As we age, our hormone levels naturally shift. And we don’t really talk about them unless we are dealing with the big one – menopause. But there are hormone changes that are happening to us throughout our lives. Today, on The Glomission, we take a look at what changes you can you expect in your 30s, 40s, 50s and tips on how to improve our hormonal health as we age.
Controlled by the body’s endocrine system, hormones are chemical messengers that are a key player in the balance and function of the body’s major organs. They have a profound effect on our mental, physical and emotional health, regulating everything from heart rate, body temperature, metabolism, appetite, sleep cycles, reproduction, mood and a lot more. Normally, our endocrine glands produce the precise amount of each hormone needed for the various activities in our body. But as we age, the production of certain hormones starts to decline, leading to hormonal imbalances. And some of us experience a more dramatic decrease than others!
In our 20s, estrogen levels reach their peak and we feel great. In our 30s, levels of estrogen and progesterone start to gradually decline. This is when women may notice changes to their menstrual cycle. These changes vary from person to person and the cycle may become shorter, longer, heavier or lighter. Also in our 30s, the levels of the stress hormone Cortisol decrease which is partly due to the decrease of self-perceived stress and the increase of coping mechanisms. However, our Cortisol levels stabilize in our 40s and 50s and may increase thereafter.
It’s usually in our mid to late 40s when we may begin to experience perimenopause – the time leading up to our last period. At this point in our lives, estrogen and progesterone levels can vary from month to month leading to irregular periods and menopause symptoms like hot flashes, moodiness, weight changes and even sleep problems.
As we enter our 50s, our estrogen levels have declined by about 50% and dramatically decrease after menopause. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average age of menopause in the U.S. is 51 but it can happen anytime during our 40s or 50s. In addition to the symptoms we already mentioned, the decline in estrogen may lead to decline in muscle mass and strength, decreased libido, fatigue and joint pain and a higher risk of osteoporosis.
The good news is there are some easy things we can do to improve our hormonal health, helping us to keep feeling our best. Some of these will sound familiar because they are tips we have recommended time and again for healthier and youthful skin - drinking water, getting good sleep, manage stress and exercise. But here are a few more specifics to keeping key hormones in healthy ranges.
- Avoid Overeating and Undereating
Eating too much or too little can result in hormonal shifts that lead to weight problems. Digestion-related hormones can lose their effectiveness if they are constantly being overworked. Overeating increases insulin levels and reduces insulin sensitivity while cutting your calories too much can increase levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that actually promotes weight gain when elevated.
- Maintain a Healthy Diet
Make sure you are eating lean proteins, healthy fats, fiber and veggies. These make you feel full while also satisfying the body’s cravings for nutrients. Consuming protein at every meal is extremely important. In addition to providing essential amino acids, it influences the release of hormones that control appetite and food intake. Healthy fats can help reduce insulin resistance and appetite while a high fiber diet improves insulin sensitivity and the hormones that control hunger, fullness and food intake.
- Eat Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. Known to have impressive anti-inflammatory properties, research suggests they may also have beneficial effects on hormonal health, lowering cortisol and epinephrine levels (the stress hormones!) Try to get 2 or more servings a week of cold-water wild varieties of fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines and herring.
- Avoid Sugary Beverages
The evils of sugar… Any form is unhealthy but liquid sugars appear to be the worst by far. Studies suggest that large amounts of sugar-sweetened drinks cause higher insulin levels and may contribute to insulin resistance. Additionally, they can lead to excess calorie intake because they don’t trigger the same “fullness” signals that solid food does.
- Drink Green Tea
Trade those sugary beverages for green tea. In addition to metabolism-boosting caffeine, it is high in antioxidants making it one of the healthiest bevvies around! And research suggests that it may increase insulin sensitivity and lower insulin levels.
- Eat Eggs
Not only are they one of the most nutritious foods, they’ve been shown to positively affect hormones that regulate food intake like insulin, ghrelin and PYY. These positive effects seem to occur when people eat the WHOLE egg – the white and the yolk! Bonus: people who eat eggs feel fuller and eat fewer calories over the following 24 hours.
Hormones get blamed for a lot and that’s because they are involved in every aspect of our health. The decrease in hormone production is unfortunately just part of aging but now we know steps we can take to help keep our hormones in balance and functioning optimally. The bennies of a nutritious diet and healthy wellness routine extend to our hormone wellness!