Galen was a standout his first season at the YMCA, when he was 8. The next year we signed up for the club team, which turned our six-week rec league season into six months of intense tournament play. He played in a 3-on-3 league over the summer and, at the conclusion of the club season the following spring, he began playing with an Amateur Athletic Union team, a national youth sports organization that, in addition to increasing the level of competition also expanded our travel radius to a tristate region. But while I (most of the time) looked forward to swimming practices and meets, the chance to test my mettle against my peers, basketball tournaments made Galen nothing but miserable. “Maybe it’s time to quit,” I said. “If I quit basketball, what sport do I play?” Galen asked. “How about NO sport,” I said. You can play basketball with friends all you want, but you don’t have to play on a team. “Every kid at my school plays something.” If he didn’t have a sport, he continued, “I’ll be a nobody.” “I’m only trying to consider how our light is spent,” I told Galen. He didn’t become a nobody or stop being an athlete.
Hormones have profound effects on your mental, physical and emotional health.
These chemical messengers play a major role in controlling your appetite, weight and mood, among other things.
Normally, your endocrine glands produce the precise amount of each hormone needed for various processes in your body.
However, hormonal imbalances have become increasingly common with today’s fast-paced modern lifestyle. In addition, certain hormones decline with age, and some people experience a more dramatic decrease than others.
Fortunately, a nutritious diet and other healthy lifestyle behaviors may help improve your hormonal health and allow you to feel and perform your best.
This article will show you 12 natural ways to balance your hormones.
1. Eat Enough Protein at Every Meal
Consuming an adequate amount of protein is extremely important.
Dietary protein provides essential amino acids that your body can’t make on its own and must be consumed every day in order to maintain muscle, bone and skin health.
In addition, protein influences the release of hormones that control appetite and food intake.
Research has shown that eating protein decreases levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin and stimulates the production of hormones that help you feel full, including PYY and GLP-1 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).
In one study, men produced 20% more GLP-1 and 14% more PYY after eating a high-protein meal than after eating a meal that contained a normal amount of protein.
What’s more, participants’ hunger ratings decreased by 25% more after the high-protein meal compared to the normal-protein meal (6).
In another study, women who consumed a diet containing 30% protein experienced an increase in GLP-1 and greater feelings of fullness than when they ate a diet containing 10% protein.
What’s more, they experienced an increase in metabolism and fat burning (7).
To optimize hormone health, experts recommend consuming a minimum of 20–30 grams of protein per meal (8).
This is easy to do by including a serving of these high-protein foods at each meal.
Summary: Consuming adequate protein triggers the production of hormones that suppress appetite and help you feel full. Aim for a minimum of 20–30 grams of protein per meal.
2. Engage in Regular Exercise
Physical activity can strongly influence hormonal health. A major benefit of exercise is its ability to reduce insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity.
Insulin is a hormone that has several functions. One is allowing cells to take up sugar and amino acids from the bloodstream, which are then used for energy and maintaining muscle.
However, a little insulin goes a long way. Too much can be downright dangerous.
High insulin levels have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. What’s more, they are connected to insulin resistance, a condition in which your cells don’t respond properly to insulin’s signals (9).
In a 24-week study of obese women, exercise increased participants’ insulin sensitivity and levels of adiponectin, a hormone that has anti-inflammatory effects and helps regulate metabolism (14).
For people who are unable to perform vigorous exercise, even regular walking may increase these hormone levels, potentially improving strength and quality of life (19).
Although a combination of resistance and aerobic training seems to provide the best results, engaging in any type of physical activity on a regular basis is beneficial.
Summary: Performing strength training, aerobics, walking or other forms of physical activity can modify hormone levels in a way that reduces the risk of disease and protects muscle mass during the aging process.
3. Avoid Sugar and Refined Carbs
Sugar and refined carbs have been linked to a number of health problems.
Indeed, avoiding or minimizing these foods may be instrumental in optimizing hormone function and avoiding obesity, diabetes and other diseases.
Importantly, fructose makes up at least half of all types of sugar. This includes natural forms like honey and maple syrup, in addition to high-fructose corn syrup and refined table sugar.
In one study, people with prediabetes experienced similar increases in insulin levels and insulin resistance whether they consumed 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of honey, sugar or high-fructose corn syrup (23).
By contrast, following a low- or moderate-carb diet based on whole foods may reduce insulin levels in overweight and obese people with prediabetes and other insulin-resistant conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) (26, 27, 28).
Summary: Diets high in sugar and refined carbs have been shown to drive insulin resistance. Avoiding these foods and reducing overall carb intake may decrease insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity.
4. Learn to Manage Stress
Stress can wreak havoc on your hormones. Two major hormones affected by stress are cortisol and adrenaline, which is also called epinephrine.
Cortisol is known as “the stress hormone” because it helps your body cope with stress over the long term.
Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is the “fight-or-flight” hormone that provides your body with a surge of energy to respond to immediate danger.
However, unlike hundreds of years ago when these hormones were mainly triggered by threats from predators, today they’re usually triggered by people’s busy, often overwhelming lifestyles.
Elevated adrenaline levels can cause high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and anxiety. However, these symptoms are usually fairly short-lived because, unlike cortisol, adrenaline is less likely to become chronically elevated.
Research has shown that you may be able to lower your cortisol levels by engaging in stress-reducing techniques like meditation, yoga, massage and listening to relaxing music (32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37).
A 2005 review of studies found that massage therapy not only reduced cortisol levels by an average of 31%, but also increased levels of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin by 28% and dopamine by 31%, on average (37).
Try to devote at least 10–15 minutes per day to stress-reducing activities, even if you don’t feel you have the time.
Summary: Engaging in stress-reduction…