Our bodies are fragile ecosystems that have to be maintained properly. The things we eat and our good and bad habits all affect our general well-being, including our hormone levels. And those levels are important — raging hormones are just as dangerous as lackluster hormones. Fortunately, there are things we can do on a daily basis that will keep us balanced.
The most well-known male hormone, testosterone, is more than just something sluggers use to bulk up. While it does increase bone and muscle strength, it is crucial to male development during puberty and in adulthood is needed for men to produce sperm. Its levels affect sex drive and energy, according to the Hormone Health Network.
Diet plays a big role in testosterone levels. According to Men’s Fitness, soy products like edamame and tofu, bleached white flour or too much alcohol can all reduce the hormone. On the positive side, Men’s Health lists grapes, tuna, pomegranate and eggs as foods that boost testosterone.
Diet also plays a role in estrogen, the female hormone that regulates the menstrual cycle and affects breast growth as well as protects the bones in both sexes. Stabilizing your weight can help maintain estrogen levels, as being underweight could reduce the body’s production of the hormone, Livestrong says, while high estrogen levels, like the kind that are linked to breast cancer, are associated with obesity.
Breastcancer.org recommends whole grains, soy and fresh fruits and vegetables can help maintain healthy estrogen levels, especially broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.
This hormone is linked to stress, giving us energy during fight-or-flight situations by opening our airways, pushing blood into our most important muscles and improving strength. But having too much adrenaline when we’re not facing a predator can be harmful, the Hormone Health Network says, causing dizziness, irritability, restlessness and other anxiety-related symptoms. One of the best ways to control adrenaline is to manage stress.
Some natural ways to reduce stress include meditation and physical activity. Mindfulness exercises have also been shown to ease anxiety, refocusing the senses to present surroundings. Those exercises could include deep breaths, drinking a hot beverage or simply listening to the sounds around you.
This is another hormone that is linked to stress. During survival scenarios, cortisol “maintains fluid balance and blood pressure,” according to the Huffington Post. Outside of those stressful situations, it also affects sex drive, immunity and digestion. But chronically high levels can suppress the immune system, lower sex drive and raise blood pressure, as well as contribute to physical changes like acne and obesity. Managing your stress as you would to regulate adrenaline will have a similar effect on cortisol.
In appropriate amounts, exercise can be beneficial for insulin levels, particularly for people with diabetes, because it increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, according to the Mayo Clinic. This means a little insulin goes a long way, and blood sugar levels will decrease with the help of this hormone.
For people with diabetes, however, the key is to keep an eye on both insulin and blood sugar levels and not exercise too much. Too much physical activity without respectively adjusting blood sugar levels (such as by eating a snack) could lead to hypoglycemia, which is when blood sugar drops too low and potentially causes serious health problems.