Hormones regulate everything from digestion to mood, sleep to weight. But certain situations and habits can make these chemical messengers go havoc, ultimately resulting in an imbalance in your system that can affect your emotional as well as your physical health. So if you do any of these, consider making a few changes.

A diet high in carbohydrates and sugar

When you eat too much glucose (sugar), your body simply doesn’t have room to break it down into glycogen, which is used for energy. In these cases, the liver converts the excess glucose into fat—which, of course, leads to a cycle of weight gain and sugar addiction.

Lack of natural light disrupts your hormones

The natural transition of sunlight from blue to red activates your sleep hormones. At sunrise, the energy you feel is from cortisol reacting to the blue light. At sunset, the relaxation you feel is from melatonin responding to the warm, red light.

In contrast to this natural transition throughout the day, most office lighting is wide-awake blue. It’s great for productivity but not so much for relaxing by 6:00 p.m. To make matters worse, at home you surround yourself with more blue light from a cell phone, computer, and television until it’s bedtime. Without a transition to red light, it’s hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Less than five or six hours of sleep. 

When you’re sleep deprived, your brain tells your hunger hormones (ghrelin and leptin) you’re still active and need some leftover pizza. The two hormones work together–one making you hungry, especially for carbohydrates, and the other keeping you from feeling full. It’s a perfect storm of excess calories heading straight for the waistline.

Too much stress 

When you’re under stress, cortisol taps into your glucose stores for energy to fight back. We tend to hold our stress inside, never expending the converted energy, so it’s stored as fat – mostly in the abdomen. To top it off, stress affects food preferences, pushing you toward comfort foods rich in fat and sugar.

Too much exercise

While exercise is an essential part of managing health and balancing your hormones, it can also throw them further out of whack if not managed properly. Some exercises place so much stress on the body that cortisol shoots sky high, such as running and spinning. Since cortisol is your fat-storing hormone, chances are you’re actually negating your goals.

Too much drinking

Women process alcohol at a much, much slower rate than men. We retain all fluids for longer, in fact, and we metabolize the chemicals in alcohol at a slower rate. This means the physical impact of alcohol is much stronger and faster for women than for men.

Lack of socializing

Not enough time with friends may add stress to your life and raise cortisol levels,” says Gottfried. If you’ve been hibernating a little lately, schedule some time with friends ASAP.

Your make up, shampoo and skin products

If it contains parabens, that is. “Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology published a study [in 1998] that revealed parabens as being estrogenic, meaning they compete with estrogen for binding sites in the body, potentially affecting hormonal balance.  A scary follow-up to this study showed that parabens were found in 19 out of 20 human breast tumors.

Even as simple as your nail polish

A landmark study released in October 2015 showed that most nail lacquers contain a chemical called triphenyl phosphate, which has a scary, immediate impact on hormones. (It can even lead to reproductive issues and weight gain.)

The other ‘toxic trio’ found in many nail colors consists of the chemicals formaldehyde, a known carcinogen also used to harden polish, plus the known teratogens toluene, to evenly coat with color, and dibutyl phthalate, a plasticizer that adds flexibility and shine. Phthalates have recently been shown to affect a woman’s egg quality and risk of miscarriage, decreasing the odds among women undergoing IVF to have normal implantation and live birth.

Ladies, start looking into what’s going on with your hormones!

Photo by [Daniela Brown Photography]

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