We’ve all blamed hormones for things that happen with our bodies—whether it’s crying during a commercial staring at a cute puppy or a breakout that just won’t go away. But what role do hormones really play in our health and wellness? I spoke with Holistic Health and Wellness Specialist Dr. Natalya Fazylova to learn the truth about hormones. She described how they impact various aspects of our bodies, both physical and emotional. Additionally, she elaborated on the red flags that indicate our hormones are off balance. It turns out that controlling our hormones isn’t as difficult as we think it might be.
Amanda Lauren: How do hormones affect our ability to work out?
Dr. Natalya Fazylova: Hormones play a major role in all our body[‘s] functions including weight gain and loss, sugar and fat metabolism, muscles, ligaments, bone and joint structure and function, and much more.
Hormones also play a role on how effectively we could build muscle mass with workouts, and how fast we could recover from workouts. For instance, if a person is under a lot of stress and produces large amounts of the hormone called Cortisol, it will cause this person to store excess sugar and increase adipose or fat tissues. Cortisol is also responsible for causing weight gain and breakdown of muscle tissue, thus decreasing efficacy of the workout regimen.
AL: How do hormones affect our skin?
NF: There is definitely a direct connection between hormonal imbalance and our skin. This is especially true for women, as their skin changes like acne and pigmentation may be caused by menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, and side effects from birth control methods that contain hormones or some of the medical conditions called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
Other hormonal changes caused by stress, for example, could also cause acne. When you’re stressed, your body creates androgens, which encourage glands in the skin and hair to create more oil. This increase in oil is a common cause of acne flare-ups. Condition of our skin is always connected to what is going on in the body inside. If the body is in balance with hormones and everything else in the body, it will be reflected in a beautiful skin outside.
AL: What are some signs your hormones are off balance?
NF: Hormonal imbalances could cause a variety of symptoms including hair loss, depression, fatigue, anxiety and agitation, weight gain, brain fog and joint pain just to name a few.
AL: Are there any natural supplements we can take to balance our hormones?
NF: Depending on the hormones involved, there are different supplements that could be taken to naturally balance your hormones. [The] first step would be to get tested by a functional/integrative medicine specialist. Once a problem is diagnosed and we know which gland is affected, then [an] individualized treatment regimen could be developed for people to address their individual needs.
AL: Are there products or ingredients in products we use that can affect our hormones?
NF: Recent studies note that hormonal imbalance may also develop from exposure of the body to external chemicals called Xenoestrogens.
Xenoestrogens are fake or artificial estrogen-like chemicals which, when entered in the body, tend to mimic estrogen by blocking or binding themselves to estrogen receptor sites, ultimately causing an imbalance of estrogen. Xenoestrogens are chemicals found in products such as phthalates and pesticides. Other chemicals that may have estrogenic effects are hormonal residues found in dairy and meat products. Xenoestrogens accumulate in the body since they are stored in our fat cells. This means it can take the body a long time to get rid of them.
This is a list of most common products with xenoestrogen chemicals:
- 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) (sunscreen lotions)
- Benzophenone (sunscreen lotions)
- Industrial Products and Plastics
- Bisphenol A
- Phthalates (plasticizers)
- DEHP (plasticizer for PVC)
- Polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
- Erythrosine / FD&C Red No. 3
- Phenosulfothiazine (a red dye)
- Butylated hydroxyanisole / BHA (food preservative)
- Household Chemicals
- Atrazine (weed killer)
- Lindane / gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane (insecticide, used to treat lice and scabies)
- Methoxychlor (insecticide)
- Chlorine and chlorine by-products
- Ethinylestradiol (combined oral contraceptive pill)
- Metalloestrogens (a class of inorganic xenoestrogens)
- Alkylphenol (surfactant used in cleaning detergents)
AL: Should we eat or avoid certain foods because they can affect our hormones?
NF: Food has been used as a medicine for thousands of years by different cultures. However, as a saying goes, one man’s medicine could be another man’s poison. In general eating fresh and organically produced food, balancing meals and including a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds will naturally support your body and help to nourish it.
Staying away from processed products, artificial sweeteners and colors, and pesticide-infused food will help to avoid exposure to xenoestrogens and prevent some of the hormonal imbalances that are affecting our population today.