Balance means doing enough, not doing it all! If you remember in Part 1 of this series, we looked at all the stress hormones and how they can have negative effects on the body. Perhaps after reading the first part you noticed that you are experiencing a few or many of the symptoms listed, but that does not mean you need a complete overhaul either. So I want to begin today with a sense of calm; just know that you don't have to change everything all at once. Slow, incremental, healthy changes will give you progress for long-lasting results.
Happiness comes from within. This philosophy is often used to help people realize that happiness comes from compassion, gratitude and love and not from chasing material items or from external stimulation. Additionally, it holds true when we are talking about the happy hormones found in the human body. The 4 main "good hormones" are:
Dopamine: a.k.a "the happy hormone" because it responsible for when we are experiencing joy. When dopamine is present in the body we feel motivated and focused, we are productive and in return we feel a sense of reward and contentment with ourselves. We can stimulate the secretion of dopamine during exercise, listening to music and exposure to sunlight.
Oxytocin: a.k.a "the love hormone" because oxytocin gets released when two (or more) people bond in a hug, a cuddle, kissing or during sex. When oxytocin is present in the body we feel aroused, higher levels of trust and a need to bond. We can stimulate the secretion of oxytocin through communication in our relationships which can lead to physical bonding. It is important to be clear in any relationship because even though your partner may know you well, they can't always tell what you're feeling. So being open and honest creates an awareness first and then action can follow.
Endorphins: a.k.a "the runner's high" because feelings of euphoria and pleasure can be experienced when it is present in the body. Endorphins are the body's natural pain killers. When endorphins are running through the body, a sense of anti-anxiety comes over us and we ultimately feel relief. We can stimulate endorphins in the body through exercise and massage!
Serotonin: a.k.a "the mood hormone" because it is the key hormone that stabilizes mood swings. When serotonin is present in the body we are more sociable, we sleep better, our memory improves, digestive and reproductive functions improve and this promotes overall well-being and vitality.
Serotonin is found mainly in the digestive system and the central nervous system including the brain-stem. The fact that 90% of serotonin is produced in the digestive tract is the reason we feel so good and so satisfied after eating a large healthy meal. The key word is healthy because eating a large meal with little nutritious value and high in cholesterol will lead more to fatigue, lethargy and cravings of other unhealthy foods. Eating foods that are rich in colors, vitamins and minerals will naturally boost serotonin. This is where the term brain-food comes from because once digested the brain receives messages that the body is receiving foods full of antioxidants, pro-biotics and anti-inflammatory properties which are essential for our immune system, for activating our metabolism, protecting brain and nerve tissues and boosting our energy.
Different types of foods that boost your brain and your mood include:
Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, cabbage and brussel sprouts.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.
Foods rich in omegas and protein such salmon, avocados and eggs.
Seeds and nuts such as pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, almonds and sunflower seeds.
Herbs such as basil, thyme and rosemary.
Spices that heal such as turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic and ginger.
Foods rich in antioxidants such as blueberries and dark chocolate.
The main pathology of the endocrine system is diabetes. With over 11 million Canadians living with diabetes or pre-diabetes, it is easy to see that eating healthy is perhaps not so easy. If we are never taught how to eat a well-balanced meal with the types of ingredients listed above, then chances are we will eat based on what we crave in the moment. Cravings usually include refined sugars, processed foods, soda drinks and fast food. In order to change the way we eat, we must prepare in advance. Make a grocery list of healthy foods needed to cook hearty, homemade meals and stick to the list. It is important and could be life-saving to stick to a healthy lifestyle because in diabetics, an increased level of blood glucose can result in a slower blood flow. The heart and arteries must work harder to pump blood and keep up a normal blood flow, this leads to fragile linings of the vessels in the cardiovascular system.
For diabetics, the massage should focus on relaxation, repetitive maneuvers, and avoid pressure points and percussion as it can lead to bruising. The only time massage therapy is an absolute contra-indication is when the client is in a hypoglycemic state. Low blood sugar levels may result in hunger, sweating, weakness, confusion and seizures. The relaxation we feel during a massage can further amplify these conditions and could be very dangerous for cerebral functions. The only time relaxation is a bad thing!
The use of massage therapy to naturally balance hormones
Living a healthy lifestyle which includes exercising regularly and eating well can control the amount of glucose in the blood and therefore we can have a direct control on which hormones get secreted. Another effective and fantastic way to balance hormones is by getting a massage! Massage therapy naturally reduces stress, which inhibits the secretion of adrenaline and cortisol; and because massages make us "feel good" it naturally releases endorphins which are known to relieve pain and elevate mood. Massages are also known to enhance blood flow and break up tissue congestion, therefore hormones can properly transit in the blood and lymphatic circulation across the body. Massage therapy will always bring balance back to the body and mind. Although it is up to each person to make or maintain healthy habits because simply put, if you want to feel well you must live well.
For more healthy food options, check out The Body Blog's Nutrition board on Pinterest!