The holiday season is a wonderfully busy time of year, spent together with family and friends, celebrating traditions, enjoying the season, and creating great memories. Alongside these benefits lie some hidden complications; busier days, holiday preparation, travel, late nights with family and friends, and the extra sweet treats and unplanned meals can cause an imbalance in our stress related hormones. Reduce stress during the holiday by balancing these stress related hormones; cortisol, progesterone, insulin, leptin, thyroid, and adrenaline and find more joy in your holidays. Cortisol is the stress hormone and helps your body deal with upsetting events by putting it into fight-or-flight mode. It stimulates your body to release glucose for energy and pump blood faster. However, prolonged high levels of cortisol can lead to high blood pressure, anxiety, weight gain, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, skin changes, low mood, low sex drive, and heart disease.
- To balance cortisol, reduce caffeine, alcohol, sugars, and refined carbohydrates. Take slow, deep breaths into the lungs, it flexes the diaphragm to lower cortisol levels and increases melatonin to help with sleep. Progesterone is the pre-hormone of cortisol, the stress hormone. Chronic stress calls for more cortisol than your body can create, taking cortisol from the pre-hormones, consequently, lowers progesterone. This can result in anxiety, irregular menstrual cycles, night sweats, mood swings, and poor sleep.
- To balance progesterone, increase vitamin C and limit caffeine intake. Decrease alcohol consumption as it raises cortisol levels and can cause headaches, anxiety, moodiness, and increased belly fat. Insulin delivers glucose to cells for energy from the foods we eat, controls carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Additionally, it helps tissues in the liver, muscles, and fat to absorb glucose from the blood. Higher levels of glucose in the bloodstream can result in insulin resistance and be harmful. Insulin resistance is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and polycystic ovary syndrome.
- To balance insulin, reduce sugars and refined carbohydrates to manage glucose in the body that affect insulin levels, resulting in weight gain. Additionally, eat a protein at each meal, especially breakfast, eat healthy fats, and exercise 30 to 60 minutes daily to reduce insulin resistance. Leptin helps sustain weight, the amount of leptin in your blood is directly linked to the amount of body fat. Leptin is a natural weight control; it signals the brain that we have enough fat and to stop eating. Lack of sleep can lower the levels of leptin, resulting in slowing metabolism, increased appetite, causing your body to store fat and burn muscle. Depression, hypertension, anxiety, obesity, and heart disease can result from too high or too low levels of leptin over time.
- To balance leptin levels and manage weight, limit sugars and refined carbohydrates, eat healthy omega-3 fatty acids to help decrease hunger and fight leptin resistance, and get 8 hours of sleep – this is also key to helping weight management. The thyroid regulates how cells in your body burn energy. A properly working thyroid will provide energy, regulated body temperature, consistent weight and stabilize your metabolism. Proper thyroid function is closely intertwined with the health of your adrenal glands. Continuous stress weakens the adrenal glands, resulting in the thyroid slowing down, causing fatigue, sluggishness, and persistent weight gain.
- To balance the thyroid and keep adrenal glands strong, reduce sugars, refined carbohydrates, caffeine, gluten, and wheat consumption, and eat a protein at each meal. Adrenaline is released into the bloodstream by your adrenal glands when scared or suddenly stressed, putting your body into fight-or-flight mode. If your adrenal glands produce too much adrenaline, it can cause high blood pressure, headaches, lightheadedness, sweats, and increased heart rate.
- To balance adrenaline levels, limit caffeine intake, avoid eating before bed, eat at regular intervals throughout the day, add spices and herbs to meals, and eat food rich in Vitamin B. Hormone balance is essential to lowering stress during the holidays, allowing you to better enjoy time with family and friends.