Award-winning nutritionist, author, speaker and founder of Happy Hormones for Life Nicki Williams shares her thoughts on our 'Feisty Four' hormones
Nicki Williams has significant professional experience as a nutritionist but it was her personal experiences around 10 years ago that lay the foundations for her business Happy Hormones for Life.
Like so many women in their late thirties and early forties, Nicki says she experienced irritability and mood swings, felt a lack of joy in life, had gained unwanted weight and everyday tasks felt like walking through treacle.
After initially being prescribed antidepressants by her GP, Nicki felt she'd been misdiagnosed and turned to her Dad who also worked in the medical profession. He explained that she was perimenopausal and helped her to find out more about hormones and the imbalances she was experiencing.
Nicki started to educate herself and made some much-needed changes. “Literally, within a couple of weeks the brain fog had lifted, my energy came back and my mood was so much better,” Nicki shares.
This was a pivotal moment for her and as a result, she gave up her corporate job, went back to college and studied nutrition. She now works with women to support their hormonal health every day.
Hormones really matter
“On a daily basis when we think about hormones, we think about puberty, pregnancy, your monthly cycle and menopause,” Nicki explains. “But they control so much more than that and we really underestimate the role they play.
“Hormones regulate your energy, weight, mood, brain function, metabolism, digestion, sleep, appetite and cravings, and much more. They really do affect how we look, feel, think and behave every day.”
Four feisty hormones
Having studied the role of hormones, Nicki went on to pen her book It’s Not You, It’s Your Hormones, in which she identifies the 'Feisty Four' for women.
“These four seem to have the most impact, so I grouped them together and called them the feisty four because if any of them are out of balance, they can affect each other.”
The Feisty Four are…
Cortisol - The stress hormone. This is what you produce in flight or fight, as a stress response, which most of us are in all day, at the moment! We only have one stress response and the problem is that your brain perceives you being stuck in traffic, having a meeting with your boss or giving a presentation as the same danger as a serious attack. Cortisol has a direct negative impact on the rest of our hormones if it's constantly switched on. Rest and recovery are so important here, but we aren’t always good at doing this!
Thyroid - If you think about the thyroid, it’s like your internal thermometer. If you’ve got too much you’re going to be on overdrive - anxious, sweaty, a palpitating heart. For most women, as they get older the thyroid is turned down - so everything is sluggish and slowed down. This can bring anxiety, low mood, sluggishness, fatigue, PMS and constipation. You can have symptoms from head to toe.
Insulin - Your blood sugar regulator, produced by the pancreas. Insulin's job is to take sugar to the cells to make energy, but if we have too much already, insulin will store the sugar away as fat.
Oestrogen - Oestrogen gives us our sex drive, allows us to have babies and much more! When it gets out of balance with progesterone, that's when we tend to get problems. High oestrogen can cause things like PMS, bloating, water retention and breast tenderness. When you go through perimenopause, progesterone drops very rapidly which increases that ratio, although oestrogen may be on the decline too - and will fluctuate throughout the perimenopausal journey. Stress will lower your progesterone too - it all goes back to stress.
Balancing your hormones
“Firstly, not everyone has hormonal imbalances,” Nicki says reassuringly. “However, making sure your hormones are in balance can help you to improve your cycles, energy, digestion, sleep and brain function so you can problem-solve.”
Listen to Nicki’s full episode of I am. I have - How it Helps for more information on how to eat, sleep, cleanse and rest to benefit your Feisty Four hormones and address imbalances.
If you’d like to work with a nutritionist, visit Nutritionist Resource.