As you probably know, your hormones play a huge role in making sure your body functions properly. When your hormones are well-balanced, you're more likely to be physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. For the average person without any major health issues, keeping your hormones balanced can be as easy as maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But even if you do make an effort to have a healthy lifestyle, there are still seemingly innocent habits people do on a daily that can cause hormone imbalances.
Hormones, which are made in the endocrine system, are essentially "special chemical messengers" that help control most major bodily functions. These chemicals in your body are so important that an imbalance can affect things like your mood and emotions to reproduction. "It really depends on the hormone in your body that is not balanced," Dr. David Greuner of NYC Surgical Associates, tells Bustle. But various issues that can occur include PMS, acne, painful breasts, migraines, burn-outs, digestion issues, and more, he says.
Dr. Gruener says to prevent a hormonal imbalance, it's important to live a healthy lifestyle and listen to your body. "If you believe you do have a hormonal imbalance make sure that you go to your doctor to check it out," he says.
But living a healthy lifestyle goes beyond being active and eating enough fruits and vegetables. Here are some common and harmless habits people have that may cause hormonal imbalances, according to experts.
Consuming Caffeine After 3 p.m.
Grabbing an espresso for a late afternoon pick-me-up may seem pretty harmless, but according to Dr. Cruise, it might not be. "Having caffeine in the late afternoon will increase production of stress hormone cortisol, which can make you feel anxious and cause you to toss and turn all night," he says. As he says, getting your caffeine fix before 3 p.m. may be much healthier for your body.
Eating A Ton Of "Non-Fat" Foods
"...Low-fat foods deny your body of fat, cholesterol, and fat soluble vitamins essential for normal hormone function," Emily Bartlett, holistic health expert and co-founder of personalized meal planning app, Real Plans, tells Bustle. Beyond the lack of nutrition, Bartlett says foods that are processed to be lower in fat often contain fillers and stabilizers that can be disruptive to hormone health. These are generally toxic to your body. So to keep your hormones balanced, make sure you’re getting the right kind of healthy fat you need.
"Skip the fake stuff and enjoy plenty of good quality fat sources including avocado, coconut, nuts, oily fish, and organic meat and dairy," she says.
Using Too Much Hand Sanitizer
Some people love to putting on hand sanitizer frequently. But according to Dr. Gruener, that habit may actually end up having an adverse effect on you if you use it too much. "It has been reported to alter the balance of healthy bacteria and bad bacteria," he says. "The chemicals in it, like triclosan, can cause your estrogen levels to become imbalanced and in turn affect your thyroid hormones." So using hand sanitizer is still OK to help kill bacteria, but just don't overdo it.
Exercising Too Much
Too much exercise can lead to an increase in stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. "Our stress hormones are great for thriving and surviving, but when over-produced can lead to blood sugar imbalances, inflammation and sex hormone imbalances," Integrative Health Coach and author, Lorraine Miano, tells Bustle. According to her, this in turn can lead to health issues such as low libido and and infertility.
But just how much is too much? As Devon Battaglia, MS, Nutrition and Integrative Health Specialist, tells Bustle, "Long bouts of cardio are a key killer of happy hormones." I's all about balancing your routine with strength and "stress-busting moves" like nature walks and yoga, she says.
Drinking From Plastic Water Bottles
It's important to know that certain plastics contain chemicals that can mimic hormones, called xenohormones. "One of these chemicals, BPA (bisphenol-A) has been linked to hormone disruption, cancer and more," Miano says. She suggests avoiding using plastic water bottles, especially those that have been sitting in direct sunlight are heat. "Chemicals can leach into the water that way," she says. "It's best to purchase reusable bottles made of glass or stainless steel instead."
Not Taking Time Out For Yourself
"If you are living all day in fight-or-flight mode, think reading e-mails that make you bonkers or getting annoyed when someone cuts you off during your commute, and not getting enough rest, you could be setting your body up for hormone imbalances," Liz Abel, licensed integrative and functional nutritionist, tells Bustle. In other words, if you don't make it a habit to take time for yourself by meditating, talking walks, cuddling your dog, or just having a lazy Sunday morning, that can affect you in negative ways.
According to Abel, our body needs minerals and vitamins to run well. "If we are stressed, these resources are used for managing the stress response system," she says. "There is not an endless supply to minerals and vitamins. Like a car needs fuel, our body needs fuel and we simply don’t have enough resources to maintain the balance in our hormones."
Some physical symptoms of imbalanced hormones can include hair loss, cold hands and feet, and a low sex drive. If you feel like you may have a health concern due to your hormones, be sure to bring it up to a doctor. Treatment is very individualized based on which hormones are affected. Other than that, making a habit out of getting regular sleep, eating quality fats, and making time for yourself can help keep your hormones in check.