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Fight aging and look younger by balancing your hormones

Lifeless hair, dull skin and wrinkles can be helped by improving your health. Learn the eight major hormones that can impact your appearance

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Do you have lifeless hair, dull skin, and weak nails? If so, your new year’s resolution may be to turn back the clock and resolve these issues. I suggest starting your anti-aging regimen with an inside look at your hormones. Hormones affect everything from our immune response and inflammation to cellular growth and tissue repair. Let’s address each of the major hormones that impact our appearance and discuss methods you can use to achieve the healthy balance necessary for radiant, youthful looking skin.

Insulin
High levels of insulin can accelerate wrinkling of the skin. Excess insulin occurs with an overindulgence of foods high in sugar, such as pastries, muffins, white pasta, white rice and juice cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin. Avoiding these foods while also consuming a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats every three to four hours will help keep your insulin levels balanced. Supplements such as chromium or conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) may help improve your insulin sensitivity, which results in less insulin release and overall lower insulin levels. Sleep deprivation is also associated with high insulin levels, so a good “beauty sleep” is essential.

Cortisol
Stress is not only bad for your health, it also has documented aging effects on our skin cells. Studies conducted on laboratory rats, revealed that cortisol-induced collagen loss in the skin is ten times greater than any other tissue; It is one of the biggest culprits of dull, thin, and sagging skin. Anything that beats stress, beats aging too – Relora is one of my favourite supplements for reducing excess cortisol levels and increasing youthful DHEA levels. For best results, take two pills at night and one in the morning.

Estrogen
Estrogen is produced by the ovaries prior to menopause and by the adrenal glands after menopause. Your adrenal glands will produce less estrogen if they are fatigued, which is common with a stressful lifestyle, sleep disruption, irregular eating habits or illness. Estrogen levels begin to decline in most women in their mid to late 40s although some women, particularly those who are very thin, may experience a drop much sooner. Less estrogen production that naturally occurs with age makes our skin thinner and less elastic, which leads to more wrinkling and sagging. As estrogen dips, less collagen and elastin are produced. Estrogen also helps skin stay moist by boosting hyaluronic acid. A 1997 study of 3,875 postmenopausal women concluded that estrogen supplementation helped aging women have younger looking skin and also helped maintained skin’s collagen, thickness, elasticity and ability to retain moisture.

Simple dietary changes can also help support healthy estrogen levels through the intake of phytoestrogens, such as flaxseed and fermented soy products. Have one serving of organic, non-GMO soy along with two tablespoons of ground flaxseeds in your smoothies or salads, daily. Increase your intake of vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts—they contain indols, compounds that are essential to healthy estrogen balance. Herbal products such as licorice, angelica, red clover or black cohosh are also used to support healthy estrogen levels. Natural hormone replacement in the form of creams containing two types of estrogen (estriol and estradiol) may also be beneficial, but these need to be obtained by prescription through your MD or ND practitioner.

Testosterone
Excessive testosterone, in women or men, may result in acne on the face, chest or back. With age, women tend to experience an increase in androgen (a male sex hormone) levels and a decline in estrogen, while men tend to experience the opposite – an increase in estrogen and a decline in testosterone, which causes the skin to dry out. If a testosterone deficiency is suspected, herbs such as tribulus terresteris, stress management and weight-bearing exercises may help to restore optimal levels for both men and women. You can also ask your health practitioner about bioidentical testosterone cream. For women who suspect too much testosterone, consider a supplement of saw palmetto.

DHEA
Dry skin is a problem that increases with age. Interestingly, DHEA turns on oil production and seems to help combat this problem and improve hydration. DHEA is a hormone that is a precursor to other hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. DHEA levels tend to decline with stress as well as with age. DHEA also increases the production of collagen, making skin appear smoother and younger looking. Our skin’s immunity also appears to improve with DHEA, which may help healing. DHEA supplements are not, however, without risks and, like all other hormones, should not be taken unless a clear deficiency has been established through proper assessment. Relora has been found useful to increase DHEA levels and to lower levels of cortisol. Good sleep habits may also help establish healthy DHEA levels.

Melatonin
A proper beauty rest is achieved by sleeping in a pitch black room. Melatonin and serotonin, our happy hormone, are produced in our skin from the amino acid tryptophan. Note that if we do not get enough protein in our diets, melatonin levels may also decline. According to a July 2005 article from the journal Endocrine, melatonin is involved in hair growth and protection against melanoma. As an antioxidant hormone, melatonin guards us from UV radiation and appears to play a role in repairing burned or damaged skin. Whether it’s applied topically or taken internally, melatonin may shield us from environmental and internal stressors. If you choose to supplement with melatonin, 1 to 3 mg taken sublingually at eight to nine p.m. is optimal.

Progesterone
Contrary to estrogen, progesterone levels often begin to decline in women in their mid to late 30’s, which leaves our skin looking dull and lacking luster. Ever wonder why pregnant women seem to have that special glow? The secret is the high level of progesterone. This revitalizing hormone is beneficial for skin elasticity and circulation. Progesterone levels decline with menopause as well as with stress. Low progesterone levels are also associated with conditions like PMS, fibrocystic breast disease, infertility, increased risk and incidence of miscarriage as well as polycystic ovarian syndrome. Men with prostate conditions also tend to have low levels. Progesterone levels may be supported with the use of evening primrose oil, herbs such as vitex (chasteberry) or natural progesterone creams. Stress management and sleeping well is also crucial to maintaining healthy progesterone levels.

Growth hormone
If your skin is sagging—in your cheeks, chin or above the knees—declining growth hormone is probably the culprit. Since growth hormone tends to drop off as we get older, supplements are promoted as a way to “reverse” the effects of aging. Growth hormone is essential for skin-cell repair and the prevention of sagging. The production of growth hormone is closely linked to our exercise, sleep and nutritional habits. If we fail to exercise, sleep well or do not consume enough protein, we are literally accelerating the aging process because of a decrease in this repair hormone.

Natasha Turner, N.D. is a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor and founder of the Clear Medicine wellness boutique. She is also the author of the bestselling book The Hormone Diet.