenal while also addressing the underlying stressors affecting the adrenals can help the adrenals to recover and balance cortisol levels.