It's that time of year again, when people swear off cookies and alcohol and rush out to purchase gym memberships. In fact, studies show that the three most common new years resolutions are losing weight, exercising more and quitting smoking . . . all health related.
We would like to suggest Ten Health Resolutions for the New Year, to help balance your hormones and achieve your goals for optimal health.
With the intentional avoidance of the word 'diet', we recommend meals that include the avoidance of starchy, sugary carbs, that are high in fiber, and consist of approximately 30% protein. Attention should be paid to the glycemic index of various foods. Awareness about what we put in our bodies, including avoiding toxic substances such as pesticides, partially hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners can significantly reduce the chemical stressors to our adrenal glands. Eating several small meals throughout the day can help to even blood sugars and prevent hypoglycemic episodes, another significant stressor. Inclusion of abundant, fresh and colorful fruits and vegetables will provide us with the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support metabolic processes, limit oxidative damage, and promote efficient detoxification pathways.
Studies indicate that non-competitive exercise is healing to the adrenal glands, can reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and aid in weight loss. Endorphins from exercise are known to improve memory, treat depression and alleviate pain. A new exercise regimen should begin gently and increase to approximately 30 minutes 5 times a week, depending on individual goals.
Though this seems like a very basic piece, restoring a regular sleep schedule with an early bedtime will provide the adrenal glands (along with the rest of the body) with the best opportunity to rest and repair. Also, paying attention to proper sleep hygiene is imperative. The bedroom should be a place reserved exclusively for sleeping (if possible). Work or other projects should be left in another room and the bedroom should be dark, cool, quiet and free of distractions such as blaring televisions.
They say that laughter is the best medicine and it does in fact increase parasympathetic activity (the "rest and digest" branch of the nervous system). Of course any activity that brings joy or peace is beneficial and stress reducing, so make a point to spend some time doing what you love.
For something that we do constantly, this is also an area that almost everyone can improve. Deep, slow breathing that involves bringing air into the lower portion of the lungs where oxygen exchange is most efficient can slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure, relax muscles, and reduce stress and anxiety. Deep breathing tells the adrenal glands that "everything is okay". Take deep breaths into the belly instead of just filling up the chest and sucking in the gut.
Far too many of you are suffering from an addiction to one or more substances that are harmful. The biggest offenders are of course tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar, so let's focus on those. There are many, many reasons why these substances are not healthful, but a few of them include:
Caffeine is a stimulant and puts the body on constant alert. This chronic state of "fight or flight" or sympathetic dominance causes anxiety and irritability, sleep disturbances and mood swings. Aside from the fact that it will take more and more caffeine to get the same effect over time, the constant assault to the adrenal glands will eventually result in complete exhaustion or inability to produce adequate amounts of adrenal hormones.
Alcohol is a central nervous depressant and presents a significant burden on the body's detoxification pathways among other offenses.
Nicotine has been shown to increase cortisol levels and the thousands of other chemicals in cigarettes are certainly a noteworthy strain on the body in many ways.
Sugar can suppress your immune system, lead to problems with glucose and insulin metabolism, affect cortisol secretion, and contribute to weight gain.
Imbalanced hormones can greatly contribute to cravings and "need" for exogenous substances. The anxiety and insomnia that accompany falling estrogen and progesterone levels are often medicated by alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, sugar, or prescription medications.
While the cessation of any of these substances requires a large helping of self-control and determination, knowing and treating your hormone imbalances can give you a more stable platform from which to make clearer choices.
While this is easier said than done, the new year is a great opportunity to take a look at the activities and people in your life that cause you undue stress. Make a list of the things that you spend the most amount of energy on, and then eliminate the ones that provide the least benefit. If this is a friend or co-worker who is a constant drain, set more clear boundaries. If you are overextended with obligations, show them re- prioritize and cut out a few activities. This can greatly reduce overall stress levels. For many people, the primary stressor is their job, and while most people certainly can't just quit a job that makes them miserable, they may be able to make some long term plans to change careers or enhance their education. Just having the plan, or the knowledge that they aren't stuck in their current situation for the long term is a significant stress reduction for most people.
8. Get Support
Maintain meaningful and fulfilling relationships with family, friends and pets. These relationships nourish our body, mind and soul. Whether dealing with illness, grief, or just the challenges of every day life, having people and animals with whom we can connect and share allows us to release powerful emotions and feel a greater sense of well being.
The human body is made up of approximately 60% water, yet most of you aren't consuming nearly as much as you should be. A good rule of thumb is to encourage approximately half your body weight in ounces. Of course there are exceptions to this, and for many people it will be easier to set lower goals and slowly work up to this level. The quality of water is important as well. Filtered water is crucial, as there can be many chemicals and poisons in our water supply. Drinking from glass or stainless steel is preferred to avoid the phthalates and bisphenol that can leech into water from plastic bottles.
10. Focus on prevention
Just about everyone could use a little reminder about where they should be prioritizing their energy and money. Preventative and proactive visits to their chiropractor, acupuncturist, primary care physician and dentist can literally add years to your lives. Spending a few extra dollars for some preventative exams, labs, procedures or supplements is a good investment. Plus, many of you will have some extra money after you have cut out the daily latte and happy hour!