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Balancing Acts

Every human being has hormones – the chemicals released by cells or glands in one part of the body, which transfer messages that affect cells in other parts of the physical self. They control a vast range of functions – your physical appearance, your appetite, the distribution of hair, your bone density, and aspects related to emotions and behaviour.

brunch Updated: Jun 09, 2012 22:05 IST
Dr Shikha Sharma

Every human being has hormones – the chemicals released by cells or glands in one part of the body, which transfer messages that affect cells in other parts of the physical self. They control a vast range of functions – your physical appearance, your appetite, the distribution of hair, your bone density, and aspects related to emotions and behaviour. But while male hormones show a consistent change over the years, female hormone levels are subject to more sudden fluctuations.

These are cause by several factors and situations:

Puberty: When surging hormones help develop the feminine features that define you as a woman.

Pregnancy: The hormone profile changes both during the nine months of pregnancy and after, when levels begin to drop to pre-pregnancy levels. Some hormones, such as oxytocin, change as well.

Menopause: This is the time when the balance between estrogen and progesterone begins to change.

Environmental and emotional impact: Due to high levels of stress, a woman’s hormones can undergo a shift which may unfortunately lead to, among other things, weight gain.

Diet, lifestyle and other factors: A diet containing high or unbalanced amounts of animal protein (especially animal protein injected with high levels of growth hormones), pesticides and chemicals found in packaged food, have a negative and unbalancing impact on female hormones.

Fluctuating hormone levels can often have adverse results on overall health. The typical symptoms of an unbalanced hormonal profile include weight gain (despite portion control and exercise), water retention, chronic indigestion, sluggishness and tiredness, a feeling of being low and sometimes depressive thoughts and anxiety. Blood pressure can fluctuate or it may remain low.

Your hormone profile changes during pregnancy and after it


Hair begins to fall excessively, the person may develop frequent candida (vaginal infections) and urinary tract infections. In addition, an imbalance of insulin and androgens can also cause obesity around the abdomen and waist.

Stress-related obesity usually begins with high levels of cortisol. If there is weight gain due to chronic stress, it affects the balance between cortisol and insulin. In such circumstances, the key to controlling weight involves detoxifying the liver.

A healthy liver can improve metabolism and greatly combat water retention. Stay off non-vegetarian foods for four weeks to detoxify the liver and during this time, switch to the kinds of food that aid cooling and detoxification. Many of these are available at your local grocer.

Coconut water: Coconut water is rich in minerals and very cooling for the body. Consuming 200 ml of coconut water daily for one week helps detoxify the liver.

Sabudana: This light non-cereal grain is effective for pacifying liver problems.

Brown rice: Brown rice is very cooling for the liver. People who do not like the taste of brown rice can opt for brown rice poha for breakfast. This has the same benefits as brown rice as it is made from the same grain. Just make sure you consume it only in the morning, and not more than three times a week.

Barley water: Soak barley grains overnight. Next morning add a fistful of them to six glasses of water. Keep boiling till the water colour changes to a faint yellow. Cool refrigerate, and consume the beverage over the day.

Samak rice: It’s not really a rice but a grass seed that usually thrives alongside rice paddy. Known informally as fasting rice, it’s good for healing the liver.

Fruits: All high-water content fruits like watermelon, muskmelon, apples, and sweet lime are good for the liver. Heat-inducing fruits like mango should be avoided if you are someone who tends to suffer from liver disorders.

From HT Brunch, June 10

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