Next week is 'World Reflexology Week'. For many of my reflexology clients, the benefits of this lovely treatment include balancing the hormones and reducing stress.
"Creating harmony with your hormone system is the key to wellbeing", according to Jayney Goddard, president of the Complementary Medical Association.
Our endocrine glands produce our hormones and other tissues which together make up our entire endocrine system – an extraordinarily complex system of chemical messengers that tells our body how to function.
These chemical messengers control your sleep, appetite, weight, mood and more. When everything is in balance and working well, the endocrines release the exact amount of hormones needed for the diverse functions of the body.
However, in today's modern, fast-paced world, a lack of nutrition and poor stress management, means its increasingly common to see hormonal imbalances in my clients. Some hormones naturally deplete with age, but it's good to know that healthy lifestyle choices can support proper endocrine function. It's much easier to maintain optimal function than you might think, so here are some strategies to balance your hormone profile.
Protein supports the release of hormones that control appetite and food intake. In a study of women consuming a diet containing 30% protein, the results showed the women had greater feelings of fullness than when they ate a diet containing only 10% protein. They also experienced an increase in metabolism and fat burning.
Try it for yourself: Aim to get 20-30 grams of protein with each meal. Add beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, quinoa, tofu, and leafy greens to your meals. Plant-based proteins are better for you than animal-based proteins as they do not come with the unwanted array of chemicals and hormone disrupters. Whole food plant-based proteins assist in maintaining your body's delicate acid/alkaline balance – which contributes to a reduction in inflammation.
Reduce sugar and carbs too. Diets high in refined carbs promote resistance to the hormone insulin in a large number of adults, and increasingly in children. Reducing carbs, by contrast, can lower insulin levels and help people with insulin resistance conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Optimise your calorie intake – too many calories increase insulin resistance, and too few calories can increase cortisol levels. A whole-food, plant-based diet increases fibre, and not only provides the most nutritional diet and value for money – it is the most nutritional strategy for hormonal optimisation.
Aerobic, strength training, and endurance exercise all positively influence hormones. 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 to balance the metabolism.
Being active also helps to improve levels of muscle-maintaining hormones that can decline with age. A combination of resistance and aerobic training provides the best results to improve your muscle to fat ratio and bone strength.
Try it for yourself: My advice would be to both lifts weights and talk a 30-minute walk at least five times a week.
There are two essential hormones affected by stress. Cortisol, often referred to as 'the stress hormone', helps your body to cope with stress over the long term. Adrenaline, the 'fight or flight' hormone, floods your body in response to immediate danger.
Thousands of years ago, our hormones were triggered by threats from dangerous animals. Today, it's people's busy, and often overwhelming, lifestyles that affect the delicate and sensitive hormone balance. Elevated adrenaline levels can cause high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and anxiety. However, these tend to be short-lived.
Stress-reducing techniques including yoga, massage and listening to relaxing music can all help. A 2005 review of studies found that massage therapy reduced cortisol levels by an average of 31%, and increased levels of the mood-enhancing hormones by 28% on average.
Try it for yourself: Devote at least 10-15 minutes a day to stress-reducing activities and notice the improvement in your health and wellbeing.
Last week we discussed the need for sleep for a robust immune system, and sleep is just as important for your hormone function.
No matter how nutritious your diet is and how much exercise your get, your health will suffer if you don't get enough restorative sleep. Poor sleep is linked to imbalances of many hormones. In one study of men whose sleep was restricted to five hours per night for one week, insulin sensitivity decreased by 20% on average. When sleep was restricted for two days in young men, their hunger increased by 24%. Also, men craved high-calorie, high-carb foods.
Your brain needs uninterrupted sleep to go through all five stages of the sleep cycle. Deep sleep is especially important for the release of the human growth hormone (HGH), which occurs mainly at night during sleep.
Try it for yourself: To maintain peak hormonal balance, aim for at least seven hours of high-quality sleep per night.
Reflexology has been used successfully for many health issues connected with hormone imbalance. It works directly on reducing stress levels and therefore correcting the cortisol levels in the body. Also. reflexology can benefit you in several other ways, including:
Removing toxins from the body
Boosting the immune system
Improving blood circulation
Stimulating reproductive glands
All of these benefits are directly or indirectly connected to the correction of hormonal balance.
Although only a few clinical trials have been conducted to confirm the effectiveness of reflexology in the treatment of hormonal imbalances, the results have been encouraging. For example, a study conducted at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1991 has revealed that 62 per cent of women receiving weekly reflexology treatments have experienced relief from symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
One of the benefits of reflexology is stress relief. Because hormonal imbalances are closely connected with stress, the stress-relieving effects of reflexology can help balance hormones.
Try it for yourself: A reflexology session is a safe space in which to relax, receive care and focus on yourself. A caring therapist, who offers a good listening ear and who understands the physical and emotional feelings associated with hormonal imbalance, can help to relieve stress too.
Balance your hormones, balance your whole life