Daily Health Habits- picking the low-hanging fruit by Pauline Cox, Functional Nutritionist
When it comes to our health habits, we can often overlook the simple in search of the complex. However, the fundamental pillars that under pin our general wellbeing and hormonal health are often the most accessible daily acts available to us all…. Let’s explore some of these daily habits, that, done with consistency, can see the needle move radically on our health barometer.
When it comes to hormonal health, movement is a powerful ally and not how we move but also when we move.
A morning walk is an ideal way to start the day. Daylight, even on a cloudy day, helps to increase levels of our happy hormone, serotonin. It also helps to increase levels of our motivation hormone, dopamine. Serotonin not only helps us to feel happy and content, but converts to melatonin, our sleep hormone, increasing the quantity and quality of our sleep. Morning daylight is a powerful way to increase these important brain hormones as well as communicating to the body the time of day, setting our internal body clock. Even a ten-minute walk can support this positive benefit, by parking a little further away from the office, or allowing an extra ten minutes in the morning to prioritise a walk, done consistently, can see improvements in mood, sleep, anxiety and muscle tone.
Walking after eating is another simple yet powerful habit. When we eat, we have an increase in blood sugar levels. These blood sugars need to be used up to stop them being converted to and stored as fat. When we go for a post-lunch walk, our hungry leg muscles mop up this circulating blood sugar, reducing the amount of excess blood sugar available for fat storage.
Activities such as gardening, dog walking, hiking and wild swimming, all tap into the benefits of being outdoors combined with physical activity.
Sleep like a baby
Sleep is a MUST when it comes to our hormonal health. Poor sleep will ultimately lead to poor energy levels and some bad habits will likely start to set in, such as using sugar to boost our energy and wine to wind us down. Getting good sleep starts in the morning, as already stated, a morning walk can boost our sleep hormone, melatonin, at night time. Other habits to help sleep include, not eating too late at night. When we eat a large meal too close to bedtime, the body has to focus on digesting the food rather than preparing for sleep. Digestion involves an increase in body temperature, which is at odds with what the body wants to do in preparation for sleep, which is a drop in core body temperature.
A dark room is also a helpful ally in our quest for good sleep, even a small amount of light creeping in through the curtains can wake us in the middle of the night. A black sleep mask can be very helpful in blocking out all forms of light pollution. Another simple way of supporting sleep is a magnesium supplement. Magnesium is also known as the ‘sleep mineral.’ It helps to relax the nervous system and helps us to get into REM sleep. A good quality, bioavailable compound such as magnesium bisglycinate not only helps to ease you into sleep, but can also help alleviate hot flushes, low mood, low energy and muscle cramps.
A balancing act
Balanced blood sugars are SO important for our overall health but also for our hormonal health. When our blood sugars are consistently spiked too high over a long period of time, then we can begin to experience insulin resistance. This is a condition where insulin is no longer as effective at doing its job of shunting blood sugar (glucose) into the cells of the body. The brain cells are the first to complain, resulting in low mood, food cravings, persistent hunger, brain fog, body temperature dysregulation, feelings of heightened emotions, anger and irritability. Balance blood sugars by becoming aware of the foods that cause a big spike in your blood sugar levels such as sweets, cakes, bread and wheat pastas. Finding lower carb alternatives can support your body in normalising insulin levels, resulting in more energy, better mood, reversal of stubborn weight gain and lower inflammatory levels. Learn more about eating for hormonal health and reversing stubborn weight gain in my book Hungry Woman.
Soothe a stressed nervous system
Prolonged stress disrupts our hormonal health, and let’s be honest, most of us are under a continuous stress to some degree! Supporting our nervous system during times of stress is of the upmost importance to our mental health and hormonal health. Cortisol, our main stress hormone, robs the body of our soothing and calming hormone, progesterone. This can lead to further anxiety and insomnia. Chronically high cortisol levels also drive inflammation in the body, resulting in tissue breakdown and premature aging.
Supporting your nervous system can start with improving sleep, as discussed above, a walk in nature, spending time with friends and improving our social connections. Supplements to support our nervous system include essential fatty acids, particularly those that can also help balance our hormones such as Regenerative Omegas. Essential fatty acids are just that, essential for our mental wellbeing, as well as helping to reduce chronic inflammation in the body.
Our daily health habits are not aiming for perfection, however we must aim for consistency, because it is consistency that makes such a difference in the long run. A daily walk, a forkful of sauerkraut at lunch, better sleep, more laughter, less worry. These are the low-hanging fruit that can see you go from surviving, to thriving, and we all deserve to thrive in life.
Pauline Cox MSc, Functional Nutritionist, Author and founder of Sow & Arrow. To learn more about how to balance your hormones, at any age, read Hungry Woman- Eating for health, happiness + hormones.
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